>> Violet Evergarden

Finished season 1 of the television series

No letter that could be sent deserves to be undelivered

Violet Evergarden (Season 1) is an Japanese animated television series where an emotionally stunted ex-child soldier becomes a ghostwriter (known as Auto Memory Dolls) after the war to understand the last words of her superior officer and guardian who sacrificed his life to save her: I love you. Those last words does not matter literally but rather optimally conveys to Violet that somebody cares and wants her to be have a future. Whatever form of love they might have had, Violet did love and care for somebody thus understanding the meaning of those words is coming to terms with her own feelings and how important those are. The show has a good premise of understanding people's feelings through the letters they write which is charming and sentimental. With 13 episodes, the series explores Violet's growth and journey through her clients and friends in an emotionally resonant manner.

>> Notes and Thoughts

Now as much as I like the series and its idea, I cannot fully recommend this show because of its execution although this is still good and emotional. Primarily, if the series is about conveying the subtleties of feelings, the show lacks that quality to engage the viewers with its subtleties. Characters/clients frequently say exactly what they mean removing any mystery, tension or possible failure. Violet explicitly stating contradictions where she could have been taught to remain silent and take note of the circumstances. Flashbacks are used too much where moments of silence or stillness would be better. The broken doll analogy is on the nose considering her job title, clothing style, robotic arms and lack of emotion. Her introductions along with that seems excessive as well. Perhaps I expected too much but it certainly felt that the stories could be better expressed and engaging without compromising its tone and feel.

The premise of understanding those last words while intriguing is slightly problematic as a setup and how it was handled. At face value, those words are typically interpreted as romantic which is questionable between an older man and teenager and more importantly becomes an unnecessary hurdle or discussion. While the series show it is nuanced, it could have been better handled or framed such as quickly offering different interpretations initially then exploring it further. Since Violet can learn quickly, I am bothered it was not shown her intensely researching or thinking about it then eventually being conflicted which would provide more insight and character. Regardless how the relationship may seem dependent, more scenes are needed from her guardian as well as showing them chronologically closer to provide better clarity and context to avoid misinterpretation.

Her mature doll-like appearance is also questionable considering she is around 14 years old at near the start of the series. While this world's rules about age and marriage might be contextually different, perhaps a different model and design in particular her face and height would show her slowly maturing age better without undermining her profession. My sense of fashion for her would be pants, long shirt, a vest, a beret and add frills or the appropriate mid-upper class traveling working girl fashion. Showing or framing her as introspective instead of beautiful would help and besides she is not romantically available yet.

One minor point with those last words is that perhaps the client stories and letters should incorporate those words as well. It is established that Violet may not be able to use those words, but perhaps the act of writing and including it on behalf of the client can be meaningful. As it stands, the different forms of love displayed by the clients may seem unrelated. Not truly an issue but would be a nice incorporation.

A world building issue is what makes a ghostwriter good in this universe specially how Violet can ever became competent given her mechanical mindset and lack of emotion. Although a bad ghostwriter was shown through her coworker, perhaps showing a competition between two good ghostwriters could highlight its nuances and technicalities without ruining the tone. While it may be considered part of the premise, it felt a part of her key progression or growth was rushed or waved away where a montage or time skip could address.

While it is acceptable Violet herself lacks emotion, I do not buy the lack of emotion for a lack of a strong personality. The fact that episodes are narrated or described by other characters do not help and somehow seem to require Violet to always make an impression may be detrimental. Perhaps showing how her military and ghostwriting experience allowed her to resolve an personal issue without violence would give her color and depth. Maybe using her namesake to build interest in flowers or gardening would be something. Either way, I sympathize with her but the series did not giver her flavor.

While I do have smaller issues, these overall do not ruin a good show but it does pull it down from being recommended. I still like the post-war setting, reintegration of an ex-soldier, romanticizing letter writing, and the cathartic ending but the optimal words should have been what the series started with.