Violet Evergarden (2018) Review: The Doll that Learned to Feel Emotions

Some years ago, I spent a lot of time reading people’s blog post about this anime. People said it left them with teary eyes and recommended those to watch it with a tissue box. It’s just that emotional. Not only that–a friend from work told me how good the show is stating how beautiful the animation was, it reminded her of Japan’s countryside. But more importantly, the show revolves around the strongest emotion: love. What does I love you mean? Violet became a part of the Auto Memory Doll, writing letters to help express people’s innermost emotions so she could understand Major Gilbert last words to her. (Hmm…how poetic. My very own father used to write love letters as a side job.) So out of curiosity, I caved in and watched the anime but never bother to write a review until now–simply because I wasn’t impressed as I thought I would be. More than anything though, I felt it was hyped.

Before I start with my little annoyance towards this anime, I do want to mention that this anime is eloquent and poetic. It uses dolls to convey a certain message of perfection. They are perfectly hollow, perfectly beautiful, and expressionless. But more prominently, they show no emotions on their face. Her discovering the phrase, “I love you” through writing letters for Auto Memory Doll, helped her come to term with her human qualities and her emotions towards Major Gilbert, the man who is always on her mind. Violet Evergarden is a story of becoming human. It’s a beautiful concept. And yet, I am not impressed. What’s the deal with this anime? Why is it so emotional to some people? And why didn’t it sit well with me? Am I as lifeless as Violet that I might need to enroll in a writing course which will help me explore my feelings? Did my bias get in the way from appreciating this anime? I learned it’s not the case.

It’s the way how the story is presented. It’s theatrically unnatural in a way where it doesn’t flow well. I love symbolism but this one sticks out like a sore thumb. Violet is purposely made to be doll-like to indicate how precious she is to the Major. At the same time, her doll-like features subtly imply to the audiences how contradicting her “true” nature is to her innocent appearance. I kept thinking should I sympathize with this character? Time again and again through flashback, she is mentioned for being a war tool–a killer who killed people without remorse, entirely devoted to the Major. She was the perfect soldier. Despite being human, she shows no sign of having any desires of her own other than to find out what “I love you” mean (I am beginning to sound like a broken record in this post because that’s exactly what is wrong with this anime. How many times I have said Violet needs to find out what “I LOVE YOU” mean?!). How could she not understand her own emotions? It just doesn’t add up.

When so many people start googling the following, it just shows how misleading the character Violet is:

So I will answer the highlighted question above. Violet is human, but she is uninterestingly robotic. To make her relatable character, she is made into one size fits all. And so this brought me to conclude why so many enjoyed this anime. They enjoyed discovering their own hidden emotions through Violet. Like Violet, most of us don’t really understand what we feel and most often, we are not entirely honest with ourselves and with others or know our life’s purpose. Many of us are just moldable obedient dolls to the society at no fault (Ouch it sounds rather harsh, but it’s just my opinion.).

To summarize this anime series, it really is just an anime about reading between the lines. Violet has to learn how to read people which is why I think she is a relatable character to many. After all, humans are complicated. Miscommunication often happens when we fail to express ourselves properly. People tend to hide their true feelings behind words and so that’s where Dolls come into play. They are refined and eloquent in mannerism and speech. They are perfect people and perfect people are kind of scary if you ask me.

As for my final thought, one positive thing I got out of this anime is that I could learn a few tips and tricks from Auto Memory Doll. I know some of my reviews can be blunt. The last thing I want to do is offend some poor soul out there. But on a second thought, that’d kill my voice. I don’t get paid to write flowery words; I write with honesty. It’s just the critic in me. Overall, Violet Evergarden is decent, but not great. There was not one single teardrop coming from me.

The Garden of Words Review: More Green Is Good for You

My attention span is pretty short these days. Whenever I look for something to watch, I scan for something that is short. This one is 45 minutes. Short enough where I don’t become restless. Perhaps this is why I can’t stand watching long films like Lord of the Rings in movie theater.

The visual in this anime is beautiful. Raindrops falling from the grey sky and a lot of green. I love green because I love trees. As for the story it strikes a chord that many people can relate to. Not everyone do what they enjoy for a living and some people have very specific dreams. In this case, the male protagonist wants to make a career making women shoes. I found his passion for shoes to be quite admirable; in fact strangely noble. The female protagonist, on the other hand, who happens to be a school teacher, is not passionate about teaching, and therefore is detached from living a full life. Personally, I can relate to the female teacher. I’ve been in that route where I was once dead for a long time until had to get away from everyone and everything to breathe.

Like After the Rain, it’s about realizing one’s dream. It’s about learning how to breathe, literally. Is it a romance story between a young man and older woman. The age differences might make some western audience feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t bother me because sometimes emotions are just not black and white, and age is just a factor in life.

Now I want to go walk in the garden in the rain. It’s peaceful and quiet. Not many people are out under grey clouds, and in that moment of quietness you might actually hear yourself breathing.

Scum’s Wish Review: A Logically Scummy Anime

In this anime, there is no consequence to promiscuous action, which makes it so intriguing. You can explore your lusty nature with your messy emotions, especially with the confusing ones. Sometimes emotions are just too hard to describe, especially if you are a teenager who is still trying to find your identity. This show successfully take apart complex emotions and lay it out for the audience to see. It’s a pretty relaxing anime to watch, actually.

In this unrequited love story, the two protagonists Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya happened to be honor students who use each other to replace the person they cannot be with. They rationalize their sexual meetups by using sound logic. I guess they are just too smart to study so they have time for screwing around.  There are other characters involved in this unrequited love mess. The biggest one that stood out like a sore thumb is the female school teacher, Akane Minagawa. She puts on a nice front, but she is actually the biggest scum of them all. She enjoys stealing the affection of men from other women because it makes her feel like she is the ultimate prize. Truth is–she is just an empty blowup doll (that’s my metaphor of the day). I don’t blame audience for lacking sympathy for her, however, I must say it’s nice to see a woman take charge of her sexuality. In most cultures, it’s more acceptable for a man to cheat on his wife–he’s just a man, but it’s not okay for a woman. Would a man still love his wife if she has multiple affairs outside of marriage? I think that is her dilemma. She sleeps with men casually out of contempt. How could anyone possibly love her unconditionally? As for the rest of the characters, they are not as developed or interesting. They are very two dimensional for my liking. I almost forgot they exist, but they are in the cover–the guy in the blue shirt, the blonde girl with twintails, and the redhead lesbian. I don’t even bother learning their names.

Because this anime is so scummy and alien to me, I enjoyed it. I don’t really recommend it to teenagers though–the content might be a bit too deep for a kid to grasp. Older audience may find this enjoyable and even relaxing after a long day.

Mushi-Shi Review: A Fine Cup of Medicine for the Mind

Do you know what Forest Bathing is? When you are stuck in the city like me, you naturally want to reconnect with all things green because greenery is life. That’s why many people like to go to the woods where I am from. Unfortunately since I am a loner, it’s not safe for a woman as petite as me to go out in the woods alone. So what is the solution? I watched Mushi-shi and perfected avacado smoothie during my staycation! I feel mentally recharged and happy.

By now, I don’t know how many times I have watched Mushi-shi which was initially aired in Japan in 2005. It’s my to go anime when I want to clear my mind. It has this calming effect like tea. The animation is stunningly beautiful. I always feel as if I am hiking my way towards the mountains and then into the lush green forest with Ginko, the protagonist. But it’s not just the scenery that I like so much, it’s how well each episode tells its story surrounding the mysterious supernatural-like creatures called Mushi. There are 26 episodes and each episode is 24 minutes long. I like how short each episode is compared to some T.V shows that have 50 minutes long episode. Let’s just say I like to take frequent breaks.

If you are not familiar with the series by now, I am happy to tell you what it’s all about. Mushi is the closes thing to life itself. They come in different shapes and forms. Some are visible and some are not. Their existence is the cause of many humans’ ailment. Not everyone can see Mushi. Only certain people can. Ginko is one of them. Because of an exposure to a particular type of Mushi, a fish-like creature with one eye missing, Ginko can’t stay in one place for long without attracting the supernatural-like creatures. As a result, he is fated for a lone nomadic life, visiting different villages to help educate people on the nature of the Mushi and its effect on the mysterious sickness that one has been inflicted by the supernatural creature. He is like a researcher/scientist, but more like a medical doctor as he finds successful solution to protect both human and Mushi without destroying neither one so that one can live. In fact this is a recurring theme throughout the series.

One thing that I really like about this anime is the message it wants to convey to the audience: When you understand your “enemy” you become less afraid of them. It is better to accept their mere existence as part of the ecosystem. They are neither good nor bad. One episode titled Cotton Changeling proves that Mushi just want to live just as much as humans when it was given the ability to speak. It is an eerie episode in fact.

All of the episodes are resolved by Ginko’s ethical, scientific approach whereas other like him take on a more brutal approach towards the Mushi by killing them all of, which ironically killed the human life. As I mentioned earlier, Mushi is the closes thing to life itself. Ginko’s way of handling Mushi is very humanly and modern. When I say humanly, I mean he uses his God-given intelligence to solve problems rather than react out of primitive fear. This explains why he is dressed in western attire rather than traditional Japanese clothes. To dress like a foreigner gives him the impression of an outsider. His outsider perspective helps him make scientific decisions rather than rely on archaic custom. His western approach to Mushi is a sign of forward thinking.

What I learned from this anime is that ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is a powerful tool to harmonize the universe. Seek to understand the world around us because it can kill unnecessary superstition that does more harm than good. More importantly, it can save lives. Ginko saved lives like a true doctor. His compassion for all living things is admirable. I think that is why I like this show so much. Every time I watch it, it’s like having a fine cup of tea. Try it for yourself, you might enjoy the solitude walk in the forest.