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.

Ninja Scroll(1993)Review: A Love Story for Humanity

Don’t underestimate the power of good illustration. Like a prey, people like me get trapped by its web all the time. That’s what happened to me with Ninja Scroll. I jumped into this film without knowing anything about it. I just saw the cover and I thought it looked cool. And I was not wrong. The illustration is stunningly beautiful despite the gore, sex and violence which enhanced the overall viewing experience. I was in awe or perhaps, after seeing so many subpar animations, it’s nice to finally see the real deal. Then again, I like the films directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, which I later found out after watching this film that the same director did Demon City Shinjuku (1988). I noticed his style. It’s alluring. Ninja Scroll is how I would define a romance story. The relationship between the poison taster Kagero (female lead) and the wandering ninja Kibagami Jubei (male lead), illustrates a romantic union for human survival.

Right off the bat, the film started off really cool where Jubei, a very skilled swordsman, got attacked by thieves. It’s later, we learn that Jubei was hired by a clan for 20 ryo to get a highly treasured sword back for a poor clan. How many people do you know would accept a modest compensation for a big task? Only a big-heart hero like Jubei would. Instantly, I was wooed.

On the other hand, Kagero’s entrance came on strong as well. In fact, highly admirable. The way how the scene introduces her barging into a room of ninjas, instantly won me over. She refuses to stay behind and watch all of the clan members get wiped out by the Shogun of Dark clan. Hot-headed and as fearless as she is, makes her an entertaining character to watch alongside with the more relaxed, hobo-ish ninja, Jubei.

Of course, it is probably not intended to be a romance story, or perhaps it’s a subtle romance story about humanity striving to survive the corrupted world filled with demons (I am thinking abstractly here). Your experience with the film may differ from mine. But I think we can agree that the animation in this film is top-notch. Some of the scenes, however, involving women, can be gruesomely graphic (rape scenes). It may make some uncomfortable, but it didn’t offend me because it serves a purpose by illustrating how politically corrupted the world is in that time era. And honestly, I kind of like that over the top exaggerated storytelling. It’s art. To be fair, both men and women in this film are both sexualized and both are just as equally strong while having their own unique vulnerabilities. It is nice to see the masculine and feminine energy at play, metaphorically speaking.

In conclusion, I have never experienced love to know what romance is until I watched this film. I protect you; you protect me. Isn’t that how relationship should be? Kagero and Jubei made a great team. This film is my definition of what makes a romantic love story.

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.