Netflix Series Detention (2020) Review: It’s More Than Meets the Eye

Based on the video game Detention, released Jan 12, 2017, developed by Red Candle Games for Netflix, the T.V show comprises of 8 episodes which tells a detailed story of a transferred student who suffers from mental illness. Oddly, I experienced a sense of familiarity after taking so many social science and history courses back in the day when I see literacy references appearing in the show. Great writers (Plato, Orwell, Walden) helped me understood quickly what the plot was about. It gets an A + for using influential books as props to illustrate that point. I was entertained all the way.

This show is worth checking out if you are into East Asian horror and also if you are a big fan of poetry, which I think is an outdated art form, but when incorporated with other medium, it becomes extremely powerful. Poetry is the form of using words to paint an image and evoke feelings; its rhythm helps create memorable lines too. There are some emotions that you cannot described alone just through the use of prose. Only poetry can deliver powerful images to abstract concepts such as life and death so that we can understand it on a deeper level.  I like how Detention glorifies the power of a poetry through the use of a dead schoolgirl’s poem. It allows me to see and feel the political oppression in a small Taiwanese town through its high school. Thus making it a hauntingly political tale that gives me a glimpse of the culture on the island. As a horror fan, horror is a genre that is very difficult to execute so when a rare one comes by, I can’t help but want to share with the rest of the world. I wrote a short review on the game a few years ago. Please do check it out. No spoiler I promise.

For my final thought, the show made me wonder why do grownups imprisoned students with their outdated ideology? What purpose does it serve other than complete control of one’s sovereignty? Perhaps going to detention may not be such a bad thing because it’s “in the pursuit of freedom [against authoritative government, we find] inner peace,” I quote the counselor from the show. The school was just a training ground for a more authoritative political system. But even if we escape, “outside this place is just a bigger crazier world,” says Liu Yun-hsiang, the main female protagonist. So what is the solution? Death? Overall, if you are looking for a thought provoking horror title on Netflix, I highly recommend this one.

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.