Length: 140 minutes
Director: Taichi Ishidate
Cast: Daisuke Namikawa, Yui Ishikawa
3 out of 5 stars
A Kyoto Animation production, Violet Evergarden: The Movie continues the story from the anime series of the same name. The story revolves around a writer of letters, otherwise known as Auto Memory Dolls or just Dolls for short, and her name is none other than Violet Evergarden. As an orphan taken in by Major Gilbert, Violet is brought up in the army as a soldier, and is often regarded as a tool for war. But Major Gilbert wants Violet to live freely like a normal girl and his final words to her before he goes missing during the war are “I love you.”
However, Violet, who knows nothing but military skills, does not understand the meaning of love. As she sets off to find out what it means to love, Violet begins to work at CH Postal Company as a ghostwriter. Using the same hands that killed many people, Violet connects people by typing letters, helping them to express their heartfelt emotions on paper.
Firmly believing that Major Gilbert is still alive somewhere as his body is nowhere to be found on the battlefield, Violet goes about her days longing for the moment when she can meet him again. It is only when CH Postal Company receives a letter with familiar handwriting on it that things start to clear up.
Violet Evergarden: The Movie begins in the modern era when a young lady finds old letters that her grandmother receives from her great-grandmother. The story then flashes back to the era of letter-writing, right before the telephone takes over as the new form of communication. The plot jumps between these two periods of time, which highlights how much technology has advanced and how outdated letters have become.
It is also thought-provoking that most of us hardly write to our friends and family anymore, especially when we are just a text, a phone call, and a video call away — although some of us do not even do these, despite its convenience. Or perhaps precisely because it is convenient, we tend to think there is always “another time”. Regardless, some nuances found in letters can never be replaced, such as the joy of receiving a handwritten (or typed in this case, but nonetheless well-crafted) letter filled with raw emotions.
Reflections aside, Violet Evergarden: The Movie is the first production of Kyoto Animation since an arson incident at the studio took 36 lives. The picturesque film, which the victims helped produce, is said to have been completed with “extraordinary enthusiasm,” in fond memory of the deceased colleagues. Originally scheduled for release in January this year in Japan, the release date was delayed to April because of the incident, and later pushed back again due to the coronavirus. The rolling credits also has a special mention of a list of names, which I assumed are the names of the victims, followed by an ending image of Violet and Major Gilbert with intertwined pinkies.
Although the film is a continuation of the anime series, movie-goers need not worry about not understanding the story because the film spent a good 30 minutes or so recapping some iconic scenes from the anime series. It is not long-winded but just nice for you to quickly pick up where it left off. This also explains why the film is running at 20 minutes more than two hours, which is quite long for a movie these days, and even more so for an animated one.
All in all, while Violet Evergarden: The Movie is not an exceptional film in terms of its plot, it’s one to be noted for its melancholic graphics coupled with gentle music. You may also need to keep your tear ducts in control during a scene about a boy in a hospital, who has engaged the writing service of Violet.
Release date: 3 December 2020 (Singapore)