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by Rebecca Silverman,

Violet Evergarden: The Movie

Limited Edition

Violet Evergarden: The Movie Limited Edition
The war is long over, and Violet Evergarden is trying to live her life without Gilbert, continuing to write letters so that people's words can reach who they need to. In the distant future, a young woman named Daisy finds a collection of letters written by Violet to her grandmother, mirroring Violet's work in the past writing for a dying child. As the two women explore the worlds of love and the written word, both of them come closer to an understanding of their own emotions – and maybe, just maybe, a happy ending for Violet.

In the language of flowers, a blue (purple) violet means “love” and a white daisy means “innocence.” Although a Japanese film doesn't necessarily adhere to Victorian lore, I can't help but think that maybe there's something to them in the case of Violet Evergarden: The Movie. Violet and Daisy are the names borne by the two protagonists of the film, one in the past and one in the present, and both are the embodiment of their floral namesakes. Violet is searching for her love, having finally come to understand what that word means, while Daisy is in desperate need of innocence as she mourns her grandmother Anne's death.

These two flower names and their symbolism set up some of the action of this sequel to the Violet Evergarden television series. Taking place after the war as well as in the equivalent of the present day, the story primarily follows Violet as she continues to live her life, even as she mourns what most people assume to be Gilbert's death. (Violet, you may recall, wants to believe that he's alive.) She answers a request from a boy named Yuris, who is dying of some unnamed disease, to write letters to be given to his parents and younger brother after his passing, which reminds her of the letters she wrote to be sent to Anne, one each year on her birthday. This is the link to Daisy in the future, who inherits Anne's letters upon her death and begins a search to find out what happened to the “doll” who wrote them, Violet. Although Violet gets the majority of the action, Daisy's journey shadows hers, which is in service of the main theme of the film: that words, specifically written words, have an impact long after their author is gone.

It wouldn't be hard to proclaim this an ode to the power of correspondence, and in many ways, I think it is. It's letters that bring Violet hope of seeing her beloved again, and it is letters that help Daisy to deal with her loss and unresolved feelings. In the Yuris' storyline (as well as Daisy's), the idea that letters have the final voice of the dead comes to the fore, reminding viewers that writing is the way that the past can speak to the present.

If this sounds bittersweet, it very much is; even when nothing sad is actively happening on the screen, you feel like tears are going to come spilling out at any moment. That's a triumph of the way this film is put together: the visuals, sound design, and writing all come together to make an immersive and emotional experience. Even if this is your first introduction to the franchise, it's easy to get emotionally involved in the characters and their struggles, and there's enough backstory provided that we can understand the Violet/Gil situation without having witnessed it firsthand in the TV series. Mostly, though, the art and animation carry this movie. There's a melancholy beauty to the landscapes and city scenes that conveys mood beautifully, whether it's Daisy staring at a rotary phone and realizing that it killed letter writing as an industry or the bleak glory of the island where Violet goes to find Gil. Seeing the same places in two time periods is also remarkably effective, as it shows us the passage of time without harping on the fact that by Daisy's time, those of Violet's world is either going or gone from the Earth.

Of course, all of this can be very overwhelming, something not helped by the 140-minute runtime. Although it's difficult to see what could have been cut out, this almost would have worked better as two shorter films, because it's emotionally grueling to spend so long feeling like you're going to cry, even for a satisfying ending. Violet's and Gil's emotional reactions to the trauma they suffered during the war are well realized, albeit a bit frustrating at times, but it's a lot to take in, and viewers should be aware of this, although anyone who is coming to it from the TV series likely already knows that this isn't a fluffy story.

The limited edition is a beautiful package. Included are both the BD and HD versions of the film, as well as a set of twelve art cards, deliberately designed to look like oversize postcards. (Presumably, you could mail them, if you wanted to.) The cards come in their own box, and the discs are perhaps overwrapped: the clamshell is inside a paper sleeve inside a box inside another sleeve. On the plus side, it's like opening a special package that came in the mail. On the downside, that's a lot of paper wrapping. On-disc extras are limited to TV spots and trailers.

Because our previous reviews focused on the original Japanese language track, I watched this one in English. The dub is generally strong, although there are moments when it sounds a bit stilted. Erika Harlacher and Tony Azzolino both do very well as Violet and Gilbert and honestly, the amount of pathos delivered by the English voice actors is nearly on par with the Japanese, at least in terms of delivering on the melancholy bittersweetness required.

Although it is a bit hampered by its long runtime, Violet Evergarden: The Movie is still a beautifully melancholy experience. Exquisitely rendered and charmingly bittersweet, it's a film to watch when you need a good cry, or just to be reminded that the world of yesterday can still be accessed through the words it left behind.

Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B+

+ Gorgeous visually, beguilingly melancholy in its writing and delivery. Lovely ode to the power of paper correspondence.
Dub can be a little stilted at times, definitely a bit overpackaged. A little too long for maximum impact.

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Production Info:
Director: Taichi Ishidate
Series Composition: Reiko Yoshida
Storyboard: Taichi Ishidate
Unit Director:
Taichi Ishidate
Taichi Ogawa
Minoru Ōta
Shinpei Sawa
Takuya Yamamura
Music: Evan Call
Original creator: Kana Akatsuki
Character Design: Akiko Takase
Art Director: Mikiko Watanabe
Art: Mutsuo Shinohara
Chief Animation Director: Akiko Takase
Animation Director:
Kazumi Ikeda
Miku Kadowaki
Nobuaki Maruki
Tatsunari Maruko
Yuko Myouken
Kohei Okamura
Akiko Takase
Yuki Tsunoda
3D Director: Rin Yamamoto
Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka
Director of Photography: Kōhei Funamoto
Licensed by: FUNimation

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Violet Evergarden: The Movie (movie)

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