Violet Evergarden: The Movie Review

Major spoilers ahead!

The original Violet Evergarden remains one of my favorite anime series to this day. An emotional journey that highlights the pains of moving on from the past, the themes of empathy, loss, and trauma struck a chord within me that’s stayed ever since. Alongside breathtaking visuals from Kyoto Animation and a gorgeous soundtrack from Evan Call, Violet Evergarden is a masterwork of its medium. The series was followed by Violet Evergarden Gaiden, a side story adapted from the original light novel. Throughout the series, Violet slowly comes to discover what “love” means through her interactions with her coworkers, friends, and the stories of those she encounters along the way. Violet Evergarden: The Movie brings everything full circle and centers on Violet searching for Gilbert, the man who first told her “I love you.”

Violet Evergarden: The Movie picks up where the series left off as Violet continues her work at the post office after becoming more famous from her letters. The initial pacing of the movie is a slow burn as we get reintroduced to the cast and the plot gets slowly set up. Much like the original anime series, the purposeful buildup is executed well as Kyoto Animation gets to flex their stunning visual style and the viewers get pulled into the character stories. We get introduced to Yuris, a terminally ill boy who wants to write letters for his family when he’s gone. There’s a certain familiarity to the episodic nature of Violet’s previous adventures and the movie does a great job of highlighting that pacing. Though there’s a couple of plot threads at first, they begin to converge together at the midpoint of the movie.

When Violet and Hodgins find evidence that Gilbert might be alive, they set out to search for him on a remote island. It turns out that he is indeed alive but while Violet is desperate to see him again, he refuses to meet because he is filled with guilt in having used her in the war. While Violet is absolutely heartbroken, she nevertheless decides to leave the island since Yuris’s condition has worsened and she promised to help him finish the letters. Up to this point, I feel like Violet Evergarden: The Movie did a great job of showcasing Violet’s growth as a character throughout her journey. The original series focused on the thematic elements of moving on and fundamentally, it’s about Violet learning to let Gilbert go. What Gilbert wanted most before he “died” was for Violet to live a happy, full life without him and she’s found that in her job as an Auto Memories Doll. We see her growth as a character when she decides to leave behind her chance to see Gilbert so she can fulfill her promise to Yuris. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how Gilbert being alive would be incorporated into Violet’s character arc and regardless of the result, I can’t help but think it’s a step back for her development.

Violet Evergarden: The Movie' is Coming to Netflix in October 2021 - What's  on Netflix

When we encounter Gilbert in Violet Evergarden: The Movie, he’s a broken man wracked with guilt and regret. He claims that Violet is better off without him and refuses to see her or give her any sense of closure. He’s in a pitiful state of self-deprecation because he can’t come to terms with the past. Though Violet and Hodgins try to coax him out, he rebuffs them time and time again. Only after reading Violet’s final letter does he relent and it culminates in an emotional run-towards-each-other scene where they proclaim their love for one another. Violet resigns from the post office and she lives together with Gilbert on the island happily ever after. It’s pretty melodramatic, even for Violet Evergarden’s standards and Gilbert’s sudden change of heart at the end undermines a lot of what the original series had built up.

Understandably, Gilbert was pushing Violet away in fear of hurting her again but he’s put himself in a pathetic state of existence that doesn’t align with Violet’s growth at all. Much of Violet’s journey revolved around her building a life without depending on Gilbert through family and friends. The movie regresses Violet’s character so that Gilbert can awkwardly fit into the equation and leaves behind all of the characters who had helped her reach this point in the first place. Beyond that, the romantic implication is also a strange choice given that I assumed the bond between Violet and Gilbert was more familial in nature. Even setting aside the weird age gap, their relationship seemed more like father-daughter than anything romantic. As a character that we’ve all grown attached to over the course of the series and side stories, Violet deserved a better ending than being shackled down by her past. Perhaps Gilbert might be more redeemable if there was a genuine reason as to why he never contacted Violet. But to imply his PTSD or trauma would be overcome by simply reuniting with Violet does a great disservice to her character.

Violet Evergarden: The Movie (2020)

I wish I could love this movie as much as I loved the original Violet Evergarden series. But it was disappointing to see all of the character development they had built over the episodes thrown away in the end. When the trailers for the movie first came out, I was worried that Gilbert wouldn’t fit into the story well if he actually turned out to be alive. There’s simply no meaningful way to bring him back without disrupting Violet’s growth. It’s a shame that for every step forward the movie takes in terms of art direction, it takes two steps back in its characterizations. Characters like Hodgins, Iris, and Cattleya deserve closure as well and they’re pushed to the side so that Violet can end up with Gilbert. Apart from a small redemption arc from Dietfried and a nice callback to Ann Magnolia, none of the characters go through particularly meaningful changes and this is because the movie has put a laser focus on Violet’s reunion with Gilbert. Furthermore, the pacing leaves a sour taste in your mouth after you realize that the buildup amounts to this ending. While the slow burn is great in the context of the anime, the movie never utilizes it to its full potential. Instead, the melodrama is consistently predictable but never develops into anything stronger than the rift between Violet and Gilbert. There are plenty of things the movie does well: the visuals are Kyoto Animation’s best, the music is superb, and the Yuris storyline is beautifully bittersweet. Yet Violet Evergarden: The Movie falls short in its conclusion as it forgoes Violet’s arc in favor of the fairytale ending.


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I turned my incoherent ramblings on music, anime, and video games into an entire blog.

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