Returning to Violet Evergarden was more difficult and emotionally-affecting than I thought it would be.
On July 18, 2019, a man set fire to Kyoto Animation’s main studio, killing 36 people and injuring at least 33. Not-so-coincidentally, I stopped blogging about anime shortly after this happened. Part of my absence from blogging was due to an increased workload at my job. The other part was simple sadness.
Since my initial entry into currently-airing anime (see: watching it streaming weekly rather than through Adult Swim) around 2010, Kyoto Animation’s series have meant a lot to me. I remember when Clannad — a series that I regularly dunk on now, albeit fondly — was one of the more interesting things I had ever seen from anime. From there, I was recommended The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the now-defunct time capsule of Lucky Star. They all had this one studio in common: Kyoto Animation. Hyouka, Sound Euphonium, K-On!, Free, Nichijou, and others have been some of my favorites alongside adjacent works like Tamako Love Story, High Speed! Free! Starting Days, and Liz and the Blue Bird. Some of my favorite directors and animators have been housed at Kyoto Animation and some of them are no longer alive due to the arson attack last year.
Others have written specifically about how the Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll movie became something far greater than was ever intended following the studio fire. It was a side story that became a main story due to circumstance. Yet, for me personally, Violet Evergarden was something that was made more spectacular for Kyoto Animation’s involvement and stunning execution. It was appropriately ostentatious for something set in an anachronistic Victorian-era setting and while not every episode succeeded, when they did succeed it was beautiful and emotionally-devastating. The animation and attention to detail from directors Haruka Fujita and Taichi Ishidate alongside the entire Kyoto Animation team elevated the source material to something special.
Returning to it after not having watched anything new by Kyoto Animation since the fire was also special. The lush backgrounds and scenery were back. The needless trappings of Violet’s outfit and focus on Victorian-era footwear and flowers were back.
Despite everything, Kyoto Animation was back.
The simple opening storyboard in Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll speaks volumes. One of the characters in the movie, Taylor Bartlett, is shown arriving by boat to Leiden, home of Violet’s workplace, the CH Postal Company. Her eyes widen as she sees the scenery, which will be familiar to anyone who has watched Violet Evergarden. The movie then cuts to a view from Violet’s window, and finally, Violet herself typing out a letter using her prosthetic hands. It’s as if the movie itself is welcoming us back to Violet’s world, surrounding us in a warm embrace where, in that moment, we can momentarily forget whatever is going on or whatever happened and immerse ourselves in Violet’s story once more.