Violet Evergarden – 01 (First Impressions)

Violet’s life was once simple to the point of elemental. Rather than earth, fire, water, and air, she had the Battlefield, the Mission, the Orders, and, most importantly, the one who provided the last two on the first, the Commanding Officer; Major Gilbert.

When she comes to in a hospital, her face and arms bandaged, unable to hold a pen, Major Gilbert is the first person she calls for. She believes she’s in sufficiently good working order to begin the next Mission. She wants Orders as soon as possible. She wants to return to the Battlefield. She wants Gilbert.

She doesn’t get any of that. Instead, there’s this guy Colonel Hoggins. Violet’s new orders are simply to come with him. He takes her to a mansion, and there lives the Evergarden family to whom Gilbert has entrusted her until she comes of age.

In this civilized civilian capital untouched by war, Violet must feel utterly out of place. You don’t go stashing a military asset in a civilian setting, now do you? That would be improper. And Violet has always seen herself as such an asset. It’s why she stands at attention and salutes Mrs. Evergarden.

When Violet cannot grasp a lovely-looking cup of tea, it’s a highly symbolic gesture that becomes far more explicit when she reveals her adamantine hand. The metal on that hand is unlike anything else in that mansion, and so it doesn’t look like it belongs. Violet senses this.

When Hoggins starts to go, she protests. She must have orders at once. She must contact Gilbert. She must restore those elements that made up her world as long as she could remember. But again, Hoggins is unaccommodating. The war is over, he tells her, and to her that means she no longer has a purpose, and should be disposed of.

Colonel Hoggins, realizing Violet won’t adjust to life in peacetime so easily, decides to take her with him to the new postwar business he started: a civilian post office that also ghostwrites letters for the many members of the populace that can’t write (presumably due to the ravages of the war).

Because Hoggins, once the a leader of a force dedicated to destroying the enemy and nothing else, found a new niche in the war their blood and toil created, so can Violet. It’s just a matter of re-configuring the nature of those elements which she requires to live.

The “Battlefield” is now the port city of Leiden. In Gilbert’s stead, Hoggins is now her Commanding Officer (he prefers “Boss”). He’ll issue her Missions and Orders.

Those orders will consist not only of work—sorting and delivering mail—but also to learn that she needn’t work all day and night; that she must take breaks, eat, sleep, and all the other things civilians take for granted every goddamn day.

She seems to gradually get the hang of things, but there’s still a “fire” within her Hoggins hopes she’ll one day recognize. Not a literal fire, of course, but the fire of the trauma she suffered. She may regard herself as a weapon and tool and much of the rest of the army might’ve thought the same, but there’s also a human girl in there, and it’s time for her to live and be free.

Live and be free were Gilbert’s last orders, so Violet has no qualms about carrying them out. One day, she listens to one of the “Auto Memoir Dolls” writing a letter for a man who wants to urge his childhood friend not to marry another man.

As the words flow out of the “Doll” (really a beautiful, perceptive woman), memories of Violet’s former Battlefield surface. They’re brutal, and cruel, and dark. She’s every bit as brutal, taking out every enemy soldier that comes near her with grim efficiency and with no regard for her personal safety. We also see Gilbert, who seems to silently curse having to send her out to fight and kill.

The Doll’s closing words in the man’s letter are “I love you”, which are the last words Violet heard from Gilbert, who most likely died in that alley.

Violet didn’t understand those words, any more than a rifle would, but after witnessing the Doll use those words with such surety and conviction, she wants to learn what they mean. As such, she asks Gilbert if she can join the Auto Memoir Dolls in order to learn more about love and other emotions. Gilbert agrees, and Violet’s new Mission begins.

My first impressions of Violet Evergarden are…Wow. Dayum. This is how shit is done. KyoAni really balled out, delivering a wonderfully structured, quietly thrilling portrait of this broken vet. The war between nations may be over, now a new, more difficult war begins: to survive and find purpose in peacetime; to learn what an individual is and to learn what love is.

Ishikawa Yui (AKA Mikasa Ackerman) also delivers a compelling perfomance as, well, someone very similar to Mikasa in terms of loyalty to the person she loves most (though Vi doesn’t know what love is yet) to her general badassery.

Animation is, in a word, majestic. There’s a very vivid sense of the ugly pall of war being lifted over this alternate world, and yet the episode never banged us over the head with exposition. The flashbacks to the battle are effective in their brevity and intensity.

And the score, composed by American Evan Call, was the perfect aural accompaniment to Violet’s story. I don’t award 10s to first episodes lightly, but in the case of this episode, there is no other choice. Bravo.

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 05

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When Lulu decided to join Ginko on her grand journey to the other side of the wall, it seemed like the most noble thing in the world. And indeed, the episode opens with Ginko waking Kureha up with a gentle lick to the face…and Kureha shockingly licks back.

But we’re only seeing what Ginko wants to see. In reality, progress is slower than frozen honey: far from thinking of them as anything resembling friends or lovers, Kureha sees them as nothing but intruders and pests.

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Of course, this isn’t just because GInko and Lulu are bears. Kureha doesn’t want any friends anymore, ever. Sumiko was The One, The Only, friend she ever needed or will need. To befriend anyone else is to dishonor her memory and “give up on love”; not to mention it would be super-scary.

So when her teacher tells her to face reality—that Sumiko is gone, and must be replaced by new friends in order for Kureha to fit in—Kureha outright refuses, and in doing so may well be sealing her fate. But Kureha doesn’t seem to care anymore.

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This week we delve a little deeper into Ginko’s past with Kureha and her mom; the photo already shows us that a young Ginko in bear form was adopted by the two at some point. We learn how that happened, in one of the series’ most striking images—a flashback eleven years to  snow-covered battlefield littered with dead bear soldiers, and Ginko close to joining them.

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Suddenly, the warm hands of a five-year-old Kureha are upon her, telling her they’re friends and she loves her—and that’s pretty much it. From that point on, Ginko has loved her back with everything she’s got, and no matter what happened between that day and the present one, it wasn’t enough to destroy that love, or Ginko’s determination.

However, through the loss of her mom and Sumiko, Kureha has forgotten that fateful encounter. It’s up to Ginko to try to get her to remember, but she can’t just out and say it, or she and Lulu will lose their human forms.

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And all Kureha wants to remember is Sumiko. Making friends will only create memories that will cause her memories of Sumiko to fade with time. When her classmate Harishima Kaoru tearfully apologizes on behalf of the rest of the class for excluding her, and begs her forgiveness, she has none to give. Kureha’s a stick-to-it kind of gal; if the class is going to start something, they’d sure as hell finish it.

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Back home, Ginko and Lulu continue to flail about Kureha’s house against her desire for them to be there. Revealing aprons and a smorgasbord don’t interest her in the least.

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Yet Ginko continues to see and hear what she wants to, at least until the fantasy fades away and she sees and hears what really is: Kureha wants nothing to do with her, and if an approach exists that will make her remember, Ginko and Lulu haven’t cracked it yet.

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While the bears pull out all the stops for Kureha in vain, Kaoru and the class does the same in helping her replant the garden in preparation for her birthday. And where the bears fail, Kureha’s class get her to lower her defenses a little by killing her with kindness.

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Then the pretty, laid-back flutes and harps are replaced by a harsher electronic theme as Kaoru and the class reveals it’s all an act. Of course it is. And Kureha’s instincts were correct. They’re still fully committed to making her invisible by naming her the Number One Evil. Kureha’s teacher may have been willing to exercise some patience with her, but her peers aren’t so understanding.

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Ginko and Lulu catch on to all of this, and go to Yuri Court to argue their case. The defense attorney is all for them protecting the girl they love, but the prosecutor believes they’re only using Kureha as an excuse to eat girl after invisible girl. When Life Sexy asks Ginko what her true goal is, she confesses: she wants Kureha, all to herself.

It’s something Lulu must have suspected, but that doesn’t make it hurt less to hear it out loud. Ginko also brings up a “serious crime” (killing Kureha’s mother, perhaps, which is why she has that star pendant?”) from which there’s no going back. Life Sexy approves their Yuri, and off they go.

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Ginko and Lulu confront and threaten Kaoru late at night at the garden, believing they’re in control. But that, too, proves a fantasy, as at the end of the day, the surge of passion that overcomes a charging bear at its seemingly terrified prey will make that bear blind to the trap set before it. Ginko gets snapped up in that trap, and Kaoru bears a predatory grin of her own.

In obviously immense pain (and immense trouble), Ginko calls out, not for Lulu, who’s right there, but for Kureha, who last time we checked wanted nothing to do with her. With that brutal SNAP of the trap, her grand mission is in tatters. Sure, it’s a cliffhanger, but one I’m fully invested in.

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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 04

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Yura is having fun in the C3 Club, but her technical skill is limited, so Sonora decides to train her at a shrine. Sonora gives her a Scorpion vs. 61 and her first lesson is to hit a 5-yen piece from a distance. Yura sees a white fox while climbing thr shrine’s stepes, and the coin becomes a warrior Sonora mentioned died young and was enshrined there. When they call it a day, Yura leaves the gun behind. When she goes back for it after dark, the young warrior confronts her, calling himself Choujirou.

He tells her her the world in which she sees “delusions” is a real realm that is resonating with his own. He transports her to a medieval battlefield on the day and moment he is to be killed by an arrow. A real vz 61 in hand, he asks her to intervene on his behalf. After discussing her ordeal with Sonora (who tells her the gun’s name is Choujirou)Yura returns to the shrine with Rento, and both are returned to the world. Rento watches Yura shoot the arrow down, and in the real world, the airsoft pellet lodges in the hole of the coin. Back in the clubroom, her friends tell her Choujirou died an old man.

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We’ve seen the shy new girl trying to find a place where she belongs, watched her participation in the club stir up passion, and watched her battle a rival club. None of those things are all that different from what Miho experiences in Girls und Panzer. But this was the episode that separated the women from the girls (und Panzer). This week, the ancient surroundings have a powerful effect on Yura, and there she not only discovers “her idea of airsoft”, but also manages to change history itself.

One could dismiss the awesome, fantastical elements of this episode as just that: Yura’s delusions but only at first. That all goes out the window when Rento goes side with Yura and sees the same scene as Yura – and is so freaked out she doesn’t speak of it to anyone! And when Yachiyou tells her Choujirou died an old man, that seals the deal: shooting down that arrow saved Choujirou’s life and ended his need to “fight forevermore”. And thus all of Yura’s past “delusions” so far in the series, and going forward gain deeper significance. The ramifications are positively spine-tingling, and elevate C3-bu to a whole other level.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yura receives her gun, and it’s a beaut. She also almost whips it out on a train…not a good idea considering what a realistic replica it is!
  • Sonora’s whole lesson at the shrine is a succession of awesome lines…”You fail because you seek success” and such.
  • Looking back, the tone of the battle and Yura’s mood in the moment all determine the nature of the “delusions” that form around her. Very Suzumiya Haruhi-ish.
  • The moment the gun in the battle scene suddenly changes from plastic to metal – and becomes much heavier in Yura’s hands – is one of our favorite moments of the episode. Shit’s literally gettin’ real.
  • We’re eager to see how Rento processed what she saw, and whether she’ll ever bring it up to Yura or the others. Then again, other club members near Yura may eventually see what she’s capable of anyway.
  • The series could always downplay this “power” of Yura’s but we hope it doesn’t drop it altogether in favor of more battles with rival clubs. That would be a huge shame.
  • These developments mean Yura can now visit any shrine with a restless spirit and help them out…as long as marksmanship is required, of course!

OreShura – 13 (Fin)

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At the OreDere contest, Chiwa goes first, and delivers a heartfelt confession to Eita. Next is Himeko, who has stage fright and clings to Eita in the back of the crowd; the cameras eventually fall on her as she confesses. Ai is disqualified, leaving Masuzu, who arrives on stage disinterested and depressed. Eita works to snap her out of it, joining her on the stage, confessing to and kissing her in front of everyone. None of the girls win. The next morning Masuzu jumps into bed with Eita and tells him she loveshim. Eita tries his aunt’s advice to get the other three girls to hate him, but he fails with all three, and remains on the battlefield route.

A horrible girl like you could only have a horrible guy like me by your side.

You know what? Credit where credit’s due, OreShura didn’t screw the pooch on the ending. Eita chose a route, going for his ugly, beautiful, fake girlfriend and making his commitment to her real. This despite extremely moving cases made by Chiwa and Hime, but particularly Chiwa. She, and to a lesser extent Ai, have been sitting back and waiting so long for Eita to notice them, and…then Masuzu showed up. Theirs wasn’t a real courtship at first, but it became one. Years of being treated as a “jewel” have scarred her, but Eita is committed to making her happy, and positive they’re the only ones for one another.

You might say, “wasn’t this the most predictable ending the show could have come up with?” Well, yeah – we said that in our review of episode one:

Our suspicion is that one or the other or both will lose perspective as the fake relationship becomes more real.

But it was also the most logical, sensible, and satisfying way to end things. A harem was unsustainable and unfair to all participants. And while Eita isn’t able to make Hime, Ai, or Chiwa hate him, none of them can claim ignorance about Eita’s sincerity any longer, and that’s proven when all three girls tell him they had a rough night after the contest. That’s because the lying stopped, Eita made a definite choice and stood by it. The choice isn’t easy for either him or us, as part of us remained sympathetic to Chiwa’s case, but ultimately, we think he made the right one – anything was preferable to perpetuating the harem.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • There’s a great ambiguity to Masuzu’s bed scene with Eita: proof that she’s not entirely sure what’s going on yet, but she’s willing to trust in Eita. As she says, acting lovey-dovey makes her feel like she’s “rotting”, but as long as she’s rotting with him, it’s not so bad. Don’t know whether to say “Baww” or “Yikes” to that, but we wish them the best of luck.
  • Hime remained true to character by being too afraid to take the stage. We appreciated that decision.
  • Ditto Ai, who takes Eita’s random papercut blood to mean he signed the marriage contract. Faced with sad or humiliating reality, Ai retreats into lies, e.g. and commits to them (e.g. “texting Michel”)
  • Chiwa’s stolen kiss on tiptoe…to borrow a quote from this week’s Chihayafuru: SWOOOON. Don’t give up the fight, Chihuahua!

OreShura – 12

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The Maiden club arrives at the beach. Masuzu and Eita set to work trying to convince the other girls they’re a real couple, but they aren’t buying it. Ai tells Suzu she won’t forgive her if she’s just been stringing Eita along. Suzu devises a scheme in which Eita gives her casual kiss goodnight, but before he can, the other girls present them with matching straps as a sign of their membership. The gesture depresses Masuzu, and she doesn’t leave her room in the morning. While on a stroll, Eita bumps into Mana, who tells her she’s glad he’s come to like her, and sees him as a worthy “accomplice” for her big sister.

Masuzu and Eita believed this entire beach trip would be one tense battlefield from start to finish, and considering how they ham it up on the bus, they may not have the resources to succeed in fooling Chiwa, Ai, and Hime, despite how compromised they may be by “love on the brain”. The fact is, Suzu’s three rivals not only get along with each other famously, but aren’t making over-concerted efforts to steal Eita away. They make a gesture here and there, but enjoying themselves at the beach takes precedence. This pragmatism comes to a head when Eita and Suzu’s plan is foiled by chance, when the girls decide to give their club founder a token of their esteem. All of their earnestness wears Masuzu down until she becomes more depressed with herself.

But as Mana points out to Eita in an exchange that becomes surprisingly civil (considering it started with a bike accident and his hand on her bum), Suzu’s sister Mana tells him the whole story of why her sister is so all over the place. As her father’s status symbol, Masuzu has been acting and pretending so long, Mana believes she’s “gone crazy”. Suzu doesn’t know who the real her is anymore, so she jumps from warm to cold, and strings Eita along for the rid. The thing is, Eita hasn’t minded this. He’s enjoyed his time with Masuzu, even the blackmail and abuse. And when she says she’ll release him after the trip, he seems apprehensive. So who’s he ending up with? We’ll see if the impending contest in the finale carries any answers.


Rating: 8 (Great)