Violet Evergarden – 05

Violet must be making a name for herself with her unique yet compelling ghostwriting style, because her latest request comes from the royal family of Drossel, whose princess Charlotte is arranged to marry a prince of Flugel, a former enemy.

Violet must ghostwrite love letters to Prince Damian, on Charlotte’s behalf, which will be public and meant to “sell” the match to the two nations’ subjects. One could scarcely live two lives as differently as the coddled Charlotte and the tortured Violet, who are both around fourteen.

Still, Violet assures her client that she will accomplish her mission without fail. Her first love letter is well-written and has the desired effect among both the royal families, resulting in a favorable and just as well-written reply (no doubt from another Auto Memories Doll).

As such, the reply only frustrates Princess Charlotte (Nakajima Megumi), who is quick to emotion and tears, and knows the prince she only met once would never have written such a letter. Four years ago, she fled her “birthday” party, which was nothing but an endless parade of suitors.

The only one to go looking for her, and tell her it was okay to cry, was Prince Damian. When Violet hears of this, the genesis of true love between two people acting genuinely to one another without airs, she institutes a bold plan: let Charlotte write letters, by hand, from the heart, which Violet will refine as necessary.

A stirring correspondence between her and the prince ensues, captivating the public even more with their brutal honesty, modesty, and emotion. Violet assists, but the words are purely Charlotte’s, and once she gets into a rhythm, she has no trouble speaking her mind and voicing her concerns.

The replies she receives are similarly, refreshingly self-deprecating, suggesting the two are more alike than different, each finding the mantle of royalty—and even maturity—an ill fit.

Finally, the time comes for the prince and princess to reunite in the same moonlit garden where they met for the first and only other time. Damian, fully convinced by the letters that Charlotte will be a splendid match, offers his hand in marriage.

Through the power of the letters and the memory they shared (or perhaps the memory Violet told Cattleya to bring up on Damian’s behalf) the royal couple’s love became real, making their marriage not merely one of political expediency, but a strong and lasting bond that reflects the potential for the two nations to embrace each other in equal measure.

Charlotte, like every other “guest” character in VE so far, is quickly and wonderfully depicted, starting out as your prototypical spoiled princess but gradually revealing much more humanity, ironically thanks to the still very doll-like Violet. Her close bond to her maid Alberta was particularly poignant.

While Violet had to force a smile upon meeting Charlotte, her face bears a real one, without trying, on the beautiful day of Charlotte’s wedding, which neither she nor Damian’s doll Cattleya attend, as they must return to Leiden to tackle their next missions.

That smile is huge, because it means that through Violet’s interactions and education dealing with people whose emotions she must suss out in written form, is gradually rubbing off on her. She is learning how to be a person with feelings and desires of her own.

So it’s particularly troubling for someone from her past (Gilbert’s brother Dietfried, if I’m not mistaken) to appear, condemn her for the bloodshed she committed when she was nothing but a vicious weapon, and make her relive one of her many past slaughters.

It occurs to me that Violet Evergarden’s stoic, doll-like, emotionless demeanor was not something hastily achieved; it was the result of an entire life of fourteen years bereft of mercy, kindness, and love…until Gilbert. Now he’s gone, and someone who remembers what she once was and what she did, and threatens to tear down all her progress.

Yet this is also her first real test: Violet must not simply take Dietfried’s scorn and abuse lying down. Whatever she did, she had to do, because she was never given any other choice at that point in her life. Now that conditions have allowed her to claim a life all her own, it’s up to her to defend that life from those who’d drag her back into the shadows.

Advertisements

Devilman: Crybaby – 01 (First Impressions)

So begins my foray into the venerable Devilman franchise, which dates to 1974, its latest iteration available on Netflix at the same time in America as Japan. It’s actually been available for a while now, but I didn’t get around to cracking it open until now.

The first episode of Crybaby is brisk, starting with some heady philosophizing, giving us a quick glimpse of friends Asuka Ryou (a cold realist even in his youth) and Fudou Akira (the titular crybaby, who has enough empathy for both of them).

It isn’t long before the mundaneness of P.E. (and the somewhat head-scratchiness of a random attack by beatboxing rappers) is left behind in a cloud of Ryou’s Mitsuoka Orochi exhaust and the innocent, sensitive Akira finds himself in a debaucherous orgy of hedonism in which drugs and sex reign supreme, the escape of the young, rich, and bored.

Ryou brought Akira here to pop his cherry…in a sense. Ryou’s experience abroad has led him to believe a human can merge with a devil/demon and gain its power while maintaining their humanity, and Akira is the perfect vessel to test that theory.

However, the orgy isn’t, well, bloody or gory enough to draw out any devils, so Ryou rectifies that by wrecking up the place. He and Akira are very nearly beaten to death in the fracas, and before long devils start sprouting from the orifices of women and what were once areas of pleasure become weapons of evisceration.

It’s a huge mess, but Ryou gets what he came for: the demon Amon possesses Akira and merges with him, resulting in the titular Devilman. Perhaps because of how good and pure Amon’s human vessel is, Devilman is particularly powerful, and dispatches the other nasties without too much trouble, and with quite a bit of satisfaction.

And there you have it! Oh wait, why is Ryou doing this? For SCIENCE, I suppose; humans aren’t evolving fast enough for him; perhaps he believes it’s time to shake things up by nurturing such mergings as Akira with Amon. Or maybe that one merge was all he cared about, in hopes his friend, always a crybaby, would benefit in some way.

Yuasa Masaaki’s unique style is unmistakable here, and though this is certainly more violent than the only other work of his I’ve seen. As I said, it’s a brisk and relatively straightforward episode with a decent hook: what the hell will become of Akira now that Ryou has condemned him to share his existence with a demon?

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 05

Fu’s old friend Chihiro comes to Takehara to visit her and meet her new circle of friends. She finds them all warm, friendly, and energetic as they tour the town and sample the food. She’s also glad that Fu is doing so well. Kaoru’s sister invites them to an hours-long hike all the way to and up Kurotaki Hill. Chihiro comes away with many new friends and happy memories.

Everyone has their little quirk: Potte is always snapping pics; Maon is always whistling; Norie is always yelling or jumping around; Kaoru is…actually pretty normal, but she has a weird older sister. Add Chihiro – the crybaby – to the mix, and you have a veritable motley crew of quirk. But damn it all if it isn’t a charming-as-all-hell crew. The whole episode was humming with positive vibes.

Chihiro has trouble making friends, and had every reason to worry that even Fu had possibly abandoned her for new, less skittish friends. But there was no such conflict or competition to be found here. Everybody’s happy! And honestly, with all that great food and stunning scenery, how could they not be? Other nice details: Chihiro making little stuffed guys for everyone, and Potte’s mother was once in a motorcycle club – rad.


Rating: 3.5

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 01

Junior high student Fuu has decided to make a big change in her life. She’s moving back to her birthplace of Takehara, to be near the Seto Inland Sea, attend a new high school, and make use of her late father’s camera she inherited. This episode is mostly a flashback of her life before moving, documenting how much her father and his pictures have meant to her, the build-up to her decision, and saying her goodbyes to her best friend Chihiro. Armed with a blessing from her mom and a published photographer friend of her father, he strikes out Takehara, where she goes by the nickname “Potte.”

Man, that was just a lovely, warm, calm, breezy episode of anime. The landscapes and twisting roads and stairs of the hilly town are exquisitely and imaginatively rendered. The palette is subtle, muted, but still lush, adding to the realism. But it doesn’t just look beautiful; all the people are beautiful as well. No excessive proprietary jargon; no factions, just real friggin’ life. And a girl starting fresh, like Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha…only without the yelling and no love interest. Sure, there’s crying, but it’s established that Chihiro is a crybaby…though when Fuu leaves, both of them have grown more “aggressive”.

Fuu/Potte is out to make her dearly departed dad proud; to carry on his tradition of capturing little scenes and moments often forgotten in the course of life. He taught her a lot, including how to work his very slick Rollei 35S mini-camera, and all that knowledge is still in her heart. The Camera is the tool to draw it all out, and replace her grief with happiness. She says if she can capture those warm happy moments just right, the “Children of Light” will come out. Sounds like a terrorist group, but we’re sure it’s not. Photography is used early and often to provide back-story and imagery from the past, and by episode’s end, we felt we’d learned a great deal about Fuu in a very short time. We want to learn more still.


Rating: 4