I’m sure you came here expecting a review of Violet Evergarden and a recommendation as to whether or not you should watch it. In a way I suppose this will likely do that but today’s piece is more personal. It’s a letter to you, the community, and to myself. I’m not writing it as Jon Spencer, but rather as the man behind the persona, Nathan Mehlhorn.
As many of you know I have several conditions such as Cerebral Palsy and Autism. It’s not something I really keep secret. However, what you probably do not know is I don’t communicate very well with people. This, of course, is not always the case as with anyone but in person I’m not exactly an expert conversationalist. Surprised? I’ve always been much better at communicating through writing, though my spelling limits my vocabulary and I’m prone to more errors, it is generally more concise and easier to follow.
This is not so unusual for people in my position. I don’t have to track a conversation, focus on eye contact, or follow typical social conventions on the computer. I have time to process responses and am afforded ample time to think of phrasing to reply in turn. In short, writing, as a medium, is generally an easier forum of communication for me.
Hence why we are talking about Violet Evergarden today. This series is about three major things. The first of which is war, which I can relate to in that my Father was in the military but is not what I’d like to focus on today. As for the other two things, they would be about Violet wishing to learn what, “I love you” means and letter writings. Specifically, how sometimes it is easier to say things in writing than aloud.
In short, this is about the power of words.
Violet Evergarden is not unique in this exploration however. So you may be wondering why the focus on this show specifically? To which I would applaud you. That’s an excellent question. In truth, this could easily be about The Great Passage which explores similar themes through its story about creating a dictionary. Partially, I chose this series because it’s popular and more accessible. However, Violet Evergarden has one thing other shows do not, and that’s Violet herself.
A complaint often leveled at Violet Evergarden is that Violet is too robotic, she’s not quite, well, human enough for people. What an insult to people like myself. Allow me to explain. At the start of the series Violet is very much like an autistic person, she has poor communication skills. While she is excellent at conveying information and typing, she doesn’t understand people. Her quest for understanding what, “I love you” means is really a means for her to connect with others.
When I was younger, I was very similar to Violet. I just didn’t get people. I still don’t always. I’d take orders, relay information, etc… This made me an excellent student, I was smart and capable in that respect, but when it came to people not so much. I’d often misunderstand sarcasm, hidden intent behind words, and things that for many people are relatively obvious.
Seeing Violet’s journey through the series is one that I can relate to personally. Not because I have a tragic war story background but because the growth of her character is so similar to my own.
There is another thing I realized with Violet Evergarden though. My highest rated shows do one of three things well. The first being that they are technically impressive, the next being they are intellectually stimulating, and the third being they are emotionally resonate with me. Especially sad things.
You might be thinking, “So what?” because this in itself isn’t that uncommon. The focus is on the emotionally resonate stuff. I don’t experience emotions the same way as other people. I can become upset, frustrated, depressed, just like anybody else, but truly feeling something is pretty rare.
This is a lot harder to explain so let me do my best here. For a long time I wouldn’t even be phased by somebody dying, just as an example. I still don’t really because it is totally normal, it happens, just a natural phenomenon. Most people think that’s weird. I should be sad, right?
Well when it comes to anime, I feel these things really strongly. Not in every show, but things like Anohana, which I’ve mentioned, hit me so hard I can barely stand a rewatch. I seek these strong feelings out in media. Not just negative ones, but positive ones too.
Anime has been a blessing in that regard. It has helped me understand people a lot better. That’s the true value of something like Violet Evergarden and why I think it is such a wonderful show. The power of communication comes through so strongly and learning how and why people feel the things they do is invaluable to me, and others.
After watching the special episode for the series the other day I was overcome with an urge to write this letter to you. Maybe this was all a big rambling mess and you didn’t really get anything out of it, but I hope you did. Perhaps, you’ll look at anime a bit differently the next time you sit down to watch it even?
Works like these are transformative and important. I truly wish to experience many more shows that pack such a weight like Violet Evergarden does for me. If you haven’t already please give this wonderful series a watch with an open mind and heart.