DIRECTOR: HARUKA FUJITA, TAICHI ISHIDATE / SCREENPLAY: TAKAAKI SUZUKI, TATSUHIKO URAHATA / STARRING: YUI ISHIKAWA, MINAKO KOTOBUKI, AOI YUKI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (NETFLIX)
Set after the events of the series, the Violet Evergarden spin-off film; Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll focuses on the titular Violet who, whilst still serving as a doll (who ghostwrites letters for those who cannot write), is recruited by a royal family to teach their heiress Isabella how to properly act as a noble lady. However, Isabella isn't your typical royal and, whilst attending a school for well-groomed young woman, slowly becomes attached to Violet and reveals that she is grieving for someone who brings her happiness.
This film is the first work from the incredibly talented Kyoto Animation studio since the tragic events of arson that occurred last year - and it's rather fitting as, as with the series, Violet Evergarden is truly about moving on after tragedy. Soon after the end of where we left Violet, she still seems to be having a wonderfully positive effect on people hence why she is recruited for this task. When she gets to the school, Isabella firstly takes a dislike to her, but soon sees past Violet's blunt nature to discover that she is caring and committed to helping people, no matter what the task.
The first half of the story focuses purely on their relationship and how Violet successfully assists Isabella in graduating before her true story comes to light - that she dearly misses her little sister Taylor. That's when the story skips ahead a few years and then switches focus to Taylor's side of the story as she uses Violet to reconnect with her sister. As a story, it's something we've seen before and doesn't offer anything new on that front but what makes Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll stand tall is so much deeper.
From the offset, the animation is absolutely gorgeous - something we have come to expect from KyoAni and it never ceases to amaze us how much attention to detail and beautifully realised world and characters they are capable of creating. It simply is one of the most visually stunning anime films available. Another incredibly strong element is the focus on the characters relationships coupled with some wonderful chemistry brought to life by impeccable voice acting. Yui Ishikawa returns as Violet and her performance is just as strong as when we first fell in love with the character back in early 2018. Her portrayal expertly balances innocence and determination and, even after the events of the main show, still continues to evolve as a character even though this is arguably not her story, but that of Isabella and Taylor. Rounding off the breathtaking presentation of the film is the score - heartbreaking sublime, subtle when necessary and triumph at the perfect moments.
Although the story isn't the strongest and would have arguably been better suited to two OVA's or longer special episodes, Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is a heartwarming continuation in the world of Violet and her job as an Auto Memory Doll - continuing to show that connections and relationships are what make us human and are very important, whether it be with letters or just being there for our loved ones. Gorgeous visuals, incredible performances and great chemistry between the characters - the film shows exactly how talented everyone at KyoAni is and serves as a great entry point for new fans as a few characters from the show appear in minor roles but the story doesn't overly expect audiences to have seen the series beforehand allowing it to stand on its own if necessary.