The Violet Evergarden movie will open in theaters less than two months after arson attack that killed 35 Kyoto Animation employees.
It would be going way too far to say that Kyoto Animation has recovered from the arson attack on its Fushimi studio that took place nearly one month ago. In addition to the 35 employees who lost their lives, an equal number sustained injuries, and it’s likely the psychological scars will never heal completely.
But even as Kyoto Animation mourns those it lost, the company survives. In just a few weeks, Kyoto Animation will be releasing Violet Evergarden-Eternity and Auto Memory Dolls, a side-story theatrical feature companion piece to the Violet Evergarden TV series, which aired in 2018.
Kyoto Animation rose to fame on the strength of its emotionally evocative artwork and uncannily fluid character animation, but even by the lofty standards that have become the company’s calling card, the Violet Evergarden has been an impressive display of what some of the anime industry’s most talented artists can do. With the bump to a theatrical budget and an eye for the grand spectacle offered by a cinema-size screen, Eternity and Auto Memory Dolls looks to set a new high-water mark for the franchise.
As with the TV series, the story follows the work of protagonist Violet, a soldier-turned-postal employee called an “Auto Memory Doll” who helps those who can’t express their thought on their own to put their feelings into letters. This time, Violet is working to help bridge a gap between a wealthy young woman named Isabella and her younger sister Taylor, who she’s been separated from.
There’s often a cathartic tone to Violet Evergarden, but the trailer feels even more steeped in such emotion by nature of being for Kyoto Animation’s first major release since the arson attack. “Isn’t there anyone you miss, who you want to see?” Isabella sullenly asks Violet, to which she responds:
“There is someone I miss, but we can’t see each other.”
It’s hard not to draw a parallel between that somber statement and the feelings of the friends and family of the Kyoto Animation employees who lost their lives. If there’s some solstice that can be taken, though, it’s that the heartbreakingly beautiful sights and sounds in the trailer are a bold declaration that, as promised by one survivor of the attack who’s already back at work, that Kyoto Animation will continue to make anime of the same sterling quality that it always has, as a form of living tribute to those who’ve passed away.
Violet Evergarden-Eternity and Auto Memory Dolls opens on September 6 at theaters in Japan, and is currently scheduled for a three-week run.