Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is a side story film from the anime series Violet Evergarden. Based on the light novel series of the same name by Kana Akatsuki, the series, animated by Kyoto Animation, has been a major success in Japan and overseas. Despite being part of a larger story, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is effective in being a story that can be watched without having seen the series. Watching Violet Evergarden certainly helps add to the depth that the film offers, but to any newcomers looking for a good way to pass 93 minutes, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll stands strong on its own.
Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll follows protagonist Violet Evergarden as she goes to an all-girls school to train a young woman, Isabella Yorke, to be a debutant. As the two bond, Violet and Isabella learn a lot about each other and themselves, especially when the subject of how Isabella came to be a student at the school, what she had to sacrifice and why. Around the halfway mark Isabella asks Violet to write a letter for her younger sister, Taylor, which acts as the catalyst for the second half of the film. The time jump that occurs between Isabella and Taylor’s stories is a smooth transition, with pacing not being shafted for substance.
Pacing is a huge advantage that Violet Evergarden has always been able to gracefully exhibit, and thankfully this has been passed down to Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll. Despite the 93-minute runtime seeming short for a story that has a lot to cover, the film simply feels like a few episodes of the show properly stitched together. The pacing, of course, has a lot to do with the writing and direction. Violet Evergarden has always been a series that keeps the viewer invested. For some it’s the animation, for some it’s Evan Call’s beautiful score that fits perfectly into every episode and into the film, and for many it’s the writing that helps viewers practice and perfect what YouTuber Mother’s Basement calls (and I respectfully agree) the art of the ugly cry.
Taking over for series director Taichi Ishidate, Haruka Fujita has crafted a solid feature with writers Reiko Yoshida (returning from the series), Takaaki Suzuki and Tatsuhiko Urahata that blends everything that fans of the show would love with the patient tender love and care that comes with working with famed animation studio Kyoto Animation (K-On!, A Silent Voice, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya). As with every project that they take on, Violet Evergarden exhibited a huge growth for the studio who, as many fans will point out, has always produced high quality work. With Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll the same artistic flare is seen; however, it has somehow evolved ever so slightly into something better. Small details like the gleam of the green of a brooch, the outfits and character designs, and the motions of the characters manage to shine brightly and solidify the legitimacy of a studio that deserves praise and recognition. The cast also does a great job. Having taken the liberty of watching the film in both the Japanese and English dubs, the Japanese dub is stronger, but the English dub is also very well done.
As an accessible side story and as a film, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll doesn’t falter in many areas. If there is any one flaw, it would be that there are a couple of scenes that are irrelevant to the story. A character is reintroduced and has a scene that has a bit of a snowball effect, taking the story off one story to give ponderance to another that simply goes nowhere. This may be forgivable to some as it does help develop Violet for future stories, but for the context of the film it would’ve been more effective to leave that one scene out. But other than that, the film is a wonderful work of art and makes me excited for the finale film Violet Evergarden the Movie, which has recently been released in Japan.