ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン (Violet Evergarden)
by 暁 佳奈 (Kana Akatsuki)
There are two main novels in this series with a spin-off (外伝) and an after story, a total of four novels. This review to Japanese learners focuses only on the first book of Violet Evergarden 上巻. (I was planning to read the second book too, but started reading other books instead…)
Author: 暁 佳奈 (Kana Akatsuki)
Genre: Fantasty, military, drama
Great for: Advanced (JLPT N1+)
Length: 351 pages (book 1)
Japanese Synopsis (from Amazon Japan)
陸軍病院で“一人”目を覚ましたヴァイオレット。 大陸戦争で一命は取り留めたものの、白く滑らかな両腕は失われ、義手になっていた。 そんなヴァイオレットの元にやってきたのは彼女の後見人となったホッジンズ。 ホッジンズは軍を辞め、郵便社の事業を立ち上げようとしていた。 彼は親友との約束を守るため、また、ヴァイオレット自身に幸せになってもらうため、彼女に自動手記人形サービスの仕事を薦める。 「紹介しよう、ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデンだ」 ヴァイオレットは冷たい美しさを宿した相貌で、人形のようにお辞儀をした。
English Synopsis (translated by JTalk Online)
Violet wakes up alone in a military hospital. She narrowly escaped death in the Continental War but lost both her smooth, white arms, which have been replaced with artificial ones. Hodgins comes for her and takes her under his care. He had previously quit the military and started his own delivery company. In order to keep his promise to his close friend, and to make Violet happy, he has her work in the Auto Memory Doll service. “Let me introduce you to Violet Evergarden.” With Violet’s cold beauty she almost looks like a real doll.
Why You Should Read ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン (Violet Evergarden)
If you’re a fan of the Violet Evergarden anime, and/or love stories that make you cry (and know advanced Japanese), then I highly recommend reading the novels.
The first novel does not start with any explanation of who Violet Evergarden is, or why/how she became an Auto Memory Doll. It plops you right in at an undisclosed time in her life when she’s already an established (and seemingly famous) Doll.
Each chapter focuses on a different story and is written from the perspective of the person Violet is helping (except for one). The first chapter, for example, is about a drunken recluse author trying to deal with the death of his wife and child; which coincides with episode seven of the anime.
As each chapter is told from the perspective of Violet’s clients, you discover a lot about their personal history, motivations, and world view. You also learn more about the world, including political and geographic dynamics.
Five out of six chapters were included in the anime. The first four are non-connected stories and the final chapter covers her history with the military and relationship with Major Gilbert Bougainvillea. (This last chapter goes into events and the wider reasoning behind the war in greater detail compared to the anime.)
There was one chapter that was not included in the anime, this was also the only one told from a third person perspective. Violet is hired to write a letter for a person on death row, who it turns out knows her from her time in the military. They have a fantastic conversation about ethics, morals, and society. This was also my favorite chapter.
Why Japanese Learners Should Read ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン (Violet Evergarden)
Although classified as a light novel, there is nothing “light” about this novel. It’s a 350-page story that deals with very serious themes including war and humanity.
Which is why I would highly recommend this book for advanced (N1 level) learners.
The author, Kana Akatsuki, purposefully uses obscure kanji for words without furigana, such as 硝子（ガラス）and 煙草（タバコ）. As well as uncommon vocabulary that is beyond N1 level, such as 反芻（はんすう）which means “rumination”. I tracked 150 words that I found difficult (or kept forgetting) from this novel, the most I’ve ever tracked in recent years!
I also mentioned this novel looks at politics, geography, war, morality and ethics, humanity, etc. These are heavy themes with vocabulary and concepts you won’t normally come across in a textbook. (I’m not saying this to discourage people from reading it but to provide realistic expectations.)
If you want to read Violet Evergarden but are worried if it would be too difficult for you; try reading the synopsis in Japanese.
The Violet Evergarden novels are fantastic for people who want to push their Japanese comprehension and kanji ability beyond advanced levels.
Whether you have seen the anime or not, Violet Evergarden is a beautiful novel that slowly exposes you to the cruelty, as well as beauty, of the world in which its set.
Not only is it a fantastic, entertaining read, but great for advanced learners who are looking to challenge themselves.
If you’re looking for a good heart-wrenching, moving story that will also push your Japanese capabilities, then I highly recommend this series for you!
You can download my 150 word vocabulary below.
Please feel free to use it for your own Japanese studies.
You are welcome import it to Anki, or you can access the Memrise course.
If you’re looking for another moving novel, try かがみの孤城.