Violet, despite being a young girl, is a veteran of war whose proficiency in combat is the stuff of legends. Her personal sacrifice is quickly made clear as she is revealed to possess a pair of mechanical arms. Having only known war, adjusting to these prosthetics only further complicates her transition to a normal life. As she struggles to do so, and find the meaning of her beloved Major’s last words to her, Violet sees a path to understanding via the vocation of Auto Memory Doll—a job where one strives to put down their clients’ feelings in carefully crafted letters. Even her clumsy, mechanical hands can use a typewriter, though understanding the nature of the human heart is a battle all its own.
Violet Evergarden is a love letter to a mid-twentieth-century Europe that never was, with sumptuously rendered backdrops of bustling streets and pastoral countryside, and animation that pours love for frilly dresses that bob with every curtsy, intricately braided hair occasionally frazzled from emotional outpourings, and even flowers delicately swaying in the breeze that serve as namesakes for many of the show’s characters. But more than that, Evergarden is a love letter to the love letter. The show exalts the power of the written word and its ability to convey what often cannot be said, to conjure the concrete from the ephemeral and deliver it to the person to which those words will hopefully belong.
Through its earnest striving to paint a picture of these emotions, though, the show often tries to tell us what to feel instead of making us feel it ourselves. Characters are a constant source of waterworks, but often their trials and tribulations are given too little time to mature, their triumphs and tragedies relegated to less than careful exposition, making the tears themselves bear the weight of the story’s emotional gravitas.
But it is an understandable caveat of the show’s episodic nature. As Violet travels from town to town, it may be a little much to expect an entire arc of emotional storytelling, from character introduction to climax to denouement, in a completely nuanced way. Nonetheless, each episode is like a mystery where Violet brings her intuition to bear, to discover the true heart of those that commission her services. And this journey, truncated as it may be, is satisfying to follow along.
The show may be at its best, though, when we can peer more into Violet herself. While much of the time she exhibits a personality as flat as the dolls that her occupation’s name alludes to, the stark contrast amplifies her struggle to understand what it means to live a normal life. Her mechanical arms serve as a flashy, overt metaphor for her own emotional development—as she adjusts to their clumsy, unsubtle nature, so too does she shed the shell of her guarded personality…at least a little.
Yet, we never learn how Violet’s mechanical arms work in a world otherwise devoid of such technological marvels, any more than we learn about Violet’s own origins or the source of her amazing combat ability. But these details are incidental to her journey. Sometimes all you need is a typewriter and the right words—all these exactingly fashioned, carefully wrought, painstakingly perfected words to understand what it means when we say,
“I love you.”
Violet Evergarden and OVA
While it mostly serves as a vehicle for Violet’s own emotional development, the vocation of Auto Memory Doll is nonetheless central to the world of Violet Evergarden. It is a job that contains within it many facets and surpasses that of a simple transcriptionist. At their best, Auto Memory Dolls are part detective, part therapist, striving to complete their clients hopes and aspirations through their letters.
Discovering One’s True Heart
The actual process of typing the letter is not a lengthy endeavor. An accomplished Auto Memory Doll can get the job done in a single visit with the client. In OVA, you could easily represent this with a single roll of the dice (perhaps using a new Unique Ability, Auto Memory Doll, to represent the character’s skill), if you even roll dice at all.
But other times, getting to the bottom of what the client wants to say requires more effort. The Auto Memory Doll must study the client and pick up on the subtle clues to their true feelings, feelings the client themselves may not be fully aware of. Some of these clues can be gathered through a Perceptive roll, others may require Charismatic, and still others require Intuitive and actual investigation.
Each time the Auto Memory Doll discovers a clue to the client’s true heart, they collect a special Auto Memory Doll die. When they determine they have learned enough, or simply time has run out, these can be added to the Letter Writing roll.
Writing the Letter
When it comes time to write the letter, the Auto Memory Doll rolls all dice that apply. At its simplest, this can be covered by Unique Ability: Auto Memory Doll, but it can also be split up into different sub-facets, like Grammar, Empathy, and Poetry. On the other hand, you can simply use the Abilities already in OVA that apply.
In addition, include all Auto Memory Doll dice earned during the course of the game session. The result represents the quality and accuracy of the letter, and it is compared to a Client Difficulty based on numerous factors. Lower DNs represent open-hearted clients with easy-to-please recipients, while high DNs represent clients whose feelings are especially arcane or concealed or recipients that are especially unreceptive.