I’ll be honest, I am not normally a fan of ‘slice of life’ anime but I thoroughly enjoyed A Silent Voice. I remember seeing a trailer for it at Anime Expo 2017 and thought it looked like a different take on that genre.
“A Silent Voice” follows the poignant and moving story of Shōya Ishida, a school bully, and Shōko Nishimiya, a young girl with a hearing disability. Their story begins in sixth grade when Shōko transfers to Shōya’s elementary school and quickly finds herself bullied and isolated due to her hearing disability. Years later, the tables turn, and Shōya finds himself the victim. “A Silent Voice” depicts the struggles and challenges of adolescence alongside coming-of-age outside the norm.
The film is based on the best selling manga series written by Yoshitoki Ōima. I have not read the manga, but I do not think it inhibited my enjoyment of the film. I very much enjoyed A Silent Voice – it made me laugh, it made me cry happy and sad tears, it surprised me and it was a beautiful film visually and overall. The film tackles bullying without being cliché of everyone becoming friends in the end or having the bullies be one note characters.
Often bully characters are either flat or have the basic troubled home background. Shōya starts off as the cool kid who is intrigued by the new student Shōko, but he grows to not like how she disrupts his class dynamic. He starts off with small pranks against Shōko and just trying to make his classmates laugh, but later when he is alone with Shōko, we learn she creeps him out. Like most people, Shōya does not quite know how to react to something he does not understand or is not familiar with. His actions towards her get worse and other classmates also participate. Can he redeem himself for all he did as a child? Can people really change? Are you ever able to move past the actions of your youth? A Silent Voice addresses all of these questions without being heavy handed.
There are several difficult but very real situations that are addressed in the film such as: suicide, disabilities, bullying, and forgiveness. When they happen in the film it is sometimes shocking but those scenes are all handled in a realistic way without glorifying what is happening yet, at the same time, they are almost poetic. I will admit I cried more than once but I would not say the film is depressing at all. It is like life – there is sadness and happiness, and everything in-between.
The animation style is beautiful! The direction is wonderful with many subtle emotions conveyed by these characters. The story does jump around in time but it still flows well. Music plays a key part as well, with the volume and intensity changing throughout which highlights the character’s emotions. Sometimes music can be too obvious in films but it is complementary here. It also brings attention to the fact that you, the viewer, are able to watch and listen to a film that addresses deafness.
Overall, I highly recommended A Silent Voice. It is lovely film and will give you all the feels!
A Silent Voice will be in theaters this Friday, October 20th.