Anime Film Review: A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice is an anime film based on the manga by Yoshitoki Oima.

A Silent Voice
Directed by: Naoko Yamada
Written by: Reiko Yoshida
Starring: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono, Yuki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Mayu Matsuoka
Run Time: 130 minutes

I’ve heard a lot of good things about A Silent Voice, and I had been wanting to see it for a while, but I just kept not having the opportunity to do so. I regret that it took me until after the Kyoto Animation fire in order to finally see it, but my first chance didn’t come until then. I was happy to discover it was on Netflix, so I sat down to watch this film and see it for myself.

The film opens with a high school student named Shoya Ishida going through some motions, as it appears he’s about to kill himself. But before he jumps off a bridge, he comes to his senses and starts remembering his time in sixth grade and the events that have led him to this point.

In the sixth grade, a new girl named Shoko Nishimiya transfers into his class. When she introduces herself, she reveals that she is deaf. She asks the other students to communicate with her through writing in a notebook that she has. Shoko tries her best to fit in with the class, but Shoya and his friends become annoyed with her. He, along with some of his friends, start bullying and harassing her. A girl in the class named Miyoko Sahara tries to become friends with Shoko, but she ends up transferring to a different school.

The bullying gets so bad that word reaches the principal, and Shoya is singled out as the perpetrator. Shoko transfers to a different school, and Shoya finds himself becoming an outcast. Even his friends who helped him bully Shoko turn their backs on him.

At this point in the story, I admit that I found myself thinking that Shoya deserved what he was getting, because of all the bullying and hurt that he caused Shoko. But, as it becomes clear that he has been completely shunned by others, and he is unable to look anyone in the eye (which is depicted by showing X’s across their faces), I realized that this was too harsh.

After almost attempting suicide, Shoya tracks down Shoko at the sign language center so he can return something of hers that he’s had in his possession. We also learn that Shoya has been learning sign language in the intervening time. He also tells her that he wants to make amends for all he did to her when they were younger.

In the meantime, Shoya shows that he’s starting to change when he helps another loner named Tomohiro Nagatsuka, when he’s being bullied by another student. Tomohiro wants to be Shoya’s friend. When this happens, the X across Tomohiro’s face disappears. As the film goes on, and Shoya starts becoming comfortable around some of the other characters, the X over their faces disappear as well. I don’t know if this is something that was in the original manga, but I thought that visually, this was an effective way of showing how Shoya is starting to change.

The main antagonist of this story is a girl named Naoka Ueno. She helped Shoya torment Shoko back in elementary school, and it turns out that she hasn’t changed at all during the intervening years. To be honest, she came across as a majorly entitled bitch, and there were times where I wished I could smack her or something. Ueno is meant to be hated by the audience.

The relationship between Shoya and Shoko develops and changes over the course of the film. Admittedly, Shoya’s intentions may not have been entirely noble at first when it came to trying to be Shoko’s friend (since he appeared to be doing it more to absolve himself of guilt), but by the end of the film, he truly wants to be friends with her. But even though the relationship between Shoko and Shoya changes a lot over the course of the film, we learn that Shoko has some of her own issues to deal with.

By the time I finished the film, I realized that I had run through a gamut of emotions as I watched it. There may be a long run time, but it needed to be that long in order to tell its story. I found myself being completely drawn into the story and becoming invested in the characters. The animation for this film was also well-done, and this also helped to pull me into the movie.

A Silent Voice is a great anime drama film. I would highly recommend this film to viewers who enjoy watching anime featuring the drama of relationships between people.

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