Details: Also known as Koe no Katachi or The Shape of Voice. Originally released in 2016. About two hours long. More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/anime/28851/Koe_no_Katachi
A Silent Voice is a masterful movie that tells a relatively original story that works on multiple levels.
A Silent Voice is about a troubled high school student. When he was younger he bullied, a deaf girl in his class. Through various circumstances, that boy has become a troubled teenager overcome with guilt over what he’s done. Presently, he decides to try to reconnect with the girl in hopes of making things right with her as well as with himself.
I think the core idea that this movie tries to tackle is bullying, the circumstances surrounding bullying, and how all participants can suffer from it. This movie isn’t a public service announcement with a simplistic message on how bullying is bad. There’s more to it. The bullying is a big theme in the movie, but the film also has its own story and characters to explore. With that said, A Silent Voice takes an interesting look at bullying in that it looks at all sides and explores the consequences of bullying to an extreme degree, but certainly not an irrational degree. Treating people like dirt can take something from everyone. It can take something from the victim of bullying, it can take something from those who love the victim, it can take something from the perpetrator of it, and it can take people who are simply present and witness the act. It’s a nuanced, complex look that says that no one is a bad guy and yet everyone is responsible.
The film takes a in-depth look at the psychology of all those involved, especially the protagonist. He’s a particularly interest character in that he’s both bully and victim. He understands and is most hurt by the act in that he’s felt the persecution and the heavy guilt associated with knowing he was a bully. He’s a fascinating character that is complex in that his story avoids the idea of there being good guys and bad guys. This movie deals with a lot of gray.
One of the strongest parts of this movie is of course the art. The foreground and background are all drawn beautifully. This movie is wonderful to watch. The music also isn’t bad and that theme melody they constantly play throughout the movie definitely will get stuck in your head and likely make you emotional.
Additionally, I want to applaud this film for not being lazy and turning into another simple romance story. I feel like writing romance into a story is a lazy cop-out. It’s easy to add romance into something to appease all those suckers for anything remotely romantic. There is undoubtedly some romance in this film, but the film admirably becomes about something more than just your standard romance. This is primarily a story about guilt, redemption, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, and trying to do what’s right. It’s a story about how no one is truly innocent, everyone suffers, and yet we can all persevere.
Lastly, if you get a chance to watch this film, you should watch it with Japanese audio and subtitles. Specifically, the voice for the female lead character Shoko Nishimiya was played by Saori Hayami. What’s impressive about Hayami’s performance is that she performs the role of a deaf girl and does that voice that deaf people do since they’ve never heard an actual voice. Some of the most emotionally intense scenes were performed by Hayami and they are damn impressive.
Overall, I loved this movie. I haven’t seen anything this original in a while. That the movie didn’t fall into the convenient option of being just another simplistic love story is immensely admirable to me because people love romance and its easy to write. It handles subjects like bullying and disability artistically and with nuance. A Silent Voice is a meaningful movie that I wholeheartedly recommend to adults and children alike.