A Silent Voice (Known as Koe no Katachi in Japanese and also translated as The Shape of Voice) is a 2016 Japanese anime produced by Kyoto Animation. Directed by Naoko Yamada famed for K-On! and Tomako Market and written by Reiko Yoshida who hails a long list f work including Digimon, The Cat Returns, D Gray Man, K-On!, Girls Und Panzer just to name a few. Character designs by Futoshi Nishiya who worked on Free! and music by Kensuke Ushio who has worked on Space Dandy and Ping Pong OST. It is based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Ōima who has had his work published in Shounen Jump. The film premiered in Japan on September 17, 2016. It premieres in UK on 15th March on selected cinemas.
The story revolves around a small selection of characters in a school room drama. The beginning intro really sets the scene with the soundtrack of ‘Generation’ as the kids loiter around being kids. There is a main trio led by wild spikey haired, Shōya Ishida, an absolute delinquent.
Shōya is shown to be a carefree with normal tendencies of a boy, wanting to mess about at school, except things change when one day a new girl comes into his class. This girl Shōko is a cute pink haired girl, who catches his attention not because she is pretty but because she’s deaf. The kids in the class overall don’t take much interest in her so she is virtually isolated. Any that do communicate to her through her note book and. Initially she is helped by Miki Kawai and Naoka Ueno. Ueno takes a gradual disliking to her due to feeling like there was no understanding between the two. Therefore making a barrier between her, Kawaii and Shōko.
The teacher tries to make life easier for Miyoko Sahara by introducing five minutes of sign language every morning so Shōko and her classmates can bond. Ueno takes offence and makes it universally clear, only one girl stands up and offers to learn, Miyoko Sahara. After friendship grows between the two girls, the hatred of Shōya grows between Shōko and his gang. They take it upon themselves to write mean messages in her book, steal her hearing aids and bully her beyond recognition. At this point I was really dismayed that despite the teacher knowing – nothing was down. A announcementin class happens one day due to Shōko not being able to come into school as eight of her hear aids have ‘mysteriously’ gone missing. The teacher calls him up on it and his classmates rat him out on being an abusive bully. I felt like this was ridiculous, no punishment was giving to him, I was sitting there seething at the prospect – Shōya
I was sitting there seathing at the prospect of Shōya pretty much getting away with it scott free. I guess the discipline in Japan is much different as to the bullying much more severe. I was interested to see how she was enrolled in a generic school, it’s only after the bullying and physical torture that she is taken out and enrolled elsewhere.
In turn things backfire onto Shōya where his friends turn their back on him and bully him instead, he is followed by the stigma of being a bully to a deaf girl and is made into a pariah all through school. Making him as alone as she is. His isolation is made apparent by every person around him has crosses on their face bar his family. It was nice that you had some humour in otherwise quite a serious film about teen issues. Without spoiling too much of the film. The rest of the issues that almost result in the demise of the main character Shoya and Shoko the main issue is misunderstanding and miscommunication – people don’t always understand each other, being deaf or not isnt important, we explore different relationships and friendships all involving understanding
of each other’s experiences and situations by people. No one could relate to Shōko, Sahara could not relate to the others as she felt she was a coward. Ueno did not relate to Shōya anymore as he realised he was wrong for bulling Shōko. Kawai couldn’t relate to Ueno who was being spitefully mean to Shōko but at the same time she didn’t do anything to help Shōko.
All I can think is the way for Shōya to relate to Shōko was by feeding the coy fish with her. Simple actions, gifts and texts to meet up had shown the hand of friendship she longed for back at school. This wasn’t enough, with external influences at work to make her doubt her ability to be happy and make others unhappy.
I spent a long time looking at the physiological aspects of the film but animation wise it was simple, each of the main characters had traits or hair colour that made them stick out of the crowd. I did notice that Shōya’s niece was considerably darker and that his brother in law was actually black. You don’t ever see his sister, she is always covered by something – not sure if that eludes to embarrassment that she had a mixed race child or am I reading too much into it? The kid herself was the only straight forward and honest character in the film. She goes about doing her things, talking to everyone, holding no malice towards anyone. My favourite line is when she sees Shōya after a long time and shouts “‘OMG your back from the dead?!”.
The film was very touching in the way of a slice of life drama genre. I liked that it was about redemption but we never know what triggers Shōya’s change of mind on Shōko? Why does he dedicate his life to make up for it? He says he believes he was frustrated with her and that’s why he target’s her but why the guilt many years later? It’s a strange movie, as much as it is an important commentary on bullying and relating to each other and love thy neighbour I can’t see myself watching this again it was so depressing at places.
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