After the successful screening of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. worldwide, another animated youth drama takes the stage with Kyoto Animation’s (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Tamako Love Story)A Silent Voice. Based on the manga Koe no Katachi (聲の形) by Yoshitoki Oima, it tells the story of Shoya Ishida, a former elementary school delinquent who bullied, along with his classmates, a differently-abled Shoko Nishimiya and how they atone for the sins of the past while getting into terms with a tumultuous present.
“I want you to be my friend.”
A Silent Voice touches sensitive subject matter, specifically school bullying and the treatment of differently-abled persons. While these are social issues that needed to be addressed, they were a bit downplayed in the movie to become more palatable to the audience. Some supposedly riveting scenes lack emotional impact either due to the choice of camera shots or how the entire scene was animated.
“I can’t hear.”
Despite those, the way the characters were introduced and how their individual struggles were told act as solid groundwork for the story and the main characters to build on. They are gradually and naturally introduced in a pace that can be followed. Their interactions work when the entire cast is together onscreen and there’s no awkward moment between them. The flow of the story ebbs, coming at the viewers in emotional waves of different heights. This keeps the film interesting in its two-hour run, without having to resort to shock value to engage.
This scene from the manga translated well in the film.
The acting in this film is superb. What really stands out is voice actress Saori Hayami’s portrayal of the deaf Nishimiya. Her work outshines that of the whole cast, and she clearly projects to the audience that she’s the star of the movie. Miyu’s Irino’s portrayal of Ishida evokes a feeling of melancholy. However, his acting is not one of a tragic protagonist but that of a supporting character. Yuki Kaneko’s Ueno rises up opposite to Hayami’s Nishimiya as a powerful character who is not necessarily an antagonist but someone of different values.
It’s disappointing how the sign language parts were handled. In some scenes where it’s used, they were beautifully animated while in others, the hands were cut off the screen, making it difficult to appreciate what the characters were “saying”. What it lacks in sign language animation, it supplements with the atmosphere, creative camera angles and dialogue. However, the approach seldom works, and often forces the audience to interpret what’s being “said” on screen. If the director’s point is for the characters to look misunderstood, then she partially succeeded in doing so. Read about Amazon here.
A Silent Voice is a movie which tries to address social issues but somehow falls short in presenting solutions to the problem. It instead turned its head into teen drama territory, without any real answer to how we should communicate with the differently-abled. It is a breath of fresh air for anime to show such characters in another light, without fetishizing the condition like most anime and manga do nowadays. Another jewel in KyoAni’s anime crown, A Silent Voice is a love letter to the differently-abled, and a message that anime can be used to move change forward to society.