Though certain plot elements require more forgiveness than you may be able to muster, Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) may end up being considered this year’s Your Name.
Director: Naoko Yamada
Trigger Warning(s): Suicide Attempts
When Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami) was 12, she found herself mercilessly bullied by Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino), Naoka Ueno (Yuki Kaneko) and their friends. Anything from something as small as talking behind her back to Shoya ripping her hearing aids out of her ears and throwing them away. 8 pairs in 5 months to be exact – Meaning Shoko’s mom lost at least $8000 due to Shoya’s antics.
Yet, despite how mean everyone was being, Shoko would smile, apologize, and try to make friends. For, in the long run, she saw herself as a burden and between the hearing aids, the school trying to teach the kids sign language, and more, as she says in the movie, she is doing the best she can. However, after a certain point, the bullying is too much for Shoko’s mom so she has her switch schools. Leading to a very public outing of Shoya who gets called out by the instructor, in front of the principal, and the whole class. All of whom snitch on Shoya.
Fast forward 5 years and Shoya’s is suicidal. But then something stops him and after his mom berates him about it, Shoya works on becoming a better person. Which includes making amends to Shoko. Thus leading us on a journey in which we watch the bully try to redeem himself in our eyes and us deal with the struggle of trying to accept that 5-year punishment as enough pain for what he did to Shoko.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- In A Silent Voice, Shoko’s little sister, Yuzuru (Aoi Yuki) becomes very close to Shoya’s family, and Shoya specifically. This is after they learn about all about what Shoya did and even, when Shoya is trying to apologize and be friends with Shoko, is blocked and referred to as a rat. Now, my question is, what was the big trigger? Was it him taking her in after she was hiding out on the playground or running after them, when Yuzuru damn near seemed homeless, because he was worried about her (when Shoya thought Yuzuru was a boy, much less Shoko’s boyfriend)?
It Is Really Going To Mess With Your Emotions
You will find yourself crying to the point of dehydration with Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice). Especially after the time jump because, as the trigger warning notes, things get bad enough that there are suicide attempts. Of which one in particular, if you are the type who doesn’t know how to control yourself, may lead you to leap out of your chair and yell at the screen. For that is how invested you will get in these characters. Even the ones which were introduced to us as Shoko’s bullies.
Which brings the real complications into play. On one hand, how long can someone be judged for their past actions? When Shoya bullied Shoko they were in middle school, so does that damn them for life? Yet, on the other, taking into account what Shoya did and how no one did more than be indifferent or encourage him, until the adults found out, are they deserving of forgiveness?
That is going to be something which will make it hard sometimes for you to deal with how loving, forgiving, and especially sensitive, Shoko is. For she is so quick to forgive and blame herself for any and all situations. Making her tormentors trying to make amends seemingly an impossible task and yet you’ll find yourself coming around despite some desire not to.
Tomohiro Nagatsuka & The Funny/ Awkward Moments
The first friend Shoya makes after being blackballed is Nagatsuka (Kensho Ono). Someone who comes off adorable at first, obsessive after a while, maybe even creepy, but then brings it right back around. If only because Nagatsuka is a ride or die friend and after Shoya makes sure his bike doesn’t get stolen, he does anything and everything for that dude. Including fight with Yuzuru, before he knew she was a girl, much less younger than he perceived, so Shoya could talk to Shoko.
Alongside that, there are a lot of those awkward moments. Many of which stem from Shoya being deaf, thus making her speech not necessarily the clearest. Leading to some moments where Shoya, after the 5-year jump, misunderstands her and it leads to a comical moment or two.
The Romantic Plot Sort of Fades Out
By the end of the movie, it becomes clear that both Shoko and Naoka have feelings for Shoya. Shoko outright confesses to Shoya but, due to her verbally saying she loves him, and him not understanding, he thinks she is talking about the moon. As for Naoka, while she doesn’t confess, it becomes clear by what she says, does, and how she treats Shoko after the time jump. For you get this vibe that she liked Shoya in middle school, but because of Shoko, she had to distance herself and it ruined the trajectory they would have been on. Then, with him hanging with Shoko and changing on her, it causes a deeper disconnect that is harder to traverse.
Yet, despite there being a bit of a love triangle, Shoko just stops seeming to have a crush on Shoya, and Naoka doesn’t really make a move. Much less, Shoya never has a light bulb go off moment when it comes to either of them. Leaving things a bit frustrating.
On The Fence
It Can Feel Long
This is over 2 hours long. On top of that, it is a two-hour long movie which spends a good portion having us watch Shoya torture Shoko. Then it has a time jump which pushes us to feel bad for Shoya and get us to like him. Which, in time, it might do for you. However, in the time necessary to take this little kid you want to see thrown in prison to someone you end up crying tears over, it is an arduous journey. One which, by the time you hit 90 minutes, you may feel like the movie is just stretching the story out. Especially after Shoya and Shoko seem good and you’re waiting for them to kiss, maybe do the sign for friends, or something of that ilk.
It Doesn’t Touch On a Lot of The Deaf Community’s Issues
Consider me spoiled by Switched at Birth, but I have to admit, in retrospect, I kind of wish we got to see more of what Shoko went through as a deaf person. We are made to understand deaf people are bullied, that hearing aids are expensive, and that deaf people can have full lives. But A Silent Voice doesn’t touch on any sense of Shoko being part of a community, common discrimination a deaf person may experience in Japan, and things of that nature. Not to imply that Shoko being deaf is treated as a gimmick for sympathy, laughter, or to stand out, but A Silent Voice also doesn’t go too deep with what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing) – Recommended
I firmly believe Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) is going to be this year’s Your Name (in terms of deserved notoriety | Fun Fact: This was released in Japan around the same time as Your Name). For one, it brings what I have rarely seen in anime which is a marginalized group – in this case, a deaf person, as its star. On top of that, it addresses the bullying that community faces in such a way that even live-action depictions rarely go into. And following that, it somehow makes this despicable brat you think could only be understood if his parents were abusive, into someone you like. Not even just like, but laugh with and cry over.
Hence the positive label and this being recommended. For while it does give you the vibe it is overstaying its welcome and the Shoya love triangle goes unresolved, it once more shows that anime, as a means of storytelling, can easily rival anything done live action.