Review of A Silent Voice

asilentvoice

Bullies are universally reviled and rightly so because they are cowards who ruin lives through the use of physical abuse and intimidation. Given that most people hate bullies, more than David Leavitt, it’s surprising to see that A Silent Voice tells the story of someone who picked on a disabled girl. Back in elementary school Shoya Ishida played cruel pranks on deaf transfer student Shoko Nishimiya and even went as far as destroying several of her expensive hearing aids. The tormenting got so bad that Shoko eventually moved away to another school. Shoya soon learnt that payback is a bitch, because in retaliation for the cruelty he committed his classmates severed all ties with him.

OVERVIEW

Years after the events described above Shoya contemplates suicide. He has nothing to live for, as his notoriety has left him friendless in high school. Even worse he had to sell off his entire manga collection to pay off the bill for the hearing aids he damaged. Life without comics just isn’t worth living! At the eleventh hour Shoya however decides against leaping off a tall bridge. Rather than give up on existence the repentant teenager decides instead to learn sign language, so he can track down Shoko and communicate to her how much he laments his past misdeeds.

As someone who has been the victim of bullying I didn’t expect to have any sympathy for Shoya, but somehow A Silent Voice made me feel empathy for its protagonist. A lifetime of isolation is a harsh punishment for crimes he committed as a child. We all have done stupid things in our youth after all. Unlike some bullies, who stubbornly remain jerks, Shoya feels genuine guilt for his past behaviour and puts the effort into making amends. Learning sign language, just so he can apologize to Shoko, is admirable. It’s not something I could do. As my poor grammar suggests, I haven’t even mastered English yet! I cannot imagine how much dedication it takes to train in a second form of communication

Forgiving Shoya is easy for the audience because the victim in all this harbours no ill will towards him. Shoko is a sweetheart who would rather become friends with Shoya (and maybe something more) rather than hate him. Even during the midst of his bullying Shoko tried to protect her harasser from other students, who had decided he should suffer a taste of his own medicine. In a way Shoya is just as much of a victim as Shoko is. He was made the fall guy for Shoko’s departure, despite not being the sole person to treat her poorly. Some of the girls in elementary school for example resented how having a handicap classmate was hindering their chances of winning a choir contest. Musical tournaments are serious business, as Sound Euphonium will attest to!

VERDICT

My rating for A Silent Voice is four stars. I feel that the movie deserves that score purely from a technical standpoint. The animation and artwork is gorgeous, as one would expect from a Kyo Ani production, and I liked the stylistic choice of masking the facial features of people who shunned Shoya behind an X. The story and characterisations are all strong too, which is no surprise as the movie is based on Yoshitoki Oima’s award winning manga. I can’t say however that I liked the movie to the level of other reviewers. Were I to grade the film on how much I enjoyed it I would consider awarding it a three out of five.

I watch anime for the amusing hijinks of draconic maids, the hypnotic jiggle of bouncing cat girls and the action packed battles between a geek and parasitic organisms. A Silent Voice doesn’t tick any of those boxes, although I will concede it is a beautiful work of art. The narrative’s pacing is glacial and downright depressing at times. I thought things would liven up once Shoya overcame Shoko’s overprotective relatives, enabling him to patch things up with her. Instead what we get is two hours of people feeling miserable. Shoya feels like he isn’t worthy of a pardon and Shoko feels equally bad because Shoya would have been spared from much hardship had the two never met.

Perhaps reading the manga would have been more to my liking? Pausing in between volumes, to recuperate from the gloom, would have been more palatable than 129 straight minutes of misery. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day deals with similar themes of childhood acquaintances coming to terms with a past tragedy, but resonated more with me as it balanced out the melodrama with humour. A Silent Voice is a movie that I would recommend, although I do so with the caveat that you have to be in the right mood for it. The feature may be too much of a slog for viewers who enjoy lighthearted skits about band mates drinking tea. Those who prefer their Kyo Ani with a bit more substance will however find much to admire in this Naoko Yamada directed flick.

17 thoughts on “Review of A Silent Voice

    • The movie has plenty of feels. My blood boiled when I saw how mean some of the characters were to Shoko, although the abuse was tame compared to some bullying I have seen in real life.

  1. This one is up there with ‘Your Name’ as one I want to see when I have the chance. It sounds like a decent emotional piece to me. If it’s one that you need to be in the right mood for due to the downtrodden nature, then I’ll likely find it to be one like Casshern: Sins.

    • Your Name is high on my watch list. Hopefully it is more mainstream than A Silent Voice, because I need something cheerier to perk me up after this film. Casshern: Sins was pretty depressing too, although I coped with it better because the setting didn’t resemble real life. Breaking up the story into episodic chunks and adding some action also made it easier to digest, for me at least, than a two hour movie.

  2. I’ve heard a lot about this, but have been considering not seeing this because I’d heard of how gloomy it was. I wasn’t sure if I liked that. However, I’m still willing to give it a go, though from your description it sounds as though it may have translated better as a series rather than a movie. But I at least want to see the animation; it looks gorgeous!

    • I hope you enjoy the movie. At the very least it is a visual treat. Although I think some levity would have helped you sometimes have to accept that when entertainment has a message to impart it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows.

      Given the choice I would have preferred a series over a movie. Not only does it give the viewer a break from the drama, but they could have added some of the content that had to be trimmed due to the running time. From what I hear the support cast (such as the elementary school teacher and Shoko’s mum) get more development in the manga. I’ll probably check out the source material to see what was changed/condensed.

      • Yeah, the art looks beautiful. Typically with heavy movies, I prefer touches of levity to balance things out. And no, it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, but I feel like really dark anime series like Monster even had some levity in it (especially in early episodes; they may be dark underneath, but some of them had to do with Tenma going around helping people and seemed nearly light).

        And that makes sense. If it’s based on a manga, I typically would go for a series than a movie. It would help with development and pacing. Please let me know if the manga is good!

  3. I really want to see this since I love the manga despite its flaws. But have to wait for someone to license it in the U.S.

    But I’m glad I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen Your Name. Felt like everyone else has seen it.

    • I’m surprised to hear that no one has picked up the movie in the US given all the buzz it has. From what I can tell the UK version of iTunes/Amazon Video will carry the film next month and a physical release is due out in December.

  4. Like you, if I’m watching any kind of anime series I’m watching it for escapist purposes, so I’m not sure about this one. Sounds like too many feels to handle. But it does sound like something worth watching at some point – the whole “journey to seek redemption” theme can be really powerful when it’s done effectively.

    • Stories of redemption can be inspirational. It’s never easy to accept when you have made a mistake and even harder to right past wrongs.

      I try to avoid emotional stories because after a tough day at the office I need entertainment to help me unwind (not something that will make me feel more depressed.) That said I am a fan of Clannad, which many people point to as a show that reduces them to tears.

  5. I too am still waiting on Your Name to hit Blu-ray here in the UK – a problem made more baffling since the theatrical run was licensed by All The Anime who are a home video distributor!!

    My only beef with this film, aside from the soppy romance element, was it’s length. There could have been a slight trim of the fat otherwise it is a potent and sensitively told story that hopefully will shame most people into rethinking their attitudes towards those with impairments (and the fact your review got 5 times more “likes” than mine… :/).

    • It’s possible to pre-order Your Name on Amazon, but the site doesn’t have a release date! On iTunes I cannot find the movie at all, only the book. We may have to wait a while for the home video release. Sadly that isn’t unheard of. Stuff that gets screened at Scotland Loves Anime sometimes takes yonks to show up on DVD in the UK.

      When it comes to movies I like films that are done before the two-hour mark hits. Given that there is seven volumes of content to adapt I presume KyoAni wanted to squeeze in as much as possible to appease fans of the manga.

      Your review is excellent and deserves more likes. I have posted a link to your post on Twitter, although I don’t think that will help much as I am not very active over there. Perhaps you can check out the blogs of the nice people who have liked this review. It may lead to them discovering your site, which I am sure they would enjoy given that you cover anime. Bribery also helps! 😉

  6. I actually find the concept rather touching. I could see how the execution would go awry, but I really like the idea of it. I might need to track this one down.

  7. I’m looking forward to see this, and to reading the manga. I read the original one-shot years ago, and really related to it. Though I wasn’t quite as cruel as Shoya, I was a definitely a bully when I was younger. The framework for that one-shot, and I presume the manga then film, is that it’s quietly a redemption tale for him, which gives hope for those of us who despise what we once were.

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