A Silent Voice is a beautifully animated Japanese film produced by Kyoto Animation in 2016, written by Reiko Yoshida and directed by Naoko Yamada. This movie is a great watch, so make sure to grab some tissues before you see it through. This Japanese animated film winning anime movie of the year in 2017 speaks volumes. Although the film ended on a good note, the appearance of constant emotional troubles and mental struggles throughout the film will leave a lingering feeling within anyone who has viewed the movie.
The film does a wonderful job in depicting deep human emotions and what it’s like to live with conflicting issues in life. It tackles how being different in a society that forces people to be “normal” impacts the life of someone who has a disability, which made “ A Silent Voice” skyrocket the slice of life genre through the stratosphere. Warning! There will be major spoilers throughout the breakdown of this anime film; please read at your own risk.
One of the main reasons why this anime film resonated with so many individuals was how it leaves people to keep talking about it years after the movie has been released. The story-telling was exceptional and it couldn’t be more well executed as Naoko Yamada directed it to be. It goes to show how well-made a film can be when a director and screenwriter care deeply about their creation. A lot of people including myself hold this movie to a high personal regard, that is because it shows the reality of how harsh and bittersweet life can be. It feels real, personal, and allows you to sympathize with the characters to a great extent. A truly brilliant film that the audience can resonate with.
The opening scene of the movie is almost ethereal as we are introduced to the main character, Shoya Ishida. He is presented to be thinking about himself standing on a rail of a bridge about to fall into his demise. This scene subtly hints at Shoya’s attempt at suicide when the sound of fireworks nearby stop him from going through with his decision; the entire setting a symbol of foreshadowing on what will happen later on in the movie. Shoya Ishida’s willingness to take his own life at this moment astounds us. Although it is rare and not entirely uncommon for a medium such as anime to tackle complex emotions, it leaves the audience astonished. It is such a unique experience to find dire situations delivered so genuinely as Naoko Yamada intended them to be. The main character is vulnerable, his childhood intricately acknowledged as we are taken back to his past, only to find out that he used to be very cheerful and had life at the palm of his hand when he was a child.
Everything falls into place as Shoko Nishimiya, a female transfer student was introduced into their class in Shoya’s childhood. We later find out that Shoko is deaf and needed to be treated in a special way as opposed to a normal child; this would include having someone like a classmate to guide her or take notes for her. We also notice that their teacher isn’t considerate enough towards teaching Shoko who is deaf and ultimately ignores her disability altogether. As children who don’t know any better, Shoya would soon notice his group of friends and classmates complain about having to help Shoko; this ultimately leads Shoya to start bullying Shoko. It is almost overnight that Shoko has become the target of constant harrassment from Shoya and his friends. Not long after, Shoya goes too far with the bullying, causing the principal to be involved. It was at this moment that their teacher placed the entire blame on Shoya, and his friends and classmates do the exact same, denying any involvement in the bullying that took place.
Shoko transfers after this incident and Shoya becomes an outcast from that moment on. After being mistreated and having the pranks he used to do on Shoko be done to him, Shoya develops an anxiety towards people and visualize an X-mark on where people’s faces should have been. He ponders about his childhood and about the mistakes he made and decides he wants to apologize and make it up to Shoko.
It is shown in great detail how Shoya has been engulfed in sadness and eventually accepts that he deserves to be alone because of the mistakes he made in his past. He would wonder about the true meaning of friendship and what it would mean to reach out to someone who genuinely has your back no matter what. This would change when he meets and befriends Tomohiro Nagatsuka, who would then later on quote “friendship defies words or logic”.
Towards the climax of the movie we would come across the scene of the fireworks festival. This is where Shoko would stand on the balcony of her home and take her life, fortunately Shoya happens to save Shoko during this time but accidentally falls instead of her. When Shoya is hospitalized, we discover that Shoko had hated herself this entire time; she blames herself for the horrible events in their childhood and felt that she caused trouble wherever she went. This was what lead her to attempt taking her own life to end her suffering. After Shoya wakes up from being hospitalized, he and Shoko have a moment of reconciliation at the bridge where they always fed the koi fish together.
The pair finally understood each other. Shoya tells Shoko that all of the mistakes in the past didn’t mean they deserved death, that he needed Shoko to help him live. Hearing this, Shoko makes a pinkie sign as a promise in response to Shoya’s plea. At the end of the movie, Shoya is finally able to let go of the burdens of his past. The X-mark that used to be plastered on everyone’s faces has now fell to the ground. We witness Shoya crying tears of joy, wonder struck as he decided to finally forgive himself for the first time in his life.
“A Silent Voice” addresses a lot of common issues that are present in everyday life; from bullying, discrimination against people who deviate from the norm in society, acceptance, forgiveness, and loving one’s self. The protagonists’ fight with hating themselves caused them a lot of pain. It is only towards the end of the movie that they truly grasp the essence of self-respect; to allow their selves to become happy and overcome their inner demons. Naoko Yamada the director of the film stated that Shoya Ishida’s past should not be considered as the basis of his very being, It teaches us that redemption and letting go of the hurtful things in our past is possible and completely solidifies the quote “forgiveness will set you free”.