A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) Film Review

*Contains minor spoilers*

ABC Animation / Kodansha /Kyoto Animation / Pony Canyon / Quaras / Shochiku Company

ABC Animation / Kodansha /Kyoto Animation / Pony Canyon / Quaras / Shochiku Company

Obioma Oparah, Guest Writer

About 2 weeks ago I decided to watch a critically acclaimed film known as A Silent Voice as it had been recently translated to English through subtitles and had been put on my watch list since its release in Japan in September 2016. I’d highly recommend this to high-schoolers or anyone in general who struggles to find an identity for themselves due to past occurrences or feeling alienated when compared to others. I won’t go into spoilers regarding the climax and ending film as they serve as an insightful message to treating those around you and learning to love yourself.

A Silent Voice is a movie adaptation of the Japanese graphic novel (manga) of the same name produced by Kyoto Animation, directed by Naoko Yamada, and written by Reiko Yoshida. Since its release the movie has grossed a total of over $22 million worldwide, winning several awards including Tokyo Anime Award Festival’s Anime of the Year (Film Category).

The film centers around the protagonist Ishida Shoya (Miyu Irino) and how his past actions to the movie’s female protagonist Nishimiya Shoko (Saori Hayami) has shaped his present demeanor and mindset.

The film begins with Ishida in present day, crossing off various tasks from his calendar such as “quit job”, “sell belongings”, and “bank” as he finally places an envelope next to his sleeping mother labeled “I’ll pay you back.” We, the audience, are witnessing the events leading up to Ishida’s suicide. Just as Ishida is about to commit the act of ending his life, he hears fireworks which can possibly be seen as his reminder of Nishimiya. As Ishida continues his trip to school, we are then presented happy youthful events of Ishida’s childhood as we lead into the next act of the film. You may be asking yourself at this point, “What would lead our protagonist to commit – let alone think of committing – an act such as suicide?” What makes Ishida stand out from your common protagonist is that he has done some substantially heinous acts in his past – to put it short Ishida was a bully and is suffering the consequences of his actions.

The film serves as a closure for those going through hard times, and makes you realize that you should open both your eyes and ears and enjoy life.”

The next act of the film focuses on Ishida’s past as an elementary-schooler. Prior the Nishimiya’s enrollment in his school, Ishida faced boredom, as he would also serve as the class clown, seeking and gaining the attention of his classmates, but this changed when Nishimiya who was special compared to others transferred to the class. Nishimiya who was deaf served as a nuisance in the eyes of her classmates and her teachers alike as she required help taking notes and things of similar nature. Observing this Ishida also begins to see Nishimiya as a nuisance and as a way to both cure his boredom and gain his classmate’s admiration.

We then witness as Ishida and several of his friends bully Nishimiya to the point where they’d talk about her while she was present and forcefully take her hearing aids from her, destroying several of them. While these events occur, Nishimiya remains calm and friendly toward her classmates. After complaints from Nishimiya’s mother, the teacher then requests for the bully to step forward. At this point Ishida is alienated as his classmates and friends single him out as the culprit, when in reality they all played a hand in the matter. After Nishimiya’s transfer out of the school due to her mother’s concerns, Ishida is then ostracized from the class receiving the same treatment he dealt to Nishimiya. We then return to the bridge scene in a roundabout fashion as Ishida heads to his high school which Nishimiya also attends.

The rest of the film serves as Ishida’s redemption story as he makes amends with Nishimiya, while in the process of also befriending her. Throughout the rest of the film we witness Ishida’s growth as he learns to accept himself and his past actions with the help of Nishimiya and many others throughout the rest of the film.

I enjoy movies and media of a more serious tone and underlying message, but this film really struck me with its ending and overall central message of accepting who you are. Maybe it’s just me and the fact that I underwent many of the hardships expressed in the movie such as bullying, and accepting yourself, but I couldn’t help but tear up in the final scene of the film.

I truly recommend this film to anyone reading this review as it serves as not only a perspective to the bully and the victim, but touches the heart in a way where it speaks to you if you’ve endured a past hardship. The film serves as a closure for those going through hard times, and makes you realize that you should open both your eyes and ears and enjoy life.