‘A Silent Voice’ is A Heartfelt, Coming-of-Age Story that Tackles Bullying. Spoiler-Free Review
“A Silent Voice” follows the poignant and moving story of Shōya Ishida, a school bully, and Shōko Nishimiya, a young girl with a hearing disability. Their story begins in sixth grade when Shōko transfers to Shōya’s elementary school and quickly finds herself bullied and isolated due to her hearing disability. Years later, the tables turn, and Shōya finds himself the victim.”
So let me be completely transparent here. I went into this film without any idea what it was about, other than the synopsis that above. I didn’t watch any trailers or head to Wikipedia. And to be honest, I’m so happy I didn’t, because this film truly shocked me.
So without spoiling the film, let me explain a bit about it. It starts with a group of kids in sixth grade. They’re quickly introduced to a new student named Nishiyama Shōko, who just so happens to be deaf. Since she can’t communicate normally (and since the students don’t use sign language), she asks that they communicate with her via a notepad she owns. Surely enough, the students take it upon themselves to give Nishiyama a tough time. The main one who partakes in the bullying of Nishiyama is our protagonist, Ishida Shōya. Day in and day out, Ishida picks on Nishiyama and his other classmates back him up and do it too. Of course one day Ishida goes too far with his bullying, and it leads to him having a tough time in his older years, and ultimately trying to change his ways and make amends for everything he did as a kid, while still having to deal with the day-to-day things that most teens deal with.
This film was directed by Naoko Yamada and I have to say she did a spectacular job touching on not only bullying, but social anxiety, depression, and suicide in this film. These are all issues things that teenagers struggle with daily, and to have them presented so accurately in a Japanese animation was a sight to see.
There are a lot of supporting characters that we meet when Ishida is a sixth grader that we meet again once when the film has a time skip that takes us to his high school years. Each of these characters has their own internal struggle that has followed them from childhood to adolescence. However, the main focus is on Ishida and Nishiyama’s relationship. When the two of them meet as kids, it’s something of a one-sided battle, with Ishida constantly bullying Nishiyama, and Nishiyama just brushing it off and still playing nice. However after all of the ordeals that he puts her through, when they finally run into each other years later, Nishiyama is is still nice to him and eventually, they become very, very close.
It’s truly difficult to give this film a fair review because there’s so much to be discussed but I prefer to allow the readers to enjoy it with as little spoilers as possible. It was a bit longer than most anime films – standing at a strong 2h 10m- but in that time, I was able to connect with a group of people in an age group close to my own, dealing with personal demons that they refuse to admit exist for a solid majority of the film. Like I said in the title, this is a coming-of-age story, and each of our characters matures at different times through a different situation. I found myself tearing up during some scenes because this film wasn’t afraid to get emotional. There’s a specific scene that involved Nishiyama and Ishida that completely took me by surprise to me and I was truly at the edge of my seat all the way through it.
At the same time though, It could be said that some of the scenes where characters spoke to each other were a bit cheesy, and over the top at times. Another thing that I struggled with was keeping up with the first act of the film at times. It seemed like the scenes were kind of scattered all over the place initially, but after a while, you get used to it and realize that the film is just giving you a quick look at these people as children.
In the end, A Silent Voice is a remarkable film, and I highly recommend that any of you who watch it share it with all of your friends, because this is one that you don’t want to miss. It’s the type of film that has you put yourself in the characters’ shoes and look at things from their perspective. The subject matter was very important to today’s world because bullying happens more and more nowadays, and a film like this can show you just how much bullying can mess with someone’s psyche for years and years to come. Although the ending wasn’t exactly how I was hoping the film concluded, it still left me with a feeling of satisfaction, and I was happy to see things pan out that way. I’m definitely going to watch this one again, and I’ll be copping the Blu-ray.
A Silent Voice hits theaters in the United States on October 20th, 2017.