Last night I watched this beautiful film at the cosy Little Theatre in Bath. As snug as the venue was, it wasn’t great for watching dubbed anime, as lots of people, including myself, had to try and read the subtitles amidst the many eager heads of viewers, but I need to say that it was worth the initial neck ache. I haven’t seen many animated films outside of Studio Ghibli but I was thoroughly impressed with A Silent Voice (Koe no katachi).
A Silent Voice centres around Shouko Nishimiya , a school girl living with a hearing impediment, and Shouya Ishida who is first shown to us as an impulsive and ableist bully. Shouko is a kind and quiet young girl who gets bullied for the majority of her primary school life either through backward glances, cruel insults, and even having her hearing aids ripped out of her ears. The bullying was brutal and drove Shouka to move schools. It was unsettling to watch as it made me realise how many people there must be who not only struggle with their disability but also through the ignorance and fear of others.
My feminist heart fluttered while watching this! I can’t speak for the whole of anime, but from what I have watched I haven’t seen any disabled protagonists. This is so important because there are going to be little disabled boys and girls who watch this and think ‘Hey, she’s like me! My story is worth telling too!’ It was a breath of fresh air. Something I also really liked about this, although it could be considered a trope is that there were two female characters Yuzuru and Sahara who didn’t look stereotypically “feminine”. Yuzuru was even mistaken for male and she didn’t care at all about it, which was cool in terms of gender fluidity and dressing however the hell you want.
The thing I loved the most about A Silent Voice is the message behind it. This film is 100% didactic. Shouya is a complete asshole of a character, the common class clown and bully, who after being bullied for years himself makes Shouka’s life a living hell The bullying is discovered by the school, and not long after Shouya’s becomes isolated socially and learns the hard way that prejudice and ignorance are the fast path to becoming an outcast. The film documents Shouya’s progression as a character as he learns sign language alongside respect and tolerance. I think everyone should watch this, if each of us could learn from the example of Shouya, the world would be one great place to live in.
I really also loved the animation. It wasn’t only beautiful in instances where carps in the river and cherry blossoms were shown, but it also assisted the moral message. The X’s over people’s faces was a really clever and bold way to stress Shouya’s loneliness and rejection and it felt kinda relatable in a way, being an introvert myself.
One of the things I didn’t like about A Silent Voice was that the feelings between Shouka and Shoya were never resolved, and there were so many places where it could have happened.
On a lighter note, although the main themes of the film such as disability, bullying, and suicide were serious and important issues, the writers popped comedy into just the right places to give us comic relief from the main plot. Most of the comedy came through this brilliant little guy:
After being saved from a bullying incident by Shouya, Tomohiro vows to be his very best friend, following him everywhere always ready to give him help with a little touch of gayness. He was hilarious!
All in all, I loved this film and I’d very much like to read the manga. It’s a really uplifting and progressive animated film. Go see it!