Every now and again a movie comes along that defies expectation. A Silent Voice is one of those movies. With a subject matter that no other film maker would even dare touch, a story that runs the gamete of emotions, characters that grow and develop in the 2 hour run time, and animation that is up there on Miyazaki levels; A Silent Voice is just too good for words.
Title: A Silent Voice
Production Company: Kyoto Animation
Distributed by: Shochiku / Madman Entertainment
Directed by: Naoko Yamada
Starring: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yūki, Kenshō Ono, Yūki Kaneko, Yui Ishikawa, Megumi Han, Toshiyuki Toyonaga & Mayu Matsuoka
Based on: A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima
Release dates: September 17, 2016 (Japan) / February – May 2017 (WorldWide)
Running time: 129 minutes
Rating: M (Australia) / 12A (United States) / G (Japan)
Shoya Ishida starts bullying the new girl in class, Shoko Nishimiya, because she is deaf. But as the teasing continues, the rest of the class starts to turn on Shoya for his lack of compassion. When they leave elementary school, Shoko and Shoya do not speak to each other again… until an older, wiser Shoya, tormented by his past behavior, decides he must see Shoko once more. He wants to atone for his sins, but is it already too late??
Shōya Ishida – Miyu Irino / Mayu Matsuoka (elementary school student)
The main character and narrator. He bullied Nishimiya in elementary school and when she transferred away was ostracized and bullied by his former friends. Ishida started to ignore those around him (imagining them with a large X across their face) and was driven to the point of suicide, however, he changes his mind after he apologizes to Nishimiya and begins to spend time with her. He learns sign language specifically so he could apologize to Nishimiya and is shown to be very talented in it. Ishida feels like he has not been punished enough for bullying Nishimiya and often wishes he could kill his younger self. He seems resigned to the fact that he will never be able to have friends again.
Shōko Nishimiya – Saori Hayami
A deaf girl who was bullied by Ishida in elementary school to the point where she had to transfer away. Her father left because his family filed for a divorce after they learned Nishimiya was deaf. Years later, Ishida searches for her to apologize. Although Nishimiya held a bit of resentment towards him, she accepts his apology and starts to spend time with him. She is shown to almost never get angry with her attackers; in fact, she often smiles at her attackers. Others, however, in particular Ueno, think she only fakes them and call her out to stop doing them, as they only make her seem weak. Nishimiya holds some form of self-loathing about her deafness and is suicidal, at one point attempting to commit suicide when she learns that Ishida lost his friends due to her, though Ishida manages to save her almost with the cost of his life.
Yuzuru Nishimiya – Aoi Yūki
Nishimiya’s younger sister who is currently a middle school student. She cut her hair short so their mother would not cut Nishimiya’s and has kept it that way ever since; due to this, she is often mistaken for a boy, with Ishida even thinking that she is Nishimiya’s boyfriend at first. Yuzuru is extremely protective of her big sister and has a deep hatred of all the people who ever bullied her, in particular Ishida – however, upon learning that Ishida has changed, she mellows down, accepts, and even encourages him to go out with her sister, though she is frustrated of their reluctance to do anything about their feelings and never moving past their relationship as friends.
Tomohiro Nagatsuka – Kenshō Ono
A short, fat and lonely boy who is a habitual liar. When someone tries to steal his bike, Ishida offers his to be taken instead. Nagatsuka sees this act of kindness as a unbreakable act of friendship and swiftly becomes Ishida’s self-proclaimed best friend and starts to idolize Ishida. He is shown to be quite obsessive and protective of Ishida and often dislikes him befriending other people. However, Nagatsuka is also supportive of Ishida and often offers advice.
Naoka Ueno – Yūki Kaneko
A girl from Ishida and Nishimiya’s elementary school and the girl that Ishida was closest to at school. Ishida remembers her bossing him about and also being his main helper in bullying Nishimiya. After having separated from him since middle school graduation, Ueno runs into Ishida years later, herself now working in a meow-meow shop. It is revealed that Ueno is in love with Ishida and originally picked on Nishimiya to impress him, however when she learned that Nishimiya was cleaning the offensive words off Ishida’s desk before he could see them she convinced herself that Nishimiya also loved Ishida and was using her disability to get his attention, leading her to grow jealous and resentful towards Nishimiya. However, unlike Ishida, Ueno never learns her lesson and continues to hate and bully Nishimiya once she reconnects with her through Kawai and Sahara (whom she remained friends with).
Miyoko Sahara – Yui Ishikawa
A kind girl from Ishida and Nishimiya’s elementary school. She was the only person willing to make an effort to learn sign language and befriend Nishimiya, however, this singled her out for bullying too and started to take all her classes in the nurse’s office. Ishida finds Sahara several years later so she can reconnect with Nishimiya and she becomes her friend again. She was always and is still bullied by Ueno for her unorthodox sense of fashion, however the two remain close even after they separated and Sahara boldly claims they are now best friends.
Miki Kawai – Megumi Han
Nicknamed “Kawaiichi”, Kawai was the school representative at Ishida’s elementary school. She is popular and normally takes charge of situations and is shown to be kind to everyone, however all her actions seem to have her academic reputation in mind. Kawai is also a narcissist who believes that everyone should love her, as well as wanting to be the victim in every problem she face. Ishida paid little attention to her in elementary school and thought she bullied Nishimiya too. Though she never actually insulted Nishimiya, Kawai did nothing to intervene and even laughed alongside her friends, making her also responsible for Nishimiya’s transferring. Kawai’s accusation of Ishida being a bully is a catalyst to his isolation among his classmates.
Satoshi Mashiba – Toshiyuki Toyonaga
A boy who becomes interested in and joins Ishida’s group of friends upon learning they are making a movie. He is eager to be the leading actor and is considered handsome and talented enough to do so. Mashiba was lonely as a child and the other children took him for granted and bullied him, now he is completely intolerant of bullies in any form and while generally calm and level headed he reacts violently to any random act of bullying he sees. He is oblivious to Kawai’s crush on him until Ishida pointed it out. It is later revealed that Mashiba befriends Ishida because of his social awkwardness and never being able to fit in at school despite trying to; by hanging out with Ishida – believing him to be even stranger than he is – he would appear normal.
Kazuki Shimada – Ryo Nishitani / Sachiko Kojima (elementary school student)
Ishida’s best friend in elementary school. He helped him bully Nishimiya. When Nishimiya moved away, Shimada placed all the blame on Ishida and soon became the ringleader of the people bullying Ishida: frequently stealing his shoes, beating him up, and writing threats and cruel things on his desk in chalk every morning. Ueno wants Ishida and Shimada to be friends again and gets Ishida to the amusement park were Shimada is now working, but Ishida storms away, deciding he does not care about Shimada and does not want to be his friend again.
Keisuke Hirose – Takuya Masumoto / Hana Takeda (elementary school student)
Ishida’s other best friend in elementary school. He is a fat boy who often went alongside Ishida in his “life-challenging activities”. Like Shimada, Hirose shunned his friendship with Ishida and bullied him for having bullied Nishimiya. Hirose stays close with Shimada (and possibly Ueno as well) after graduation and along with him brings Ishida from a river after he falls down from saving Nishimiya.
Takeuchi – Fuminori Komatsu
Ishida’s teacher at elementary school. He is a shallow man who finds Nishimiya’s presence in the school unfair on the other pupils. While he was disappointed in Ishida for bullying Nishimiya, he still laughed at the jokes made about her and once Nishimiya left he prompted the class to turn Ishida into a scapegoat for all their bullying. He refused to believe Ishida when he claimed he was being bullied too.
Miyako Ishida – Satsuki Yukino
Ishida’s young niece who lives with Ishida and his family. Maria is half-Japanese from her mother’s side and half-Brazilian from her father’s side.
Yaeko Nishimiya – Akiko Hiramatsu
A cold woman, who after catching a virus from her husband during pregnancy, left Nishimiya deaf. Her husband’s family quickly filed for a divorce. When her husband left, she was pregnant with Yuzuru and her mother helped her raise both her daughters. Eventually, her mother cares for the children permanently while she works – causing problems in her relationship with Yuzuru – not helped by the fact Yuzuru frequently skips school to take photos of dead animals. She made Nishimiya stay at the elementary school where she was bullied for so long in the hopes it would toughen her up and prepare her for how people would treat her.
Shōya’s sister – Ayano Hamaguchi
Ishida’s older sister. She is significantly older than him as she already graduated from college when he was still in elementary school. Curiously, she is the only character with lines whose face is never seen; even her husband and daughter are shown and get more screen time than her. According to Ishida, his sister had dated numerous men, one of whom has a younger brother who was bullied by Ishida; this event probably led to his breakup with her. Later, she dated a Brazilian man named Pedro, this time, her relationship stuck and she had a daughter, Maria, with him.
Maria Ishida – Erena Kamata
A kind and loving single mother of Shōya and his older sister who owns a hair salon. She became disappointed upon learning that Ishida bullied Nishimiya and had to pay 1.7 million yen for all the hearing aids Ishida broke. When Ishida pays her back with the intention of killing himself afterward, she reveals that she had been aware of his plans and threatens to burn the money if he tries to kill himself again – leaving her with nothing. Unfortunately, she accidentally burns the money anyway. She cares for her granddaughter Maria as well as Ishida and often lets Yuzuru stay around the house.
Ito Nishimiya – Ikuko Tani
Shōko and Yuzuru’s maternal grandmother. A caring, wise woman, she cared for Nishimiya and Yuzuru when their father left and their mother was at work. She bought Yuzuru her first camera and tries to convince Yuzuru that her mother means well for both her and her sister. Ito dies of old age and leaves a letter that Yuzuru asks Ishida to read at the funeral. The letter tries one last time to convince Yuzuru to forgive her mother, but she grows angry and does not hear the end of it.
Pedro – Ryunosuke Watanuki
A Brazilian guy who lived in the apartment across the way from Shōya and his family. Revealed at the end to be the father of Miyako and in a relationship with Shōya’s sister.
When it comes to what works with A Silent Voice, I’m going to start with EVERYTHING and work through it.
A Silent Voice is one of those masterpiece movies that you can’t help but talk about once you’ve finished viewing it. The story of A Silent Voice is all about redemption and getting over your own personal issues for the sake of others. This comes across really well in everything that Shōko and Shōya from the moment things move into the High School phase of the movie. You get drawn into their conflict and misunderstandings during the Elementary School time too, but it’s more of the later movie that everything just clicks. Also, as someone who advocates deaf people and their stuggles, it’s great to see a movie like A Silent Voice portray a deaf person with such respect and also intrigue. Shōko isn’t exactly restricted by her deafness, going about her day as normal as everyone else. This is great to see in a movie.
The animation is great. The light pastel coloring really gives an almost realistic tone to A Silent Voice, yet it’s so simple in it’s line work that it remains an animation. I’d put this up there with some of Miyazaki’s animation, it’s that good. The sound design is really good too, it’s minimal so there’s nothing stand out about the soundtrack, but it’s good enough that it helps the tone of the movie from start to finish.
If there was anything about A Silent Voice that I didn’t like was the third act. For a story about redemption, it was nice to see things get better between Shōya and Shōko to the point where you’d think there was going to be a happily ever after, leaving us all in good spirits and with a great happy story to tell… Then things take a dark turn with Shōko and everything goes back to pretty much square one again. This just felt like it was tacked on in order to add some more drama to the overall run time of the movie. However given that this is the ONLY negative take away I have with A Silent Voice, it’s still a nothing compared to the overall greatness of the movie.
A Silent Voice is something that I would highly recommend everyone who is an anime lover as well as a lover of love stories that have to go through some real tough situations in order to bloom. While the third act does knock things back a bit, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience of watching A Silent Voice. I wish I could find the words to describe how good this movie is, but at the same time I don’t want to spoil a single moment of A Silent Voice. Go see it… NOW!
IMAGES ARE © YOSHITOKI OIMA, KODANSHA/ A SILENT VOICE THE MOVIE PRODUCTION COMMITEE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PROVIDED UNDER SUB-LICENSE FROM MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT FOR REVIEW PURPOSES.
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A Silent Voice is one of those movies that defies words. Tackling the subject matter from the perspective of a deaf girl and her bully is something that no Western film maker would ever tackle, let alone give the whole situation the respect you see in A Silent Voice. A masterpiece of animation and story telling that needs to be experienced by everyone from all walks of life.