Going in, I knew that A Silent Voice was going to be an emotional roller coaster. Apart from that, however, I didn’t know much.
I was expecting to see something like Your Name: emotionally impactful, light-hearted at points, and beautifully animated. While now I know that expecting the two movies to be similar was misguided, at time time it made sense. After all, people talking about well-done, recent anime movies tend to mention these two together.
So what is A Silent Voice? On the surface, it is the journey of Shoya Ishida, a young bully, whose life breaks down after Shoko Nishimiya, his victim, has to transfer away to another school.
The first part of the movie focuses on Shoya (and his friends at school) bullying Shoko for no other reason than the fact that she has a hearing disability.
The scenes with the bullying can be extremely hard to watch, because they are depicted very realistically. Shoya is immature and unbearable and torments Shoko constantly. All the while, other kids in their class remain complicit by doing nothing to stop him.
Shoko, for her part, tries her best to be friends with her classmates and especially Shoya. Even through the worst of the bullying, she manages to bring out a smile and even apologizes for getting bullied.
After some time, however, her mother takes her away from the school and the tables turn, as it were. When the full extent of Shoya’s bullying becomes evident to everyone in his class, Shoya becomes ostracized.
The rest of the story takes place a few years later, when they all become high-school students.
The parallels between the two main characters seem to be the driving force of the movie. Both of them feel ostracized and isolated, although for different reasons. You’d think that it would be difficult to feel sympathy for Shoya, but when you see how much the feeling of guilt has ruined him, you end up having to think twice.
After all, who would want to be held responsible for what they have done when they were just a child? But then again, part of growing up and becoming an adult is all about taking responsibility for one’s actions.
At the end of the day, A Silent Voice is definitely a coming-of-age story; but it’s unconventional. It portrays growing up in a more “visceral” way than what’s usual. The problems Shoya and Shoko are going through aren’t just some made up social problems. They feel real and are more likely to have happened than, say, the things that happen in The Catcher in the Rye.
Overall, I really enjoyed A Silent Voice and am glad I watched it today. Funny story, by the way. I bought the Blu-Ray release of this movie when I was in Japan in June. It was only after I came back home that I realized that there wouldn’t be any English subtitles in the Japanese release. Oh well…