A Silent Voice Is A Sensational Anime Movie About Bullying

In anime movie A Silent Voice, deaf girl Shoko Nishimiya's sixth-grade notebook is full of apologies to the classmates who keep throwing her hearing aids in the river. Her bullies' ringleader, Shoya Ishida, later watches his guilt-ridden mother offer ¥1.73 million (around $20,000) to Nishimiya's mother in compensation. The cycle of hurt continues until it reveals itself to Ishida, who decides to break it.

A Silent Voice

There is a law of equal exchange in A Silent Voice that isn't physical or karmic as much as empathic. Nishimiya's mother slaps Ishida's after the money is exchanged. In high school, Ishida is ostracised for bullying that, years ago, seemed sanctioned by the norm of children's callousness. Everyone in A Silent Voice gets what's due to them. Watching it hurts like holding a long, difficult stretch, but its startlingly good animation and strong pacing make it entirely pleasurable to watch.

A Silent Voice, which has won a half dozen "anime of the year" awards overseas, was released in Australian theatres this April. A screening will also be held this Saturday at the SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show. It follows high-school Ishida who, equipped with a knowledge of sign language and the weight of his guilt, pursues a friendship with Nishimiya after the pain he inflicted on her in their childhood years.

A Silent Voice offers no unblemished characters. Orbiting Ishida and Nishimiya are their current and former classmates, the coward Miyoko Sahara, the ruthless Naoka Ueno, the desperate Tomohiro Nagatsuka and the vain Miki Kawai. With them, a veneer of self-assurance is always present, except in Ishida, who feels nothing but regret for how he treated the deaf girl in primary school. Of course, inside, everybody hates themselves (or others in an effort to self-preserve), a fact that never presents itself to Ishida, who spends his early adolescence isolated and paying for his sins. Until he stops self-flagellating and allows in others' friendship, he suffers because he doesn't understand the meaning of empathy or know whether he deserves it.

A Silent Voice depicts the cruelty people with disabilities can face and how unselfconsciously children can act out when they don't understand something. Nishimiya's life never looks easy. Her strained smile and constant apologies prevent anyone from getting to know her, which frustrates her former classmates. They feel forced to accommodate Nishimiya's differences and don't want to do the work. Because Nishimiya tries too hard to make things comfortable for them, offering her notebook for communication or refusing to stand up for herself, A Silent Voice often lulls viewers into thinking this inherent tension is on the brink of being released. Harsher moments, such as when others criticise her out-of-tune speaking or when her sign language is simply not dubbed, jerk viewers out of that mindset.

The movie's score, a groggily cheerful piano track by composer Kensuke Ushio, is always tender and sweet, offsetting some of the movie's darkness. It contains one of the most stunning animation sequences I've ever seen, flashing from an egg yolk splashing around a bowl to Ishida's mother with a stack of pancakes to a burst of fireworks, and ending in carp in the river and, finally, bright lights that tease at a headache (it fits the mood). A Silent Voice lacks nothing in appearances.

This is a movie that will stretch your sensibilities, and while it is certainly a plunge into darkness, its exceptional plot and animation makes watching it like eating fistfuls of lolly vitamins.


Comments

    This is the second anime mentioned here recently that has caught my eye.
    (The one about the aftermath of WWII seems really interesting)

    The trailers for this film make it seem a movie with a happy ending, a redemption journey for Ishida to repay Shouko, making it seem like he learns sign language as a result of meeting Shouko again in high school but he already knows it at the beginning of the film. It is not that sort of film. It is a sad movie, that deals extremely well with topics (and reasons for) mental illness (namely depression I guess), suicide, bullying, and physical disablity (primarily Shouko's deafness). There is still joy to be found in this film though (to make your heart swell) but it does not shy away from realism. 10/10

      A Silent Voice was more about atonement for Ishida. He realised the importance of accepting someone's differences and learning to find a way to relate to them, thus he learnt sign language. Meeting Shouko again was a mere coincidence that once he was able to apologise for past sins, he was able to build the friendship she wanted with him as a child.

      A Silent Voice isn't exactly a happy film, but one that can be seen as a positive about "it's never too late to change and say you're sorry" type message. But as usual, people want to focus on things like bullying and condemn the Ishida character through the whole movie. Ishida got the chance to do what a lot of us wish we had, to correct and repent for childhood mistakes.

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