A Silent Voice is a captivating and sensitive insight into the effect of high school bullying on individuals, writes Andrew Wong
A Silent Voice is a Japanese anime school drama film produced by Kyoto Animation and directed by Naoko Yamada. This film is based on the award-winning manga of the same name, which was written by Yoshitoki Ōima. A Silent Voice is a film about the difficult things people can go through during their school years, with a focus on the aspects of regret, self-worth, redemption and even learning to love.
Most prominently, however, this film has an emphasis on bullying and the various forms it can take, from physical and violent, systematic and unfair, to silent and cruel. This film conveys the lasting effects bullying can have on people as it shows the strain it puts on the characters and how it influences their actions.
Our protagonist is Ishida Shouya who wants to make up for his past sins, as we see him in an immediate flashback where Ishida took the most active role in abusing one of his classmates, Shouko Nishimiya, for being deaf. However, he wasn’t the only one who was involved as you have teachers turning a blind eye and friends who decided to go along with the ‘joke’.
Eventually Ishida does get punished for his actions and it seems as if things would back to the status quo, although it is quite the opposite. Ishida finds himself being rejected by his original group of peers and in turn becomes detached from everyone in the school and becomes known as the outcast.
Ishida’s journey of redemption is met with conflict creating a situation where even though what he did when he was younger and crueller, you do begin to side with him and want to see him succeed to regain his friends and redeem himself. Moreover, Ishida begins to form a close bond with the victim of his bullying, Shouko, to the extent that he even learns sign language.
As expected for an animated movie you can always be certain that the animation will be at a high standard. Accompanied with a surreal soundtrack and an ambient sound design, its hard not to become emotionally invested with the big moments you face with the cast of characters you come to know.
Furthermore, the characters Ishida meets along the way do a great job in developing his character — the more he progresses in his journey of redemption, it becomes clearer and clearer that he’s letting down his own personal barriers that he put up when he was labeled as an outcast. Out of the friends he reconnects with, it’s his new friend Tomohiro that really brings a sense a humour to this film when needed, making him one of the more appealing and charming characters of the film.
Ultimately, A Silent Voice is a coming of age story that fleshes out the complex teenage politics that drive the film’s expansive plot. Yamada makes a point of contrasting the agonising complexity of high school life with the clean simplicity of the moments that really count. It could be seen as a slow burner for some, but for those who enjoy character-driven stories that discuss the minutiae of everyday life, their investment in the film will be worth it.