A Silent Voice / Koe no Katachi / The Shape of Voice (2016)
It may look like it but it is not a typical high romance anime. Based on a multiple award-winning manga series by Yoshitoki Ōima, A Silent Voice is about a school boy named Shoya Ishida who bullies his deaf female classmate, Shoko Nishimiya, along with his friends and other classmates to a point that Nishimiya is transferred to another school. When the teachers find out about this, all his friends turn on him, everyone blames him and give him a hard time all throughout elementary school. In high school, he becomes a loner and suicidal until he meets Nishimiya again and decides to make amends for his past wrongdoings and hopefully redeem himself.
Directed by Naoko Yamada (Tamako Market, K-On!) and screenwritten by Reiko Yoshida (Tamako Love Story, K-On! The Movie), this anime has one of the best coming-of-age stories ever which explores the challenges that many students still face today in many countries — bullying, disability, friendship, isolation, suicide, self-doubt, guilt and “teenage politics”. It doesn’t only explore them but also addresses these social issues straight up with convincing answers for these characters. Despite the heavy subjects and themes, the film stays intriguing and enjoyable with the right balance of humour and a roller coaster of emotions.
Although I was never really vulnerable to bullies nor do I have any disability, the film’s narratives allows me to feel and relate to the well-written and developed characters. The relationship between Ishida and Nishimiya is sweet, heartwarming and yet highly complex, constantly affected by the past, self-doubt and communication. Somewhere in the second act of the film, I thought it was going to approach the typical romance-drama route but the film only continued to compel and surprise me until the end of its 2-hour-plus running time which doesn’t feel too long.
If I were to nitpick, the only problem I had was its ending that doesn’t quite hit the emotional home-run. But then again, it is not a typical drama and it focuses mainly to deliver the key answers to the realistic issues that the characters face. It may not have groundbreaking visuals nor does it look any different than other recent feature film animes (as usual, all female characters look like models) but on the inside, it is far more beautiful than most animes I’ve seen and I urge everyone to watch it. A Silent Voice is highly engaging, heartfelt and on top of all that, it carries important messages.
What I would’ve named the film: “Listen, Listen, Listen” (Malaysians should get this)
Malaysian censorship: Doubt there was anything to censor. Even when a school girl jumps into the river, her skirt stays down underwater — that’s how visually clean the director wanted his film to be.
Verdict: An Oscar-worthy anime but sadly, like Your Name, it wasn’t even nominated in the recent Academy Awards.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Anime, drama
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Director: Naoko Yamada
Screenwriter: Reiko Yoshida
Voice Cast: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, Aoi Yuki, Kensho Ono
Malaysia Release Date: 20 April 2017 (not at GSC)
Local Distributor: ATriNaga
Production: Kyoto Animation