… I mean, come on. I’ve already reviewed Violet Evergarden and Liz and the Blue Bird within a reasonable time-frame. I’m about two years and TWO US theatrical releases late to this. So this is gonna be a short review of a movie that – SPOILER – is great and you should watch it.
Shouya is a depressed teenager grappling with suicidal thoughts, racked with guilt over his actions in the past. Turns out he was a real shithead in elementary school and bullied Shouko Nishiyama, the cutest deaf girl ever put to animation. She ends up transferring because of the bullying and Shouya becomes an outcast.
So now that high school has come about and suicide didn’t go as planned (remember kids, 1-800-273-8255), he’s trying to make amends with Shouko. This film is all about redemption and is relentless in its mission to paint our younger lead as a dick just as much as it makes us root for him in his adolescence.
I find it interesting to counter the notion that some people are just “irredeemable.” It begs discussion from the audience about perspective and how far people have to go to earn forgiveness. Juxtaposing this childish, misguided Shouya is a depiction of teen anxiety both relatable and visually captivating.
Shouya’s isolation and inability to talk to people leads to x’s appearing over the faces of people around him. Only as he slowly comes out of his shell do the x’s begin to peel off (literally). It’s effective, if slightly inconsistent, though I suppose I should be thankful it wasn’t over-utilized. Kudos to Naoko Yamada for her talent at painting such vivid portrayals of youth that instantly resonate.
Shouko herself gets more interesting as the film goes on. She is the sort of person to give people a chance and so she isn’t opposed to being friends with Shouya. However, the more we learn, the clearer it is how similar she and Shouya really are, and not in the best ways.
Remember my review of Liz and the Blue Bird, where I praised how integral to the drama was a lack of understanding of the other person’s mind? It’s done here as well. Shouya thinks that Shouko resents him for what happened when in reality she has beaten herself up about the past just as much as he has.
Shouko’s Japanese VA is Sayori Hayami and she did a great job, but nothing beats the English dub’s Lexi Marman, an actual deaf girl giving her first ever vocal performance. On the topic, I’ll say that you really can’t go wrong with either sub or dub. Both were very well acted.
Silent Voice isn’t a romance, but rather just a film about friendship. Shouya meets new people with no frame of reference for his past as well as reconnects with people from his old school. However, he is not just instantly forgiven for all the bullying in the past. Several characters are understandably not happy about him trying to enter Shouko’s life.
So many of Shouya’s relationships with the characters become so interesting because of the context of his past. It’s clear that Shouko’s mother does not like him and a big hurdle in the plot is getting her to give him a chance. Shouya’s mother is another addition to “best anime moms” and Shouya’s adopted little sister is straight up the most adorable infant I have ever seen in a show.
As this film is based on a manga series, it isn’t able to adapt everything, and sadly this brings us to the films biggest drawback. There are some characters who simply do not get any meaningful screentime.
Normally I wouldn’t have an issue with this, but because the ending puts such an emphasis on the cast as a unit, it suffers. They put these characters in emotional montages as if they all equally contributed to the plot and the truth is that they didn’t. On the whole, however, the cast is great.
Shouya’s close friend Tomohiro is hilarious and is the first character to try and actively be friends with him. Yuzuru, Shouko’s younger sister, is a bit less willing to give him a chance, but come around as time goes on. The closest thing to an antagonist in the film is Naoka, one of Shouya’s old classmates from elementary school. Whereas Shouya changed and felt guilty for everything that happened, becoming a better person, she is unchanged. Basically, she’s a total bitch.
Despite the hurdles of the adaptation, the film still manages to convey a lot through visual storytelling. The only real drawback is the opening montage, which can be outright random. There is this random dude who later is addressed as the father of Shouya’s adopted sister Maria, but at the beginning, it’s just… weird.
I’ve already touched on visuals, but Silent Voice is a very pretty film that blends Kyo Ani’s famed background art with a slight watercolor look to it. It is prettier than Liz and the Blue Bird by a very slight margin (and yes it is the hand-drawn coy fish). As for music, I have already praised Kensuke Ushio thoroughly in my Liz and the Blue Bird review, so I’ll just refer you to that.
A Silent Voice is a statement about mental health, suicide, and growing up. Most importantly, it is about forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. Perhaps some would criticize the way the film handles redemption as being “fantastical” and in today’s world, maybe they’re right. Even so, I prefer to think that people aren’t as irredeemable as we make them out to be.
A Silent Voice comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US on April 2, 2019.
Like I said, this was a shorter one than usual, but I felt it was a bit odd to reference the film so much in other reviews and never actually review it. I’m still working on my RWBY Volume Six review and possibly some other good stuff, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!