In association with Glasgow Film Festival 2017
Based on the seven volume long manga of the same name, A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) takes the trope of the bully, a cliché often handled poorly due to generic treatment, and explores it in a variety of deep and insightful ways. Back in elementary school, Shoya Ishida used to bully his deaf classmate Shoko Nishimiya to the point where she had to transfer, leaving him to deal with overwhelming guilt. Years later Ishida meets Nishimiya again and thus the film becomes an entrancing, gut-wrenching redemption story.
The reason the film works so immensely is because of its exquisite, creative handling of story and character. Director Naoko Yamada described herself as a method director in that she tries to portray her characters as real people rather than drawings and with a story this delicate, that’s the ideal approach. These characters feel so humanistic to the point where we could put ourselves in either Ishida’s or Nishimiya’s shoes. The screenplay is very tight, given that it’s adapting a huge manga, but it gives just enough material for these characters to feel immersive. They feel like people we’d know from our own lives and thus the power of the story is elevated by tenfold.
Like most anime, the film is artistically beautiful too. The fluidity of the characters’ movements and passion of their facial expressions is just enthralling. The way the film blends colour and utilises clever use of visual metaphors to convey its themes and deep emotional factor is contagious. Through beautiful yet at times heart-breaking imagery the film gives us a compelling and identifiable look at the consequences of bullying to all parties involved, making for compassionate characters and an intricate, heartfelt story that can be viewed and appreciated on various levels, whether as a love story, a coming of age tale or, what it’s designed to be, a powerful redemption story.
A Silent Voice is a masterful blending of beautiful animation and compelling drama; a deep, opulent and captivating examination on redemption. With clever visual metaphors, a well-realised understanding of the source material and compelling characterisation on its bully and its victim, the film is charming, funny, heart-breaking and deeply engaging on all fronts. A spectacularly fulfilling anime that Naoko Yamada should be very proud of.