A Silent Voice 聲の形 Review
Director: Naoko Yamada
Manga: Yoshitoki Oima
Score: Kensuke Ushio
For those of you who have seen last year's Your Name and, like myself, place that in your top films of 2016, I cannot urge you enough to watch this delightful anime that is elegantly adorable and equally heartbreaking, flooding me with a range of emotions I haven't felt since my school years. The anxiety, the depression, the constant need to feel accepted and liked. Sometimes it takes a film to help remind us what it was like, to teach us those forever important lessons of love, respect and friendship.
The superbly crafted Anime is based on Yoshitoki Oima's titular manga, or "The Shape of the Voice" which was originally an one-shot in 2011 before getting a full weekly serialisation running from August 2013 till November 2014; which was supported by the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, winning a number of recognised awards.
The story feels central to Shoya Ishida, who is the classic example of the school bully. Cruel, insecure and disobedient whose only existence is dependable on his popularity among his friends. His story is suddenly entwined with Shoko Nishimaya, a shy, sweet and deaf schoolgirl who is transferred to his elementary school. She desperately wants to make friends with everyone, including Ishida, who cannot accept or understand her brave and continual proposal of friendship and as a result, she becomes the focal point of his nasty behaviour. Her tolerance and perseverance is incredibly admirable but forms part of a vicious circle as the more she forgives, the worse he torments her.
You cannot help feeling deeply sympathetic for her, arousing terrible mistakes and guilt I, myself made during my adolescent years, which instead of hating Ishida's character, I instead ending up relating to him to some degree. She is eventually transferred again when Ishida goes too far, leaving him with blame and ironically becomes the next victim as a result of how he treated her and others.
Years later, skipping junior school, Ishida is now a shell of his former shelf, being completely ostracised, he is now an isolated high school teenager who has little to do with anyone else. Friendless, sad and feeling tremendous regret for his past behaviour, he tries to come to terms with the guilt, accepting the punishment that has been dealt to him. Fate steps in and he catches a glimpse of Nishimaya leading to an awkward encounter that sets off a chain of events of redemption, friendship, understanding and forgiveness.
The story delves deeper, as a number of individual yet stereotypical characters flit in and out of their story, but each of them having a fundamental impact on the outcome. The resentful Ueno, Ishida's popular, domineering secret admirer; Kawai, the school's narcissistic academic who can't do no wrong. Sahara, the shy and only girl to befriend Nishimaya at elementary school; and quite a few more.
The film tackles some very mature themes such as suicide, depression and social interaction, displaying how our troubled adolescence can help shape us into our adult selves as we watch both lead characters try to find their way in life, desperately wanting to fit in. There's a wealth of emotions here, covering a broad spectrum of feelings but remaining charming throughout.
The animation is glorious with some clever and symbolic imagery to help convey Ishida's isolation and a good representation of "what goes around comes around." It's superbly balanced and paced for a film of 129 minutes, making the film very compelling and enticing with Kensuke Ushio providing a typical yet beautiful score of minimalistic piano and chimes that grows throughout the film to help signify the progressive understanding between the characters.
It's a powerful and profound story that's superbly put together, reminding me exactly why I love films and of my own childhood relationships. A must- watch, especially for fans of delicate anime.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being an absolutely stunning masterpiece in every sense.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Yes!