A Silent Voice is an anime teen drama addressing the issues of bullying and suicide. Based on the manga of the same name, A Silent Voice is the story of a young man, Shōya Ishida, who is an outcast amongst his peers for bullying a deaf girl.
The film opens as Ishida contemplates suicide while walking across a bridge. Flashbacks reveal that Ishida bullied a deaf girl, Shōko Nishimiya, years before. Ishida harassed her in class, mocked her disability, and tossed her hearing aids in the nearby pond. Taking the higher road, Nishimiya made several attempts to befriend Ishida, but that made his bullying worse.
“…the story of a young man, Shōya Ishida, who is an outcast amongst his peers for bullying a deaf girl.”
Now a loner, Ishida works long hours to repay the loss of Nishimiya’s hearing aids. He secretly learns sign language in an attempt to apologize to Nishimiya at her new school. All this is just the first fifteen minutes of the movie.
A Silent Voice expands the effects of bullying beyond just the tormentor and his/her victim to the community surrounding them. While the main story follows Ishida and Nishimiya, we also see the effects of Ishida’s actions on the people indirectly affected by the situation. The list is large. Consider Ishida’s mother has to give her hard-earned wages to Nishimiya’s mother for the hearing aids. Or Nishimiya’s younger sister who stalks Ishida with her camera hoping to embarrass him. And Ueno, Ishida’s bullying accomplice, who harbors jealousy over Nishimiya.
A Silent Voice is a complex story and succeeds in intertwining almost a dozen characters and sub-plots. Unlike your typical after-school special, the film takes a thorough look at bullying and suicide from many different viewpoints both good and bad. I should warn you that the film comes from Japan and there are some cultural differences to the way they approach the issue, that you may not agree.
“A Silent Voice expands the effects of bullying beyond just the tormentor and his/her victim to the community surrounding them.”
There are a few technical problems. For example, the film is in Japanese, the white captions set against a light background are hard to read. I would suggest watching the film in a darkened room or theater. Also, A Silent Voice is two-hours long, and it feels like its two-hours long. The pace is slow and deliberate. Hang in there.
On the positive side, the film is beautiful to look at. The film is hand-drawn, and the outdoor settings and backdrops are breathtaking. A Silent Voice is a true piece of art.
A Silent Voice (2017). Directed by Naoko Yamada. Written by Reiko Yoshida. Starring Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami, and Yuki Kaneko.
3.5 stars out of 5