Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) Review

[WARNING OF SPOILERS AHEAD. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON WATCHING THE FILM. OTHERWISE, ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN – THEY ARE NOT CORRECT, THEY ARE JUST MY OWN. THANK YOU]

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I followed Manga Fox on Facebook (which I highly suggest you do – not sponsored), so during my morning rountine of checking my newsfeed, Manga Fox had posted the subbed version of the trailer for A Silent Voice. I had heard of it, so I watched the trailer and really liked what I saw. I had done my chores for the day, so in a rare moment – I decided to jump straight in and watch the movie.

I was not expecting to fall in love with a 2 hour movie so quickly (or feel so many emotions in that period of time either), but I did. Despite this movie being released last year, the official subbed version was finally available in the UK, which is why I’m a bit behind.

In this review, I’ll give you a plot and then review the following elements: Story, Art, Sound, Characters, then my Overall Conclusion.


Plot

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A Silent Voice based off of the manga series of the same name written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Oima.

This story centers on school boy Shoya Ishida – a elementary pupil who treats his boredom in life in one of the worst ways possible. A new student is introduced to his class – Shoko Nishimiya, who is deaf and can only communicate via a notebook. Unable to understand Shoko, Shoya harasses her, makes fun of her disability and even takes her hearing aids away from her and throwing them out of the window (one time, he actually causes her ears to bleed). Despite his actions towards her, Shoko always treats him well and never get angry at him. Eventually, Shoko’s mother notices her daughters treatment during school hours and steps in – asking the principle of the school to punish those who have bullying her. Shoya – after being ‘encouraged’ by his homeroom teacher – puts himself forward, along with his friend Naoko Ueno and Miki Kawai. Shoya’s mother – Miyako – takes him to apologize to the family, covering the costs of the hearing aids (around 1,700,000 yen), only to have one of her earrings torn from her ears. Shoko is transferred to another school, however Shoya’s friends all turn on him, making him an outcast.

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Fast forward to Shoya now in high school – he is still a loner, but accepts it due to his past. He saved up enough money to repay his mother for the hearing aids (only for it to go up in flames after Miyako discovers her son wanting to commit suicide) and has also learnt sign language. With Shoko’s sixth-grade notebook, he hopes in returning to her and making amends. However, when he does, it falls into the river. Shoko follows it, as does Shoya. After a picture is posted online of him  jumping into the river (by Shoko’s boyfriend Yuzuru), he is suspended. During his suspension, Shoya takes his niece Maria to a park, only to find Yuzuru ‘homeless’ – he ran away after Shoko got mad at him (she figured out it was he who posted the picture). Despite ill feelings, Shoya takes Yuzuru back to his place, gives him some food, a place to sleep and new shoes. When Shoya returns Yuzuru home, Yuzuru reveals that he is actually Shoko’s younger (and very protective) sister.

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Shoya and Shoko spend more time together and helps her reconnect with Miyoko Sahara – a girl in their elementary school who befriended Shoko. During this time, Shoya befriends Tomohiro Nagatsuka and Satoshi Mashiba and runs to Ueno once again – the group one day go to amusement park together, only for Ueno to tell Shoko her true feelings towards her (that she hated Shoko during elementary school because she ‘always kept her feelings in her head’). During one of their regular meet ups to feed fish under a bridge (the same one they both fell into), Shoko confesses her feelings to Shoya, however he misunderstands her and thinks she is talking about the moon, much to Shoko’s frustration.

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At school, Kawai reveals Shoya’s true past to Nagatsuka and Mashiba (who had no idea) which leads to a confrontation and Shoya calling out everyone for who they really are. The group part ways, but Shoya, Yuzuru and Shoko still hang out together. Yuzuru and Shoko invite Shoya to the local fireworks display (much to the dismay of their mother – Yaeko), however Shoko goes home early to study. Yuzuru – forgetting her camera – asks Shoya to go get it for her, only to discover Shoko attempting suicide by jumping off a balcony. He saves her as she jumps, but ends up falling himself and ending up at hospital in a coma. Despite Shoya’s past, the guilt gets the better of everyone – especially Shoko and her mother, who gravel at Miyako’s feet when they visit him at the hospital.

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One night, Shoko finds herself in a dream where Shoya declares that he is dying. She runs to the bridge – the bridge where they always meet – to find Shoya there, despite his injuries. After confirming that he is not a ghost, Shoko confesses she wished to kill herself as she thought she was to blame for Shoya becoming a loner once more. Shoya in turn blames himself for everything and apologizes for everything – including the way he treated her in the past. He then asks Shoko to help him start living again, which she agrees to help him with. Shoya returns to school on the day of the festival, however due to his anxiety, feels he cannot do it. Nagatsuka finds Shoya in the bathroom and reassures him that everything is fine – the group where more considered about his well-being. They gather together once more to attend the festival, where Shoya finally is able to look everyone in the eye and feels that he has finally redeemed himself.

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Story

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As you can judge from the plot, this story is long and only a few scenes felt unnecessary and perhaps too short. From what I’ve read of the manga itself (I’ve only read the first 2 volumes), there are a few scenes/plotlines missing – in the manga, Mashiba actually joins the group after discovering they’re trying to make a movie, not because Mashiba wanted to become friends with Shoya out of pure curiosity like in the film. I’ve read a few reviews on MyAnimeList from people who have read the manga then the film, and have often cited that the manga explored more relationships between characters and underlying themes. The movie also ‘ended too soon’ for most people as there a lot more chapter after Shoya ‘redeemed himself’.

The numerous themes in this film are explored well and relate to many viewers – I would describe it as a relate-able, coming of age story that explores friendships, guilt, anger, love and understanding. It was emotional – it had me crying in a few places throughout the movie, rather at just the end like similar films have done to me.

When I began watching the film, I knew it would be ‘different’ – I don’t know how to describe it, but I knew it was going to give me the similar feeling Toradora did – I absolutely loved the story because I loved the characters, the comedy, the romance, everything…but when it came to the ending, I had a feeling it was something I wouldn’t expect. This is true…for the most part. I knew that Shoya would end up back with his friends, but I suppose I didn’t expect the bridge scene. I didn’t expect Shoya to want Shoko to stop hating herself, nor did I expect him to want her to help him start living again. The scene on the bridge was truly unique and had me sobbing like a baby.

From what I’ve read about the manga, I like the story could have carried on a little more – I know it was 2 hours long, but what’s another hour? – especially from what I’ve read about further scenes. While this was a romance drama, I didn’t really feel the romance of it – apart from Shoko’s ‘confession’ – and that the ending felt Shoya and Shoko’s relationship somewhat ambiguous as it never really hinted that Shoya felt the same way as Shoko. The ending could have left them as staying as close friends or as a romantic link – I think the director left it this way to get viewers thinking and decide for themselves.


Art

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Wow, this film is beautiful! I especially loved any scene that involved running water – especially at the bridge where you could see the fish. All scenes are drawn in great detail and in such a fine way – I suppose that is what you can expect from the Kyoto Animation studio, who have done works such as Clannad, Free! and Kyoukai no Katana (Beyond the Boundary). It is high-quality animation and all characters look very true to their designs in the original manga.

It actually won 3 awards based on it’s animation – the 40th Japan Academy Prize for Excellent Animation of the Year; the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival for Animation Division – Excellence Award and the 26th Japan Movie Critics Awards for Best Animation of the Year (all won this year).

Basically – it’s a pretty film and animated very well.


Sound

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Despite it’s great plot and art, the soundtrack let’s the film down a bit. The opening theme is “My Generation” by The Who (a great song by a great band) and the ending theme is “Koi wo Shita no wa” (roughly translated as “I Fell in Love with You”) by Aiko. The ending theme is Aiko’s first real taste in the anime business, however is a very accomplished singer with many singles and awards. The song is slow but upbeat – very suited to the film.

However, the original soundtrack is OK – many songs are quite forgettable. All of it is piano based, with a few songs accompanied by stringed instruments, but I didn’t really pay much attention to music. I think because the story was so engrossing, I didn’t really hear the music in the background.

There were also a few pieces that didn’t really seem to fit – the music that played as Shoko and Shoya headed to the bridge after Shoya’s accident really startled me – it was so upbeat and a bit strange that it temporarily took me out of the moment.

It’s not an awful soundtrack but don’t expect to remember it anytime soon.


Characters

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I have a very complex relationship with Shoya – during the first part of the movie, I really hated him. But this is not a bad thing – I obviously hated him enough that when everyone turned on him, I was glad – this is evident of good character writing. And as the film continued, I grew to like Shoya and even wished for him to be safe after he saved Shoko. To be able to hate a character then go to liking them and even wishing for them not to die is evidence of good character writing. And I think everyone who has been be bullied and/or suffers from anxiety can under Shoya’s viewpoint during highschool and feel proud of him when he finally forgives himself after everything he has been through.

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My favourite character had to be Shoko of course – she’s cute and always tries her best, despite her handicap. She clearly cares for others more than herself – evident by her attempted suicide – and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her when she was bullied. She was sweet because she was trying so hard to be friends with Shoya – despite his actions towards her – and the fact that she forgives him in the end…she’s not real, and I want to be her friend.

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Support characters are good – their traits are understandable (such as Sahara being a coward as she did not intervene with Shoko’s bullying and Nagatsuka being overfriendly after having no friends and befriending Shoya). I don’t think they were fully explored however – we never really figured out the reason why Ueno was a bully (the same with Shoya at the beginning) and Mashiba only had a few scenes compared to being a fuller character in the anime. Shoya’s elementary school friends – Kazuki Shimada and Keisuke Hirose – only play a small part too, despite them being the ones who pulled Shoya out of the river after Shoko tried to commit suicide and having bigger roles in the manga.

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I do believe there were a few characters who was very unnecessary – Ito Nishimiya (Shoko and Yuzuru’s grandmother) – who appeared in the background, had one minor scene with Yuzuru then died. She had no impact on me (apart from a little sadness on behalf of the Nishimiya sisters) and only really impacted Yuzuru to go back to school. Shoya’s older sister (who is given no name) was seen in a few scenes, but her face never really shown with no explanation. The same goes for her husband – Pedro – who actually does have more scene time then her. Again, his sister is explored more in the manga.


Overall Conclusion

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I would highly recommend this film to anyone – regardless if they are a anime fan or not. It’s a relate-able story – especially to those who have been bullied – that actually turns a negative into a positive. I feel that bullies are not always forgiven, nor do they try to redeem themselves, which is what makes this story so unique. It is a beautiful coming of age story that explores relationships in such a unreplicate-able way, I don’t think anyone is capable to do it again – Makoto Shinkai, the director of Your Name (which I still haven’t watch yet), said so himself.

With greatly written characters, beautiful animation and a emotionally-wrecking story from start to end, A Silent Voice is an absolute one-time experience not to be missed.

Rating: 10/10


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! I don’t usually do this type of review, so if you did enjoy it, let me know so I can do more.

Until next time, take care!

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