An Anime Masterpiece

Review of “A Silent Voice”
A Silent Voice Poster
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With anime already not having a super large audience in the movie world, one hidden gem stands out, “A Silent Voice”. A coming of age story dealing with sensitive topics like physiological drama, bullying, disabilities, forgiveness, and mental health. Animated by the amazing Kyoto Animation studio and directed by the beautiful mind of Naoka Yamada, as well as screenwriter Rieko Yoshida. Miyu Arino and Robbie Draymond take the role of voice acting for the Japanese and English voices for the main character “Shoya Ishida” respectively. They both act as a high school student dealing with a lot of guilt and built up stress because of his past as a bully. Wanting to undo his wrongs by befriending “Shouko Nishimiya”, voiced by Saori Hayami in the Japanese version and Lexi Marman in the English dub. They voice a teenager with a hearing disability that was bullied in her early years, now wanting to forgive her bully because of her beliefs. The movie wouldn’t be complete without the beautiful score composed by Kensuke Ushio.

The film begins by introducing Shoya Ishida in the middle of his everyday high school life. We see him performing normal tasks a student of today would, including taking care of his family, going to school, and going to his part time job. It builds up with the score to have the audience realize that he is selling all of his belongings and putting all of his saved money into an envelope he leaves for his mom to see. He ends up at a bridge as he has a vision of him falling off intentionally only to abruptly be cut off due to distant fireworks. Then again abruptly, it changes to a brighter, more vibrant flashback to his past life in elementary school. This slow, seemingly normal opening to a normal high school student living life has a darker undertone to his actions, with the audience realizing he is preparing to give away everything he owns as an apology to his mother. This sets the tone of the rest of the film before it shows off Shoya’s past.

The characters differentiates the movie from other works of anime. Shoya Ishida, a once energetic child now struggles with depression while still in his highschool years. He puts blame on himself for even situations that aren’t his fault. Due to him realizing the way he acted in his younger years affected his mom, the ones he hurt, and the once close friendships he once had. He now pushes people away afraid of hurting anyone else, until he meets a few people who influence him to open up once again. One of the first friends he makes and the other main character is Shouko Nishimiya. A girl with hearing problems that struggled with a lot of bullying for most of her life, especially when she was in elementary school, one of those bullies being Shoya. Her past has led to her cultivating the idea that everything is always her fault and believes that she doesn’t even deserve to be friends with Shoya.

Naoka Yamada is known for being able to combine score, sound design, and different shots into an impactful, emotional scene. One sequence stands out as Shoya takes a moment to reflect on everything around him while at a fair with his friends and family. With the sound of his Shoya’s beating heart entwining with Kensuke Ushio’s emotional score. We see Shoya begin to let tears out slowly, realizing that even though had been smiling throughout the entire movie in front of others, only at this moment, Shoya was truly happy. As the score elevates Shoya looks back on how much has changed in only the small time he had to try his best to reinvent himself. Quickly changing to different shots of the friends he had made, all of them enjoying their time at the fair. Then as the score slows down, so do the tears of Shoya. His heart slows down, he is finally content. Naoka Yamada masterfully creates a beautiful, heart wrenching sequence that brings viewers to tears, especially if they have a connection with the main character.

I truly believe that this anime movie deserves a full rating of 5 out of 5 stars. An animated movie that rivals some of the best live action movies. A Silent Voice reached western audiences despite being produced in Japan. It went so far to even compete in the Oscars and was even nominated for “Best Animated Feature”. It tackles depression, mental health, and struggling with self confidence in realistic ways, when many other movies only touch the surface level of those themes. Especially by ironically taking the viewpoint of the once bully Shoya Ishida, instead of fully focusing on Shouko Nishimiya. We understand the thoughts of a person who suffers from putting the weight of each problem on their shoulders, blaming themselves for every little mistake, and how terrible it is to live life like that. Naoka Yamada successfully reaches out to the hearts of those struggling with hating themselves and is able to teach audiences that things can change, but you have to be the one to make it.

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