A Silent Voice (also known as “The Shape of the Voice) is a manga series written by Yoshitoki Oima. The series has a pair of protagonists (Shoko Nishimiya) who is hearing impaired, and her classmate (Shoya Ishida) who actually bullied her. Shoya, being a confused inexperienced youth, doesn’t know how to react when he receives a new classmate who has a hearing disability. So….as many young boys do…he bullies her because he doesn’t know how to cope. Normally, this would sound like a cautionary tale of the dangers of bullying especially during early parts of youth. This story goes much deeper than that. This film grabs you early on from multiple directions and it doesn’t let go.
The earliest scenes shows Shoya with his then friends how life was a good time as youth should be. We are then introduced to Shoko and how everything snowballs from there. One of the many things that will keep you planted in your seat right off the get go is how diverse the colors are in the animation. Kyoto animation has certainly never been a slouch when it comes to fluidity, color usage, and effective use of camera work. A Silent Voice is no different. It is incredible seeing sign language being used from an animation standpoint and making it appear truly effortless. By using a very minimal amount of CGI with the exception of filtering effects, the film is something I cannot stress enough. I would have to have multiple arms to count the number of time I was awestruck. While some might say that the movie itself is “too bright”, the use of color contrasts from opposing colors schemes and use of light to dark serves another purpose. It further perpetuates the high and low emotions of the film.
A Silent Voice as a movie covers a very large amount of manga content and manages to condense it into just a hair over 2 hours. During this time, we are introduced to the main cast at an early age and charge head first into the types of conflicts not being able to understand your fellow man leads to. Some extremely heavy themes are touched in A Silent Voice. Themes ranging to bullying, self-loathing, and even suicide. The first bit covers Shoya bullying Shoko and after a time, Shoya gets counter bullied by his former friends. Because of the rep Shoya made for himeself, he becomes a loner though not by choice. Time passes on and Shoya has experienced a hard life until he meets Shoko again in high school. Shoya then begins to try and make amends. At this point, we’ve already covered some of the deeper aspects but it unfolds and expands even further as we are reintroduced to the older versions of the school kids as adolescents and there is still tension after all those years. The amount of drama, character development and frankly, raw emotions crammed in is surprisingly not overwhelming.
Of course, a film that is so heavily steeped in emotion and themes has to be handled by a cast that can meet those emotions. The cast of the Japanese dub did an outstanding job of bringing such a huge cast to a believable, multi-dimensional level. The voice work is complimented more so by the score than the use of foley work. The music score is played throughout the vast majority of the movie but never feels out of place or overstays its welcome. The arrangements are also quite varied, from simple piano work to electronic tunes and simple percussion. It works exceptionally well. Kensuke Ushio, I would like to thank you directly for your work as someone who thinks music is just as important as the acting.
The only issue I had with watching A Silent Voice was that one of the characters that is introduced later is kind of shoehorned in and not really expanded upon. This is a character who is prevalent in the manga based on some light research but is not very well executed here. Besides this small point, the film is truly wonderful. If an English dub becomes available I will make a supplementary review for it as well.