Based on the manga, A Silent Voice is an anime film that was directed by Naoko Yamada, and released in Japan in September 2016. The story follows Shoya Ishida, high school student who in elementary school bullied his classmate, Shōko Nishimiya, because she was deaf. Due to the mistreatment, Shoko transferred to a different school, and Shoya became a social outcast, for his classmates no longer wanted to associate with him. He accepted his circumstance as punishment for bullying Shoko, and as the years went by, he convinced himself that he did not deserve to have friends. However, the guilt of his actions drove him to learn sign language, and to find Shoko to ask for forgiveness. Upon finding her, Shoya asks if they could become friends, to which she agrees. As they develop a friendship, Shoya helps Shoko overcome her feelings of worthlessness, and she helps him forgive himself for his actions in elementary school.
A Silent Voice touches on a few themes in its emotionally-stirring narrative. One of which is bullying, and how it effects, not only the victim, but also the bully, the bully’s family, the victim’s family, and others who are close enough to witness the harassment. While Shoko suffered the physical and emotional pain of the mistreatment, Shoya was met with the consequence of being ostracised by his classmates, as well as the heavy guilt of his behaviour; both of which led him to depression and suicidal thoughts. Shoko’s family was impacted by the bullying, for her mother developed a strong contempt for the kids in the classroom, which she angrily expressed years after Shoko left the school. Furthermore, her younger sister became very protective of her, driving away anyone who she thought could potentially hurt Shoko. There were other students in the classroom who were influenced by the bullying, as some were encouraged to join in while others ignored the fact that Shoko was being harassed. Years later, Shoya worked hard to make things right with Shoko, for he tried undo the damage he created in elementary school; not only for Shoko, but for himself and anyone else who was impacted.
Another theme that the film explores is the importance of someone receiving forgiveness from those he mistreated, as well as from himself, if he is to be able to move on in life. In Shoya’s case, the weight of his actions led him to believe that he was not worthy of friends, which changed when he befriended Shoko and tried to make up for pain he caused her. In doing so, he not only gained her forgiveness, but he came to realise he was allowed to pursue a social life. The film also focuses on the significance of people supporting those whose differences make it hard for them to properly function in most settings. In Shoko’s situation, her hearing impediment made it difficult for her to not only understand her classmate, but to express herself to them. This led to her struggle of recognising her self-worth, especially when she was being bullied. It was only years later when Shoya learned to communicate with her using sign language did she overcome her low self-esteem, for her silent voice was finally understood people other than family. The story places a lot of emphasis on portraying the emotional struggle of those who live without a sense of self-worth, which is usually dependent on the level of support they receive from others.
Putting aside the themes, the film is outstanding in the way it tells an emotionally uplifting narrative, one that falls under the genre of drama and romance. There are also a few humorous elements in the story, which is found in the way Shoya is acquainted with new and old friends. The quality of art in the film’s animation is pleasant and appealing, but it is not a distinctive style that stands out from other anime. Overall, A Silent Voice is an excellent film that tells an emotional and heartening story, one that most would enjoy watching.
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