Now, A Silent Voice is one of the Animes that I have been really excited to see because at one time, this was ranked higher on many Anime website boards that the previously reviewed Your Name, which, as you will remember, is a film that I absolutely adored. However, it has not had many cinema screening outside of its native Japan, prior to last month, when it received a ‘two days only’ screening. It had only been screened at Scotland Loves Anime Festival, where it received very positive reviews. The film itself is based on a Manga by Yoshitoko Oima, a rather young up and coming Munga writer and artist, who, prior to this, hasn’t really written much, although she has written more since. If you want to read the Manga itself, it has been translated into English and at the time of writing this review, the majority, if not all of it is available to purchase. Though, if you have a Crunchyroll account you are lucky because you can get the Manga in digital form off their website. When a successful Manga comes out, there is obviously going to be several animation studios that try to get the rights and turn it into a season long Anime and they would normally exist as purely a promotion for the Manga.
A Silent Voice though, was picked up by Kyoto Animation, who are a very unique company in terms of the Anime industry as they have paid staff, rather than unlike the rest of the industry, who tend to hire freelancers to do the work, as a result, you often see staff members going between various projects. So, you will often see one person’s name credited on several shows across the board. It is amazing also that Kyoto Animation didn’t hire anyone from outside, once again, they have stayed within the staff, once again working with director Naoko Yamada, whose previous credits mostly includes TV credits, including directing several episodes of TV series such as Sound Euphonium, which included its excellent series finale, as well as K-on and even one episode of Clannad. Her previous credits also include doing some movies prior to this, including the K-on movie and Tamako Love Story, which I won’t claim to have watched. The screenplay was developed by Reiko Yoshida, who is a rather interesting choice. She has written some good scripts including several episodes of Shirobako and also worked with Maiko for K-on the movie. She was also a screenplay writer for the Studio Ghibli film The Cat Returns, which I feel is one of the more underrated movies. You can imagine, with credentials like that, I was very excited to see this film. Could this film live up to the hype that it gathered? I will state though, I haven’t read the Manga that the film is based on, so I won’t be going through any of the changes from the Manga to the film and as usual, this will be a completely spoiler free review.
A Silent Voice is the story of Shoya Ishida (played by Miyu Irino). In elementary school he bullies the new deaf student Shoko Nishimiya (played by Saori Hayami) and after he is caught out, he is abandoned by his friends. Feeling guilty of his actions and despair at the loss of this friendship circle, by the time he reached high school, he contemplates suicide. However, he is given a new lease on life when a chance encounter with Shoko shows that she doesn’t feel any malice towards him and even extends out the hand of friendship. He then yearns to join this new circle of friends of his and try and gain back what he lost in life. But the question is, are some things too late to recover from?
A Silent Voice is very much an interesting film, in the sense that, it feels like ground that has been trodden, but rather unique at the same time. This isn’t the first time that Anime has explored themes like this. In fact after watching this, it felt very similar to another creative animation production, Clannad. Now comparisons between the two series isn’t exactly fair. Clannad was a 44 episode series, not including the optional OVA’s and the recap episode. Granted, there was a movie of Clannad made, which attempted to condense the majority of those 44 episodes, along with extra elements of the visual novel it was based on into an hour and a half movie, so you can imagine how well that turned out. But you have to now compare that to a two hour film, you are simply not going to have enough time to get out character development and story arcs. The difference is, though, that Clannad should always have been a TV series rather than a movie. Clannad, was mainly about the story of two people like a Silence Voice, was also about the story of several people, since it was based on a visual novel with several characters and several branching pathways and the creators wanted to get every single element in the series, which kind of led to poor pacing in the first season. Whereas Silent Voice is based on a four volume Manga that has a clear set path and a clear set direction, so therefore it suits the film environment a lot better, which means it tells a much more clear and coherent story.
Shoya is very similar in a lot of ways to Tomoya from Clannad, again the difference being that Tomoya is angry with the world, feeling that their actions have damaged him whereas Shoya is angry with himself, feeling that he has angered the rest of the world. I would also say that whereas Calannad was all about finding self and overcoming problems with family, this one is more about finding and overcoming self through friends and a circle of people. Granted, it wasn’t as if Clannad was completely devoid of that element, but it is a film that is prevalent here. It has a nice colourful cast of characters that all have very distinctive character types and all have their place, and to be fair, Shoya has a decent amount of interaction with all of them. Everyone feels like they have their place in the plot and it also doesn’t feel like any of them are insignificant by the end of the movie. Despite the fact that Miyu is showed as bullish about Shoya and Shoko, there’s a lot more to it than that. The reality is though, it’s all about Shoya and his group of friends. We have his best friend Tomohiro who is one of the most fun members of the cast, Shoko’s little sister Yuzuru, who is part of a wonderful joke towards the beginning of the movie along with some of his old elementary school acquaintances including Naoka Ueno, who seems to exist to give a bit of conflict with Shoko, though it’s entirely one sided. You are probably wondering why I am so interested in this main character, well that’s simply because he is not a typical archetype main character for this sort of film. In fact, he starts off as the sort of person who would normally be a side character, or one we would hate. They essentially want to give us a character that we should absolutely hate and very quickly make us feel sorry for him, and it succeeds very well. Shoya is initially portrayed as being an irredeemable little b……, who continues to torment Shoko despite the fact that she just wants to be friends with everyone. So the fact that this whole thing destroys him and drives him to near suicide, can make us realise that as much as we wish ill will on people like this, it can often go too far. How far are we willing to let that ‘ill will’ go. This story arc is not only one of redemption, but also of life fulfilment. I love the relationship between him and Shoko, it’s not necessarily portrayed as being a romantic relationship, there are several undertones of it there, but it’s not that necessary, we never see them go anything that is overtly called a date, but we can tell that he is determined to do right by her after everything that he has done.
The films scenes of redemption are some of the best that I have seen in a long time. The story arc is well managed and well written, and even well visualised. There is an excellent visual metaphor in the film, which I won’t spoil, as to how Shoyo shuts out the rest of the world and believes himself cut off from the rest of his potential friends. There is a bit of slight forced conflict in the latter half, but it at least feels like it is organic and it leads to some decent moments. Without going into too much detail, this film really can bring on the feeling pretty fast. It can be one hell of an emotional trip. The characters are splendidly handled and their arcs are well made, all well written and well executed.
The film also doesn’t shy away from lighter humorous moments at the beginning of the film, which is good as it allows us to appreciate those moments, so that when darker moments happen, we have a desire to get back to those lighter moments and that’s where the film’s strength really lies. It allows you to bond with the characters in a very refreshing way. I would even go so far as to say that the film can be very powerful in moments. It’s not perfect, however, though all my problems with the film can be considered nit picks. For example, Shoko’s story arc, while decent, feels slightly underdeveloped at times, though it does get a decent pay off. I was also planning to say that I think the film outstayed its welcome since there was a moment that it could easily have ended on but it felt like it went on a bit longer into stuff that could even have been told in a silent cinema during the credits, as the Japanese cinema often does, however, there a several moments after that, that feel like they had brilliant resolution to the plot, including a final shot that is so necessary, I think the film would have been much worse without it, so while initially it feels like the film is outstaying its welcome, trust me, it’s worth it for those final points. There’s not really that much more to say about it. In fact, in order to talk more about it, I would have to go into major spoiler territory, which I obviously won’t do. So leave it out, I really, really enjoyed the plot.
As for the actors, well I saw this film in its original language with sub-titles. At the time of writing this review, all the Anime holds the licence, although who gets the licence in America will largely determine if this film gets an English dub or not. For example, Sintai film works is usually reluctant to give out dubs to Anima, whereas Funamation almost build their entire repertoire on dubbing Anime. Most Kyoto animation productions outside of Clannad and K-on rarely receive dubs, the recent Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, not withstanding,(see Anime Amigo’sepisode 1 for our thoughts on that) so I suspect this film won’t get a dub, though if it does I will leave my comments in the comments section on what my thoughts on a potential dub are. As for the Japanese actors, they all do a fantastic job. Special mention should definitely go to Saori Hyami who does an excellent job, considering the character rarely gets any lines, but delivers that character’s minor dialogue brilliantly, and it also complemented by an excellent central performance from Miyu Irino. The rest of the supporting cast is very good, but I would say the other stand out for me was the brilliant performance from Yuki Kaneko playing Naoka Ueno and I really appreciated Kenesho Ono’s comical performance as Tomohiro Nagatsuka. The cast themselves do a decent job and I really feel that gave some great performances.
Now, as for the animation. If you are familiar with Kyoto animation you probably know what to expect from this. It is a very similar style to many Kyoto animations and it reminded me very heavily of another one of Kyoto projects, Sound Euphonium, though there is a slight difference in character design and animation between the shows. Many people have a problem with Kyoto animation as they view them as too reliant of the Moe style, which rubs a few people up the wrong way. This is ignoring the fact that Kyoto animation has also been involved in projects like Free Iwatobi Swimming Club, as well as Full Metal Panic. While it looks like Sound Euphonium, Sound Euphonium tended to go for a more crisp feel, whereas Silent Voice tend to go for a more water coloured look, which is to the film’s benefit, since Sound Euphonium had a secondary motive with its animation to convey the musical performances. Now the characters are all well designed, they all stand out, are very distinctive and allows us to tell the difference between each one of them and it also avoids the typical Anime trope of either giving characters incredibly weird hair styles that look like they defy the laws of physics, one exception in this film notwithstanding, or the multi coloured hair. The only downside to it is I felt a couple of characters looked a little too similar to Sound Euphonium characters, now I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt, since this is based on a Manga that already had predesigned characters that they had to work off and that Sound Euphonium was based on a novel so Kyoto animation almost had to design those characters from scratch, but I am sorry, but Naoka Ueno looks exactly like Reina from Sound Euphonium, they are practically identical. When she was reintroduced after the elementary school sequence and we were in the high school setting, I initially assumed it was a cross over with Sound Euphonium, or this was a cute reference. It took me a quick second to realise that this was a character established earlier.
But those are all minor nit-picks, I don’t have anything bad to say about this movie, I loved it. A Silent Voice is one hell of a well told story. It deals with subjects that people can easily relate to and it’s more about pushing on from adverse circumstances and knowing that life isn’t over necessarily because of a bad situation. It’s a really nice touching story and I really enjoyed it. I thing you should give it a go because is frankly one of the better Anime films to come out in recent memory. Unfortunately, because of scheduling to get Beauty and the Beast out, I had to actually publish my review a month after its initial release, so I urge people to pick it up on DVD and Blu Ray when it comes out in December. This is a fantastic movie. The animation is great, the characters are great, it’s very well written and I suspect this will probably be in contention for my Best Film of 2017. I would recommend you pick it up especially if you enjoyed both Clannad and Sound Euphonium. I would also recommend to fans of Studio Ghibli as well, because I think they will get a lot out of it. I also think the film has a real universal appeal, so please try this one out.
No mini review this week, because I reviewed this the week that I saw Beauty and the Beast, but I felt it was worth publishing around this time to keep up with the theme of the week and to keep things going and I didn’t want everyone overworked to try and get this one out the same week as the Beauty and the Beast review.
Well, that’s another week over and we need to move on.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing and A Silent Voice is on Amazon pre-order so order it now!!
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
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