By Accessible Japan reader, M. G.
Koe no Katachi, or as it is known in English, A Silent Voice, is a 2016 Japanese anime movie based on the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Ōima. On first look, its story is about being disabled or being bullied. However, after finishing the movie, the viewer sees that core theme is about how difficult human communication can be, how far failure to communicate can lead a person, and how desperate that failure can make him/her desire to make things right.
The story goes as follows (possible SPOILER ALERT):
When Shouko, a deaf girl, transfers to an elementary school, she finds herself being treated in many different ways by her new classmates and teachers. Soon enough it is clear that her school days would not be so easy to pass through joyfully and peacefully. There are kids who express their curiosity towards her more intensively than others. Among them is the young Shouta, the son of a hairstylist who works hard to raise her son and daughter. Shouta, being the epicenter of the class, soon understands that by mocking Shouko he makes his friends laugh and gains in popularity, and thus he starts to bully her.
However, he also gets upset when seeing her always being polite and smiling, or apologize to people who make fun of her. When Shouko’s mother decides to once more take her daughter to an other school, Shouta is blamed for the move by both teachers and classmates – by his “friends”. Shouta then becomes the bullied one.
The years pass and lives of Shouka, Shouta and their past classmates go on… <read the manga or watch the anime to find out what happens next!>
Disability is seldom present in movies, and when it does show up it is most often the movie’s main focus: the hero will suffer from his/her disability, but the power his/her heart has will lead him/her to the “victory” in the end (ok, most of the times!). Cliché, cliché, cliché. In A Silent Voice, though, that is not the case. Shouko is a girl who is deaf, however she remains a girl of her age throughout the movie, and not a “disabled girl”. Disability exists in this world without it being the “problem” itself. The problematic role goes to society. The movie concentrates on the difficulty of the heroes to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Human diversity is depicted here as clearly as possible. Every person in the movie, being different from the others (in one or the other way), interprets reality in his/her own way. Every one among them suffers for different reasons. The world becomes a better place to live once they start to actually “see” the people around them; once they start to try to express and pass their emotions and thoughts to each other.
In addition to the moving story, everything is wrapped up in a beautifully animated film. The scenes are depicted and interchanged in an artistic way, while the colors and sounds used add to every occasion (except the almost “alien-like” Shouko’s voice!). Someone could argue that the manga was more realistically presented, and in cases more harsh. Although, the movie, already being quite long in duration, could not include every detail of the story. The way in which the film was created gives an excellent amount of the manga’s material, in harmonically organized and designed scenes.
A Silent Voice is a story worth reading or watching for sure!