One day, high school student Shoya Ishida decides to kill himself. At the last minute, however, he changes his mind, flashing back to his elementary school days and his encounter with a girl named Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf student attempting to integrate into the wider school population. For reasons they don’t quite understand, Shoya and his friends begin to bully Shoko – but when she is withdrawn from the school, Shoya’s friends make him the scapegoat and he is ostracized. By the time he reaches high school, Shoya is a social outcast, despised by others and unable to look anyone in the face. However, a chance encounter with the now teenaged Shoko sets in train a series of events that results, not only in their own reconciliation, but in the painful yet healing reunion of the former friends. In the process, Shoya discovers the burden of guilt they all – including Shoko – carry for the events of the past – suddenly, in understanding their woundedness, he realises that he is not alone and that he perhaps has a future with new possibilities.
Based on the manga by Yoshitoki Ōima, and directed by acclaimed anime director Naoko Yamada, “A Silent Voice” was released in 2016 to both critical acclaim and box office success, coming second only to Makoto Shinkai’s fabled “Your Name”. Indeed, Shinkai himself described “A Silent Voice” as “a fantastic piece of work” whose production values he himself was unable to match. Beautifully and sensitively crafted, “A Silent Voice” is an unflinching examination of the impact of bullying and discrimination against people with a disability (both huge social issues in Japan), as well as the nature of memory and guilt, the lingering effects of despair, the bonds of friendship, and the possibility of grace. The simple but compelling animation and sympathetic story-telling are complimented by an emotionally affecting and deeply human denouement that never sentimentalises its context nor trivializes its subject matter.
© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.