I’ve been watching a few anime films recently; Perfect Blue, Nausicaa, Your Name and I rewatched A Silent Voice. The latter being the one I want to talk about here. I remember when the manga first showed up on a totally legitimate online manga reading service and I found it hard to read because the content is so heart wrenching. I cannot praise this film enough and I want to get across exactly what I love about it.
Early Days – Kids are assholes
So the story starts off when our characters are in their younger, primary/elementary school years and it’s here that the emotional rollercoaster begins. Shoya Ishida is a young boy living with his single mother and sister. Like most young boys, Shoya likes to act up in front of his friends and sometimes that’s at the expense of those around him. There are a few people that surround Shoya, those being his two male friends, Kazuki and Keisuke along with the two female friends, Ueno and Kawai. Kazuki and Keisuke both go along with whatever Shoya is doing, whether it’s them playing or assisting Shoya in his bullying.
Soon after, Nishimiya joins the class as a new student. She’s a unique case within the class as she’s a deaf student. It’s from this point that the film transitions from it’s lighthearted tones and transforms into an all out war that will emotionally destroy you. At first most of the class would help Nishimiya, tapping her on the shoulder when something was being written on the board. Letting her know when to start singing along in the choir, and so on. After a short while however, the other kids began to tire of helping Nishimiya out all the time and began to isolate her. They would shout loudly in her ears to try and spook her. Pull out her hearing aids and throw them away. I cried a lot during this section of the film. Nishimiya saying “I’m doing the best that I can” nearly killed me.
Nishimiya did not hold this against anyone and would proceed to be friends with them and she would always assume the best of people. This is exemplified when Shoya writes something horrible on the board and as Nishimiya walks in, he pretends like it wasn’t him and that he was doing her a favour in clearing it off of the board. Nishimiya simply responds “Thank you”. After continuously being tormented day in and day out, Nishimiya transfers schools.
After this, everything turns on its head for Shoya. His friends are now bullying him for what he did to Nishimiya. His mother dragged him to apologize to Nishimiya’s family for everything he did, she even gives Nishimiya’s mother the money for every pair of hearing aids that Shoya broke. Shoya begins to understand that his actions don’t just affect him and the single person he’s targeting, but those around both of them.
Complacency – She’s Deaf For God’s sake!
I want to quickly talk about complacency as well, as numerous characters display it and in some cases it is outright infuriating. Kawai, one of Shoya’s friends, is that character that is nice to Nishimya when she’s with her, but doesn’t defend Nishimiya when her friends such as Shoya and Ueno pick on her. Throughout the film, it almost feels like Kawai plays the victim card numerous times and never truly develops beyond this.
The homeroom teacher being the other that infuriates me. You have just introduced this person to the class, informing them of her disability. Yet he continues on reading from the textbook and doesn’t check to make sure she is aware of what’s going on. He witnesses Shoya’s bullying numerous times and yet he treats them with such a lenient attitude that it will make you scream, demanding that he do something as their teacher! Finally, he knew that Shoya was the reason behind Nishimiya’s transfer, but he only called him out when it was already too late.
A “Bad Guys” Development
Shoya is a great display of a character truly growing from his past actions and building himself in a way that makes him a much better person. Throughout the rest of his school days, Shoya’s old friends warn others to be wary of Shoya, resulting in a very isolated youth for him. While he has grown an immense amount, Shoya is still immature at times. He has resigned himself to an isolated life and doesn’t let himself get attached to other people. This is shown by the way he views people with crossed-out faces.
Throughout the years Shoya learns how to communicate using sign language in a hope that he can one day meet Nishimiya and become friends, just like she had always wanted when they were young. I am all for a character, no matter how much you hated them before, growing, learning and understanding others.
The whole journey of the film is essentially from the “Bad-guys” perspective. It’s quite amazing how fast you’ll forget that you hated Shoya. I think that Shoya makes a discovery during his life learning sign language. It gives him a grander view of the world and the things that matter most to him. He becomes someone selfless with the single goal of redeeming himself in the eyes of the Nishimiya.
The film dives into topics that people can find sensitive or personal such as depression, self-doubt, and even suicidal thoughts. This is established almost immediately as the film begins with Shoya contemplating the thought of taking his own life. His reasoning being that he feels alone and incredibly unimportant as a person. His mother makes him aware that he is incredibly wrong about this, but that was his thought process. What follows is a display of all the possible good that can follow should you hold on and continue to live.
Nishimiya’s attempt is due to feeling that she is a burden and that those around her would live a more simple life if she were gone. Shoya rushes to catch her as she leaps from her balcony, making sure that she knows exactly how important she is to him.
The two main characters become each other’s reason for living. Which is a huge contrast to how their relationship began. Shoya tries to view the world from Nishimiya’s perspective and understand her more. In doing this, Shoya creates a goal to make sure that Nishimiya is happy with who she is. Ultimately, Shoya is able to create friends and face society once more, as a result of all the experiences he went through in creating a genuine relationship with Nishimiya.
This film had quite the interesting lasting effect on me and I felt quite blue for the rest of the day, despite having loved the film. It can make you recall your younger years or times in your life you may have acted wrongly without considering someone else’s perspective. It leaves you wanting to be a better person.
Thanks for reading! See you later.
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