Well initially I never thought I would be able to see this film as the first time I was going to see it was on my own (Yes! the lonely life of an Otaku in Sheffield is real!) at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield back in February. But, one thing led to another and I ended up missing it. So I was super hyped that the Odeon decided they were showing this last Wednesday. (08/03/17)
I already had read A Silent Voice manga and this is the first time I actually read a manga before the adaptation was made. I also managed to drag a friend along with me so I wasn’t a lonely weeb sat in the cinema (although it became apparent there was other lonely weebs in the cinema as well, almost pushing me to stand up asking them to be my friends, but we’re socially awkward like that and in the end I sat down sulking into my popcorn and Tango Ice Blast).
Now one thing I will say, is never get super hyped for a film otherwise you will come out wholly disappointed. Unfortunately this is what I did. Anyway if you haven’t seen the film yet….
Now you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
The film opens with Shoya Ishida a High School student who, is contemplating suicide – although not entirely clear that this is what he was intending to do until later on in the movie when his mother asks him. You see him quitting his job, ripping up the rest of his calendar and then imagining jumping off a bridge. The opening captures you, you want to know his story and why he is making these decisions, what could push this High Schooler to this? Well, I knew why – but I was trying not to compare the manga and the film too much, you are always going to be looking for certain things if you do this.
The movie then flashed back to Elementry School time where Shoya Ishida was younger and having fun with his friends, typical mischievous young boy. The music went so well with this aspect, The Who – My Generation, playing along whilst showing three young boys antics during Summer. It made you want to smile, reminisce when you had these times with your friends making you feel good and who doesn’t know the lyrics to that song?
I already realised that this film was a rollercoaster of emotion – you’d be introduced to a character who was feeling suicidal and now seeing his happy childhood, one minute I was down the next I was up…and then I was down again.
This is where we were introduced to a new transfer student, Shoko Nishimiya, who was deaf. It became apparent that the school didn’t know how to support Shoko as a deaf student, the teacher actually forgetting that she was deaf in the space of 5 minutes.
We then had to be subjected to the brutality of Shoko’s bullying, not just by Shoya, but everyone. It was hard to watch, school is hard and cruel, the way they portrayed this in animation was brilliantly done to the point where I was having to look away from the screen and my eyes were welling up.
The even sadder part is that Shoya is blamed fully for the bullying. Yes he was involved and should take some of the blame, but even the teacher was a bit of a bully and he immediately blamed Shoya. I wanted to shout at the teacher for forgetting the values of being a teacher and supporting students, but instead he immediately accuses him, just to make the whole issue quick to deal with.
The tables turned, Shoya was now the victim of the bullying. Although Shoya has obviously been bullying Shoko, you didn’t feel ill will towards his character, he was a young boy who was confronted with something different and didn’t know how to react. I think everyone at some point as a child made some comment about a disabled person or someone who looks different because they don’t understand, it’s within a childs nature. You felt sorry for Shoya and Shoko at the same time, they had both become victims and even though Shoya had started to be bullied it didn’t change the way he felt about Shoko, he still hated her. Children are mean and don’t understand the consequences of hurtful words or how it can affect someone.
Shoya’s bullying continues after Shoko leaves the school. He spends his Elementary school and Middle school life secluded and chooses not to engage with anyone.
FLASH BACK…to the present day where Shoya has come to meet with Shoko to hand her back a book that she used back in Elementary School. This book is what the class used to use to communicate with Shoko, they wrote messages in there, the whole class was reluctant to learn sign language to make communicating for her easier. All in all the whole class found Shoko as a hindrance.
Back to the present – through events Shoya had possession of this book which to deal with his ‘unfinished business’ before he ends it all, wants to give it back to Shoko. Which awkwardly he does. This is where we find out that Shoya has actually learnt sign language for this moment so he can communicate with Shoko. ~Awwwwwww~ Seeing it in full animation, moving pictures beautiful colours made my heart feel fulfilled – this is everything I wanted from this film and more…However,
As time goes on characters are introduced who have comical moments but no real substance, Shoya makes friends with people in High School and starts to move on with his life, actually living rather than just spending his time dwelling on his past, you feel pleased for him. The lack of substance for the other characters was no biggie, their not important, not in the film anyway…you’re there for Shoya and Shoko and THEIR STORY.
However, I really dislike Shoko in the film. She comes across as crying, whiny, angsty teenager. I feel like in the Manga she doesn’t cry as much – well I feel like she was a much likable character. I found it really difficult to watch Shoko trying to speak, almost painful. The Japanese voice actress, Saori Hayami who has been involved with many popular anime (List of Anime), imitated a deaf person and how they speak. I found this really weird and almost offensive, maybe it was just me, I do hope if they do an English dub they get someone who is actually deaf to voice Shoko.
Shoko tries to confess her feelings to Shoya and Shoya being the dense person he is mistakes her for saying ‘moon’ instead of ‘love’ (in Japanese they are ‘tsuki’ and ‘suki’.) There are a lot of hand in head moments with Shoya and Shoka – mainly Shoya not getting the message, in his world, he can’t even comprehend friendship yet, let alone love! It makes me want to grab hold of him and knock some sense into him.
I’m not sure what happens with the anime – but shortly after Shoko’s confession, Shoko decides she wants to commit suicide. She feels like she is a burden on her family and Shoya. Shoya incidently returns to Shoko’s home to collect something and find Shoko standing on the balcony, in which Shoya saves Shoko and inadvertently sends himself over the balcony and straight into hospital.
To me this is where the film stopped being a good watch, from now on it just felt that there was a lot of bitching, disagreements, arguments between characters that hadn’t really been developed, so you didn’t really care for them and their teenage angst. There is one character who appears who is like “Hi I’m Satoshi Mashiba” …. then he just seems to tag along with the rest of them and that’s that. At one point when he reappears I was like ‘who are you again?’
Along with this – the film ends abruptly without any real conclusion. Other than Shoya realises that he has friends and doesn’t have to ignore everyone anymore. This is illustrated by nearly everyone having x’s covering their faces at the beggining of the film and then them all falling off at the end.
Let’s get one thing straight, this film, so beautiful, depicts a lot of dark subject matter, suicide, depression, bullying and disabilities. I’m not trying to say they dealt with these half heatedly, they did it very well, but sometimes I felt that the reasoning behind these feeling were not accurately portrayed. It really didn’t feel like Shoko had been through so much to push her to suicide where has Shoya it did. It showed his lack of self-confidence, the way he thought people were talking about him and losing his childhood friends.
Also, whilst the manga is classified as romance – I feel the film shouldn’t be. It’s about friendship. There is one confession by Shoko and then it’s never mentioned again. Nothing is pushed, and Shoya doesn’t even realise his feelings, he’s just happy to be friends with everyone.
I know I know, I said that I wouldn’t compare it to the manga but it is too hard not to, especially when the manga makes you feel the pain and struggle. The film feels like it brushes past the serious issues and whilst the are present it feels like they hide in a corner whilst other things are more predominant.
A Silent Voice is beautiful, it is always great to see a manga you adore becoming something bigger, to see the pictures moving and in colour. Maybe I shouldn’t have got so excited and then I wouldn’t have come out the cinema feeling disappointed, however my friend who I was with who hasn’t read the manga also felt the same way.
Also the film ends about Chapter 57 of the manga, when it finishes at Chapter 62. The film was quite long, 2 hours and 10 minutes long, but I feel the manga ending is so much better than the films. They should have found some way to fit that in, cut some of the teenage angst out or something! Although the ending of the manga gives no conclusions either, it left a fuzzier feeling in my heart than the ending of the film.
I recommend you see it regardless whether you have read the manga or not, it is beautiful and really satisfying to see how Shoya grows as a person and overcomes the hurdles put in front of him. Shoko however, doesn’t feel like she grows as a character at all. In the manga it depicts her getting everyone back together to make a film for the cultural festival to show to Shoya.
In my opinion the film would have been much better as a 12 episode anime. I think more of the feelings of the actual manga could be depicted within this. The characters could have been developed a lot better and we could have sympathised with them more and understood their hurdles better.
The film had me laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. It is a roller coaster of feeling so i recommend having some tissues handy. Anyone who is an anime fan and likes slice of life should watch this film. Just, if you have read the manga – don’t expect anything and heart wrenching and heart warming in the film.
+Good visuals and music
+Depicts the real struggles of teenage life
– Poor character development outside of MC’s
– Feels like it drags after the first hour