A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice anime movie cover art featuring main characters
A Silent Voice Cover Art

Overview

A Silent Voice is an anime movie about a deaf girl who gets bullied in elementary school. Then, once in high school, the boy who bullied her the most as a kid wants to be friends with her because now he understands how she feels.

I think the story is supposed to be about walking in someone else’s shoes and learning from your past mistakes, but it really doesn’t come off that way. Instead, on the surface it appears to be about self-gratification and making yourself feel better about the things you’ve done.

However, before I get too much into that, I need to mention the thing that bothered me the most about this whole movie. Then English title is “A Silent Voice,” but in the anime it says, in English, that the title is “The Shape of Voice.”

Why did the name of the movie need to be changed for the English-speaking market? I get that the new title is referring to the fact that Nishimiya is deaf, but she’s not a mute which is what this title really makes it seem like.

Instead, the original title makes a lot more sense because her most effective way to communicate is through sign language, which literally gives shape to her “voice.”

Characters

Shouko Nishimiya is the female lead, although not the protagonist of the movie. At the beginning, she transfers to a new elementary school where she’s bullied by her classmates because they think she’s weird due to her deafness.

Eventually the bullying becomes so severe that she transfers schools and isn’t seen again by the protagonist until high school when he comes across her.

Nishimiya is really the only “good” character in the whole movie. I don’t mean that she’s the only character who’s well written, I mean she’s the only one who’s a genuinely good person (I could also argue Nagatsuka is as well, but I won’t).

In both elementary school and high school, all Nishimiya really wants is for people to be her friend. She even refers to her bullies as her friends in elementary school, probably with hopes of them actually becoming her friends and stopping their bullying.

Nishimiya is too pure for this world in the same way that Violet from Violet Evergarden was. They both have some trait that makes it difficult for them to communicate with others effectively, and are both scarred by their pasts, but always try to push forward.

Due to being bullied as well as being a social outcast because of it in conjunction with her deafness, Nishimiya becomes severely depressed.

The protagonist, Shouya Ishida was the primary bully back in elementary school. He would constantly play pranks on Nishimiya which started off mild, but became more severe over time including one which left her physically scarred.

After the elementary school stepped in to stop the bullying, Ishida’s friends, who also bullied Nishimiya, turned on him and used him as a scapegoat. After this point, Ishida became a social outcast with no friends much like Nishimiya was. This continued all the way until high school.

However, it appears that during these years, Ishida never forgot about Nishimiya and learned sign language possibly as a way to make up for what he did to her. When he meets her again, he tries to become her friend which has some mixed results.

This is the point at which I feel the story begins to make mistakes. I get that it’s supposed to be a story of Ishida repenting for his past mistakes with Nishimiya and we’re supposed to be rooting for him, but he still seems like a jerk.

It really feels like he’s just trying to become friends with Nishimiya for his own selfish gain. By becoming her friend, he can push aside his guilt over what he did to her in the past and can gain a friend and stop being alone all at once.

The only thing in it for Nishimiya is that she gains a friend, but one that caused her both emotional and physical harm in the past, so that’s probably not the kind of friend you really want. He should have just apologized to her and let her decide if she wanted to be friends on her own.

The only supporting character I’ll mention here is Naoka Ueno, the worst girl. After Ishida, Ueno was the next worst bully. In fact, even once in high school, Ueno still finds bullying Nishimiya to be acceptable and actively does it even though nobody else is.

For some strange reason, even though she shows no sign of being a good person in any way, everyone appears to forgive her even as she continues to do things to drive them apart. There were two scenes where she’s supposed to show “redeemable qualities,” but upon closer inspection, they aren’t.

The first of these comes when Ishida is in a coma in the hospital. Ueno stays by his side the whole time and it’s supposed to show how good of a friend she is. However, the reason she did that is so she could actively stop all of Ishida’s other friends, such as Nishimiya, from visiting him.

The second scene comes near the very end of the movie when Ueno uses sign language to call Nishimiya an idiot. It’s framed to be some huge moment showing how Ueno really cares about Nishimiya because she put the effort in to learn sign language.

However, once again this doesn’t seem to be something redeemable considering she only learned enough sign language to say mean things to Nishimiya. This is more a sign that Ueno really is a terrible person because she wanted to hurt Nishimiya in a more personal way.

Shouko Nishimiya from the anime movie A Silent Voice
Shouko Nishimiya

Conclusion

In the end I feel that A Silent Voice is a 9/10 because although it’s a great movie, it definitely has some problems and seems to contradict what it’s intending to say at times. However, I also felt it was a good depiction of grade school and how students interact with each other.

When I was in elementary through high school, it was much like it’s depicted in this movie. I had classmates who I just couldn’t seem to get along with or want to be around, although there was no real reason for it, much like Ueno’s hate for Nishimiya.

On the other hand, I know there were other students who stayed away from me because they similarly thought that I was weird or for whatever other reasons you can think of.

A Silent Voice took this a step further than I ever experienced it by adding in physical violence, but the same idea is there regardless. For some reason, grade school students have an “us vs. them” mentality that stops them from getting along with all of their classmates.

Once I was in college, and this continued on even after graduation, I experienced something very different from grade school.

Sure, I’m not really a people person so it’s not like I went out of my way to talk to people or make friends, but there was no longer the feeling that there were people I shouldn’t talk to or didn’t want to talk to for whatever reason. Everyone was “equal” in terms of being a viable friend.

I talked to and became friends with people who I never would have talked to, or who would have never talked to me in high school. However, there was no real change that made this happen. I think part of growing up is learning that your differences with others simply don’t matter.

This is why I liked A Silent Voice as much as I did. I had been through the kinds of interpersonal relationships that the characters were going through and I had come out the other side able to recognize what they’re doing. That said, it’s also what I don’t like about the movie.

If anything, this movie made me angry because at this point in my life I look back on my days in grade school and think, “why weren’t we all able to get along back then?” I’m sure I would be able to get along with just about all of my former classmates now, so why not then?

This feeling of what I’ll call “realness” is what sets this movie apart. It realistically portrays the minds and actions of kids and teenagers in a way that shows how terrible they are, and all we as the viewer want to do is deny that we were ever like any of the characters shown.

To end, here‘s the official trailer for A Silent Voice.

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