Last night I watched A Silent Voice. The movie came out back in 2016, so I know I’m a little late to the table, (as usual,) but it hit me so hard that I felt like I needed to write about it. I haven’t talked much on here about my love for animation, but I promise you that is a deep and true love that’s been with me ever since my grandpa sat me down to watch Princess Mononoke when I was about ten years old. A Silent Voice made me feel like I was falling in love for the first time all over again.
It follows Shoko, a young Deaf woman who was bullied mercilessly in elementary school, and Shoya, the worst of her tormentors. The opening scenes of the film are difficult to watch as Shoko is utterly helpless to combat the deluge of mental and physical abuse that she receives at school. The movie doesn’t go the way you think it will though.
It jumps to when they are in high school. Shoya has regretted his actions for several years at this point and has fallen into a deep depression, even to the point of contemplating suicide. He ultimately decides to try to make amends with Shoko.
The road that takes him down leads to an incredible tale of societal expectations, life as an outcast, and the value of forgiveness both for others and for yourself.
I was worried at fist that the film wouldn’t be able to handle these heavy themes with the delicacy they needed, but those fears were quickly put to bed. The story is sincere and thoughtful. It takes its time and works through each of its themes with careful consideration. It even delves into the morality of seeking redemption. After all, asking for forgiveness is an inherently selfish action.
The animation itself is beautiful as well. The characters look good and move in a rhythmic way that brings them a lot of life and personality, but the settings are where the film really shines. The way they animate light reflecting off water and clouds moving through the sky makes it feel like the characters live in this beautiful, vibrant world that could exist all on its own, divorced from the main story. It makes it feel like the characters are trying to live in spite of a setting that is indifferent to their plight, rather than their surroundings being actively supportive or antagonistic.
The dissociative way that the “camera” cuts between characters and their surroundings, or how Shoya views people he can’t look in the eye as having a blue “X” over their face are poignant methods of illustrating to the audience how difficult it can be to make human connections when you’re so uncertain of your own self worth.
The truth is that I’m having a hard time describing exactly why this movie resonated so strongly with me. Maybe it’s because A Silent Voice manipulates tension so well that it kept me feeling physically locked into the story, desperate for some kind of solid resolution. Maybe it’s because of my own experience with depression or because I also had a lot of trouble connecting with people when I was growing up, (and now for that matter.) I’m not sure.
…but now I’m getting a little dramatic.
All I can say with certainty is that I haven’t had a piece of animation have an impact on me like that in a long time. It made me sad and happy and sincerely grateful that it exists. I hope that it finds its way into the hands of people who need to see it.
It’s available to stream on Netflix, or you can buy it here: https://amzn.to/3bUQWWp
Thanks for reading,