Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice is an authentic and delicate coming-of-age story exploring a tale of romance and redemption. The animation is based on the manga series of the same name from 2013-2014 by Yoshitoki Ōima. A Silent Voice provides a fruitful outlook on the future of Japanese anime, and its success in western markets, particularly with the end of the legendary Studio Ghibli (See My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Monoke, Spirited Way) nearing.
A Silent Voice follows the developing relationship between deaf teenager, Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami) and the class clown, Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irono). Shoya like the rest of his classmates, bullies or at least share some level of insenstivity towards Shoko. Shoya takes this bullying to the next extreme and pulls her hearing aids from her and bellows behind her head. It looks as if he will keep looking to inflict pain on Shoko as much as he possibly can but is eventually caught and punished.
The film progresses to their time in middle school and the speed of the film tends to slow at this point. Shoko’s parents have made her moved schools since the incident and Shoya is ostracised amongst his peers for his actions. Shoya is now an outcast and spins a hilarious and often convoluted attempt for redemption.
Yamada’s style is quite unlike that of her contemporaries, lacking those incredibly enriched details. Its in it’s colour and vividness where the film truly shines. The details are in the way the characters are drawn, that each respective character are drawn to reflect their status in the film. The film, reflects the essence of adolescent self doubt by not connecting the audience directly with the eyes and often moves away emphasise some incidental detail like fitgeting and scuffling of feet under the desk.
Yamada allows the audience to follow Shoya’s social standing with symbolic blue crosses on the faces of his classmates. Everytime Shoya feels comfortable with someone else then the cross will fall from their face like a leave from tree in Autumn. Sboya starts to set over a new leaf, his new and unmatched friend group threatens to cohere around him, remaining in the background fluctuation.
Yamada continues to flourish the simplicities of teenage life in A Silent Voice by highlighting moments that really matter. Rides on a roller coaster underneath the clear blue sky or intimate conversations on a bridge during the spring time. Emphasising that perhaps we do not put enough time to focus or appreciate the simple moments within our own lives. Those simple moments are usually the best.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
A Silent Voice is out in limited release in Australian cinemas now