- Alt. Name
- The Shape of Voice
- Release Date
- September 2016
- Kyoto Animation
- 2 hr. 10 min.
There are multiple topics that any film – animated or live-action – try to take on without becoming too overtly preachy or leaves a lasting impression on its audience. Though most seem to either fail at being overtly preachy or acing the emotional impact, very few seem to do a great combination of both. Bullying and Suicide are arguably two of the hardest aspects to cover within any film while still making it realistic, some studios even refuse to go near those topics. Though the staff walks the tightrope set in front of them correctly, the outcome will be outstanding. Will Naoko Yamada and her team create an instant classic? Or will this just be another run of the mill emotional grab-bag film?
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A Silent Voice is a 2016 drama anime film created by one of the most beloved anime studios, Kyoto Animation. While the film has typical teen drama elements and a staff behind it that knows how to make simple concepts into sensational stories, you have something special. Kyoto Animations has created some of the most beautiful movie installations of anime series, but can they continue this with a story that the world hasn’t seen animated yet? Though it’s always a challenge to create something that is still better than whatever came before it, so perhaps the studio has reached its peak.
If the story can only be summed up with one word, it’d be, “wow.” Not because it was good or bad, but because of its ambiguous connotation. Being a mischievous child, elementary school student Shouya Ishida try’s to beat boredom in the most stony-hearted ways. When the deaf Shouko Nishimiya transfers into his class, Shouya and the rest of the class thoughtlessly bully her for fun. However, when her mother notifies the school, he is singled out and blamed for everything done to her. With Shouko transferring out of the school, Shouya is left at the mercy of his classmates. He is heartlessly ostracized all through his adolescence, while teachers turn a blind eye.
In his third year of high school, Shouya is still plagued by his past sins as a young boy. Sincerely regretting his past self, he sets out on a journey of redemption: to meet Shouko once more and make amends. However, every action has a consequence, and everybody must pay for their sins. Though the journey won’t be simple, Shouya will do whatever it takes to say something long overdue.
Though there are plenty of movies and television series based upon redemption, and bullying, this one is slightly different. The story wasn’t as preachy or unrealistic as other examples, and still stayed within the lines of being entertaining. Though the best aspect of the story was the pacing, the film did a fantastic job at making the viewer see who the cast was, and why we should care about them. However, I must mention that this film gives ample time to establish the events leading up to the story. While the film doesn’t necessarily tell the viewer, it shows it through background characters and lack of noise, a grand model of what to do.
However, no story is perfect, and this one does have some flaws in it. The biggest disappointment within the story was the pacing; within the two-hour film, the first forty-five minutes feels extremely slow. Now understandably, the writers are setting everything up, but the slow pace in that first section may be challenging for some viewers. Another flaw within this story is that the story seemed to be a tad too underdeveloped within certain parts of the film, which was unfortunate due to the length of the film. Some may find this film’s plotline to be wonderfully executed, though I believe they could have fleshed out the female lead’s story a bit more instead of her only dominant character trait is she’s deaf.
The art style within this film was as one would expect from this studio, stunning. The backgrounds are outstanding; character designs are appealing and memorable, always a plus for any creation. The hyper-realism intertwined throughout the movie still pulls the viewer in and making absolutely sure they’re taking in everything that the film has to offer. If that wasn’t enough, the soft color pallet just overflows the senses of admiration for the artistic elements clearly show that love went into this film. The creative components within this film are put on a pedestal, though A Silent Voice has a lot of appealing aspects, it shouldn’t be considered to be such.
One important note that needs to be acknowledged is the importance of eye contact, and this movie aced that. When Shoya gets uncomfortable and gets inside his own head, he doesn’t look up, he looks at people’s feet. The communication style within that is so powerful and goes beyond any language barrier. This is remarkable given that a majority of customs from any culture are not always nontransferable so quickly. Still, the large “X”‘s over the faces, and looking at the feet was a fantastic form of communicating without saying anything.
Unfortunately, the production team dropped the ball on this film, which is a genuine tragedy. The production crew didn’t seem to capitalize on any key emotional elements, lacking flawless emotional scenes; most importantly, the sound within the film needed to be more robust and expressive. While the sound goes along with the story, it does nothing to progress it. If one was hoping for a fantastic soundtrack similar to movies like Your Name, they’d be disappointed. Because Madman’s trailer for the film has all the music within the film, excluding The Who.
The characters of this film are entertaining, but at the same time, others are just filler. Though each of the characters can be summed up with only one or two sentences… which potentially tells everyone about the movie. Our main character is Shoya Ishida, a high school boy who bullied Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf girl, in elementary school. But what goes around comes around and is now a social outcast, he strives to make amends with Shoko. The main female character is Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf girl who transferred to Shoya’s elementary school, where she was the victim of relentless harassment by Shoya and his friends.
Outside of those two characters, there isn’t anyone who would classify as a secondary character, which is quite strange. If the movie is so emotional, one would assume it to have more in-depth characters. We have the mothers of the main characters, who have their own moments within the film – rightfully so. But the one aspect that will possibly drive the viewer crazy is Miki Kawai, and she is the quintessential example of an officious character. Her character had no real substance other than “look at me. I’m perfect,”. Outside of her, the characters are likable.
Now, the entertainment factor within this film was pretty high, especially when it came to the emotional level. Though the film was beautifully stunning, the film’s slow pacing will continue to wear down any viewer. Which is somewhat disappointing, because with the amount of backstory that is needed to have an emotional connection with the main character showed that there is an equilibrium to the film. A balance that potentially seems to be slightly off-center for some though the viewer continues the journey will be rewarded with an emotional rollercoaster.
This Rollercoaster of emotions will either be a great experience or an average one for any viewer. Some may enjoy the slow pacing more than others, and while I consider it to be a few beats too slow, I don’t believe it is a make or breaks for the film. Although the lack of character development will probably discommode for a lot of its audience, especially fans of the genre. This is a charming film with the potential to become a great film, and arguably even an excellent one. Though I cannot excuse any movie or series that had so many mistakes and problems within itself. Could this be a crowd favorite? Of course, and rightfully so, but with the lack of pacing, story, and characters, I cannot see this being anything more than very good at the very most.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.