Communication comes in many different forms and is one of the most important aspects in a person’s life. Kyoto Animation powerfully sends out this message through the infamous anime titled A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi – which literally translates to Shape of Voice). Not only that, but Kyoto Animation also realistically depicts the many aspects of youngsters ranging from puberty, love interests and last but not least mental well-being.
Adapted from Yoshitoki Ōima’s popular manga, A Silent Voice tells us the story of a young man, Shoya Ishida (voiced by Miyu Irino), who was a delinquent in elementary school and used to bully his fellow deaf classmate Shouko Nishimiya (voiced by Hayami Saori). Life wasn’t the best for Nishimiya, as her only friend who was there for her, Miyoko Sahara (voiced by Ishikawa Yui) finally gave in and left Nishimiya as Naoka Ueno (voiced by Kaneko Yuuki), another one of their classmates who has feelings for Ishida began badmouthing her for befriending a deaf kid.
The bullying progressively gotten worse and a result, Nishimiya ends up leaving the school due to the cruel bullying. In the end, when someone was to be held responsible, the whole class used Ishida as a scapegoat, blaming him for Nishimiya’s leave and finally ostracizing Ishida. Only then does Ishida realize the seriousness of the atrocity that he committed.
Fast forward 5 years to high school, Ishida was absolutely destroyed and felt terribly guilty after what he had done in elementary school. He develops social anxiety and is unable to look at other people’s faces. Coincidentally, Ishida ends up in the same high school as Nishimiya and his journey towards redemption begins.
Character wise, they are definitely no short of deep and they have very prominent characters with realistic and strong character development. The two protagonists have many things in common, mainly that they both have difficulty accepting and being in peace with themselves.
Nishimiya struggles with shyness and her inability to accept her disability and feels that she is the reason that everything goes wrong, constantly apologizing for every single thing – even her very own existence, thinking that if she was gone, the world would be a better place. She constantly wears a smile so that not many people know her true persona. However, over time, these thoughts and mindset finally took a toll on her and she attempted suicide only to be stopped by Ishida.
Same goes for Ishida. He loathes himself due to his past actions and sees that redemption is the only thing left for him. He was immature and failed to see what his actions in elementary school have caused and only realized it when it was too late, and he ends up pushing many people away from himself.
No Kyoto Animation anime would be complete without the soft yet breathtaking visuals. Kyoto Animations did an incredible job at illustrating this anime and I’m not just talking about the image quality. The color and detailing that they did with the background and character design feels very engaging and draws viewers into the world of A Silent Voice.
Speaking of character design, the way that Kyoto Animations depicts each character is immaculate. For example, first person point of view of Ishida with the X marks that are present on people’s faces to illustrate how he was suffering from social anxiety and how each X(es) peel off as he gradually learns to accept society again was amazing.
Another example would be how they give attention to detail in everyone’s expressions especially Nishimiya. She is deaf, yet we are able to understand and give life to the emotions that she feels, thanks to her realistically and strongly drawn facial expressions.
Aside from visuals, audio also plays a big part in creating the atmosphere and Kyoto Animation nailed the coffin on this one. They made clever use of silence to portray tense situations, but also use the appropriate and beautifully composed music when they need to.
And let’s not forget about the voice actors and actresses! They did an amazing job at voicing the characters. Once again putting the spotlight on Nishimiya, despite her unable to speak, Hayami Saori did an amazing job at portraying her emotions via gibberish speaking.
The one downside of this anime is that the supposed romance is just not that strong and not very much highlighted – it is shadowed by the already intense psychological drama and deep plot. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful and powerful anime.
All in all, A Silent Voice is an emotional rollercoaster consisting of self-acceptance, communication amazing and meaningful illustrations as well as beautifully composed music. Characters and occurrences here are very realistic and it definitely deserves praise as not many animes are able to portray bullying, and mental health as realistically as this anime.
Our score – (9/10)
Title: A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi)
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Director: Naoko Yamada
Voice Actors: Irino Miyu, Hayami Saori