A Silent Voice
Nishimiya (Saori Hayami) quickly becomes a target for bullies at her new school when her new classmates struggle to accept her hearing impairment. She transfers to yet another school and the bully ringleader - Ishida (Miyu Irino) - she leaves behind is shunned by classmates and forced to bear sole blame for Nishimiya's torment and subsequent departure. Reunited with her years later and having assumed responsibility for his actions, Ishida reaches out to Nishimiya in a humble attempt to show her that he is not to be feared anymore. In time, forgiveness becomes friendship but Nishimiya's family are like a protective force-field around her and Shoko's friends from his past life are confused by his redemption ...
Pastel shades and flowing lines
With its thoughtful camera angles peeping round corners and blurring of foreground and background to shift focus, you forget 'A Silent Voice' isn't live action. Credit must go to cinematographer Kazuya Takao for his creative efforts to give a realness to the animation whilst preserving its ethereal beauty. The latter, of course, is a result of an art department with a perfectly talented eye for soft, pastel shades wrapped up in the characteristic flowing lines of anime. With an obviously talented animation department, the result is two hours of stunning aesthetics, with a haunting backdrop of plaintive piano solos provided by Kensuke Ushio.
Hayami and Irino, as the main protagonists, are good choices for young voices who have to display a range of usual adolescent emotion. Irino has the lion's share and does an admirable job. Hayami has considerably less to say, but special mention must go to her impressive skills in playing the part of a deaf girl whose voice is noticeably different from most, especially during scenes where she sobs uncontrollably.
Range of themes
Based on Yoshitoki Oima's manga, 'A Silent Voice' covers a range of themes: bullying, peer pressure, disability, mental health issues and suicide to name a few. These are presented sensitively, realistically and creatively by director Naoko Yamada. As an example, Ishida's suffering as a result of his ostracisation is imaginatively presented by crosses over his peers' faces to indicate his lack of engagement with them. At just over two hours, ‘A Silent Voice’ is a hefty time commitment, but its plot, beauty and imagination are well worth the effort.