Recently, I have been posting more KyoAni thing then usual and it’s both intentional and unintentional at the same time. I won’t be lying by saying that this is a mecha focused blog, but I like having some variability. I mean I had an entire month of mecha related content a month, so I wanted to go a different angle for a little while. The mecha and space stuff is going to have a pretty large return soon. Don’t worry about that. All with some fun super robot stuff though. A Silent Voice and The Chuunibyo movie appeared around the same time for me in different ways. This is the one I was more interested in seeing because it’s been out of reach for years which made the whole wait completely worth it. I’m glad that this film was here in the moment that I needed it to be, because I was having some doubts about the direction my life was going.
I guess the best place to start with this film is the beginning, so here we go.
A Silent Voice starts out in the magical land known as elementary school. A transfer student named Shoko, who is the heroine of this story, enters the classroom and introduces herself. Except something is different. She is deaf. Shoko can’t interact with other people, so her being their breaks up normal classroom life. She can’t actually speak to people and prefers to communicate through writing instead which is awkward when it comes to choir or getting called in class to answer a problem. And well, elementary school kids are horrible. Especially our male protagonist in the beginning, Shoyo. While the class is barely handling the changes in the classroom, Shoyo is at an emotionally distressing age and starts bullying our poor deaf girl. Eventually it gets to the point where almost everyone does it. Though Shoko gets transferred for one reason or another, Shoyo takes all the blame for the bullying despite everyone taking part in at one level and his life is ruined for that point on until the film starts.
This film messes with the usual color palette of a Kyoto Animation show and instead goes with a more realistic washed out sort of pallete. It’s a little jarring, but it makes sense in context of the story. A Silence Voice isn’t the usual Kyoani fair with it’s slice of life story with some teeange drama down the side. This film goes down and dirty when talking about heavy topics that go beyond the levels of just teenage drama. The color palatte the director chose makes complete sense, because going with colorful environments doesn’t fit with the tone of what the story is going for. I would talk about the emotional feel of the music too, but here is a video that covers it so much better then I could ever do. You can just skip to that and not return here. I don’t think I can cover music that well, which is what I try not to do.
This movie’s start is almost nonstop darkness. I mean, I already talked about how these horrible children picked on a deaf kid, right? That’s bad enough, but you know what is worse? An older Shoyo taking out all the money he ever made to possibly commit suicide. He never does it, but the very thought of it is just horrifying. Shoyo did commit some horrible things he was not able to recover from yet, but starting the movie with that was just the worst. So luckily from that on, Shoyo tries to find some semblance of a life again after living his life in the shadows for such a long time. He certainly mellowed out since he was an angsty elementary school kid. All he wants is forgiveness for what he did against Shoko, which is why also learned how to talk in sign language. I just want to see Shoyo happy, but that is going to take a while.
Shoko’s story in this film is worthy of discussion as well. She is the other character in question that has her own story. She’s a deaf kid that suffered her own trauma. Why? Because she’s in elementary school where kids are nearly emotionless and inconsiderate monsters and Shoko is almost as different as a person as she could be to the elementary normal. The problem is that those are years where they set a person’s character up for life. Considering that she suffered abuse after abuse in that class room, Shoko’s mental chemistry is completely messed up. When the film moves onto Shoko’s high school years and while things have improved for her, the traumatic incidents from back then behind seemingly quiet and emotional girl. Shoko hates herself even though she never did anything wrong. By the end of the film, at least she and Shoyo have found a possible path to recovery.
I won’t lie to you when I tell you I think this film is very blunt and unsubtle. It’s partially because a lot of lines of dialogue are what people say over the hand signs they make when talking to Shoyo and partially because it’s based on a manga that is obviously cut down. The side characters in this story aren’t just cardboard cut outs, but it’s obvious their points of view aren’t shared as well as they could be. Still, all of that works pretty well for the story this movie wants to tell. I do think that nuance would have helped out quite a bit, but there is something about raw and unfiltered emotions that makes a piece of media like this something more relatable and digestible in a way. Sometimes a movie needs to attack some important topics head on to make the message clear.
A Silent Voice is a film about mental health care and development. Shoko is a character that lives everyday life in hell because he thinks everyone is against him. While it’s partially true because rumors spread, not everyone knows about him. Still, he can’t look at anyone in the eye because of that and the result is Shoko doesn’t feel like he belongs anymore. The result is he wants to escape and there is only one way to absolutely escape people in this world. Even if it’s a little quiet and unsubtle here, Shoyo is suffering through the same thing in a different way. Shoyo and Shoko really are similar to each other. Though, it’s way worse for her because she can’t communicate with the world as well and all she can do is smile most of the time. A smile can have a thousand reasons behind it, remember that.
What makes the film completely realistic to me is that there are no definite solutions for instant good mental health. Progression is there, but there is no “this will help your mental health and you will never have problems again” kind of crap. The side characters in this story make comments on “I want to improve somehow” or there are small movements toward characters that hated each other since elementary school possibly coming to amends maybe. And then there is the possible connection between Shoyo and Shoko. They want to help each other find a place in the world again. How they are going to do that, nobody knows. There is no explanation and there doesn’t need to be one. The film ends in hope with Shoyo looking up and seeing the crowds faces for the first time and it works. Shoyo’s confidence returns for now, maybe. We will not get to see how long it lasts.
This film was very relatable for me. I am very out of my depth when talking about suicide and mental health problems, so I didn’t mentally approach this film from that angle. (If you are and need to talk, please feel free to talk to me. Use my contacts page or dm me on twitter. I’m usually on my phone and will get to you as soon as I can.) Still, there is a lot of uncertainty going on in my life right now. I’m still waiting for job interview results, I’ve lost a lot of my family members like my brother six years ago and my aunt last year, and my parents were in the hospital for very different reasons over the course of one week. (Don’t worry, they are both doing much better now). Sometimes, it just weighs down my mind more then I let on in this blog and social media in general.
Recently, I haven’t been able to sleep without having something to focus my thoughts from cycling forever in the background. That’s my angle I approached this film because any movie that has characters going through trauma is relatable. Every human goes through it and handles it in their own way. That’s the level that A Silent Voice works. It has problems with nuance and how cut short and unfinished it sort of feels, but the emotional weight behind it more than makes up for it. Because of that, I highly recommend watching this film.