SHARE

A Silent Voice review: With Your Name still riding the waves of success, is there room for another teen anime romance?

A Silent Voice review by Luke Ryan Baldock, March 2017.

A Silent Voice review
A Silent Voice review

As Studio Ghibli slowed production in order to restructure, there was a lot of concern over the mainstream future of anime. Anime has always struggled in western cinemas, with rare instances (Ghibli) becoming a success. However, with the phenomenal success of last year’s Your Name (still gearing up for a US release), it would appear that the right material will still attract an audience, and right now that audience has a hankering for delightful and emotionally complex teen romances. You’d be forgiven for thinking that A Silent Voice has been rushed out at supersonic speed to capitalise on the success of Your Name; which is probably slightly true. However, this more grounded romance is just as powerful, just as dramatic, just as creative, and maybe even more emotional.

Shoko (Hayami Saori) is a deaf girl who transfers to a new school. At first the novelty of writing in notebooks and conversing with Shoko amuses and endears her towards her classmates, but as soon the attention turns to jealousy and childish teasing becomes bullying. The main culprit being Shoya (Miyu Irino), a boy who tries to impress fellow classmates by playing the fool and making fun of Shoko. The more Shoya makes fun, the more forgiving and passive Shoko is, which infuriates Shoya. Once Shoko’s mum gets involved, Shoya’s friends (many who were implicit with the bullying to a ‘lesser’ degree) turn on Shoya. Ostracized, Shoya becomes a loner going into high school, and reflects on his behaviour. 5 years later he reaches out to Shoko, and their new relationship brings together friends and memories from middle school.

A Silent Voice review
A Silent Voice review

A Silent Voice is so beautifully characterised that it never puts a step wrong. It handles bullying with maturity and empathy for all sides. Shoya can be funny, mean, thoughtless, and completely fails to grasp how cruel he is being. Yet, when his friends throw him under the bus there is sympathy for the boy as his actions were spurred on by others enjoying his class clown persona. Shoko meanwhile is presented as innocent and kind, but the script and visuals clearly show how her forgiving and passive attitude can be infuriating. It’s a difficult and brave line to tread, but one that is always supported by so much heart that it’s impossible to become one sided.

Outside of the two protagonists and blossoming romance are a series of fully fleshed out supporting characters who all add something to the film’s themes, messages, and tone. Shoya’s comedic sidekick Tomohiro (Kensho Ono) constantly invades the screen with overbearing friendship, while Shoko’s younger sister, Yuzuru (Aoi Yuki), has her own arc and show’s the confusion of hating somebody for who they used to be, versus who they have become. Top this off with the likes of Ueno (Yuki Kaneko), a fellow bully who seems to have not changed, and Kawai (Megumi Han) a girl who is in complete denial of her actions, and this really is one of the definitive films on bullying and its destructive force.

A Silent Voice review
A Silent Voice review

Naoko Yamada brings her understanding of teenage relationships she developed in the K-On series and movie, and cements herself as one of the top animated talents in the world. Her style is restrained and poetic, with simple moments such as the offering/acceptance of an umbrella fully encompassing the act of forgiveness. Such touches may have been imported from the manga, but the use of sound and movement, and the slight pauses afforded to animation, means they have been embellished and perfected by a delicate and intricate eye.

A Silent Voice does take awhile to wrap up it’s lengthy 2 hour and 10 minute run time, but with so many characters and a deep exploration of its topics, it’s arguably a necessary compromise for what is such a stunning and emotionally draining romance. A Silent Voice is powerful, emotional, and stunningly presented. ‘This year’s Your Name’ is earned high praise, but this is definitely not a quick teen romance cash-in. A film so accomplished you’ll be safe and confident in using pen to mark it down on your list for best films of the year.

A Silent Voice review by Luke Ryan Baldock, March 2017.

A Silent Voice is released in select UK cinemas on Wednesday 15th March, 2017, with a wider release to follow on Friday 17th March, 2017.

What Do You Think?

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall