Review: A Silent Voice

The latest anime to grace our screens, A Silent Voice, may be based on a popular manga, but it’s one very much grounded in the real world.

The story takes place in an elementary school, where local bully, Ishida, finds the perfect victim for his malevolent intentions in the form of his new class mate, Nishimiya.

Sweet natured Nishimiya has a hearing impairment, which makes her an easy target for Ishida’s constant taunts. She offers no resistance to his bullying, which only spurs him on to increase his cruelty towards her. The other kids in the class either turn a blind eye or join in with their own pranks.

After it becomes obvious to Nishimiya’s mother what’s happening to her daughter, she transfers her to another school. Having taken things too far, Ishida finds that his friends have collectively turned against him.

The story then jumps forward to secondary school. Ishida has transferred to another area to remove himself from his past. But at his new school he chances upon Nishimiya. Filled with remorse for his past actions, he resolves to make amends. Surely by befriending the shy Nishimiya he can make life better for both of them.

A Silent Voice tackles pretty heavy themes, chief among them being school bullying and teen suicide, yet the film never really delivers the knock out punch you’d expect given the gravity of the subject matter.

There are some powerful scenes, but at over two hours, the film overstays its welcome. It becomes repetitive and even overwrought in the latter stages. If this were a live-action film, it would be melodramatic beyond belief.

The animation is pleasant enough, but given the relative simplicity of the setting and narrative compared to a lot of anime, there isn’t much scope for visual invention. The most obvious visual device that departs from realism occurs when Ishida begins to feel isolated due to his self-loathing. His sense of disconnection results in those around him having big blue crosses over their faces, which peel away only if and when he feels he has redeemed himself in their eyes.

Those who are fans of the manga series this is based on, may find it lacks a lot of the detail of the original source.  None of the characters feel fleshed out except for Ishida, and visually too, he’s the only one with any personality, sporting a wild shock of black hair and a long, lanky body.

Kensuke Ushio’s score too is simple, consisting mainly of spare piano compositions.

Despite a premise pregnant with possibilities, A Silent Voice represents a slight disappointment.


A Silent Voice is currently in national release

Richard Leathem @dickiegee