A Silent Voice is widely considered to be one of the best animated movies from Japan of all time. It deals with serious subjects like bullying, depression, and suicide. The movie takes place in two time periods and follows Shoya Ishida as an elementary schooler and as a high schooler. The connection between these time periods is that during these times, Shoya is around a deaf girl named Shoko Nishimiya.
In elementary school, Shoya was part of a group of kids that bullied Shoko to the point that Shoko was withdrawn from school. However, only Shoya is blamed for the actions and he becomes an outcast. The movie begins with Shoya in high school considering suicide, though he ultimately decides not to.
When Shoya and Shoko meet again, Shoko is similar to herself in elementary school, however Shoya is completely different. Shoko is still energetic, warm, and always ready to meet people and make friends. Shoya has changed from a talkative and fun loving kid to a quiet, awkward, and lonely teenager. Shoya has begun to learn sign language, and uses it to apologize to Shoko for bullying her in the past and attempts to give her a notebook that Shoko had brought in elementary school to help others communicate with her.
Shoko receives Shoya well, and the two begin to hang out more. Along the way, Shoya begins to make new connections with others, such as Shoko’s little sister, as well as reconnections with people from his past.
The title, A Silent Voice, has a double meaning. The obvious meaning is of course the fact that Shoko is deaf and struggles to speak. She uses sign language for the most part.
The second meaning of the film title refers to Shoya who can speak perfectly fine, but fails to do so. Shoya internalizes his trauma and isolates himself from others. He avoids eye contact with people constantly.
Shoko has a louder voice than Shoya for most of the movie as her desires and feelings are expressed clearly. Surprisingly, Shoko blames herself for Shoya’s current state, leaving Shoko to be extra patient and kind with Shoya, who in turn tries his best to make Shoko happy.
However, Shoya lives in a state in which he is still avoiding others and not moving forward with his life.
This movie is a tearjerker. There are plenty of sad moments throughout the whole movie, starting with the elementary school moments, continuing into Shoya and Shoko’s present day life. But the movie is more than just a sad movie. There are numerous beautiful moments within the movie, such as Shoko and Shoya’s ability to communicate with each other. A mixture of words and sign language create a special little language between the two of them. It also expresses why it is important to have others around you. With Shoya slowly opening up to others, it allows him to find his voice again, knowing that he has people who support him and love him.
This is definitely one of the more well known anime movies, and I recommend giving it a watch. The movie itself is something that cannot just be described with text. Watching it is a whole different experience.
Photos by author
Writer: Timothy Jung