Review: In its 130-min duration, Koe no Katachi a.k.a. A Silent Voice tackles a complex coming-of-age drama of consequences, self-alienation and reconciliation. Sometimes it staggers, sometimes it falls into melodrama; but, in the end, it passes a meandering way with subtlety and grounded intricacy.
Naoko Yamada’s first feature is adapted from a manga series by Yoshitoki Oima. The story orbits on a bittersweet connection between Shoya Ishida (voiced by Miyu Irino) and Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami). As a kid, Shoya, not knowing the consequences of his deeds, bullies and abuses hearing-impaired Shoko. When consequences finally catch him up, all he has done to Shoko return to haunt him – excommunication, persecution, and all. Since then, he decides to prefer solitary, avoid contacts with people, and alienate himself from society.
Shoya’s self-alienation is an intricate subject. This alienation expands to the visuals, in which X marks are drawn on people’s face and the ‘camera’ often tilts down resembling Shoya’s inability to connect with people. Sometimes, A Silent Voice aliens people and makes background as well as environment stand out more in reflection towards Shoya’s status.
A Silent Voice’s storytelling slowly expands with Shoya’s desire to make redemption, to reconnect with Shoko. As the two begin to reconnect, changes begin to embark in Shoya’s self. He inclines to open up – taking another pariah, Nagatsuka (Kensho Ono) as a wingman; befriending Shoko’s little sister, Yuzuru (Aoi Yuki); and finally reconstructing his circle of childhood friends. While this tangled friendship begins to establish, a strange connection between Shoya and Shoko begin to grow.
The narrative might expand to the extent that the whole story is too complicated to grasp in single feature. However, Naoko Yamada neatly unravels the tangled threads like making a mind-map to connect each character’s issue into one frame – a bitter childhood memory. Some moments feel dragging and repetitive with character’s self-doubt keeps floating but never straying from the main path. At some points, A Silent Voice becomes too sentimental like a tearjerker; but, most moments work perfectly touching.
As a grounded animation work, A Silent Voice, might look humble in comparisons with Makoto Shinkai’s escapade, Your Name, or Ghibli’s films; but its modesty is really what makes it dainty. Its bittersweet slow-burning drama about friendship and acceptance has transcended and overlapped the visuals; and that’s the best part of it.
A Silent Voice (2017)
聲の形 a.k.a. Koe no Katachi