A Silent Voice is a 2016 anime movie produced by Kyoto Animation. This film tells the touching story of a boy (Shoya) confronting his past by meeting Shouko again whom he used to bully in elementary school for being deaf. It’s a movie which revolves around themes like self-hatred, depression and anxiety. It presents everything not as idealised or romanticised but as something real.
This film starts with a two minutes opening sequence where Shoya’s readiness to kill himself was shown but it was not direct but presented through visuals of how he ripped off all pages from April, emptying bank account and gave all money to his mom and just stand on the top off the bridge.
What makes this whole scene so evocative is that no dialogue was used and how we don’t have any clue that why he is doing this and the only thing that snaps him out is fireworks.
It then has a time skip and we’re shown past where Nishimiya just transferred into the school. As she was deaf Shoya and some of his friends starts bullying her. As he didn't tried to understand her but does what he intended to.
Nishimiya tried again and again, everytime Shoya tried to do something to her she put aside that pain and tried to befriend him but she also could bear that much only and reached her breaking point after all the time she endured so much harassment, bullying, and loneliness and she could only handle this much and the fight between Shouko and Shoya was reflective of it. It was so heart wrenching to watch because it’s between the people who want to understand the other person better but, yet are unable at this moment.
This whole scene showed that bullying is seen as the norm. The whole environment was created because it was so toxic and unhealthy. Teachers are oblivious to students and was apathetic towards students towards any harassment that happened.
This movie deals with it so great and shows us the consequences of it how adults trivialised the whole situation is and no one thinks about the child who can get lifelong trauma because of it.
It is also very close to real life as while we were small we were just taught to endure everything just by saying everyone goes through the same which leads to speaking about problems much harder and is seen as a sign of weakness.
After that when Nishimiya left the school and it was reported that she was being bullied, all the blame goes to Shoya. Everyone turned against him and used him as a scapegoat which later changed Shoya’s personality.
He isolates himself, and shuts himself from the world and develops self-hatred to the point where he can’t even look people in the eyes which was shown very beautifully by placing ‘x’ on the people’s faces and feeling like the world would be a better place without him.
Having no one on your side and a feeling of self-hatred can lead you to despair and this film portrayed this so well.
When after years Shoya sees Nishimiya in years he still sees her as the young girl who he had bullied which shows us how he hasn’t moved on yet and the guilt of it is eating him inside and at the same time when Nishimiya sees him she tried to smile but it was too hard for her because of the memories in the past. Shoya gives her old notebook back and asks whether they can be friends in sign language and he realises that Shouko was also trying to do the same when they were in grade school but this whole thing made Shouko cry happy tears because it’s the first time that someone had tried to understand her.
Later Shoya made his first friend Nagatsuka and as he was anxious he asked what is the requirement for friendship to which Nagatsuka replied “friendship defies word or logic” which implied that you don’t need a reason to become friends with someone and Shoya stayed with him.
At this point, Shoya was seeking forgiveness from Shouko. As we learn throughout the film Nishimiya already forgave him instead it's Shoya himself who hasn’t forgiven himself.
This film depicts depression, loneliness and anxiety through Shoya’s character. It's because of the things he had done in the past and the repercussions he is facing now. He no longer has any friends, he can’t look people in the face and he thinks that he doesn’t deserve any happiness which in the movie we later see at the amusement park when he rekindles with all of his old friends and had genuine fun he asks himself “Do I have any right to have so much fun”
Shoya’s social anxiety was shown to us when he can’t even look up to people and says “You probably didn’t know this, but I don’t fit in at school. It’s cause I have trouble looking people in the eye, so it’s easier for me to just stare at the floor all the time.”
It felt so real to me as social anxiety creates the thoughts in one’s mind that people around us think less of us and it’s very hard to look them into the eyes because we can’t live up to their expectations. I related to him when he felt lonely not because there is not anyone to care about but because there is a constant feeling that no one truly understands how we feel or think the way we think. It somehow makes me sad as this person would never be real as all the true feelings and emotions will always remain inside the head. But “A Silent Voice” perfectly shows us the core nature of these problems and tells us how we can overcome them.
Nishimiya’s character to me seems the most misjudged character by viewers. She hasn't been there just being a victim throughout her life but she was the one who blamed herself for everything that ever went wrong with her in life. In A Silent Voice Nishimiya was the one who I felt was most absorbed with self-hatred more than anyone, more than Shoya himself.
It has been shown to us from time to time. In elementary school when she was getting bullied she always thought that she was at fault and because of her deafness she creates problems for everyone being around her and so she apologised to everyone for even the very small things.
She started to feel like she was a burden to society and without her life for the people she cared about would be great. As she felt like she was the reason Shoya lost all his friends, his little sister and her family can’t even give time to themselves as they are always present for Nishimiya’s needs. She self-sabotaged herself and it’s very difficult to get out of this unhealthy and destructive mindset. This movie just showed us perfectly where it can lead to.
At the festival, she says that she has to go to study but this time she says “goodbye” instead of “see you again” which was her usual response which gave us the hint that something is wrong.
Yuzuru told Shoya to get her camera but as he went into the flat he noticed that Nishimiya is trying to commit suicide.
This whole scene how he entered into flat and the music building up slowly, Shoya calling “Nishimiya” a few times every time with a higher pitch and fireworks in the background with Nishimiya standing on the railing and the music going to its highest note with Shoya shouting “Shoko” and then the music hits low and we are spaced out from mainframe sees some fireworks for few seconds and then we see Shoyo barely hold Shoko’s hands and saying “please give me one last ounce of strength and that he won’t run away from things anymore. From tomorrow, I’ll look at people’s faces. From tomorrow, I’ll listen to their voices. From tomorrow, I promise to do things right.” And soon realised that he never truly apologised to her and never asked how she felt about him and he just interpreted the stuff he didn’t understand. And he saved Shoko but fell himself.
This sequence with beautiful visuals and the stunning soundtrack to the emotions expressed in a very subtle way through each frame makes it one of the most visually remarkable and my favourite scenes in the film.
Afterwards, Shoya was hospitalised. Nishimiya apologised to Miyako but this time she wouldn’t apologise like earlier how she used to apologise for everything but don’t mean it. This time it’s different and it was a heartfelt cry of emotions.
Later, when Yuzuru starts removing pictures of dead insects and says ” I thought if she saw what death looked like, she’d stop saying she wanted to kill herself. I didn’t know what else to do” and in the park when Miki says “We were all so worried about you. I know life can be hard sometimes, But it’s like that for everyone. The thing is, you have to accept the bad parts of yourself with the good and just move forward.” And she realised that she mattered to everyone and was regretful of her decisions but was ready to change without blaming herself.
Shoya finally reconnects himself with Shoko and this time they both understand each other. There’s no blockade, no misunderstandings, just unfeigned human connection and as Shoya says “I want you to help me live” It became simply the most heart-warming scene throughout the movie.
As the movie progresses towards its end we see Shoya is still being afraid to look people in the eyes but this time Shoko helps him and he no longer runs away from his problems. Finally, during the festival, he sees all the family and friends that care about him and the crosses from everyone’s face begin to fall and for the first time he feels life as it’s meant to be and lets his tears of joy come out and we got a clear indication that he overcame his demons and experiences.
It’s a very heart-warming story of people battling their struggles and trying to love and forgive themselves again and live life as it’s meant to be. No words can make you feel what this movie will be like, you have to experience it yourself. Everything was too perfect for this film: beautiful visuals, a great soundtrack, and the character’s emotions which you will feel just by watching the movie.
It’s my favourite animated picture of all time and I think one should experience this masterpiece at least once in life.
© 2022 Shubham Bamnawat