Please allow me to preface this review with the fact that I am not an Anime buff. I went in cold to this movie, so here’s my outsider perspective on the latest Anime to hit the screen.
A Silent Voice follows our antihero, Shoya Ishida, a former junior school bully who was once so cruel to deaf student Shoko Nishimiya that she had to change schools. Ishida’s single working mum had to pay for her broken hearing aid, and then Nishimiya’s mum beat up her and it was a whole thing.
Flash forward to high school and Ishida has lost all his friends, worked a part time job until he could pay his mum back for the expensive hearing aid, learned sign language in order to find and apologise to Nishimya – all in preparation for his imminent suicide.
However, his encounter with Nishimya goes a lot better than he expected; he finds the two of them becoming friends. After a talk with his mother in which she begs him not to kill himself, he continues his high school career, occasionally meeting with Nishimya and watching their friendship blossom.
Sounds quite touching so far, right? Well it kind of is; but that’s just the first fifteen minutes of the film. From that point the storyline becomes so convoluted and melodramatic that I could feel the visceral sounds of collective eye-rolls from the audience.
One teen who was Ishida’s friend, and then wasn’t, and then was, and then wasn’t – I don’t know – had shrieking breakdowns at every little thing he said that she didn’t agree with. One character was just an awful bitch for no real reason. The entire script felt like it had been pulled directly from the diary of an over-dramatic teenager. Granted, it made a very realistic pass at how important teenagers think everything is, unable to see the rest of their lives ahead of them – but it went a step to far in expecting adult audiences to sympathise with these problems, and take them as seriously as the aforementioned teens.
The story, comprising nonsensical twists and turns, dramatised the very mundane (bickering among friends over some name-calling) and completely overlooked the deeper discussions (Ishida’s depression, his mum’s struggle to raise two kids and a granddaughter whilst running a business). Overall, both the story and script felt juvenile and listless (again, I’m an anime novice, so I don’t know if this might be something that got lost in translation?).
Character development-wise, the group of teenagers were shallow and unsympathetic. Sure, they were likable (mostly) but very difficult to care about. Their problems were minor, their arguments pointless. It felt long and arduous to watch them bicker for two hours.
Animation-wise I got the same feeling – that the creators had tried incredibly hard to create something artsy and moving but ultimately missed the mark, on a knife’s edge between beautiful and tacky.
Plus points – Ishida’s niece, Maria, is my new favourite character in anything and is totally adorable. Sadly, she couldn’t save the rest of the movie.
Ultimately, A Silent Voice felt like a story that didn’t need to be told; the woe-is-me attitude of the emotional teenager dressed up to be something it wasn’t – deep and artful. It watched like a first draft, with the somewhat unneeded in-between scenes left in and the aspects that could have made a touching film left unexplored.
A Silent Voice is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!