Review of “A Silent Voice”

Category: animated films
Episodes: 1
Duration: 130 minutes
Director: Naoko Yamada
Original writer: Yoshitori Oima
Screenplay: Reiko Yoshida
Production House: Kyoto Animation
Genre: Animation, dramatic, sentimental, psychological
Broadcast: September 17, 2016 (Japan)
Language: Japanese, English
Rights: Nexo Digital and Dynit

Shoya Ishida is an 11 year old boy like the others: he goes to elementary school, has many friends and a family. One day, a new classmate arrives in her class, Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf 11-year-old girl who communicates only by writing in a notebook. Initially, Shoko seems to be accepted by her classmates, but day after day, she begins to be bullied, especially by Shoya, who repeatedly breaks her expensive hearing aids, but also by other classmates, amidst the indifference of the class. Shoko suffers, although not rebelling, but in the end her mother discovers the bullying her daughter has been subjected to and makes her change schools, while Shoya is indicated by his classmates as the only one responsible for those events. From that moment, Shoya’s life changes: he begins to be isolated and abused in turn by those who were his friends, and being targeted leads him to withdraw into himself. This fame of his will accompany him up to high school, pushing him almost to suicide. Deeply regretting what he did to Shoko, he finally decides to visit her in her high school to ask her forgiveness, with the will to begin her path of redemption for the mistakes of the past.

Main protagonists presentation:

Shoko Nishimiya

She is the female lead in the film.

Deaf from an early age, she can communicate with gestures, writing in a notebook or speaking (although she does not articulate words very well). Her illness leads her to lose her hearing more and more, so much so that the hearing aids themselves can ultimately no longer help her.

As a child she is bullied and carries the scars of what happened, blaming herself for it, when she can no longer bear the weight she tries to commit suicide.

Shoya Ishida

He is the male lead in the film. (we follow all the events from his point of view)

Initially a bully, he takes it out on Shoko for his diversity; accused by all as the only responsible for the oppression he suffered, he is removed from all and from executioner he becomes victim.

His fame follows him up to high school, isolating him from everyone;

comes to think about suicide, but decides to continue living, to re-meet Shoko and make her reconnect and the ties lost because of him; in this way his path of redemption will begin which will lead him to fully embrace life again.

Yuzuru Nishimiya

She is Shoko’s little sister.

Her sister’s illness led her to repress her true character (her real self), in order to help her better and be of support.

He has photography as a hobby.

Initially mistaken for Shoko’s boyfriend and boyfriend, she will try to protect her sister from Ishida’s approaches, to avoid her a new pain.

Naoka Ueno

Shoko’s classmate in elementary school.

At first he tries to understand the girl and help her, but soon he begins to consider her a burden.

He starts teasing her with the other girls and isolating her; encourages Ishida’s acts towards her, but never realizing them in the first person.

He will try a new approach to Shoko together with the others, but he can’t get it to his liking, because he considers her the architect of the rupture of their happy childhood and of what happened later to Ishida, although slowly he begins to accept it.

Miki Kawai

Shoko’s classmate in elementary school.

He never actively takes part in the mockery or harassment of the girl, but laughs at them and does nothing to stop them.

Initially convinced that she has not done any guilty action towards Shoko, she will attack the others; he will then understand that his doing nothing is perhaps worse than hitting himself and he will get closer to Shoko to be her friend.

Miyoko Sahara

Shoko’s classmate in elementary school.

She is the first who decides to learn sign language on her own initiative, in order to be able to talk to Shoko, without having to use notebooks.

Because of this decision, she is isolated from her companions, who begin to make fun of her; will change schools without giving explanations.

She is reunited by Shoko and Ishida, to apologize for what happened, and she will rejoin the group.

Tomohiro Nagatsuka

Ishida’s classmate in high school.

He is helped by Ishida against a bully and for this they will become friends, he does not know well the situation that arose in elementary school, but he helps the boy in his journey of redemption by becoming part of the group.


  • The A Silent Voice manga debuted as One-Shot in February 2011 in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, but to get to the actual serialization, the author had to fight back to court. The too strong theme of the work had prompted the publisher not to want to publish it, but the mangaka, thanks also to the support of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, won it.
  • The film, although it is a masterpiece of its genre, is little known due to the release period, which coincided with that of another masterpiece: Your Name.

Before starting the actual review I wanted to make a note on the topics covered in the film: bullying and suicide. These are very strong themes, in my opinion suitable only for an emotionally mature audience, so I recommend watching the film to an audience ranging from teenagers upwards, who can understand the issues more deeply and think about them. I am not saying that the theme can be fully absorbed, also because if one has not personally experienced the same type of events, one cannot approach them in an exhaustive manner, but it can be a good start.

If you want to show the film to younger children of the adolescent range, it is necessary that you first deal with the themes of the film, trying to explain the theme in outline.

If there is little to say about bullying, since as a concept it is the same all over the world, although there is still a long way to go to fully combat it, we must instead consider that in Japan suicide is seen differently. that in Western society, in fact they are Shintoists (mostly) and the act of taking one’s life is seen in a positive way, it is considered the answer to all problems, a way to avoid weighing on society and the people around you so much so that there are also associations that create group suicide events. This has to be taken into consideration while watching the movie, because otherwise you may not fully understand it.

But let’s get to the real story, what is it about? We are told a path of redemption, that of Shoya Ishida, the one who was first an executioner and then becomes a victim.

The whole story is mainly shown from his point of view, although there are small glimpses of situations also seen from Shoko Nishimiya’s perspective.

The film starts in a very strong way, showing us an Ishida who reached his “goal” in the short term, lost the hopes of life and decided to end it; they are very touching images, marked by a letter of apology to the mother, but above all by the counting of the days on the calendar, which was broken near the decisive day, precisely to indicate the break from life and the passage to death.

But why arrive at such a desperate gesture? Everything is revealed to us with a long flash back, which takes our protagonists back to elementary school, where their quiet routine is interrupted by the arrival of a new classmate.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Shoko Nishimiya

I want to become your friend thanks to this notebook

please use this notebook to talk to me

I can’t hear “

The normal school life of Ishida and her friends is revolutionized by Shoko, who uses a notebook to communicate and carries a whole series of problems related to her disability. We are shown how the initial curiosity gives way to annoyance and lack of understanding of the situation of the child and how all her companions slowly begin to tease her and see her as a burden. This is where the actual bullying begins and this is where we read a real accusation against society.

Children are not prepared for their partner’s disability, they have not explained what it entails or how to behave in front of it, it is as if a sheep were thrown into a pack of wolves ready to tear it to pieces.

Shoko is seen as a burden by the whole environment that surrounds her, including the professors, and is quickly targeted, especially by Ishida, who is simply the least crafty, as she implements the abuse in a shameless way, but who in the end he himself is targeted by the hypocrisy of his comrades, as the system needs a scapegoat to label as “bad”, to wash his hands and take responsibility.

It is at this point that he finds himself a victim of the herd, of the anger and contempt of those who were previously friends and from a wolf, he becomes a lamb.

“There is no need for a reason to fall in love with a person. But there is always one to start hating someone “

At this point, Ishida’s dark path begins, subjected to the daily harassment of society, which has now labeled him. The years pass and the child, who has become an outcast boy from society, has grown up, but feels he deserves everything that has happened to him, sees it as a form of expiation for the wickedness he has committed, although he does not consider the atonement to be completely complete. It is precisely by thinking back to her childhood with this flash back that Ishida decides to find Nishimiya again, not to have her forgiveness, but to make her experience the emotions she lost in her youth. He then begins his cathartic journey towards redemption, where he will be accompanied by various characters who join his journey.

“<< What is the definition of ‘friends’?

Is becoming friends with someone like getting some sort of certificate? >>

<< Give me your hand … this is being friends! You know, I believe that friendship goes beyond words and logic … certified? There is no need! >> “

I found the rendering that the author wanted to give to Ishida’s sociopathy very interesting, his closeness to society and fear of others, are shown to us through a large X that occupies people’s faces. Only people for whom he feels affection, such as his mother or niece, are exempt from it; his path of redemption will lead him to reopen himself towards the world and to make the psychological block that he carries with him disappear. I also found the choice of never revealing the sister’s face to be particular, it is often spoken about and it is also shown, but her face is always hidden from us.

Another point in favor goes to the exposure of the different methods of communication, with Shoko having to be able to make herself understood and the others having to talk to her. Writing in a notebook to express oneself not only limits the variety of terms one can use to render a concept but also disfavors the facets of human emotions. Sarcasm, irony, sadness, anger are all emotions that through the sounds and facial expressions are received by the interlocutor in a certain way, if written on a piece of paper, they lose much of the feeling that one wants to convey. But not only that, it is not certain that those who report parts of conversations put everything in writing, lying on the subject or neglecting is easy, as is a misunderstanding.

In this sense, even the language of signs, which should help, becomes an obstacle; his lack of knowledge leads to the misunderstanding of the message that he would like to be transmitted, creating a lack of communication between the parties.

The music that accompanies all the happy and sad moments of the film is also very beautiful, which is why I give a big applause to the composer Kensuke Ushio, who was able to use that magic touch, to be able to convey even better the messages that the work deals with.

However, although it is a very successful project, it still has some negative points.

Let’s start from the practice of Shoko’s younger sister, Yuzuru, of photographing dead animals; in reality, as it is explained to us almost at the end of the film, there is a logic behind this bizarre hobby, and it is a way to help the sister in her emotional fragility. However, during the viewing, seeing how Shoko’s room is covered with such bad omen photos is not cheering, or at least to me it gave the impression completely opposite to the one due, so in my opinion, it is a big flaw.

Another big problem is the psychology of the secondary characters, if we remove Ishida who is the supporting voice of the film, with all her paranoia, often even excessive, the other characters have not been completely rendered. Shoko herself, who should have a very complex characterization, is treated superficially and her traumas are not adequately investigated, so much so that when she arrives to make her desperate gesture, you stand there staring at the screen like a boiled fish. ask yourself, but why? There are no signs, no doubts that can make you think of such an act.

I found this film very exhaustive, the great and difficult theme it deals with is expressed in a very strong way, this is true, but it serves to make it fit in better. Of course there are some details that could have been better described and explored, but as a whole it is an exceptional work. It must not have been easy for the author to create this work, but I’m glad she was able to give birth to it. We would really need more projects that deal in such a simple and touching way with such difficult and complex understanding as this, so that the audience they reach is broad and can reflect on them.

Do not miss this masterpiece and if you want to recommend it as much as possible.

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