A Silent Voice (film)

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A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice Film Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Japanese聲の形
HepburnKoe no Katachi
Directed byNaoko Yamada
Screenplay byReiko Yoshida
Based onA Silent Voice
by Yoshitoki Ōima
Produced by
  • Eharu Ōhashi
  • Shinichi Nakamura
  • Mikio Uetsuki
  • Toshio Iizuka
  • Kensuke Tateishi
Starring
CinematographyKazuya Takao
Edited byKengo Shigemura
Music byKensuke Ushio
Production
company
Distributed byShochiku
Release date
  • September 17, 2016 (2016-09-17) (Japan)
Running time
130 minutes[1][2]
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Box office$31.6 million[3]

A Silent Voice (Japanese: 聲の形, Hepburn: Koe no Katachi, lit.'The Shape of Voice') is a 2016 Japanese animated drama film[4] produced by Kyoto Animation, directed by Naoko Yamada and written by Reiko Yoshida, featuring character designs by Futoshi Nishiya and music by Kensuke Ushio.[5] It is based on the manga of the same name written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Ōima. Plans for an animated film adaptation were announced back in November 2014, Kyoto Animation was confirmed to produce the film in November 2015. Miyu Irino and Saori Hayami signed on as voice casting in May 2016 and the theatrical release poster and official trailer were released in July 2016.

The film covers elements of coming of age and psychological drama, dealing with themes of bullying, disability, forgiveness, mental health, suicide, and friendship of opposite sexes. It follows the story of a former bully turned social outcast, who decides to reconnect and befriend the deaf girl he had bullied years prior.[6]

The film premiered at Tokyo on August 24, 2016. It was released in Japan on September 17, 2016, and worldwide between February and June 2017. The film received highly positive reviews from critics, with praise going to the direction, animation, and the psychological complexity of the characters. It has grossed over $31.6 million worldwide. The film won the Japanese Movie Critics Awards for Best Animated Feature Film. While nominated for the Japan Academy Film Prize for Excellent Animation of the Year, as well the Mainichi Film Award for Best Animation Film, it lost to In This Corner of the World and Your Name, respectively.

Plot[edit]

High school student Shōya Ishida intends to kill himself but changes his mind at the last minute and decides to wrap up loose ends. A flashback reveals Shōya as a sixth-grade student in elementary school, during which a new student named Shōko Nishimiya joins the class, who is deaf. She tries to integrate with the class but ends up being an easy target for Shōya and his friends to bully. When word of the bullying reaches the principal, Shōya is singled out as the culprit by his teacher and friends resulting in the class's bullying becoming directed toward him. Shōya blames Shōko, and the two get into a physical altercation. Shōko is subsequently transferred to another school, and Shōya keeps a notebook Shōko had left behind.

Shōya is an outcast throughout middle school for his reputation as a bully. Now in high school, Shōya is a depressed loner who is unable to look others in the eyes and envisions an "X" mark on people's faces. To wrap up his loose ends, Shōya goes to return Shōko's notebook at the sign language center and apologize, but panics and asks to be friends instead. Shōko accepts his offer, leading Shōya to endeavor to make up for his bullying of Shōko. Tomohiro Nagatsuka, another loner, also befriends Shōya after he protects him from a bully.

One day, Shōya accidentally drops the notebook into a river, and he jumps in to retrieve it, which is prohibited. Yuzuru, Shōko's younger sister, takes a photo of Shōya jumping in and posts it online to get revenge on him, eventually leading to Shōya getting suspended. Shōya finds Yuzuru, who ran away from home, and brings her to stay at his house. When she leaves in the middle of the night, Shōya follows, and the two make up and become friends.

Shōya and Shōko reunite with Miyoko Sahara, a classmate from elementary school who was friendly to Shōko. Shōko later gives Shōya a gift and confesses her feelings for him, but because she tries to speak her affections rather than signing them out, Shōya mishears her.

Shōya invites Shōko to an amusement park with Tomohiro, Miyoko, Miki Kawai (another classmate from elementary school), and Satoshi Mashiba (Miki's friend). There, they are joined by another classmate from elementary school, Naoka Ueno (who had also bullied Shōko alongside Shōya), who drags Shōko into a Ferris wheel. Naoka voices her hatred for Shōko, blaming her for creating a rift between her and Shōya, with whom she is infatuated. Yuzuru, who had been secretly recording the encounter, shows this video to Shōya. Desperate to remain blameless for her part in bullying Shōko following the leak, Miki exposes Shōya's past to the students, who are oblivious to it. Later, she attempts to apologize to the group, but Shōya blows everyone off after Naoka remains dismissive.

Meanwhile, Shōko and Yuzuru's grandmother has died peacefully. To cheer them up, Shōya takes them to the countryside and sees that Shōko blames herself for everything that has happened to him. Shōya decides to devote his entire social life to the sisters.

During a fireworks festival, Shōko goes home under the guise of finishing homework. Shōya follows when Yuzuru asks him to get her camera. As he arrives, he finds Shōko standing and preparing to jump from the balcony. As Shōya starts his desperate dash through the apartment, calling out Shōko’s name the curtain whips in between the viewer and Shōko and the viewer is led to believe that Shōya failed to stop Shōko, the scene then transitions to a shot of Shōya desperately grabbing onto Shōko’s wrist. With all his might and while pleading to God Shōya finally succeeds in pulling her up but then he falls into the river below. He is rescued by his former best friends in elementary school but slips into a coma. Hoping to help Shōya, Shōko meets with each group member to explain her and Shōya's situations.

One night, Shōko dreams about receiving a farewell visit from Shōya. Horrified, she runs to the bridge and collapses in tears. Shōya, awakening from his coma, stumbles to the bridge and finds her there. He apologizes for how he treated her, asking her to stop blaming herself, and admits that, while Shōya once considered ending his own life, he has since decided against it. Shōya then asks her to help him continue to live, to which she agrees.

When Shōya returns to school, he is reunited with his friends and understands how much they still care for him. The friends go to the school festival together, and Shōya manages to look people in the eye again as he envisions the "X" marks fading away. Looking around at his family and friends he has made, Shōya tears up, knowing he has finally redeemed himself.

Characters[edit]

Shōya Ishida (石田 将也, Ishida Shōya)
Voiced by: Miyu Irino,[7] Mayu Matsuoka (child)[8] (Japanese); Robbie Daymond,[9] Ryan Shanahan (child) (English)
A high school boy who bullied Shōko Nishimiya, a deaf girl, in elementary school. He becomes the victim of bullying when the principal finds out. Now a social outcast, he strives to make amends with Shōko.
Shōko Nishimiya (西宮 硝子, Nishimiya Shōko)
Voiced by: Saori Hayami[7] (Japanese); Lexi Cowden[9] (English)
A deaf girl who transferred to Shōya's elementary school where she was the victim of constant harassment by Shōya and his friends, forcing her to transfer again.
Yuzuru Nishimiya (西宮 結絃, Nishimiya Yuzuru)
Voiced by: Aoi Yūki[8] (Japanese); Kristen Sullivan[9] (English)
Shōko's younger sister who was initially opposed to Shōya being around Shōko. She will then grow closer to Shōya as he tries his best to make amends with Shōko.
Tomohiro Nagatsuka (永束 友宏, Nagatsuka Tomohiro)
Voiced by: Kenshō Ono[8] (Japanese); Graham Halstead[9] (English)
A rotund high school boy who is best friends with Shōya.
Naoka Ueno (植野 直花, Ueno Naoka)
Voiced by: Yūki Kaneko[8] (Japanese); Kira Buckland, Gia Grace (child)[9] (English)
Shōya's elementary school classmate who joined him in bullying Shōko.
Miyoko Sahara (佐原 みよこ, Sahara Miyoko)
Voiced by: Yui Ishikawa[8] (Japanese); Melissa Hope, Catie Harvey (child)[9] (English)
One of the few classmates in Shōko's elementary school who was friendly to Shōko.
Miki Kawai (川井 みき, Kawai Miki)
Voiced by: Megumi Han[8] (Japanese); Amber Lee Connors, Annabelle Corigliano (child)[9] (English)
A classmate of Shōya's from elementary to high school.
Satoshi Mashiba (真柴 智, Mashiba Satoshi)
Voiced by: Toshiyuki Toyonaga[8] (Japanese); Max Mittelman[9] (English)
Miki's friend and love interest, a high school boy who befriended Shōya.
Kazuki Shimada (島田 一旗, Shimada Kazuki)
Voiced by: Ryo Nishitani, Sachiko Kojima (child) (Japanese); Michael Sinterniklaas, Spencer Rosen (child)[9] (English)
Shōya's elementary school friend and accomplice in bullying Shōko. Kazuki later starts to bully Shōya.
Keisuke Hirose (広瀬 啓祐, Hirose Keisuke)
Voiced by: Takuya Masumoto, Hana Takeda (child) (Japanese); Brian Beckerle[9] (English)
One of Shōya's friends in elementary school who later starts to bully him.
Takeuchi (竹内, Takeuchi)
Voiced by: Fuminori Komatsu (Japanese); Marc Diraison[9] (English)
Shōya's elementary school teacher.
Miyako Ishida (石田 美也子, Ishida Miyako)
Voiced by: Satsuki Yukino (Japanese); Sara Cravens[9] (English)
Shōya's mother.
Yaeko Nishimiya (西宮 八重子, Nishimiya Yaeko)
Voiced by: Akiko Hiramatsu (Japanese); Lipica Shah[9] (English)
Shōko and Yuzuru's mother who disapproves of her daughters being around Shōya.
Shoya's Older Sister (将也の姉, Shōya no Ane)
Voiced by: Ayano Hamaguchi (Japanese); Stephanie Sheh[9] (English)
Maria's mother and Pedro's wife.
Maria Ishida (マリア, Ishida Maria)
Voiced by: Erena Kamata (Japanese); AnnaBelle Deaner[9] (English)
Shōya's niece and the daughter of his older sister and Pedro.
Ito Nishimiya (西宮 いと, Nishimiya Ito)
Voiced by: Ikuko Tani (Japanese); Barbara Goodson[9] (English)
Shōko and Yuzuru's grandmother and Yaeko's mother.
Pedro (ペドロ, Pedoro)
Voiced by: Ryunosuke Watanuki (Japanese); Chris Jai Alex[9] (English)
Maria's father, the husband of Shōya's older sister and Shōya's brother-in-law.

Production[edit]

The anime adaptation of the manga was announced in the manga's final chapter that released on November 19, 2014,[10] later specifying that the adaptation will be an anime theatrical film on December 17, 2014.[11] In the Weekly Shōnen Magazine's 46th issue of 2015 that released on October 14, 2015, Kyoto Animation and Naoko Yamada were announced to be the animation studio and director of the film adaptation, respectively.[12] The film's distributor, Warner Bros. Pictures, listed the adaptation releasing in Q4 2016.[13] On April 8, 2016, the film adaptation's official website opened, announcing that Reiko Yoshida would write the script for the film, Futoshi Nishiya would design the characters and the film was scheduled for release in Japanese theaters on September 17, 2016.[14] Kensuke Ushio and Pony Canyon composed and produced the music, respectively.[7] The film's theme song, titled Koi wo Shita no wa (恋をしたのは), was performed by Aiko, while "My Generation" by The Who was used during the opening credit.[15][16]

For the English dub, deaf actress Lexi Cowden was cast as Shōko.[17]

Analysis[edit]

Themes[edit]

The cinematic adaptation, based on the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Ōima, covers a large part of the original plot. Some segments have been shortened for runtime reasons. Individual scenes were weighted differently so that the manga can be considered supplementary literature, for example, of the characters' backgrounds.[18]

The more obvious themes covered by the film are school bullying and the integration of disabled people in society. The film then tackles with handling guilt within a community (although this aspect is exposed more in-depth in the manga),[19] redemption for mistakes of the past,[20] forgiveness and self-respect.[21] Director Naoko Yamada explains that bullying should not be considered as the central theme of the film but rather a means to explore Shōya's personality as he gets older. The course of bullying is presented precisely and intuitively, in rapid sequences. It is depicted as a collective failure, starting from school managers and overwhelmed teachers to the class community itself.[22]

The film, lastly, deals with the theme of suicide. Yamada said she was "determined to confront the topic with integrity and treat it gracefully", stressing that it "is by any means not the right decision".[23]

Stylistic means[edit]

The narration of Shōya's story, starting from his past to present, describes how he slips to the lower end of the hierarchy that he established at the beginning. From his perspective, it is shown how bullying can affect an adolescent's psyche and prove his resilience. Shōya faces many challenges: the rejection of Shōko's mother's or the avoidance of former classmates, who don't want to confront their past behaviour when he and Shōko work through their past.[24]

Shōya's alienation and inability to stare at his fellow people are symbolised by crosses (✖️) on their faces.[25] This behaviour is often emphasised by camera framing, which avoids the faces of people around him as Shōya's shies away from eye contact, often focusing on body language instead.[26] In some face-to-face conversations, Shōya's interlocutor's face is cut out of the frame; the empty space left behind him achieves an unsettling effect for the viewer.[21]

Symbolism[edit]

The film relies on subtle and sensuous motifs.[27] Yamada uses flower language to reflect feelings and personality of the characters. Shōko is juxtaposed with white daisies, symbolising purity, and blue or red cyclamen, which can represent resignation, leave-taking, but also deep affection.[28] Cherry blossoms often enclose Shōko and Shōya: they appear when the two first reconcile and when Shōya's befriends Tomohiro Nagatsuka.[29]

The koi, a symbol of luck and perseverance in Japan, represent Shōya, Shōko, and the rest of the group overcoming their shortcomings and rebuilding their lives.[30] Fireworks are a metaphor of the transience of each single moment of life: both scenes with the fireworks anticipate the suicide attempts of the two protagonists, reminding them of their hopelessness towards life.[21]

The film occasionally shows short dream sequences. The architecture seen in the background describes the protagonists' inner life, recalling Michelangelo Antonioni's work. In other scenes, the lack of harmony of the characters is depicted by oversized pictures in the room.[18] The characters are stylized, recalling the caricatural style of My Neighbors the Yamadas.[22]

Music[edit]

"My Generation" by The Who is used at the beginning of the film to express teenage rebellion and angst. The song rides the excitement and amusement of the kids gathering before school, ending with Shōko's entrance into the classroom. Yamada said that, for this scene, she wanted to use an evergreen that everyone could identify.[21]

Composer Kensuke Ushio, recognizing the central role of sound in the film, gave importance to musical and non-musical elements, including silence. The song "lvs", played when Shōko is excluded from the class community, was recorded by putting a microphone inside a piano, obtaining a muffled sound in which the piano mechanics' noises are emphasized. This technique recreates for the viewer an effect that resembles Shōko's perception.[21]

Release[edit]

The film premiered in 120 theaters across Japan on September 17, 2016.[14][31] It was screened at the 2016 Scotland Loves Animation festival on October 22, 2016,[32] and at the ICA in London on February 5, 2017.[33] Anime Limited distributed and released the film in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 15, 2017.[34] Purple Plan released the film in Singapore and Malaysia on March 9, 2017.[35] Madman Entertainment released the film for a limited duration in Australia and New Zealand from April 9, 2017, and April 16, 2017, respectively.[36] Viz Media Europe acquired the film for distribution in Europe (excluding the UK and Ireland), Russia, Turkey, and French-speaking Africa in 2017.[37] In 2017, Konnichiwa Festival released the movie in theaters in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Peru for a limited time in May, while in countries like Argentina and Uruguay, Anifest had a theatrical release in June.[38] Pioneer Films released the movie in the Philippines on May 10, 2017.[39] Eleven Arts screened the film at Anime Expo on July 3, 2017, with a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on October 20, 2017,[40][41] and a second screening in January 2019.[42]

Home video[edit]

Pony Canyon released the film in Japan on May 17, 2017, on standard edition DVD, standard edition Blu-ray, and a limited edition Blu-ray. The limited edition Blu-ray contains two animated videos of the film's theme song and "Speed of Youth", one of the original soundtracks by composer Kensuke Ushio.[43] In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Anime Limited released the film on standard edition DVD and Blu-ray, and a collector's edition combo set on October 30, 2017.[44] Madman Entertainment released the film on standard edition DVD and Blu-ray, and a limited edition combo set on December 6, 2017.[45] Shout! Factory released the film on a standard edition DVD and Blu-ray combo set in North America on April 2, 2019,[46] and Right Stuf released the film on a limited edition combo set on November 26, 2019.[47]

Streaming[edit]

Madman Entertainment streamed the film on AnimeLab for limited durations between February 14, 2018, to February 20, 2018,[48] and June 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020.[49][50] Netflix released the film on the website from June 5, 2019, to February 15, 2022.[51]

Television broadcast[edit]

In Japan, the film received a terrestrial television premiere on August 25, 2018, at 9:00 PM through NHK Educational TV and it received an audience rating of 2.5%, according to the video statistics.[52] It was aired on July 31, 2020, at 9:00 PM through Nippon TV's Friday Night Roadshow amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, along with Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi's Fireworks.[53]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #2 at the Japanese box office behind Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, and grossed a total of ¥283 million from 200,000 admissions within two days of its premiere across 120 theaters.[31] As of November 30, 2016, the film has grossed a total of over ¥2.2 billion from 1.7 million admissions.[54] It ranked at #16 on Nikkei Hit Ranking for 2016 from East division.[55] It was the 19th highest-grossing film in Japan in 2016 and also the 10th highest-grossing Japanese film of the year in the country (tied with Death Note: Light Up the New World), with ¥2.3 billion ($19.56 million).[56]

In China, the film grossed ¥44.5 million RMB[57] ($6.7 million).[58] It also grossed $310,407 in the United States and Canada, $110,552 in the United Kingdom, $437,577 in Bolivia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Spain and Thailand,[59] and $5,471,482 in other territories,[60] bringing the film's worldwide total to approximately $33 million.

Critical response[edit]

Makoto Shinkai, director of Your Name, called the film a "fantastic piece of work" and a "polished and grand production" which even he is unable to replicate.[61] It won Best Animation of the Year in the 26th Japan Movie Critics Awards, where director Naoko Yamada also received praise for her work on the film.[62] At the 2017 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, the film was selected as one of the nine feature films in competition.[63]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 37 reviews, and an average rating of 7.61/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "As beautifully crafted as it is powerfully written, A Silent Voice looks at teen bullying from a soberingly hard-hitting perspective that's uncommon for the animated medium."[64] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[65]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result References
2016 Japanese Movie Critics Awards Best Animation Feature Film A Silent Voice Won [66]
2017 Japan Academy Film Prize Excellent Animation of the Year Won [67]
Best Animation of the Year Nominated
Mainichi Film Awards Best Animation Film Nominated [68]
Comicbook.com Golden Issue Awards Best Anime Movie Nominated [69]
Newtype Anime Awards Best Anime Movie 2nd place [70]
Tokyo Anime Award Festival Anime of the Year (movie) Won [71]
Best Screenplay/Original Story Reiko Yoshida Won [71][72]
Japan Media Arts Festival Animation Division - Excellence Award A Silent Voice Won [73]
Annecy International Animation Film Festival Feature Film Nominated [63][74]
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Animated Feature Film Nominated [75]
Sitges Film Festival Feature Film Nominated [76]
Anim'est International Animation Film Festival Feature Film Nominated [77]
Camera Japan Festival Won [78]
2018 The Anime Awards Best Movie Nominated [79]
Best Animation Nominated
Monstra Lisbon Animated Film Festival Feature Film Nominated [80]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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