Based on Yoshitoki Oima's manga about harassment and redemption, this Japanese anime works well enough as a gentler alternative to the bleak-as-hell
from South Korea.
It may not look as gorgeous as the eye-blisteringly beautiful Your Name, but by sticking with animation, A Silent Voice is able to pull off a unique narrative trick - following its characters from primary school to teenagehood.
The film centres on Shoya Ishida who, as a boy, picks on Shoko Nishimiya because she's hearing-impaired. There's no underlying reason here; little Ishida just thinks she's a freak and you'll want to punch him right in the prostate for how he torments her. It's only when his fellow classmates exile him as "The Bully" that he realises how shitty it feels to be the outcast.
As a teenager, Ishida feels incredibly horrible for the pain he caused Nishimiya, and the film does a great job showing the heavy luggage of regret he has been holding all this time. From the slump of his walk to the giant blue X that covers the faces of the classmates who have barred him (i.e. almost everyone), you really feel for the guy and root for his salvation.
It's a great set-up, but the journey is only a passable one. While it's bold of the film to tackle heavy issues like suicide and stigmas around disabilities, it doesn't quite have the warming grace of Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbour Totoro) or the grounded subtlety of Hirokazu Koreeda (Like Father, Like Son).
Director Naoko Yamada often instils a suitably soothing quality to her storytelling, but too often hits the breaks to let the take-home message slam us in the face. It's especially clunky to see Ishida's mind being blown when he learns the meaning of friendship.
Cast: Miyu Irino, Saori Hayami
Director: Naoko Yamada
Running Time: 129 mins
Rating: M (Content may disturb. Japanese with English subtitles)
Verdict: The impact of its heavy topics let down by its heavy-handedness.
Liam Maguren is a staff writer at flicks.co.nz