By Sabrina Betterly
“A Silent Voice” is a gut-wrenching 2016 Japanese animated film produced by Kyoto Animation abouts a former elementary school bully, Shoya Ishida, who is trying to repent for his actions by befriending Shouko Nishimiya, the hearing-impared girl he bullied when he was younger.
The story unfolds as multiple students, Ishida as the leader, bully a disabled girl who joins their class. After the bullying escalates too far, Nishimiya is transferred to another school, and Ishida doesn’t see her for years.
As Ishida grows older, the stigma of his bullying causes him to become a social outcast, and he carries a lot of shame and guilt for having treated someone so horribly. Subsequently, he goes onto a path of redemption. The two meet up again, and Nishimiya, though initially afraid of Ishida, accepts his friendship.
This film can be tough to watch because there are implications of suicidal ideation from both main characters as they struggle, Ishida with his guilt and Nishimiya with her feelings of being a burden on loved ones, as well as her hearing gets progressively worse as the film goes on.
Even though this can be a hard film to watch for many, I think this is a very important film to watch. I watched it last year for the first time and was surprised to see a character like Nishimiya who struggles with hearing loss. As someone who is hard of hearing — though not nearly as bad as Nishimiya, I loved seeing a film that had representation of this disability, as it’s not very common at all to see it on television or movies.
I was lucky to not have experienced bullying due to my hearing loss, and I fortunately didn’t have to worry about my voice. Nishimiya’s hearing loss is so advanced, she hardly speaks in the film and communicates mostly through sign language. She is bullied in the film for trying to speak and not being understood, which I think is another way people can relate to this film. Everyone struggles with being heard and understood by others, even if you hear perfectly.
It means so much to me personally that this film exists. I appreciate the representation it brings, and I think we need more disability representation in the media in general. .Overcoming hardship and dealing with bullying are experiences that anyone can relate to.
Though I only explained part of the plot, there’s much more going on with loads of important side characters. It’s a beautiful movie to watch visually, and it holds a great message that anyone can relate to.
If you have a free night to watch a movie, I recommend “A Silent Voice.” It does have a few dark scenes that will be upsetting to some viewers, but you’ll finish the movie having watched two characters find their own voices and develop beyond the labels and hardships that have been put onto them.