DVD Movie Review: A Silent Voice

By Drew Hurley 03.11.2017

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A Silent Voice (UK Rating: 15)

Anime Limited has brought over some of the very finest of anime movies from Japan in recent years,  both in homes and on the big screen; bringing over some huge releases that are even able to give the legendary Ghibli movies a run for their money. That tradition is continuing here as it is bringing one of its recent cinema hits to DVD and Blu-ray with A Silent Voice - a tale of childhood bullying and creating bonds. This adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima manga is finally available to buy in the UK now.

There's a new girl in school and she's got something that makes her different to any transfer student the kids have seen before. Shoko Nishimiya is deaf and introduces herself to her class via a big notebook, a tool she uses to communicate with the world. While her class embraces the novelty of their new friend at first, the special attention she requires soon makes her the target of a few bullies. It starts off with just one or two little moments but soon it escalates into some really disgusting acts. Worst of all is a boy named Shoya Ishida, the protagonist of this tale. Shoya is horribly cruel to her, stealing her hearing aids, mocking her voice, and leading the class in their tormenting. No matter what they do, though, Shoko takes it all in stride, constantly trying to befriend the class, always with a smile for them, and often repeating three little sign language movements - three movements that mean "Can we be friends?" It's hard to watch as this innocent girl is completely ostracised for no good reason.

When it gets too much, the school and her parents intervene, but instead of everyone getting punished, it's all dropped on Shoya, and suddenly the tables are turned and he's blamed for it all. His mother has to raid their savings and sell her things to pay for the destroyed hearing aids. Not only does it drive a wedge between Shoya and his mother, but the entire class suddenly turns its focus onto him and he becomes the new bullied kid. He loses all his friends, the nasty messages that were left on Shoko's desk suddenly start appearing on his desk, and he retreats into himself. Shoya cuts the world off, believing he deserves this, that he doesn't deserve friends.

Five long years of this has made Shoya completely introspective; he's decided he's going to make right all his wrongs. He saves all his money, sells all his stuff, and plans to give all his money to his mother to make up for all the money she had to spend replacing the hearing aids he stole and destroyed from Shoko. Then he plans to finally apologise to Shoko, before killing himself. There are some deep and some dark moments here that some viewers will find hard to watch. Ultimately, Shoya doesn't kill himself and instead tries to build a friendship with Shoko, a friendship that begins to change his life. It's a friendship that begins to open Shoya to the world and allow him to start to come out of his shell.

Nothing else can be said about the plot. It deserves to be watched; it's a beautiful and moving story that deserves to be seen firsthand.

Speaking of beautiful, A Silent Voice comes from Kyoto Animation and its always high-quality presentation is on fine form here, with every element of the visuals shining to perfection. There are some individual and recognisable designs for the characters (although one character is stealing the iconic hairstyle of the stud muffin of My Hero Academia, Minoru Mineta). The environments also paint the picturesque reality of rural Japan, whether it be biking through the country, sitting in a cat cafe, or feeding koi from a bridge - every scene looks stunning.

This release comes with both the Japanese original and new English dub, and both are superb - to the point that this deserves to be seen in both. Not only for the quality performances from both casts but also for the little changes in the script, with the Japanese version's subtitles being a lot more literal than the original. There is one small issue with the English dub, which is that Shoko's voice actress, Lexi Marman, gives a horrible performance during the time Shoko is an elementary student. It almost sounds like someone mocking how a deaf person sounds. It's much better when Shoko grows older, but it still can't hold a candle to the Japanese dub and voice acting veteran, Saori Hayami. On top of the pair of dubs, this release comes with a bunch of special features to enjoy. There are music videos for the two theme songs of the movie, Koi o Shita no wa by AIKO and Koe no Katachi by Speed of Youth, along with trailers and TV spots; not to mention a brief featurette showing the real life locations of the movie and individual interviews with key members of the movie's staff, like the Director, Naoko Yamada, and Character Designer, Futoshi Nishiya.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Heartfelt, touching, beautiful, moving - this is a story that looks deeply into friendship and bullying, bonds and loneliness; ultimately, a story about life. This is a movie that deserves to stand alongside the finest there are; to stand beside Wolf Children and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, to even stand beside Your Name. While it has some moments that will be difficult for some in the audience to watch, it's also a story that will touch others on a level that no-one will understand; a story that understands, a story that gives sound to A Silent Voice.

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