Koe no Katachi / A Silent Voice comes hot off the coattails of the immensely popular your namehttps://anilist.co/anime/21519/KiminoNawa. I am not trying to compare the two. Rather I want to highlight the recent anime presence in mainstream Western media namely the cinema industry. Does this signal an ongoing destigmatisation of anime in the West beyond Ghibli https://anilist.co/studio/21/StudioGhiblifilms? One can hope. 250http://i.ur.com/OU4o0Su.jpg I query this because Koe no Katachi coming out of Koyto Animationhttps://anilist.co/studio/2/KyotoAnimation and directed by Naoko Yamadahttps://anilist.co/staff/102498/NaokoYamada of KOnhttps://anilist.co/anime/5680/KOn and Tamakohttps://anilist.co/anime/20519/TamakoLoveStory fame is seemingly very conventional as far as drama anime and especially KyoAni productions go. It checks most of the boxes: high school drama complete with the usual MCwindowseatsecondfromtheback picturesque suburban bridges summertime fireworks and of course a climactic school festival. At the same time however it deals with subject matter significantly heavier than your typical KyoAni fluff. Bullying disability and the pervasive problem of suicide take centre stage. And although its refreshing to see KyoAni try and push a little further how well do they adapt? 470http://i.ur.com/MMovGxF.png Fear and selfloathing in Japan In sixth grade Shouya popular and daring bullies the new girl Shoko who happens to be deaf. He is later bullied by his friends including coconspirators because of this maltreatment. Later in high school a lonely and guiltridden Shouya attempts to reconnect with Shoko to make amends for his mistakes. Kids can be cunts. 470http://i.ur.com/ii1DipA.png No that wasnt my main take away from this film. Rather I point to the fact of how good of a job Koe no Katachi does in making me utterly despise Shouya when hes a little kid. Ultimately this is a charactercentric story that is a story that revolves around Shouya. So its commendable how fleshedout and nuanced of a character Shouya is. Hes a cunt to begin with. He is punished by those around him. Guilt cripples him. He tries his best to redeem himself. Not because of superficial or selfish reasons mind you but out of a palpable sense of regret. That said he still must overcome his own nagging flaws and those of his friends around him. Its easy to understand and empathise with his thoughts and actions even if you disapprove of them and its because of this that Shouya is a strong and successful protagonist. One who we actively root for and are glad to see triumph even if his victories are only small. Subsequently the film is both heartwarming and poignant. Similarly the themes of bullying isolation guilt and suicide whilst not exactly subtly handled are done deftly enough such that the films messages remain pertinent. It was particularly moving to see how Shoko and Shouyas mothers the ones most affected by the films ongoings responded to and took up the emotional burdens experienced by their children. 470http://i.ur.com/c1Nhmeq.png The films greatest pitfall is the characters outside of Shouya. The issue here is that there is an ensemble cast when the story should really be focused on the central duo. There are too many characters a couple of which are randomly introduced halfway through the film. Because of this most of the cast is peripheral and onedimensional. Their characterisations can be summed up in single sentences and literally are. Its difficult to care for anyone beyond Shouya and as previously mentioned the central pairs immediate family to an extent. Attention and valuable screen time is thus wasted on these secondary characters that by virtue of their sheer number inherently remain underdeveloped anyway. It is not clear if there are satisfying conclusions for most of them Even the central Shoko remains relatively enigmatic which I guess is a good thing because of her hearing disability and the themes of communication and isolation that arise from it however. Similarly the story itself is long and meandering. The film has a 129minute runtime which Id argue is unwarranted. It certainly feels long. There are too many plot points there needs to because there are too many characters. The opening flashback sequence overstays its welcome. The emotional peaks lose their punch simply because so many are piled on top of one another. 470http://i.ur.com/t9IsBlh.png I feel as if these problems are easily avoidable even if that means straying slightly from the source material. Also Japanese hospitals are really understaffed this film would have me believe. Scuffed shoes and X marks the spot Interestingly visually Koe no Katachi departs from KyoAnis usual hyperpolished look. Here the art is warm and a lot homelier whilst the colours are light which reinforces the storys personality and how intimate it aims to feel. As expected from a featurelength KyoAni production its generally gorgeous complete with an exorbitant number of light effects. Character designs are decent for the most part. 470http://i.ur.com/joGQXUv.png There are a lot of visual motifs. Some like the characters are harder hitting than others. Some like some of the characters are introduced and then abandoned. Some like the characters are too hamfisted to be effective. In this sense the visual cues are really hit or miss. I especially adored the more understated things like Shouyas loose shirt tag and the emphasis on shoes and shins which reinforces the idea of isolation and a downward gaze. Contrastingly the big fat Xs over peoples faces come off as gimmicky and crude in comparison. 420http://i.ur.com/mJ5mb1i.png 420http://i.ur.com/H2JP5ie.png The sound design is strong. I especially liked the ambient noises that reflected Shokos innerworld. Voiceacting is on point. The soundtrack whilst not exactly memorable fits in nicely. Reverberating into the future? On one hand Koe no Katachi bites off more than it can chew. It is plagued by easily fixable issues like an overlyextensive cast and runtime which ultimately dampens the harderhitting stuff. On the other hand it is a visually stunning and emotional story that follows the progression of an empathetic welldeveloped character. If this is a sign for more anime films in international cinemas then I hope this is as well as your name can act as building blocks. Would I recommend Koe no Katachi? Yes. Addendum: If anyones Deaf or hard of hearing or otherwise involved in these communities itd be greatly appreciated if youd like to message me your thoughts regarding this film.
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