Romantic Kindness: Naoka Yamada’s A Silent Voice

Produced by the critically acclaimed animation studio, Kyoto Animation, Naoko Yamada’s third film, A Silent Voice, tells the story of a teenage boy, Shoya, who intends to commit suicide. At the last minute, he decides to live and recalls his days in elementary school where he was a bully—memories that led him to become socially isolated, depressed, and develop suicidal tendencies.

Back in elementary school, a new student, Shoko, informs the class that she is deaf, tells her classmates to write in her notebook, so that she can know them and become friends. She was innocent, kind, and tender, but her trying to befriend those around her annoyed Shoya and his friends. They bullied her as a result. Shoya was singled out when the word of the bullying came out. Shoko withdrew from school after a physical altercation with Shoya, who blamed her for everything that has happened to him.

Shoko withdrew from the school and Shoya was bullied instead, isolated, seen as dangerous, and spent his high school years alone, in the corner of the classroom.

The film is about reconciliation, revival of friendships, making amends, life, death, trauma, forgiveness, family, love, and communication.

Shoya, who kept the notebook Shoko left behind, decided to learn sign language and reconnect with Shoko. His intentions were genuine. After almost having committed suicide, he decides that he now should be the one who should try his best to connect with Shoko.

The animation is elegantly done, with heart wrenching music, mellow colours that reflect the emotional state of the characters and emotional climaxes that escalate slowly, just at the right pace, allowing viewers the dwell in their emotions and reflect on the wrongs they might have done in their lives, and be reminded of the tender feeling of being forgiven.

The film, available on Netflix Canada, is a gentle reminder that kindness, in a world that is harsh and unforgiving, goes a long way.