A Silent Voice review: A technical romantic masterpiece


A Silent Voice recently streamed on Netflix in the Summer of 2019, a film adaptation of the Japanese manga, Koe No Katachi, that finished its series in November 2014. It’s also beautifully animated by Kyoto Animation who is famously known for the anime adaption of Violet Evergarden, K-On, and Clannad.

It’s a romance drama coming of age story that’s mainly from the perspective of a bully. Certain scenes may be difficult to watch especially if you have experienced bullying and harassment.

Original Manga: Left Shoya Ishida; Right Shoko Nishimiya

The story follows our protagonist Shoya Ishida, a teenager who is about to commit suicide because of the actions he inflicts upon Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf girl he bullied in elementary school. Nishimiya transferred to his elementary school, excited to create new friends despite her disability being alienated by everyone including Ishida. 

Ishida and his friends began bullying Nishimiya for what she is until Nishimiya’s mother called the school and suspected bullying. Once everyone realizes the horror and despicable act Ishida has done, the table has turned on him, making him the scapegoat to blame even though his friend had their hand in on it. Nishimiya transferred to a new school, leaving Ishida with a reputation of a bully that follows throughout his life. It also made him less talkative and a loner.

After the flashback, Ishida tries to redeem himself with the girl he tormented in the past. 

Visual storytelling is heavily focused in this film and it worked cohesively well with the animation. KyoAni makes every small visual detail so intricate with the story that noticing it is astonishing.

It also has a consistent framework of where characters need to be to convey the atmosphere and feel like Ishida and Nishimiya are not always in the same frame even though they are in front of each other. The mood and lighting are also great in that it sets the tone quite well to where it builds up to. However, dialogues are also sparse and in between at times. It certainly not flashy nor clever but it was conveyed well enough on its own to forward the plot.


It didn’t help when the pacing moved a bit too fast at times especially during the flashback intro. Because it relies heavily on visuals to tell the story, you have to piece the information quickly to understand what’s going on. There’s a few time when some scenes with side characters don’t really go anywhere and seem fruitless in the grand scheme of things.

It definitely can be appealing to a person who never watched anime since the art style is very firm and detailed in itself. It also rarely uses cartoonish elements for comedic effect but it does land nicely.

Each character is easily distinguishable from their appearance. There’s a handful of side characters in the cast that don’t necessarily get a lot of screen time and ends up being one-note personality or key detail about the character.

In the manga, the majority of everyone’s motivation and backstory were cut out for the sake of time since it runs over two hours and ten minutes. And there are plenty of scenes and a couple of side plots that were actually helpful in understanding all of the characters like Nishimiya’s father leaving her mother and Ishida’s actual true motivation as a child.

It was certainly a bold move to focus on the bully character, Ishida, to be the main protagonist instead of the bullied character Nishimiya. Like everyone, he is a flawed and real character that slowly trying to grow and move on in life. His motivations are up to interpretation in the visuals and dialogue but it was enough to drive the plot in his redemption.

Main Characters with Side Characters

Nishimiya hardly talks but is still able to express emotions through visual body language and facial expression that one can deem cute. Whenever she communicates verbally, it’s always a critical moment in her character, especially towards the end. She’s a great character since we’re able to see multiple sides of her visually unlike Ishida who’s more difficult to wrap your head around.

Like the visual, the soundtrack is very complimentary to the story. By itself, it’s a piece of great music that makes you feel calm, sorrowful, panicked, and happy.

Overall, A Silent Voice is a visually focused film that pushes a story technically and beautifully. It handles mature topics with care and realistically with not many biases. It suffers a bit with fast pacing and certain scene needed with both main and side characters.


Recommendations Level 5/5

Quality Score 95/100