Reviewed by Shubham AP Mohapatra, Batch of 2024, Kirit P. Mehta School of Law
With the main running theme of the plot being redemption, A Silent Voice follows the life of Shoya Ishida whose plotline begins with his intention to commit suicide. However, changing his decision at the end moment, Shoya reminisces of his elementary school days which form the basis of the predicaments he faces today.
Shoya Ishida, a teenager who knows no other language to communicate with others other than bullying finds his next victim – the newly admitted Shoko Nishimiya, a deaf girl. Shoko does not make her disability a debilitating factor in her life or at least tries hard to not make it so. She is cheerful to have joined a new school and is excited to make new friends through her notebook as the replacement of normative vocal communication. However, her optimistic expectations were set to fail. Her classmates soon began to view communicating with her as an inconvenience and started ignoring her. The ignorance was added with the constant bullying she was subject to by Shoya, of which his friends were witnesses, to the extent of having her bleeding due to her hearing aids yanked by him. When brought to the notice of school, Shoya was viewed as the sole bully of Shoko despite the presence of his friends as accomplices. Shoko transfers to another school and Shoya is left to be an outcast, the fate he had originally bestowed upon Shoko.
This brings us to the second part of the story, the realization that there are two deaf characters in the plotline – Shoko and Shoya.
As mentioned before, Shoya knew no other language other than bullying in elementary school and years later in high school, he has isolated himself from the people around him, not looking directly at anybody and often covering his ears to drown out the noise around him.
His isolation or his deafness is visually portrayed through blue crosses across the faces of everyone around him. It was this isolation that pushed him to decide to commit suicide however, changed his mind to close one last loose end before committing the same – Apologising Shoko. The movie hits a happier pace once Shoya meets Shoko, and apologises through sign language. It is from here when another realization hits the viewers – Shoya, a traditionally antagonistic character has been portrayed as a protagonist in the movie. Shoya goes out of the way to ensure he can provide Shoko with the happiness that he had stripped from her in childhood and in doing so, he simultaneously begins to make new friends the visual representation of which has been made by the peeling off of the blue crosses that are present on the faces of the people around him.
The movie successfully transcends the emotions felt by each character on the screen to the viewers wherein the viewers can share the tears shed by Shoya at the end of the story wherein all the blue crosses peel off – symbolic of him having successfully made redemption and have broken free from his deafness, much like Shoko who now has people who no longer view her disability as an obstacle.