Friday, 17 March 2017

A Silent Voice [聲の形 - Koe no Katachi] (2016)

Having suffered the consequences of bullying a girl with impaired hearing and speech difficulties, a boy tries to make amends for the damage he caused when he ends up meeting her several years later.

This one only appeared to be showing in the cinemas around me for the one day (a Wednesday, with only one showing), which wasn't the most convenient thing. However, it's not too often that Japanese animations appear at my usual cinemas and I apparently made a mistake by missing 'Your Name' (yes, I know I could probably stream these films online, but I prefer not to do that) so I decided that I'd make the effort to watch this. And, as it turns out, it was worth the effort (though, sadly, I missed the first couple of minutes thanks to a delayed train).

It's important to keep in mind that this is an anime film, set in a high school, and is based on a manga. Which means it does come with the variety of tropes one might expect from the genre. You get the character stereotypes, the overly melodramatic moments, and so on (though it's nothing I can really complain about considering how much I enjoy the 'Final Fantasy' games and they're not exactly subtle). However, looking past the bits that conform to that, and there's actually a pretty good, powerfully handled film. Indeed, I was willing to overlook the small issues I had with the film because it is able to both really entertain (it's the most enjoyable film I've seen so far this year) and strike a strong emotional chord.

It was interesting to see the audience's reaction to the film as they were watching it. At first, they sit there quietly taking it in as they're introduced to the characters and story. But as the film went by, they seem to become increasingly pulled in by it all. It was quite amusing, by the end, to see the audience gasping at the more distressing moments and laughing raucously at the humour (this had developed from the quiet chuckles earlier in the film) before getting all emotional towards the conclusion (I'm not going to give spoilers, though you can probably guess the general story arc).

Yet I could completely understand why. While I may not have shared the extreme roller coaster they all seemed to be going through, I was certainly involved in the events unfolding onscreen that left me highly satisfied with what I saw. It's a huge help that the characters prove sympathetic and relatable as that is what the film needed to drive its story. While, as I said earlier, they can get a little melodramatic, the characters are given the exposure they need (accompanied by many more thoughtful and subtle moments) and are helped to life by the animation and the score. Save for the occasional moment with a couple of the side characters, I often forgot I was watching an animation.

I'm glad I was able to watch this film. It's not flawless, but that's of little concern when it is able to function as effectively as this. I'm not entirely sure why I've found this as engaging as I did, especially when compared to other similar films. It tackles serious, real, and relevant themes in a way that does them justice and gives them impact (it's one of the best portrayal of bullying and the consequences I've seen on the big screen) while never forgetting the humanity of the characters behind it all. And I won't complain about that. It was an unexpected joy.

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