Heyo! Here we are, to my sixteenth challenge!
I guess I’ll be a little subjective here, though it should come as absolutely no surprise.
Instead of the usual anime challenge format, I thought that it’d be much better if I take on this one wholeheartedly. And to do so, I don’t think there’s a personally more fitting way than giving the show a review. This post is also very much overdue since I’ve hinted about it back in April.
So, to firstly answer the challenge, an anime with some of the best animation in my rightful opinion, is…
Based on an original manga series written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Ooima, the movie adaptation certainly has garnered worldwide attention, though mostly in silence.
It is time that I take this work of art for my ride of evaluation.
Genre(s): School and Drama — No. Guys, this show isn’t of romance genre.
Source of adaptation: Manga
The time it was aired: Summer 2016, September 17
Studio responsible: Kyoto Animation
Here, have some of MAL’s synopsis:
As a wild youth, elementary school student Ishida Shouya sought to beat boredom in the cruelest ways. When the deaf Nishimiya Shouko transfers into his class, Shouya and the rest of his class thoughtlessly bully her for fun. However, when her mother notifies the school, he is singled out and blamed for everything done to her. With Shouko transferring out of the school, Shouya is left at the mercy of his classmates. He is heartlessly ostracized all throughout elementary and middle school, while teachers turn a blind eye.
Now in his third year of high school, Shouya is still plagued by his wrongdoings as a young boy. Sincerely regretting his past actions, he sets out on a journey of redemption: to meet Shouko once more and make amends.
Koe no Katachi tells the heartwarming tale of Shouya’s reunion with Shouko and his honest attempts to redeem himself, all while being continually haunted by the shadows of his past.
Story and Plot
It is going to be really hard for the original source creator to convince me that she has never experienced first hand, nor has she become a witness to the act of bullying. Surrounding the bully culture are pressures, unjust courage, ego, rebounding effects of guilt, physical and emotional pain; Shouya definitely went through these things in the exact order.
Shouya is a problem child, and this is made redundantly clear from the ‘prologue’ section of Koe no Katachi.
The thing with kids is that they are very egocentric; they won’t change their minds until you tell them that the world is falling apart. The film spends twenty-two good minutes on portraying Shouya’s world slowly but painfully becoming exactly that.
When I first watched this movie in the cinema, I had remembered how painful these twenty-two minutes were to take in. It was close-to-reality bullying, almost at the same magnitude of uncomfortable as a real deal. Needless to say, I have witnessed many cases of bullying since when I was as young as a primary schooler.
It has been just over a year after having seen the movie and I have come to understand that Koe no Katachi has done a splendid job in containing unpleasant part of the story, because twenty-two minutes is equivalent to watching a TV series anime where a single episode could happen to be considered an extreme torture—worse off than an anti-climatic or a boring one.
Black fades and white circular drops welcome the beginning point—the first animated ‘chapter’.
Miracles do happen but having none of it is also part of reality. The movie adaptation of Koe no Katachi embraces the former as the story continues to be of a stalled progress in Shouya’s social life while at the same time sow some seeds of potential by having him meet up (or rather, intentionally confronting) with his past bullying target, Nishimiya Shouko.
The pacing — it is relatively slow, even when compared to majority of Slice of Life shows from Kyoto Animation themselves. Whether that is truly a good or bad thing, it would be best I leave the aspect to your divine judgement. What I can tell you however, is that the highly condensed primary school arc felt like an eternity for me and the content’s vector towards subjective matter did not help me in any way.
The events that make up the plots feel somewhat falsely mismatched; they subtly work to the intention of cause and effect in the usual storytelling method but hardly any two of them are directly connected. The movie definitely tries to even adapt one of a few aspects the original manga has done well: hints and more hints.
That said, the movie is also riddled with a hell lot of hints! There are plenty, just watching this film once will certainly not be enough fuel for the geeky heads, myself included.
I would really much love to think that the main leads, Shouya and Shouko in their kid years, can actually represent the case of today’s troll and one who just wouldn’t feed the troll.
Shouya is a thaasophobia; he is downright afraid of being bored. But for him, school is boring, stagnating is boring and living is still boring, so he has to do something to cut through the clouds of drivel.
What does he do?
He jumps off of bridges. He brings his friends over to play games all day long. He even eggs them on getting into the same sort of trouble that he does. Shouya basically thirsts for attention, which he receives via probably the most shameful method there is; acting radical—doing things other people just wouldn’t do.
When he meets Nishimiya Shouko, a deaf girl, he does not treat her like a person—he treats her like a tool to palliate his boredom. He yells in her ear, throws dirt at her…
…and tosses out her hearing aids, not thinking for a moment that she is just another human being. To him she’s an alien from an unknown planet and she doesn’t understand Earth’s human speech.
But because Shouko does not give into any of Shouya’s bullying acts and persistently smiles in recognition for his attention, the latter can only feel more and more furious which can only lead to worse things than before.
Nishimiya Shouko is strong-willed on top of being extremely expressive for the most part. She is not afraid to lay down her cards when it comes to subjective matters since she has been the ‘subject’ to those matters for many years. You would think that it is a good thing but I would really like to have you think twice — bullying forced her to become strong. That is a human’s innate albeit dormant ability at work and trust me, it is never easy to force this one out of yourself without some sort of extreme pressure which usually results in an individual’s near-death experience. Go watch survival shows (like stranded in an ocean) for reference, or better yet become stranded in an ocean yourself and you are instantly in Shouko’s shoes.
In short, she doesn’t deserve any of this. Nobody deserves any of this.
Now this part is probably exclusive to the anime since it is an adaptation.
Shouya’s development is mostly just his character having simply ‘grown up’. A teenager is not exactly an old dog so there is still plenty of time to learn new tricks. In retrospective, Shouya grew up to seek independence, something all teenagers yearn for.
Shouko on the other hand barely developed, but that was for the best because had she suddenly come to terms with the psychology surrounding teenager friendships and more importantly opposite sex relationships, there would be a guaranteed change in her character and God knows how bad it would end for Shouya’s journey in his self redemption. That said, the almost indifferent Shouko acts as a bar for Shouya to grab onto as he slowly learns of what it means to be a decent human being (opposite to what he’d admitted to Yuzuru).
Koe no Katachi would not be complete without the inclusion of Shouko’s and Shouya’s mothers. Both are thoughtfully designed characters as they both are single mothers and yet they showcase different forms of affection to their children. Shouko’s mother in particular is very interesting despite bearing a small trope of being cold on the outside. It is amazing what ‘being there’ can do to the people you love. Nishimiya Yaeko is a proven loving mother as her children’s well-being is also hers. So when Yuzuru’s emotion reaches a low point and Shouya is there to save her, Yaeko becomes appreciative of Shouya and thinks less vile of him
All of this leaves the rest of the characters.
I will have to go with the majority of the manga readers and agree on the fact that the film adaptation ‘butchered’ them. Koe no Katachi features a full set of cast for your typical romantic drama show, but the movie itself isn’t of romance genre!
For a movie with extremely strong lead characters, I consider it a huge sacrifice when everyone else is relatively much weaker to the point of being near one dimensional and as tropey as anime characters can be.
Plenty is lacking for even Nagatsuka, who is supposedly the protagonist’s best friend. See the trend?
That is where Kyoto Animation still has not managed to fully break free from their old habits — tossing front-line supporting characters to the side.
Same goes for pretty much everyone else. But this is just me — I can slightly forgive Kyoto Animation for making them one dimensional, even Sahara—who said that she would change.
The move actually goes quite well for Satoshi, who comes in, meddles with and leaves the story as an outsider; his true intention of befriending Shouya has never been properly revealed in the movie.
Kawai—throughout the movie—pissed me off equally as much as Ueno did. She remains a pretentious girl who at times pulls some inspirational quotes to sound important. Her confronting Shouko after the latter’s failed suicide attempt triggered me a little since what she said had the intentional meaning of, “remember that there is always someone having it worse than you.”
Yeah, as if being bullied for half a decade was not bad enough.
Art and Animation
Kyoto Animation — that is all you need to know.
Despite being named my personal favorite anime for some of the best animation, this part is not even the best thing about Koe no Katachi. Let us keep the praise train going.
The art pays homage to the original manga’s design, staying as close as it possibly can. Though, the usual KyoAni touch makes everything nicely sharp and, I will have to admit, sexy. I just don’t know how they always manage to do it! The design is clearly much further than their usual, specialized ‘curvy pervy’ eye-candy.
The studio was already testing the waters for this film, and they succeeded big time. The 3D CGI (mostly blurred) backgrounds mixed with 2D animation on focus is some next level Sakuga, I tell you!
Right from the school hallway to plants in the river, they are all guided by 3D CGI which is later heavily overhaul by overtones of 2D drawings in unusually large amount of frames, though I could argue that the amount is normal by KyoAni’s standard. They achieved harmony in the lineart with 3D objects to the point that you probably haven’t noticed that half of the film is literally made with 3D CGI.
“There’s nothing that brings us more joy than viewers saying ‘That was 3D? I had no idea!’” — Norihiro Tomiita, Kyoto Animation’s 3D Director.
What I would love to tell you is that, Koe no Katachi‘s animation is practically almost fully-featured Sakuga.
One clear advantage the film has over the manga is the number of frames. KyoAni does not let this chance pass by and goes all out in giving undivided attention to details. Sign language is a visually difficult one as we actually have to attentively look at it. Extra details are given by firstly shifting the camera to focusing only on the moving hands; the show really wants you to know what the characters are saying. Naturally, they are all done in well thought-out Sakuga.
Secondly, the overall scene blurs resembling that of a camera lens. I swear that Naoko Yamada is a camera lens freak! Good luck on trying to snatch crisp and clear environmental backgrounds from the film.
The focus is almost always on the characters and in most cases, their faces. The best thing regarding emotions is that your face doesn’t lie.
Thirdly, because we almost always see Shouko through Shouya’s eyes, and Shouya himself doesn’t know very much about her. The only thing he can see are her expressions and whatever she says through the moment of her hands. That is all we can use to infer how she feels and what she thinks.
What the film has done on top of that is cooperating some of the best things KyoAni is highly regarded for: lively, expressive moments of the characters!
Even fans of the manga will have to admit that the film has done more than mere justice for Nishimiya Shouko.
A silent hero of the film—the best aspect of the show’s medium.
I actually have no insightful comments regarding sound effects as they are on par with everything else found in other films and television shows alike.
The Opening Theme
Oh, trust Yamada-san to once again pay tribute to a British based band! She has revealed that fangirl side of her with K-On! Movie and now she is doing it again with Koe no Katachi.
The irony when a movie about deaf girl actually has good music.
If I have to really be nitpicking, The Who’s My Generation does not really fit into the ‘overall’ theme of the show at all. With that in mind, I can mostly think of how she chose this song specifically for the primary school arc of the movie, otherwise the only other intention she could have is using this song to represent Shouya’s coming of age story.
The Ending Theme
This one really caught me by surprise. Initially I actually thought that aiko’s koi wo shita no wa was just your average slow paced romance song. I did not fall in love with it at first listen. But eventually it just became good via its own merits.
It is one of those songs I suggest for you to listen on your own, i.e. close your eyes and let the silence be repelled by aiko.
Kyoto Animation reached out for a freelance musician Kensuke Ushio. The lad has made a name for himself via Ping Pong the Animation and here he is again, to impress you.
The lad had produced 82 tracks in this project but only ended up using 50 of those in the movie. There is no such thing as overkill in art industry; hopefully we can all learn from him. In his mindset was the intention of creating ‘sounds’ rather than music. He didn’t take deafness as a concept. Instead, he focused on a hearing aid, which plays an important role in the film. A hearing aid is basically an amplifier for your ear, so theoretically, it should create some noise. He began to think of how much noise to pick up, what sort of difference we hear between noise and musical tones and what makes noise become meaningful.
The man went as far as dissembling the upright piano, shoved a microphone set-up in it and assembled it back up. The result is what we hear in the movie. Most of the tracks featured throughout the first three quarters of the film are small, quiet clicks on piano keys, some of those on mute pedal effect even. They truly represent the lack of ability to hear. I was forced to listen harder just like Shouko, so without a doubt, Ushio-san has really done his job.
The tracks featured near the end of the movie—the climax—are painfully loud in an emotional way. None of the quietness in piano clicks anymore as the sounds do make up to an actual music instead of standalone notes. The accompaniment of violins controls the suffering feel in a certain piece while elevates one’s happiness in another.
Well done, sir!
Top job from all seiyuu in the cast, especially for the supporting characters. My biggest props would have to go towards Yuzuru’s seiyuu, Yuuki Aoi. Probably well known for everyone’s favorite little sister, Komachi, Yuuki-san brings that lovely little sister vibe to Yuzuru and makes her a truly convincing voice of reason—voice in command, especially when Shouko can barely speak for herself.
Naoka’s seiyuu, Kaneko Yuuki, gets a thumbs up from me as well. I know her better for voicing Midori from Tamako Market and I can actually feel the serious tones brought over to Naoka by the former. I’m pretty sure it is hard to ‘act’ like a bitch—it’s a lot easier to just be one, so her stellar performance for a bitchy (but damn she’s thicc) character deserves the praise. She is in fact far from famous but hopefully this film has open up the gates for a better future.
Last but not least, Shouya’s mother is blessed with the voice of warmth and loving care. Every time I hear her speaking to Shouya I just thought to myself, “this dude probably has the most mom in the world.”
That later kind of come as no surprise, Yukino Satsuki had voiced Tae of Gintama, known for being a strong and independent woman.
Taking art to the next level, Koe no Katachi is among those works that feature a hell lot of objects symbolizing many things we deem meaningful.
The most popular message deliverers are without a doubt, flowers. And this movie goes all out in placing a huge variety in where they are most needed. They usually act as hidden extra words of messages which you can analyze each and every single one of them to your heart’s content in order to appreciate the movie to the fullest.
When I think about flowers and analysis, I can seriously only refer you to the one and only Emily (just type in Koe no Katachi into the search bar on her blog). She has done an incredibly superb job in analyzing each of the flowers and their intended message within the scenes for Koe no Katachi, spanned into three posts. Please do not hesitate to check them out if you ever become curious about how this movie is more than an adaptation, let alone a mere film.
Credits to her as well for these pictures below!
Obviously the movie tackles a realistic issue of bullying and its aftereffects
Possibly one of the nastiest showcases of bullying I have ever seen in anime. Because bullying is highly subjective in Japan, the original manga found itself at the bottom of the abyss for so long before it got force voted to become publishable for the public. The film adaptation extracted pretty much almost all of the emotionally gruesome parts of the manga and amplifies the experience by folds. Koe no Katachi exists as another example of how an anime is capable of taking advantage over still-frame mediums.
In 2014, suicide was the leading cause of death for Japanese children between the ages of 10 and 19. This includes all the years characters of Koe no Katachi grew through. It is ever so obvious that the most frequent reason for teenage suicides comes from bullying. As much as I want to happily encourage everyone of you to seek help if you ever feel depression at any point in your life, suicide is practically a last resort for the person in question. To commit suicide, the person must really have feel that they are no longer needed in this world maybe because of their inability to fulfill their wish or the wish of someone they love, be it emotionally and/or financially (yes, money kills!).
Redemption in the shadows
I would like to think of the story actually being ‘Shouya’s thought of “what if”‘. What he had done has been done and in this realistic case, it is irreversible. He has bullied Shouko and there is no undoing it.
When he says his line, “I just don’t want to make Nishimiya cry anymore,” I then think to myself on what he could really mean by that. Naturally he would not be able to erase the notes of his bad deeds with an eraser. The booming effects of bullying engulfed Shouya throughout his journey to redemption as bystanders have mostly built their own social walls, preventing him from approaching no matter how polite he may be. The willingness to change in still only in his mind; he didn’t really reveal any of his intentions to the public. But even then, had he really spoken out loud about his willingness to change, I don’t think that anyone would believe him solely based on his words of ‘promise’.
It is eventually, clearly revealed that Shouya has not been able to act towards his wish (the quote), until it becomes too late. Having the tables turned, Shouya is forced by extreme desperation/pressure to become strong—to be blunt and clear with himself, all the while still living like a plague to the faceless. The last twenty minutes of the film harbors more emotional power than the rest of its length; you could say that it is climax done right.
Koe no Katachi tells a grand coming of age tale about a young boy’s experience through eyes of the bully and the bullied. It may as well serve as a wake up call device for this generation since we are all obsessed with popular and powerful multimedia storyteller.
Do not let this film slip through in the name of entertainment as you may find yourself taking in strikes of unexpected emotion bombs. Open your eyes to reality and feast on some of this beauty.
And for those who are on a train to the end of my 30 Day Anime Challenge…