REVIEW – I knew about Koe no Katachi when it was posted by a Facebook page with the description along the words of “tearjerker, beautiful” and what not. The post featured the first few pages of the manga and it was an emotional read. After finishing it’s last manga volume, Kyoto Animation has taken up the job of turning it into an anime film and this article will be my thoughts after watching it.
The story revolves around Shoya Ishida, a former delinquent who bullied Shoko Nishimiya, his deaf classmates, alongside his friends back in elementary school. When Nishimiya transferred, all of his friends and teachers have turned against him, making him isolated until high school to point where he contemplates the act of suicide.
However, he changes his mind when he reunites with Nishimiya, who is still lonely and shy. Realizing the results of the thing he has done to Nishimiya in elementary school, he takes it upon himself on a a path of redemption by trying to make amends with Nishimiya and connecting her with their former classmates.
These friends are: Naoko Ueno, who believes that Nishimiya is to be blamed for Ishida’s isolation; Miki Kawai, their narcissistic former class president; and Miyoko Sahara, who attempted to make friends with Nishimiya back then but got bullied doing so. All of them are paired with new friends such as: Tomohiro Nagatsuka, a similarly friend-less boy who owes Ishida after his bike was stolen; and Satoshi Mashiba, Kawai’s friend.
Both go through a series of life changing events to define friendship and love. Ishida manages to move forward and leave behind the past, and to start afresh by showing his affection towards Nishimiya.
Koe no Katachi was directed by Naoko Yamada (K-ON!, Tamako Market) and Reiko Yoshida (Bakuman, Girls und Panzer).
Despite having certain parts of the story not making into the anime project from the manga series, Koe no Katachi still maintains the core and atmosphere of the entire story. However, I cannot say that there are no similar movies as this.
Koe no Katachi can easily be similar to the plots of several other films like Taare Zamen Par (2007 Indian film) where the character suffers from dyslexia. In Koe no Katachi, however, Nishimiya is deaf and has to cope with a normal class.
The great thing about Koe no Katachi is that it centers more on the people who are directly affected rather than some adult helping a kid to combat his or her disability. It is very realistic and at the same time, emotional.
Koe no Katachi tackles about the inner aspects of every character and what that means in the story – like how Ishida’s friends blame each other for his current isolationist state which to be fair can be valid if you look at their own perspectives.
The film tries to get the viewer understand each of the characters’ thoughts and sympathize with them.
I noticed there was this romantic sub-plot between Ishida and Nishimiya but ended up without any conclusion at the end of this film. To be fair, it would’ve been quite stale and common if the film would’ve ended with Ishida and Nishimiya in a relationship. I was glad that they took the ending to where everyone was involved – which had the best impact and logical sense for an ending.
The idea for Koe no Katachi’s premise is pretty much common but how it was written – that made this film entertaining and emotional to watch.
First of all, let me start with Shoyo Ishida. He is the usual bully character in your elementary school who torments the deaf Nishimiya. It was quite wonderful that the film showed what Ishida thought of everything and why it lead to him bullying Nishimiya.
Nishimiya, in class, relied too much on everyone for help thus creating some sort of hate for her by everyone. It’s the usual “she’s taking advantage of her disability to make us do her work” which was one of the reasons why Ishida thought he was doing everyone a favor by bullying Nishimiya.
When Nishimiya transferred schools after losing five of her ear-hearing aids, I loved how they showed this helpless and cornered state of Ishida. It was very real: classmates and friends denying to be accomplices in bullying Nishimiya and the teacher getting real mad at him for doing so.
Honestly, at this part of the film, I was glad to see the writer showing off this scene as it made viewers relate and sympathize with Ishida.
Ueno is one of those people in school where they just run off whenever shit hits the fan. I harbored some sort of personal hate for this character since I have experienced interacting with someone like this before.
Kawai was incredibly narcissistic and played innocent for the entirety of the faults that she obviously did. I hated how way of blaming others as it was very familiar for me as I had several experiences of people doing that to me.
The mothers for Nishimiya and Ishida were wonderfully written though. Nishimiya’s mother harboring expected hate on Shoyo Ishida since he bullied her daughter. That situation turned around when Shoyo fell off a building partly due to Nishimiya attempting to commit suicide.
It was beautiful and amazing to see the same scenarios play out from the characters’ pasts but in the present, they experience the same scenarios but the tables have turned.
Going back to Shoyo Ishida – in the present, he was shown great remorse of what he did to Nishimiya and, as I mentioned, contemplated the idea of suicide since everything has turned south since then.
You can see that this guy is good at heart as he works hard to earn over a million yen for his mother before his set date of attempted suicide – which he cancelled shortly after his mother finding out and reuniting Nishimiya.
Nishimiya, on the other hand, felt a little bit distant at times of the film. I don’t know if this was intentional considering she is portraying a deaf character who uses sign language for communication.
But you could feel this kind of suffering because of her disability to hear – how she longs to just end it all since her inability to hear is making her life more miserable and also her very existence caused Ishida’s current state of isolation.
The other characters felt forgettable since they were introduced so quickly and was just there to fill some parts of the dialogue and events.
Kyoto Animation has done a magnificent job in animation this film. However, there were a few things that bothered me.
Ever since Hibike! Euphonium, KyoAni has started to use these blurs. At first, they were used to blur out backgrounds in the distance or to portray motion, but in Koe no Katachi, they were used too much which was kind of annoying for me to look at.
Positive-wise, I loved the symbolism used as they added X’s to every person’s face if they were not close to Ishida.
Ishida has this habit of looking downward and not hearing everyone’s voices thus the X’s on their faces really bring out this symbolism.
The X’s also come off their faces when Ishida develops some sort of bond towards them.
For example, Ueno was marked with X until Ishida reunited with her as she was giving out coupons. However, the X came back when Ishida and Ueno had a fight regarding about Nishimiya and how he had become boring since he wanted to become friends with everyone.
One scene to note of was at the end when Shoyo Ishida has come to terms with his past and has swore to “listen to everyone’s voices.” It was a wonderful way of showing this character development as Ishida walks in a middle of a bustling crowd during their school festival.
As he walks, he slowly stops covering his ears and begins to listen to everyone talk at once as well as see their X’s falling from their faces – this was an emotional and great scene to show Ishida’s character development.
Koe no Katachi is a wonderful anime that has a mix of feel-good elements and slice-of-life which depicts a young man who wishes to change and make amends with the mistake he’s made in the past but in the process, sacrifices his own happiness for it.
It is a wonderful film about regret, friendship, trust and overall, the realities of adulthood hitting our main characters as they learn and understand the events around them and each other, as well.
The awards that this film has garnered is well-deserved. In my country, it outranks Kimi no Na Wa. in terms of turnout and money earned. I have nothing but praise for this film and highly recommend that you, dear reader, should watch this film if you get the chance to do so.