A Silent Voice is not a regular anime romance. It explores very deep and powerful themes throughout the movie. While the premise of the film revolves around Shoyo Ishida, who attempts to make amends with a deaf girl he bullied in the 6th grade, the main story focuses on his relationships with the people around him. Ishida’s journey is a tale of bullying, friendship, mental health, love and redemption. The movie follows him from a teenage Ishida who has given up on his life to flashbacks as an elementary school student.
At this time, Ishida was bonding with his friends, playing video games and behaving as any normal kid would. His downfall starts with his meeting a deaf girl named Shoko Nishimiya. Ishida used to bully her thoroughly and of course, his friends took part in that too. However, once the truth of the matter came to the surface, Ishida is the only one to face the consequences of the bullying. This is when his life gradually fell apart, so much so that he even planned to commit suicide in his teenage years. However, as the movie progress, Ishida begins to accept himself — surprisingly, with the help of the same person he tormented as a child.
Bullying and the Impact it Has on Everyone Involved
There’s no doubt that bullying is the central theme of the movie. The first person to bully Nishimiya is Ishida, who makes fun of her voice and does all kinds of mean things. However, there is another form of bullying that Nishimiya suffers from: exclusion. Once Ishida and Ueno discover that Nishimiya wears hearing aids, he screams at her during class and rips the aids from her ears, causing her to bleed. Things get serious to the point that even the faculty get involved. Naturally, everyone pushes the blame onto Ishida, who then turns from a bully to the bullied.
One day, Ishida sees Nishimiya wiping the mean things other kids have written on his desk. The upset Ishida tries provoking Nishimiya, and they get into a fight. While fighting him, Nishimiya drops the heart-wrenching line: “I’m doing the best I can.” She is transferred out of school shortly after. However, Nishimiya isn’t the only one affected by the bullying. It also affects the ones who bully and the ones who are witnessing it. The movie shows how Ishida regrets his actions but the other bullies such as Ueno are in denial, believing they have done nothing wrong.
Depression That People Often Overlook
The events that take place in the movie depict a true, vivid image of how much someone’s mental well-being can affect us. Depression is often looked at as just being sad or feeling down, but the movie does an amazing job of highlighting the issues that a person with depression may actually face. The movie explores the depression of the protagonist that stems from the guilt of his past actions. It affects him in such a way that even years later, he has completely given up on life and would rather commit suicide than live.
It is only after he finds and reunites with Nishimiya that Ishida realizes that suicide is not the way out, and he decides to try his best to give life another try. One brief scene shows a confrontation with Ishida’s mother, who would rather burn money than spend it after knowing the intentions behind Ishida giving it to her. Following that incident, Ishida explains his current situation on his way to school — that he ended up alone due to his decision to bear his sins and be punished for them.
As the saying goes, what goes around, comes around. After bullying Nishimiya into isolation, the high school Ishida keeps himself isolated from others, as depicted by the ‘X’ on the faces of everyone around him. It isn’t until he befriends one of his classmates, who was also a victim of bullying, that Ishida can find the courage to seek out Nishimiya and begin the healing process for both of them. Due to his past trauma and all his friends betraying him, Ishida has developed social anxiety and often looks at the ground since he has trouble looking into people’s eyes.
Those ‘X’ marks cover the faces of the people whom Ishida is either too afraid to interact with or believes that he doesn’t deserve to connect with. As the movie progress, Ishida keeps making friends and the ‘X’ also keeps getting removed from people one by one. In the end, Ishida apologizes to Nishimiya for the way he treated her in the past, and both open up about their feelings. They go to the school festival, and Ishida decides to accept and listen to the people around them. Once he gives himself the chance to accept others and himself, he is able to hear and look at other people’s faces again, giving him confidence in himself.
Repentance as a Means of Healing
Another powerful theme of this movie is repentance. Perhaps no other anime explores the theme of redemption as beautifully as this movie, mostly because it shows how ‘redemption’ doesn’t just mean earning the forgiveness of those who have been hurt. Of course, being forgiven is only the beginning of one’s path to redemption. This is why the movie focuses not just on redemption but also on the varying degrees of redemption its characters go through.
Ishida does not run away from his mistakes and believes that he should be punished for them. Once he reunites with Nishimiya, he decides to seek repentance rather than redemption. The thing that truly helps him heal is his reconciliation with Nishimiya. Ishida is no longer a hurtful young boy who enjoys inflicting pain upon others. Rather, he is remorseful and understands the severity of his actions. Moreover, Nishimiya blames herself for Ishida getting ostracized by his friends, due to which she likewise tries to commit suicide. However, Ishida saves her and ends up being hospitalized himself. After the incident, Nishmiya’s mother finally forgives Ishida for the things he did during elementary school.
Although these themes have been touched on in other anime and manga, A Silent Voice succinctly examines the impact of bullying not only on the victim but also on the perpetrator and others who get caught in the crossfire. Regardless of the ups and downs, it ends on the uplifting note that it’s possible to heal from the experience of bullying given the right support system.