Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Silent Voice review

A young man approaches the edge of a bridge. He has just quit his job, paid off all his debts and now, fully clad in a scruffy school uniform, is ready to jump to his death.

Just as he prepares to leap, a group of children setting off fireworks brings him back to his senses. But what was it that brought him this close to the edge?

The young man in question is Shoya Ishida, an 18-year-old high school student. At school, he struggles with depression, anxiety and loneliness.

But it wasn’t always this way. In middle school, Shoya was a precocious, popular kid. He and his friends liked to jump into rivers, wrestle, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

One day, however, everything changed. A young girl appeared. A girl named Shoko Nishimiya. A sweet, quiet girl, who wanted to make friends with everyone. There was only one problem.

She was deaf.

For some reason, this bothered Shoya. He probably didn’t even realise why, himself.

But slowly, over days and weeks, that bother turned to scorn, and that scorn spread to almost every member of the class. Shoya began to mercilessly bully Shoko – a girl whose only crime was being unable to hear.

Even then, in an effort to make everyone understand her, Shoko began to wear hearing aids. They were stolen, of course. Over and over and over again. But despite all this, she just wanted to be friends. No matter what they threw at her, what names they called her, that didn’t change.

But one day, Shoya took things too far. He tore a hearing aid from Shoko’s ear in the middle of class, causing her ear to bleed. And all of a sudden, the world turned against him.

The classmates who terrorised Shoko at his side turned their backs, denying any involvement. Their ineffectual teacher, formerly so laissez faire, flew into a rage. Shoya’s friendships, his middle school reputation, were destroyed in a single afternoon.

In high school, his former friends made sure to let everyone know that Shoya was an evil bully. Someone not to be trusted. Someone to be shunned.

And here we find the boy on the bridge, prepared to end his life. What now?


I normally don’t write film reviews. I don’t really know why that is – but in this case I’m prepared to make an exception to that (non-existant) rule.

What you just read is a brief summary of the first half hour or so of A Silent Voice, Kyoto Animation’s film adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s manga Koe no Katachi. What follows is a heart-wrenching, sensitive drama about one young man’s journey toward forgiveness and redemption not only from his victim, but also from himself.

A Silent Voice isn’t concerned with playing the blame game. In effect, the game has already been played, and Shoya has found himself guilty of all charges. In high school, he has become a sad, withdrawn individual who basically hates himself for what he did to Shoko, and in order to own up to his failings, tracks her down to make amends and, hopefully, become friends.

shoyaandshoko1.png

In essence, rather than asking whether a victim can forgive their aggressor, the film is more about whether someone who has done something terrible to another person is able to forgive themselves.

But even to say that would be over-simplifying the plot. A Silent Voice is a film with so many layers it’s hard to fully explain. Much like the characters themselves, the film is filled with a storm of complex emotions.

Guilt. Resentment. Hate. Self-loathing. These are all topics addressed in A Silent Voice. But more stunning than the ideas it covers, is the fact that the film makes it clear than all people are capable of these feelings.

 

Shoya is not the only one involved in his search for redemption – his former classmates, too, have their own thoughts and regrets about that time in their lives, and those repressed feelings have as much to do with the plot as Shoya and Shoko’s relationship.

a-silent-voice-2017-movie-embed2

A Silent Voice was placed in indirect competition with Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name – itself a stunning piece of storytelling – but really that’s like comparing apples to oranges. While Your Name was a fantasy romance adventure, A Silent Voice is very much grounded in reality, and tells a distinctly human story.

Thankfully, Kyoto Animation don’t disappoint, bringing their usual brilliantly animated charm to the movie. A Silent Voice is directed by Naoko Yamada, best known for K-ON! and something of an anomaly herself (female anime directors are few and far between), who brings a precisely executed emotional depth to the film in addition to its lush visuals.

asilentvoice-still-800x450

Of particular note is the use of chromatic aberration (aka the blurry, discoloured bits at the edge of a photograph). Some see it as a little overused, but I feel it adds a further element to the film, something somewhere between nostalgia and melancholy – almost like we as the viewer are watching the story unfold through the lens of an old camera.

Oftentimes, when we are looking at a scene from Shoya’s perspective, the camera is angled down at the floor or at chest height and almost every face is covered with a big X, symbolising his unwillingness to look people in the eye. Little details like this really make the film.

koe_no_katachi_003

 

Even the English voice cast has that little extra thought put into it. Though Shoko has relatively few lines in the film, in the English dub her part is taken by actress Lexi Cowden, who is deaf herself.

RCt4nyu

But more importantly than the gorgeous visuals, and the plain but effective soundtrack, and the voice acting, A Silent Voice spoke to me on a personal level.

I was a victim of bullying at school. Maybe not as badly as poor Shoko, but it happened. I’d even say it was probably the lowest point in my life.

But even now, years later, I realised something. I had never forgiven my tormentors. Maybe I thought I couldn’t, or that they didn’t deserve my forgiveness. I was told they had “mellowed out”, that they were better people now. I didn’t believe them.

Some of them are married now. Some have kids. I didn’t care.

But they’re all human, and humans make mistakes. Maybe I just needed this film to remember that.

There are many more things I want to say about A Silent Voice. I’d say them, if I had the words to. Until I can think of them, you’ll just have to watch the film yourself. A Silent Voice is a…

MUST SEE

A touching, mature story of regret and redemption is brought to life in a vivid way by master animators Kyoto Animation. Come for the pretty art, stay for the emotionally complex story, and don’t you dare miss it.

sv-5

Advertisements

Amagi Brilliant Park review

I’ve never personally been a big fan of theme parks. Maybe I’m just an eternal cynic, but the second you realise Goofy is actually just poor sweaty Theresa in a big costume, the magic fades a little.

What we really need is a theme park with REAL mascots. Too bad that’ll never happen.

…Except in anime that is.

(And yes, I know that’s a memed-up version of the opening, but it’s the best I could find and pretty funny anyway)

Seiya Kanie has it all. He’s handsome, intelligent and basically great at anything he does. Too bad he knows that, and it makes him kind of a jerk.

fb823315c106e93b3444b203b858f0c7--manga-japan-anime-guys.jpg

One day Captain Narcissist gets invited out to a theme park by mysterious, seemingly emotionless transfer student Isuzu Sento. Problem is, the park is a dump. The mascots are lazy, the buildings are run down and there’s no customers. Pretty much the only thing worth coming for is the croquettes…

croquette-amagi-brilliant-park-10-01.png

Are croquettes really popular in Japan or something? They seem to find their way into every anime…

As a first introduction to Amagi “Brilliant” Park, it’s not the best. So when Sento reveals she actually works for the park and wants Kanie to take over as manager, he’s less than enthusiastic.

Amagi_Brilliant_Park

Yaaaaay.

Luckily, Kanie’s competitive spirit and tiny piece of morality are sparked when he finds out the employees of AmaBri are actually mostly refugees from a magical realm named Maple Land. – and not only that, if they can’t rustle up 250,000 visitors in three months, the park will close.

Now, the residents need guests to generate the magical energy which allows them to exist in the human world. Otherwise, they disappear. Or something. It’s not fully explained.

Point is, stakes are high!

113e3003b580d30886c8753189d96f3a05e0382f_hq

AND ONLY ONE MAN CAN SAVE THE DAY

Now, let me start by stating the obvious – this series is visually gorgeous. This is Kyoto Animation at work, and they do a great job of maintaining their pedigree. But what about the story?

Long story short, it works. It’s not anything that will set the world on fire, but it’s funny and sweet with a mildly cynical edge courtesy of Kanie. The story proceeds about how you’d expect – crisis, montage, resolution, bish bash bosh. It works!

81AcYlYXp+L._SL1500_

Correction: crisis, montage, resolution, obligatory swimsuit episode.

Of course, with the series set in anime Disneyland, there’s a lot of opportunity for some great gag material. All the mascot characters are (of course) real, and they all have their own motivations and personalities.

Moffle is sarcastic and grumpy, but loyal to the park. His interactions with Kanie make up a large amount of the show’s humour.

Amagi-brilliant-park-moffle-serious.png

Don’t moff with Moffle.

I also really enjoyed the Elementario fairies, and they even get their own episode! It’s one of my least favourite of the series, but still!

maxresdefault

Macaron and Tiramy, a sheep and Pomeranian dog respectively, play second banana to Moffle and fulfil something of a Larry and Curly role to Moffle’s Moe.

Oh, and they’re intensely perverse. So there’s that.

2f8a9b4d101daeb54449d7e59feac11267acb16e_hq

You can’t trick me, I watched the series.

Come to think of it, considering KyoAni’s tendency to produce sweet, beautiful animation, it’s a little surprising to see so much fanservice in play, even if it’s relatively restrained compared to some series. Then again, their more recent output does tend to feature it more and more prominently…

tumblr_o0mdcowa1n1uzwbyjo1_500.gif

How low can you go?

Regardless of the cheesecake elements, the relatively unknown English cast used to bring this series to life do an excellent job. Kanie (Adam Gibbs) is satisfactorily standoffish, Sento (Molly Searcy) is just the right amount of deadpan, while still having moments of emotion for gags, and Moffle (Tiffany Grant) steals the show with what I can only assume was a throat-shredding voice.

Amagi-Brilliant-Park-Screenshot-02

All in all, Amagi Brilliant Park is a solid series – easy to digest, colourful, and leaves you with a nice warm feeling inside. It’s the perfect summer afternoon anime, best enjoyed with a cool drink and an open window.

RECOMMENDED

While nothing about Amagi Brilliant Park is revolutionary or genre-defining, it’s a fun, light-hearted little series that knows exactly what it is and is presented to the high standard audiences expect from the venerable Kyoto Animation.

GaseousUnlinedIbadanmalimbe-small

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE