As a wild youth, elementary school student Shouya Ishida sought to beat boredom in the cruelest ways. When the deaf Shouko Nishimiya 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.
Koe no Katachi is dangerous because it is exploitative. I'm not going to pretend to know anything about deaf people. I don't. This movie certainly does not allow any greater understanding into the mind of deaf people is the point I want to iterate. It uses a serious problem as a plot device constantly and reduces Nishimiya to one-dimension. She is the textbook definition of a mary-sue as well as a damsel in distress. This is clearly troublesome when trying to explain deafness to an able-bodied audience.
Nishimiya's entire character is her illness. She is paper thin with her sole character trait being she likes
to feed fish. She is so inhuman it is gross. Moe being used in this way is offensive. Including deafness or any other handicap into anime is an exciting idea, and I laud the attempt. Sadly, the execution is simply sickening. A personality-less self-insert male character who wants to repent for mistakes he made when he was a child falls in love with the object of his errs. It's inherently questionable to approach this topic from a romantic perspective because it's hard to sympathize with an object. And that is what Nishimiya is, an object. To be affected on, for us to pity, for us to see illness in a "new light," to justify against bullying, to see the indomitable human spirit. A show like Monster works this concept excellently because it uses the object of interest (Johan) as more of a symbol. This work tries to make Nishimiya a character as deeply developed as Shouya but they foist too many roles on an underdeveloped symbol, not even mentioning her role as a character.
Shouya, Ueno, and Ishida are all flat. Their motives are drawn to plot points not to logic. Ueno shows up when things finally start moving in a direction the audience would be satisfied with in tacky KyoAni fashion. Drama in this work is so over-the-top and predictable it's borderline cringe-worthy. Even if you could swallow the unbelievable developments that lead to the saccharine mid-section of the film the way it dissolves is so inauthentic. Shouya shows no signs of development and no effort to change throughout the work and then magically obtains a group of friends.
As for the abstract? The art? If you polish it up enough and use a voice technique the audience is unfamiliar with you have the safest ticket to visual and audio praise you can muster. Are there creative shots in this work? Impressive blocking of characters? Fresh setting or new takes on animation/style? No. This is a typical KyoAni work. They stuck with what sells.
What the point is thematically I can't tell you. I can tell you that this film is successfully doing what it wanted to do. Capitalize on disease using moe with the highest budget in the industry. This work is not even average, it is bad. Please stop and think about why you feel the way you do when you watch this work. If you're crying is it because Nishimiya is a person you have become endeared by or are you crying because she's like an injured puppy? Affection for things like this a wonderful human trait, but this work is dubious.
[Story] 7 - Plot holes and cut sub-plots, excluded from the original script/manga.
[Art] 10 - Characters true to their manga designs, high quality animation.
[Sound] 7 - Creative use of sound/music. Nothing too special and memorable besides theme song.
[Character] 7 - Side characters had their story severely cut. Leaving some with empty character.
[Enjoyment] 10 - Tears, sadness, anger, happiness and laughs, the whole package.
[Overall] 8 - Definitely would watch again.
For those wondering how and where I watched this film, I watched in Japan. At Keisei Rosa10 in Chiba on September 17th.
Having read the manga 4 times over and crying every time, I went into the theater
not expecting much tears as I have pretty much dried up my emotional experience with this manga.
However, much to my surprise, it has been a very, very long time since I have cried that much while watching a movie. Even comparing to a similar anime film Anthem of the Heart, which surprisingly lacked the ability to really give me a tearful moment. Not to say it wasn't a bad movie, but if you liked that one, you will certainly like this.
Be prepared for a emotional roller coaster as the movie plays with your ever so weakening heart as the movie progresses.
That being said, this is no perfect movie. The story falls short, very short in terms of character/plot progression outside of the two main characters. Perhaps it was because of the limit of having to cram the story into a 2 hour film that the writers had to cut corners.
However, story/character development of Shoya was spot on. The movie clearly delivered his character and it was very easy to sympathize and relate to the character. Same with Shoko, though the film did leave out some specifics, the repercussions of Shoko's existence could be felt where one may even agree with Ueno who despised her.
Unfortunately, the remaining characters were pretty much left out. And the overall story was ultimately incomplete because of this. With audiences who hasn't read the manga asking why some characters were even there. Character development with the side characters were very lacking and a lot of important details were stripped apart leaving a big hole in the story.
The only character who avoided this cut was Yuzuru who retained a lot of her details and character development.
This meant that people who haven't read the manga can be very confused by the end of the movie. As I had heard people talking about while leaving the theater.
Many details were left out, but the film retained a lot of the core elements from the manga in puzzle pieces, allowing those who read the manga to fill in the gaps to understand what it means. But that also meant those who haven't were left scratching their heads.
Besides the emotional road trip of your lifetime, Nagatsuka's moments in the film are very comedic and actually funny in a lot of ways. Often when the audience was laughing, it was usually when Nagatsuka was at his antics.
As for the art, no complaints here. Besides having some overally familiar Kyoani characters faces, Kyoto Animation has done a excellent job in representing the characters true to the manga. It's no Makoto Shinkai film, but the quality is nothing to scoff at. The high quality is retained throughout the entire film and no lazy production was visible.
Voice acting was top notch and sounded very familiar to daily Japanese life. Though overall sound was okay. The creative use of music in the film is a bonus. Besides that, not much to write home about.
The movie tried to stay true to the manga as best as it could and in the core elements in delivering the original message that the manga had, it succeeded. But unfortunately while following the path, they dropped a lot of it's side content.
The movie was able to deliver the core plot of the manga.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable film and I can't wait for the disc release.
Note: I watched it at the Toho Cinema Complex in Ario Nishiarai (*I had thought I could have been the only person on this review list who had really watched it at a cinema in Japan after reading a particularly harsh review, but I was wrong).
A quick overview: Koe no Katachi is a very well done film, although not without shortcomings, and which has dealt with (a) complex issue(s), and which leaves the viewer with questions but no easy conclusions. It is a powerful enough film to remember and ponder over, and people may draw different lessons, or perhaps none.
Pros: The sound and vision (KnK
is top-notch Japanimation. I dare say that in some aspects, it is better than a Ghibli film). The ambient piano background music really matches with parts of the film, and the use of marimbas and even silence at the dramatic climax worked out well. Shoko Nishimiya is adorable when she has that half-proud and half-shy face when she does ponytail. Cute, but elegantly done and not unpleasant. However, was this better than Tamako Loves Story - I cannot tell. There were recognizably magical rooftop sequences in Yamada's K-On! and at the classroom and school ground with Midori in Tamako Love Story. I am not sure whether KnK had such "magic" moment despite its very fluid art.
Voice actors have all done a great job. Saori Hayami, Yuki Aoi, Miyu Irino were expectedly good, and Kaneko Yuki (who played Midori in Tamako) was a great pick for Ueno, another difficult character.
Con: I feel that the original manga's theme was very challenging for a very young manga artist to deal with; I also felt that some themes weren't fully explored or developed properly. Besides the bullying/redemption theme, there is an attachment/detachment in relationship theme, and on top of that, a male-female friendship and romance theme. Those themes coexisted and had resonated against each other for sure, but it's not done in a well-calculated and clear-cut way. That was the main issue of the serial manga, and to explore those themes, the manga author had to involve the characters to comes to terms with each other in a slightly forced situation (like the movie club and the event of going to a theme park).
Although the story line of the movie club was completely cut and altered, the theme park sequence was saved for the film- which still felt forced. However, I felt that Reiko Yoshida has done a nearly perfect job with script-writing and editing the story to be able to fit in for a two hours film. My only grievance is that the reason behind Nishimiya's decision at the climax was not convincingly told (which was as in the manga- but the Manga fully told Shoko's mother's sufferings of being divorced because of her child's disabilities and sis Yuzuru's side story of being bullied because of the same reason- so there was a more natural reason why Shoko should have cumulative feeling of guilt that she was making other people involved with her unhappy [and not just that sense of guilt towards breaking up Shoya's relationship with others]). Viewers might be puzzled then why Shoko had to make that decision in the climax (as it was already not exactly written convincingly to start with in the original manga).
Final verdict: Having written down the cons, this is a very challenging work of art (yes, "art", which is not simple "entertainment"), and it did choke my heart at several moments. This won't be everyone's favorite, as it deals with a serious and dark issue, and as it's not all straightforward (as in Tamako Love Story) - but it leaves viewers questioning about their own relationship with other people in the past and present.
I remember that I was reading manga, but at that time it wasn't coming out frequently and scanlating wasn't going good either, that's why I read about 9 chapters, so I barely remember any events expect the beginning of the story and main characters. But I was waiting for anime adaptation since that time. Even though kinda hoped for series, not just a movie.
I must say that I was a little worried about it airing at the same time with Kimi no Na wa, but it still seems alright, box office going good,
even though it is three times less than Kimi no Na wa (but don't compare original movie made by Makoto Shinkai with manga adaptation, even from KyoAni).
But for the first half an hour (or maybe more) I was sitting quietly, being afraid to move even, cause it grasped me completely. I was feeling anger, pity, shame, a whole parade of emotions. Story felt good and dramatic, as Japanese like to do. Never ending and always sharp problems of bullying in school, attitude to people with disabilities who are trying to fit in the society.
Animation was great. This is what you should expect from Kyoto Animation. And don't try to compare it to Kimi no Na wa, it is really just on different level from the very beginning. And camera work! It was really incredible, I loved tons of shots, how they tried to accent on legs and lower parts of the body (I mean shots excluding characters' heads :D).
But as for characters and their development, movie had some problems. Both two main characters were shown great. But such a large amount of, probably, interesting supporting characters weren't developed good enough, even though the movie is more than 2 hours. Like Mashiba (red-haired guy in anime), for instance, he said just few phrases and felt really left out. And two ex-friends of Ishida from elementary school seem to have been forgotten at all, even though there were at least two scenes with them. And there were some shots that I didn't quite understand, like, for example, why Shouya's mom was bleeding and looked really beaten up, after she gave money to Shouko's mom? She beat her, really?
In general, I enjoyed it a lot, and can say that it's the second best movie by KyoAni (after Haruhi, obviously) and it is definitely worth watching. And I probably should finally read manga completely.
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