I don't like this movie. If you do, that's great! I'm only writing this to warn people who, like me, might find this movie to be a waste of their time, and not to say anything negative about the fans of this movie.
Story - 1
I think the story, premise wise, is alright. A boy who used to be a bully tries to become friends with his old victim. However, in execution, I think this anime fails spectacularly.
The pacing, for one thing, is extremely weird. I'm fairly sure this movie was supposed to cover several months, but I never really got a clear sense of what happened when. All the scenes seemed to kind of blend together, with no sense of how much time had passed in between scenes.
I didn't feel like the characters really got anywhere, or even did much of anything. And yeah, it's a drama, but that's not really an excuse. It feels like they almost went through a checklist to make this whole thing.
-Establish cute heroine
-Gather childhood friends
-Have the characters forgive themselves/others.
-Have main characters fall in love.
This last point was the one that really stood out to me. Why does Nishimiya suddenly fall in love with Ishida? Because he's nice to her? If I fell in love with everyone who was nice to me, I would be in a lot of trouble.
No, it's not because there's any logical reason. It's because this movie needs to sell copies. I felt like that justification could fit a lot of the questions I had watching this movie. The whole experience just felt like it was engineered to be another Clannad/Anohana tearjerker, and not to stand on it's own merits. Maybe this would had worked, but I couldn't get absorbed into the experience at all. Mostly because of the awful characters.
The story is also fairly slow, with few scenes I really felt moved the plot forward or developed the characters. I don't mind slow pacing, but not when it serves nothing but to pad the movie out, and nothing else.
I'm going to get away from the actual story a bit, and talk about something that bothered me. The way mental health is portrayed in this anime is a little misleading, at best, and actively harmful at worst.
At the start of the show, the main character is planning his suicide. That itself, is fine. It felt fairly realistic to me, and I appreciate when anime explores dark themes. What DID bother me was when his mother found out. She makes it all about herself, saying "How could you do this to me?" and making him promise he won't kill himself. She NEVER listens to why he feels this way, or makes ANY attempt to try to help him or get him professional help. Honestly, this kind of reaction, while only making the situation worse by making the suicidal person feel shamed and pathetic, DOES happen in real life quite often. What I have a problem with is how the movie handles this. She apologizes later, and by the tone of the movie and her being so easily forgiven, it sends the message that this is an appropriate way to respond to learning someone is going to kill themself. The movie then pretends that just by saying he won't kill himself, he's magically fixed, and never again thinks about or attempts suicide. I wish I had known years ago that the only way to stop feeling suicidal is to just tell myself that I won't do it! /s
Seriously, IF YOU HAVE A FRIEND WHO YOU THINK IS SUICIDAL:
DO NOT MAKE IT ABOUT YOURSELF. The only appropriate thing to do is to listen to them, and let them feel heard. Don't threaten them, and do not blame them. They are already dealing with difficult feelings, by blaming them all you do is make them feel worse. Try to get them help. If they won't accept it, be there for them as best you can.
This reappears later in the movie, when waifuchan- I mean Nishimiya- also tries to kill herself. She's told that, "Everyone has suffering, so you just need to accept the bad parts of yourself". What bad parts does she even have? Her deafness, I guess? That's more of a challenge than a character flaw. Anyways, this sentiment is equally as grating. Because, obviously, depressed people just need a lecture and they'll see everything as sunshine and rainbows.
Which is essentially how this movie ends. Ishida has a revelation, and his depression is cured! I don't think the writers of this anime have struggled with mental illness. Getting better is a long, sometimes torturous process, that sometimes feels pointless. It's slow, and takes a lot of work. Nobody just wakes up and suddenly their mental illness is gone.
Art - 5
It's KyoAni. Of course the art is going to be good looking. I wasn't really impressed, though. There wasn't anything creative about color use, or shot composition, or creative visual metaphors.
Well, there is one visual metaphor, but it's a long stretch from 'creative'. To show that Ishida doesn't want to hear certain people, an X is placed over their face. I only found this extremely distracting. I know it's a cliche at this point, but why not just black out their faces, or maybe have the camera angles shot in such a way to not show their faces?
Other than that, I didn't really feel like there was much detracting, in the way of artwork. This isn't exactly art related, but why did the anime hide the black guy for so long? It showed the rest of the family near the start of the movie, and Ishida's brother-in-law is only shown at the end, as if it's supposed to be some kind of funny revelation. What is funny about a character being black? I guess that's Japan for you, but it felt kind of scummy.
Sound - 4
I didn't really notice the music, for the most part, which is kind of the problem. The music never added anything for me. I noticed in particular during one emotional scene that there was no music. Was that deliberate? Who knows!
The voice acting was alright. Pretty standard anime fare. I was a little worried, going into this movie, that Nishimiya would go from not talking to having a perfect anime girl voice. I thought her voice was pretty convincing. I don't think I'm the greatest judge, because I've only heard deaf people talk via TV shows, but I was convinced. I looked up the voice actress to see if she was actually deaf, because I thought she might be. (She wasn't. I think it might have been better to have an actual deaf person, but I don't think it's too big of a deal)
Characters - 2
Oh boy, where do I start?
The biggest problem I have with the characters in this anime is that they lack any depth. It was obvious there was an attempt to give them depth, but this creates what irritated me perhaps the most about this movie: The characters are only portrayed as completely good or completely bad depending on what the movie wants you to feel at that specific time. When the characters are supposed to be seen as 'bad' they behave in completely disgusting ways. Then, later, the movie pretends they've gone through some kind of arch by having them apologize for it later, and never act that way again. I can excuse this in the case of Ishida- He's grown up significantly, and has gone through enough suffering to develop empathy. But the others- Nishimiya's mother and sister, and Kawai, for the most part- it just feels extremely fake.
Ishida was probably my favorite character out of all of them, but that only means that I found him slightly less obnoxious and unbelievable than the rest of the cast. I understand why he does most of what he does, and his character is bland, but in a way I could see a real kid turning out. I don't like that he never seems to take initiative and actually DO anything (Stand up to the one bully, tell his classmates who were bad-mouthing him to fuck off, go past the sister when she says he can't see Nishimiya) but again, that's the sort of issue I could understand a real teenager having.
Nishimiya is what I like to call 'waifu-bait'. She's so bland, so vanilla, so forgiving, that most weeb viewers will want her merchandise and dakimakura. What are her interests? What does she do in her free time? Is there anything unlikable about her whatsoever? Can you answer these questions? I don't think you really could. It feels like a deliberate choice on the part of the writers/ directors, in my opinion, to not give her any strong personality traits, so as to not alienate any viewers. It could be argued that they wanted to portray her sympathetically, to not make it seem like she's unlikable because she's deaf, I suppose. But as a pansexual man, the only gay characters who offend me are terribly written ones. I can't speak for the deaf audience, but if I were deaf, I would be angry to be portrayed in such a mindless, creatively-dead way.
Then there's Ueno. She's straight-up a bitch. I don't think they were even trying to show her as anything more than a mean, one-dimensional character. I know soooo many people in real life who are just mean for no reason, and never attempt to even think rationally. /s She only exists in this movie to be the villain, and nothing more.
I already kind of covered Nishimiya's family. They go from completely unlikable to saints in the span of about ten seconds. I don't really have anything more to say.
The only other character I think it worth mentioning is the best friend character, Nagatsuka. (Did you remember his name? I sure didn't!) He's fairly annoying, although in the way I could sort of relate to. I've had loud, kind of weird friends before, and they've been some of the best friends I've ever had. So his involvement in the movie was maybe the only time I could see myself in the character's shoes. I didn't like the way he seemed very... comic-relief, I suppose? He would be saying very serious stuff, but I felt as though the movie didn't want me to take him seriously. The way he was drawn was, I think, the biggest factor in this. He's a fairly serious character in a pretty serious movie, and yet, KyoAni drew him as a blob. Between him and Haru from Accel World, I'm beginning to wonder if any of these animators have ever actually seen a fat person. As someone who has, having such an unrealistic character took me out of the movie somewhat. I might be the only person bothered by this, but oh well.
Everyone else is forgettable, in my opinion. One-dimensional background characters.
Entertainment - 2
I really felt like this movie felt very 'anime'. It wasn't trying to tell a good story, or trying to show its audience any nuance or complexity. It is made to sell merchandise. I honestly wish it had entertained me. I don't go into shows thinking, "Oh boy, I can't wait to hate this show and drag down its MAL score!" I wanted to like this movie. But when the story is so bland and the characters so inhuman and obnoxious, I just can't.