“Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far.”
Note: I will be reffering to the movie by the japanese name because that is how the movie was promoted for me, while the Manga had the title translated.
I recommend reading my review of the first volume before reading this. There are no major spoilers. The original review can be read here.
When I first talked about the manga “A Silent Voice”, I described it as pretty good when dealing with the topic of bullying, but as for Shoko, the deaf girl who was so important to what was going on, I felt it fell short and she wasn’t given the focus she should have.
I eventually read beyond the first volume and, as I had hoped, we got much more focus on her and her own struggles.
When I got the chance to see this movie, I wondered what would the movie consider to focus on. I am relieved to say they focused on what was important.
Beyond this point, it is assumed you are aware of the basic plot.
Adapting something into a movie is a difficult process. If the source material is too short, the story may need to be greatly expanded upon (this was the case of “The Polar Express”). On the other hand, if the source material is too much and you are limited to one movie, it will come down to having to decide which parts of the story to keep and which go to the chopping board
Koe no Katachi falls into this latter group but with the distinct honor of succesfully including as much of the source material as they could. Produced by Kyoto Animation and directed by Naoko Yamada, the movie manages to adapt a surprising amount of the 7-volume manga into a 2-hour running time without making it feel tiresome.
By this I don’t mean they did not cut anything. There is plenty that was cut out, but I don’t think anything that was removed was ultimately relevant to the story as a whole.
For example, like the manga, the movie begins with a flashback showing us Shoya as a kid. In the manga, before Shoko’s introduction, The first chapter was all exposition about Shoya’s life and his family. In the movie, that is changed for a montage at the tune of “My Generation” by The Who that ends with the scene in which Shoko is formally included into the story.
To me, this is no big lose since it still retains the essence of what ultimately that chapter tried to convey: This is a kid being a kid. In contrast, something like his speech about “fighting against boredom” had no relevance outside the first few chapters. There are a couple of characters who lose most of their lines, of course, but they were pretty inconsequential to the series beyond “they used to be Shoya’s friends”.
As I mentioned before, I felt one of the biggest problems in the first volume was how much focus Shoya got compared to Shoko. Particularly because he was Shoko’s bully. And while you can argue that, given it is intended to set Shoya’s character motivation of seeking to atone, that there is a point to it, I don’t think it would have worked in the movie movie.
For something with a long format like Manga, you can have that volume-long prologue were we see Shoya basically ruining that part of Shoko’s childhood and having to learn how much of an awful perosn he was but in a movie, it is a different story.
Because you have a clear running time, you have to prioritize. You can’t expect your audience to spend 1/3 of the movie watching an extended prologue about an unlikable kid who made a little girl miserable and only then tell us “okay, now the story actually begins”. The meat of this early chapters was the consequences of Shoya’s bullying of Shoko, not the fact he once punched the little brother of one of his sister’s ex-boyfriends. Show us that, then use the time that would have been wasted in the story proper.
This brings me to what seems to be the movie’s policy for adapting: If it has Shoko and Shoya in the same scene, it MUST remain. If it doesn’t involve them in anyway, it can be removed.
Like I said before, the long-running format of a manga allows you to have more than a movie does. Sometimes the manga needs subplots so you don’t have the same plot constantly. and allows you to flesh-out your side characters The problem is that, because they are willing to cut subplots but not characters, you end up with characters, like Satoshi Mashiba, who become completely pointless to the story because they no longer have anything to do.
This is not the case with most characters, though. Tomohiro Nagatsuka, who has an important role as Shoya’s friend in present time, manages to still retain a lot of his most important moments, which is impressive when you consider one of the series biggest subplots to be removed from the movie heavily involved him.
On top of that, like I said, the relationship between Shoya and Shoko remains unchanged.
The tone remains the same. We get to see that life is not easy for this characters. The themes of bullying and suicide are still present. For me, the rating of the movie was +16. If you are not comfortable with a movie where a pre-schooler girl suffers non-stop bullying and high-schooler almost commits suicide, this movie may not be for you. The Opening scene before the flashback even has Shoya imagining jumping off the bridge.
That being said, it is treated with the same care as in the manga.
Now, I have been focusing on what the movie chose to keep or remove but an Adaptation should also include something that is not possible in the source material. Something to tell you why you should care for it when there is the original to enjoy. So, what does the movie add to the story? Two fold:
First of all, animation.
In the manga, once the flashback concludes, sign language quickly becomes more relevant to the story. The reveal that Shoya bothered to learn sign language before meeting Shoko again is the first sign that his wish for atonement is sincere. That being said, I am of the opinion that the manga cheats.
Most of the sign language in the manga is the artist drawing hand movement while someone else translates, rather than actually showing sign language.
This is not quit the case with the movie. While we still sometimes have the camera cut to somoene doing the translation, we also get to see the characters doing the hand movement in it’s entirety, and it is nice. It is not simple gestures and that’s it. Like all languages, it is both a skill and an art, and having it be animated gives it something the manga did not have.
The second, maybe ironically, is Sound.
The thing about written dialogue is that it is something which is difficult to give a very specific voice to. You can give Shoko’s dialogue a font that shows she has a speech impediment due to her deafness… yet I wasn”t able to quite get it until I saw the movie adapting said scenes.
I can’t speak japanese nor read it. If it wasn’t for the subtitles, I would not understand a word they were speaking. Yet i was able to tell that her voice was different, that she could not quite make the words as intended. I knew she had a speech impediment, but i did not fully grasp what that meant until I saw that scene.
Overall, Koe no Katachi, is a really good animated movie. Is it better than the manga? That will come down to the individual. Is it good representation for people with deafness? I feel more comfortable calling it so than I did the manga originally, but It will come down to those who are more prepared than me to say so.
Would I recommend it? Yes.
Koe no Katachi was originally created by Yoshitoki Ōima and published in the “Weekly Shonen Magazine”.
The Movie was directed by Naoko Yamada and produced by Kyoto Animation.
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