When Netflix added A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) to its streaming service on June 5th, it took me an hour to decide whether or not I wanted to become an emotional wreck. There is a reason why to this day I still haven’t mustered the courage to watch Grave of the Fireflies despite my love of Studio Ghibli masterpieces.
If you are unfamiliar with A Silent Voice, it is a heart wrenching tale of bullying and coping with its aftermath. When Shoko transfers to a new school, her classmates are quick to pick on and alienate her due to her impaired healing. One of these bullies, Shoya, finds himself thrown under the bus when he calls out the others involved, in turn becoming their new target. With the school unable to stop the harassment, Shoko transfers to another school and Shoya finds himself closing himself off from the world around him. Now in high school, he seeks out his former classmate in an effort to make amends before taking his own life.
I’d read the first volume of the manga back in 2015 when Kodansha USA released the English translation. From the first time meeting Shoko and Shoya, I knew that this was an emotional roller coaster I wasn’t ready to ride. Why, you ask? I’ll let you in on a little secret: I was bullied myself in elementary school, on a regular basis. Panel after panel of Shoya and his friends picking on the deaf transfer student, each one another knife in my heart, parallels to a childhood I don’t often revisit with good reason. Between the writing and the art, I knew I wanted to read this series and understood the importance of Shoko and Shoya’s tale.
So here I am, four years later, taking the plunge with the anime adaptation of Yoshitoki Omia’s amazing work. I made efforts to steel my heart; I watched some kick-butt action and starred in my own private training montage. I stared at myself in the mirror and told myself I would not shed a tear. When my heart fluttered, I took long sips of water or shoved food in my mouth.
And when I thought I was going to make it through to the end without shedding a tear, I broke. When it happened, it wasn’t even a scene with either of the starring characters. But the dam had been compromised. From that point on, the slightest thing caused my eyes to water and nose to sniffle. Just like the Xs covering the faces of everyone Shoya had been ignoring, my defenses fell away leaving me a vulnerable mess in need of the tissues I’d tucked away nearby in case of absolute emergency.
If you haven’t watched A Silent Voice yet, do yourself a favour and make time for it. Build yourself a nest with comforting snacks and tissues and the snuggest blankets you have. Maybe watch it with a friend so you both have an emotional support system with you. Trust me when I say you will need to talk with someone about this movie before the credits even roll.