A Silent Voice | Koe no Katachi

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.

A Silent Voice Synopsis

A boy named Shoya Ishida sets his affairs in order and walks to a bridge, intending to commit suicide. Coming to his senses at the last minute, he recalls his days in elementary school, and the events that have led him to this point in his life. In those days, Shoya was an indifferent child, one who viewed his fellow students as a way of staving off his boredom. The entry of a new student named Shoko Nishimiya into his class piques his interest ; she informs the class, through writing in a notebook, that she is deaf. In spite of her disability and her inability to speak well, she tries her best to live normally and mesh with the class, but the other students, and the teacher as well, come to believe her presence is upsetting the social balance; they feel she is imposing on them through her handicap. Shoya, who already considers her odd, begins to bully and harass her without end; the class, more amused than shocked, does not intervene in the situation.

One day, Shoya yanks out her hearing aids, causing her ears to bleed; soon after, the school’s management is made to realize what is happening, and the principal confronts the class about it. The teacher, suddenly infuriated, singles out Shoya as the culprit; Shoya, cornered, truthfully names his friends as accomplices, but they turn on him, vehemently denying their involvement. Soon, the class’s bullying is directed toward him; they subject him to the same treatment he gave to Shoko. Coming to blame Shoko for his situation, the two fight in their classroom after he finds her doing something to his desk; following this, she is transferred to another school, and he discovers that she was erasing hateful messages his classmates left in chalk on his desk. Shoya finds himself alone in his predicament, relegated to the role of a tormented outcast. One day, after being thrown in a pond by his classmates, he finds Shoko’s notebook, which he had thrown there some time earlier.

Now in high school, Shoya remains a social reject; his past is often brought up by his former friends, something he has grown to accept as just punishment. Full of guilt, shame and anxiety, he blocks out the faces of those around him, unable to look them in the eye. He works hard to repay his mother for the money she had to pay the school to replace the numerous hearing aids he destroyed. He visits the sign language center to return Shoko’s once-waterlogged notebook in the hopes of making amends; when he tells her that he wants to be friends, he remembers that she once made the same hand gestures to him, finally understanding that, through his torment of her, she had only wanted to be his friend.

Yuzuru, Shoko’s younger sister, introduces herself as Shoko’s protective, young boyfriend; she strongly doubts Shoya’s intentions, knowing his history, and acts to prevent him from meeting Shoko. At school, Tomohiro Nagatsuka, another loner, befriends Shoya and quickly comes to considers him his “big friend”; he acts against Yuzuru, aiding Shoya in his efforts. Shoko and Shoya begin meeting at a bridge to feed bread to koi; one day, while Shoya and Shoko feed the koi, the waterlogged notebook accidentally falls into the river, and Shoko jumps in after it, as does Shoya. Watching from a distance, Yuzuru photographs Shoya jumping, which happens to be prohibited, and posts the photo online.

When the photo reaches the school management, Shoya is suspended, and Yuzuru reveals that she posted the photo; instead of getting angry, Shoya brings Yuzuru to stay at his house after he sees her sleeping in the park, appearing homeless. When Yuzuru leaves in the middle of the night, Shoya goes after her and tells her that he is genuinely remorseful for the way he treated Shoko, and Yuzuru reveals her true identity to him. Shoko and Yuzuru’s mother, Yaeko, realizes her daughters are meeting with Shoya and demands that they stop, but they refuse to do so.

Shoko expresses a desire to reconnect with Miyoko Sahara, the only classmate who was kind to her in elementary school; she and Shoya take the train to visit her. By chance, Shoya also runs into Naoka Ueno, one of his old bullying accomplices; although Naoka is apologetic toward him for the past, she remains antagonistic towards Shoko, blaming her for what has happened.

Shoko soon gives Shoya a gift and confesses she has feelings for him, but because she tries to speak her affections, rather than signing it out, Shoya does not understand her. Worried that the misunderstanding upset her, Shoya invites her to go to an amusement park with him and his former friends. There, Ueno finally voices her sentiments to Shoko. Back at school, desperate to remain blameless, Miki Kawai, yet another classmate, exposes Shoya’s past to the remaining students who were still oblivious to it, while downplaying her own involvement. Soon after, the group has a heated confrontation about each member’s level of responsibility which ends with Shoya callously calling out every one of them for who they really are; one by one, they leave Shoya, Yuzuru, and Shoko behind.

To cheer Shoko up after the death of her grandmother, Shoya takes Shoko for a visit to the countryside, where he begins to understand how much she blames herself for everything that has happened to him. Desperate to reassure and change her mindset, Shoya contrives to meet with the sisters again and again. Shoko eventually invites him over to her house, where he helps the sisters prepare for what turns out to be their mother’s birthday.

During the fireworks festival, Shoko goes back to their apartment under the guise of finishing some schoolwork; Yuzuru then sends him there to get her camera. When he arrives, he finds Shoko standing on the balcony, on the verge of throwing herself to her death. Shoya succeeds in grabbing her before she falls and pulls her back up, but he falls over the side into the river as a result. As he slips into a coma, causing all of his classmates to reach their breaking point.

At the hospital, Yaeko and Yuzuru arrive to see Shoya’s mother and instantly fall to their knees and ask for forgiveness, presumably due to the resentment she had for Shoya. Yuzuru blames herself for Shoko’s suicide attempt. Outside, Ueno harasses and screams at Shoko, blaming her for Shoya’s coma until Yaeko pulls her off of her daughter while Shoya’s mother consoles Shoko.

One night, Shoko dreams of receiving a farewell visit from Shoya. Horrified, she runs to the bridge where they fed the koi and collapses in tears; Shoya, awakening from his coma in a state of panic, stumbles to the bridge himself and finds her there, huddled in despair. He formally apologizes to her for the way he treated her, and for the many things he did which may have caused her to hate herself; he asks her to stop blaming herself, and also admits that, while he once considered giving up himself and ending his own life, he has since decided against it. Shoya then asks her to help him continue to live.

When Shoya goes to the school festival with Shoko, he finds out how much his friends from elementary school still care for him – Kazuki Shimada and Keisuke Hirose were the ones who pulled Shoya out of the river; Naoka took care of him in the hospital; and Kawai tried to gather a thousand paper cranes for Shoya. Lastly, Shoko has gone around to apologize to his friends in an effort to rebuild the group. After Shoya returns to school, finally managing to look at people’s faces, he realizes that he has already found redemption and forgiveness at last.

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