I want to say first off, I am not Deaf. I know very little about Deaf culture or the struggles that the community, the Deaf themselves, or even their families, would face, when integrating into the hearing world. The opinions here are my own, and based on a limited knowledge base, where Deaf culture and Deaf life is expressed. If I am wrong, I’ll take it, along with any corrections and new bits of information that would help develop better …. well informed … (vocabulary…) opinions.
Koe no Katachi – The shape of voice – a story about a boy who’s continually guilty about having bullied a Deaf classmate when they were in elementary school, and feels that the having no friends thing that came up after the class basically threw him to the wolves after her mother called the school to address the situation when her eighth pair of hearing aids in a month or so gets damaged, was deserved.
But no, wait! I swear it’s better than I make it sound.
Seriously, please you need to watch this if you already haven’t.
The high points for me in watching this are well, not numerous, but there are a few. One being that for the many years I’ve watched anime, there were few that actually showed protagonists with disabilities as ruling or functioning or even just living and exceeding expectations. In fact I think the same is true outside of anime.
Well, there was FMA. And Switched at Birth. And Toph was pretty badass as a bender. and as a character in general. But I think for every one show I’ve watched, there are probably like 30 that didn’t explore a character as having a disability.
Honestly, it was a little bit….. refreshing? I guess? that Nishimiya was capable, but we see her struggling to communicate with her classmates. Which leads to another thing I liked about it. Parents sometimes opt for mainstream education for their children, which is what happened in the movie. And also, how her classmates had trouble communicating with her. Which led to conflict, which leads to movie plot, which-
Okay, but here’s the thing, mainstreaming deaf children would have some difficulties. Which weren’t addressed effectively in the school. There was a little attempt for integrating Japanese Sign Language into the classroom, with a session before classes begun, to get the students to understand their fellow classmate a little better. And Nishimiya does get a chance to sign and communicate with her classmates in her own language, something that the other students – and I – take for granted. Ishida, himself, takes JSL classes later on, and we do get to see him sign with Nishimiya later when they reconnect. That tickled me, being a language nerd, because outside of photographs of one JSL sign, -baseball- I dunno much about it. So it was nice to see. We don’t really see much classroom action, but when we do, I have to admit, the lack of an interpreter was obvious. When it was Nishimiya’s turn to read, other students had to prompt her. Why not have an interpreter for her tho? Expense?
Also kids are meaaaaannn. Most rejected any chance to better understand the new Deaf girl or learn from her. Poor girl had 8 pairs of hearing aids damaged in one form or another. And multiple kids were responsible for bullying her or allowing her bullies to continue, then throw one of their own under the bus. wow kids. Y’all are cold.
I liked, too, how Nishimiya’s family stepped up for her. Her grandmother learned sign language, her mother basically bitchslapped anyone who bullied her daughter for her deafness. But within the family unit, her deafness was just another part of life for them. Her younger sister looked out for her, but it wasn’t just because of her deafness. She looked out for her, as any sister would for her siblings – who do you like? how did they react? why confess nowwwwwww????!!!! Overall, her deafness didn’t hamper how she interacted with them, whether verbally, through text, or through signing. And I loved how the writers almost made it a point to show not only how difficult it can be for the deaf, in a world that doesn’t cater for lack, but also, how normal life is for Nishimiya. She’s a teen dealing with teen troubles. She’s as normal as anyone else.
I could probably continue to list things that I liked about it, where learning about Deaf culture and Deaf life is concerned, but I think I’ve trampled through enough spoiler territory for one day.
At the end of the day though, it falls pretty snugly into Slice-of-life boy-likes-girl/girl-likes-boy territory. If you’re like me and a closet romantic, you’d like it. You get lots of that, which seems to be a staple for a good half of the Slice-of-life anime I’ve watched. But what makes it different is the expression of a very real divide that really needs to be addressed.
It did as the title promised, and presented the need of voice, and to be heard and understood. For both Nishimiya and Ishida. Nishimiya got communication with the hearing. Ishida learned to properly express himself to others. They’re the perfect parallels, from their being bullied and targeted to their obvious struggles with their lives, and their relationships with their families. They are the same, despite their differences. The movie didn’t only focus on that by making Nishimiya’s Deafness the key plot. Instead, it incorporated it, and mixed it in effectively. Nishimiya was a part of a whole in their group of friends. She was equally affected by the past and present as everyone was.
Basically I love this movie. I endorse it.
Go watch it. It’s worth it.