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Koe no Katachi: How We Communicate | A Silent Voice Analysis


The sounds of the people around him are muffled, hollow, and full of static. He can’t look anyone in the face He lifts his hands to his ears, blocks out all noise but the ringing in his head, and Shouya Ishida shuts himself off from the world. Koe no Katachi explores how we communicate by crafting a visceral sensory experience built off the many languages of nonverbal expression. It’s about our pursuit of empathy, our attempts to understand each other more than our words can say. The film twists the conventional idea of language through its synesthetic use of sound. Be it the vibrations of a beating heart, waves rippling across water or the burst of fireworks; these visual and tactile representations of sound illustrate how varied this interaction is. The shape of voice is far more complex than our words. Director Naoko Yamada carefully constructs the universality of sound by illustrating the ways we interact with it beyond voice. So much of Koe’s nuance lies in the images and sounds connecting meaning together more so than story. As a director, Yamada seems primarily concerned with eliciting the feeling of her work, going so far as to purposefully muddy narrative detail if it better allows the meaning to come across. The information isn’t treated as most important. The emotion is. We’re not told exactly why Shouko can only have one hearing aid, instead this comes through much stronger in her reaction. Similarly, when their grandmother passes away, Yuzuru doesn’t tell Shouya, rather tries playing it off before admitting she feels scared. Shouko and Yuzuru share a moment connected through a butterfly after the funeral. Shots isolate Yuzuru first before the butterfly comes over, consoling her. It then moves to the other side of the reflection pool and comforts Shouko, bringing their gaze to each other where the loneliness of their grief dissipates. It’s a testament to how much you can say without saying anything at all. The film plays with sounds to juxtapose information conveyed. For instance when Shouko reveals she’s deaf, we hear the sharp snap of Shouya’s pencil breaking and the loud bursts of his game. When he first bullies Shouko, the montage is paired with a playful upbeat track, but when the tables are turned, the images of Shouya getting bullied take on a more somber tone, as we’re receiving these scenes from his perspective. Small character moments reveal as much or more about them as people than any exposition could. Like Shouya gently lifting his niece down from her chair or Ueno’s quick glance to him at Shouko’s introduction. Often we aren’t informed of the character’s thoughts and feelings through what they say, but in how they carry themselves. Shouya’s walk here captures his aimless direction, with slumped shoulders and a hunched back, an immediate contrast to his carefree strut as a child. In between director Naoko Fujita says the staff fixated on this difference in walks, which makes the divide between Shouya’s past and present self strikingly clear. The entire opening montage perfectly establishes Shouya’s life as a little hellraiser, made better by Yamada’s insistence on The Who’s “My Generation” as the song. Like most kids he pays little attention to the parts of his world that don’t interest him, passing right by what it looks like Shouko wet and covered in leaves, much like how Shouya looks after his friends turn on him. The past sequence centers on Shouya’s inability to understand and communicate with Shouko. Writing, touch, expression, hand movement, voice; we see her reach out to him through every avenue she can, but he fails to connect to her each time. The teacher taps her shoulder to get her to introduce herself. Careful animation lets you feel his touch as Shouko slightly jolts in response. Kawai and Ueno later do the same, but Shouya throws pebbles at her to draw her attention. Shouko first communicates to the class through the writing in her notebook. Shouya uses it to abuse her. She asks him to be her friend through sign language. He throws it in her face. She grabs his hand hoping to make amends, he pulls it away. Most of all, Shouya can’t read her. Shoukos detailed expressions reveal as much about her as anything. She maintains an honest smile through it all, even as her peers seclude her. Yamada relies on isolation shots to take a snapshot of the character’s psyche through how they occupied the space. For instance, this shot boxes Shouya in after Ueno causes him to feel removed from the world again, and later we get a sense of his anxiety by the cut-off way he’s framed. Here isolating shots distance Shouko from her classmates, before they eventually leave. Her smile here carries such heartbreaking weight. She’s so earnest in her efforts to make friends. Above all, Shouko’s determined smile confuses Shouya. No matter how much he threatens her, Shouko smiles back. Finally, his inability to understand her leads to their fight in the classroom and this last moment of distance. While the past painfully illustrates how Shouya’s failure to communicate with Shouko caused him to lash out, and in turn lose his communication with the world around him, the present is about how he comes to that place of understanding and opens the world back up. He learns to connect to her each way he failed to in the past, starting with sign language. Again, Shouko’s expression tells us exactly what’s running through her head in this masterful piece of character animation. When he catches up with her, he asks if they could be friends exactly like she did once. Shouya audibly realizes her meaning from back then, and we can see a faint smile from behind her notebook. A pillow shot of more ripples in a pond connect it to the next scene, Shouya’s dream of the interaction. Here he can’t see her clearly and their voices sound underwater. Shouya has a long way to go before truly connecting with her. Though this disconnect with people was initially forced upon him, it’s not so anymore. He imagines his classmates’ conversations about him, and when one tries to get his attention, Shouya ignores him. Nagatsuka is the first person to break through Shouya’s wall. He doesn’t know how to react to his newfound friendship at first But quickly grows comfortable and happy with it. Nagatsuka in his goofy antics inadvertently says something really pertinent. Friendship lies somewhere beyond words, what Shouya can’t use to connect with Shouko, and logic. How can anyone be friends with the person who bullied them? A major question in all this is “why?”. What’s Shouyas motivation for reconnecting with Shouko? Why does he want to see her? First, he thinks he did so as a formality, a tying of loose ends before he killed himself. Ueno later suggests he saw her out of guilt, while Yuzuru questions if he did it for some white-knight mentality. That he pities her, and only treats her well to make himself feel like a good person. You can sense that Yuzuru’s been through this before. She’s seen how some treat the disabled like pets, rather than people. Shouya readily admits he wanted to reconnect with Shouko for himself, but also realizes he just doesn’t want to make her cry anymore. He wants her to like herself. Truthfully, there is no simple answer, but something compels him towards her nonetheless. On the train the two are framed as if they’re facing away on opposite sides but in actuality they’re facing towards each other. Shouya can’t bring himself to look directly at her, until Shouko breaks the barrier between them by mailing him. She’s established another form of communication they lost, written words. When Shouya reads her message, then he is able to look at her. Yamada manipulates lighting and color to control the temperature of a scene as well as anybody. As Shouko rides the train to meet Shouya later on, the shot is covered in the cool, soft hue of the sunrise. On their way back, with the mood much heavier, the color turns to a harsher, rich cover. Here the scene is bathed in a warm light as Shouko and Shouya face each other, a new door standing between them. Still, Shouya can’t reach her. During the confession scene, Shouko wears her hair in a ponytail and brings him a gift, but Shouya doesn’t get the meaning of these gestures. She tries her best to communicate her feelings to him with her voice, but he can’t understand her. Bit by bit the world opens back up to him. The people he closed off from his life start to come back, for better or worse. Shouya wonders if he should be allowed to have such happiness. Everything we hear and see is influenced by Shouya’s perspective. Much of the shot composition, coloration, sound direction etc., comes from his point of view. The camera carefully captures the faces of only those in Shouya’s inner circle, Avoiding Ueno in particular. We also see Ueno’s confrontation with Shouko the same way as Shouya: second hand. Though they came to this place in different ways, Shouko and Shouya both hate themselves. There isn’t any one reason or moment why either. Their feelings of self-loathing run deeper than any simple explanation could provide. Yamada treats her character’s emotions with the utmost respect. Instead of viewing them as vehicles for the story, she takes great care in treating them as real people. The guilt over the pain he caused Shouko and his mother eats away at Shouya. Unlike Kawai, whose intense cognitive dissonance prevents her from seeing the pain caused by her own actions, Shouya seems fully aware of the consequences to his. When she announces what happened to the class, his “you did it too!”-respond feels weak and forced. He torments himself inside with her brett, so much so the anxiety of facing his classmates makes him sick to his stomach. Shouya believes he’s a horrible person, so he’ll play the villain, calling everyone out on their self deceptions and flimsy pretenses of friendship with the tone of almost disheartened apathy. He can’t connect with them. Disappointed and nearly brought to tears, Shouko’s smile can’t draw the pain written across her face. Shouya and Shouko’s trip to Yoro Park illustrates how far they’ve come, as the two seem much more comfortable on the other’s presence, but it underscores Shouko’s inner torment. She blames herself for all that’s happened, believing her presence to be an inconvenience, the source of everyone’s unhappiness. Conversely, Shouya looks at Shouko and still sees her from their childhood, with all the pain he caused. He tries to reassure her, but the light blocks out her face where we can’t see her expression. More isolation shots show how Shouya feels closed off from everyone again, even the people who care about him Shouko meanwhile struggles with the weight of her self-loathing. Constant visual cues foreshadow her suicide attempt during the fireworks. Characters are repeatedly seen jumping into rivers for instance. Shouko is always just out of reach for Shouya. When she leaps from the bridge, he misses her hand. When he slips and falls, she can’t grab him. Frames of Shouko from behind, some of the few times we can’t see her expression, mirror the image of her on the balcony. We see – and more importantly hear – shots of people happily enjoying the festival. But when the camera cuts to Shouko, looking out on the open sky, the sound cuts off. Here we see just how deep Shouko’s wounds run, how closed off and detached she feels. The fireworks give her a moment of normality, where she truly feels a part of the world around her. For once she can join in the shared experience we take for granted, but the moment, much like the fireworks themselves, is impermanent, fleeting. Shouko repeatedly relies on vibration to communicate with her surroundings, including twice when she realizes Shouya’s presence through the vibration of a railing. Shouya now understand how she feels the fireworks through the vibrations by the ripples in her drink, another barrier between them is broken. Before we have any time to reflect on this however, Shouko abruptly leaves. Shouya gives the sign for “see you later” as usual, but Shouko, smiling back, pauses for what seems like forever and returns with “thank you”. A perfect case in rising tension, Yamada gives Shouko’s suicide attempt the respect it deserves. We don’t see the action itself It’s a personal moment for Shouko, and perhaps the most visually striking sequence in the film. Koe no Katachi centers around ugly emotions, but depicts these moments and environments beautifully, striking a delicate balance between the heaviness of these issues and the hope for better. For the first time, Shouya manages to grab hold of Shouko before she falls. He laments his failure to communicate clearly with her and pleades, that starting now, he’ll change. Continuing one of the films central messages: “You can change, starting now.” In the past, Shouya’s mother tells him to be a good person from today on, after learning of his bullying and facing Shouko’s mom. On the roller coaster, Sahara recalls how she used to be afraid of rides like this, but doesn’t want to let her fears guide her any longer. She’s still scared, but plunges ahead anyway, letting go with her hands in the air while Shouya holds on tight. Facing your fears of a roller coaster is a lot simpler than your fears of people of course, and Sahara still runs away from confrontation, until Shouko echoes Shouya, telling her she can change, starting now. You can’t change the past, but you can change the future. Thus begins the film’s lasting resolution. When Yuzuru and her mother apologize at Miyako’s feet, she tells them to get up. This isn’t theirs to give, it’s Shouko’s. She spent nearly the whole film apologizing for everything, but finally here, she means it. White daisies accompany the shot, which could signify innocence or new beginnings, a fit given this is the moment Shouko speaks openly, truly apologizes from her heart and resolves to forge a way forward. Talking to Nagatsuka, who understands that friends are people who accept each other wholeheartedly, she says she wants to fix what Shouya created with a serious look on her face, to restore what she believes she destroyed. Still, Shouya has to open himself up to the others first. Shouko has a dream where she’s friends with everyone in the class, but Shouya is not there. We catch a glimpse of his old friends wet after rescuing him from the water, and see Shouko and Shouya’s first conversation when they meet in the present written on screen. It all shows how Shouko realizes she wants and needs Shouya in her life and why. Finally, Shouya understands her feelings and fully communicates with her. Their movements mirror each other as they wipe the tears from their eyes. At last, Shouya makes a formal apology for the events of the past, realizing he only understood her in ways convenient to him. Shouko blames herself because she didn’t change, she didn’t grow to accept herself, but in reality, they both felt the same. He clasps her hands together in the “friend”-sign and puts his over hers, communicating his feeling through touch, as he bridges this final gap between them. Shouya comes to understand Shouko now in every way he failed to then: Hand movement, writing, expression, vibration, touch. Each time he communicates with her in new ways, the wave-motif bookends the scene. With him finally reaching her, now Shouya is ready to reconnect with the world. Still scared to face everyone, Shouko essentially tells him “It’s okay to look down. I’ll look for you.” It seems to say “you don’t have to face your fears alone. You can rely on others to help guide you home.” Shouya’s still only able to look Shouko in the face. When he exits the bathroom, he immediately looks at her and glances away when he sees everyone else. Gradually, he looks each in the face one by one, starting with Ueno earlier, then Nagatsuka, Kawaii and Mashiba. Sahara can’t make eye contact with him in the same way, still scared, but she too finds the courage to bring her gaze back up Shoko allowed Shouya to look up. She reopened the world to him. As he walks through the festival, all the noise is still muffled, as if underwater. He lifts his hands from his ears, lets the sound back in, and sees everyone clearly again. The world comes back. ♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫ With Koe no Katachi, Yamada captures the invaluable beauty of sound. It devotes much attention to visual and material representations of sound to highlight now nuanced this interaction is. Even its title, “The Shape of Voice”, gives a sense of tangibility to an otherwise abstract construct. Communication goes so far beyond what we say with our words. The film doesn’t treat any form as inherently more precious, rather all, a unique integral part to our understanding of each other I’ll leave you with this quote from Yamada on how she settled on forgiveness as the theme of the work. “I thought this would be a very difficult position to approach positively. When you’re unable to think of yourself positively, that also gets in the way of you understanding what others feel. We all have worries and many things that we feel guilt over, so we might lose the courage to love ourselves. Since I also have that melancholic part of myself, I wanted to make a film that ultimately said: “It’ll be ok.” A beating heart, images of the people we care about, a point of light, opening up. This is the shape of voice. ♪♫♪♫♪

100 Replies to “Koe no Katachi: How We Communicate | A Silent Voice Analysis”

  • Absolutely superb 👏👏 thank u for this analysis i love this movie and looking at this makes me appreciate it that much more👌❤

  • This video itself is a piece of art. I’ve always had such bittersweet and admiring feelings for this movie and I could never put it into words. But you have, so thank you. Please keep making videos like this!!

  • "I lub moon"….. God that part just breaks me. She's saying "I love you" you twit! But the message got across eventually. What a beautiful movie.

  • I’m really not a big anime guy. But this movie speaks to me. Don’t mind the pun, but this movie really messes with your heart and it really teaches you things.

  • I think I've seen this video 3 or 4 times now. IT always finds its way back to my recommended videos. And every time I've watched it I've cried. This movie is beautiful beyond my ability to explain it, and I want to thank you for for this video and it's periodic reminders of that beauty and depth.

  • This anime DESTROYED me. I cried so much at the end. Hours. I felt so angry at those little shits for tormenting that sweet girl Shoko. When she tried to end her life I shouted at the screen. I cried so much at this film. I suffer from depression, and I understand the self-loathing and hate well. This is probably the best film, live action or animated, that I have ever seen.

  • Man that eye aversion from Shoya reminds me of myslef. For totally different reasons but ultimately for the same reason. That really hit home when I realized I do the same thing.

  • It's highly convenient for me that if I need to clear out my tear ducts, all I need to do is play a YouTube video about Koe no Katachi.

  • I really wish this had a sequel or at least a 30 minute ending to see where they ended up afterwards.

    Edit: actually no I just wish Shoya and Shoko kissed, I think that is what is making me sad this movie ended so soon.

  • Im an overall happy person with very little experience in any of this stuff but this movie had my bawling can’t lie

  • This movie is such a bop. I watch it for the first in a couple weeks ago and i already wanns watch it again.

  • God. Even just listening to an explanation of the movie makes me cry. I’m so happy it’s in Netflix now.

  • The manga's or I guess the original intention is actually "You can't change, but it's the amount of time you spend changing that matters" By the way, fucking amazing analysis! Love you for this man! This made me appreciate me even more than before. I wish you added more from the manga too.

  • I swear I would immediately make friends with people who are deaf and do my best to speak asl even if I'm terrible at asl. This movie made me cry nonstop

  • Koe no Katachi was the third anime that have ever made me cried, the first one which connected to me so much and I think to some of us can relate to Shoya and Shoko. Both of them hate themselves for their incapability of communicating with other people. Sometimes we fail to talk to our friends, we fail to understand them, fail to find the right words to say when they are in pain and we couldn't help to blame ourselves for that. This movie is beautiful and it stroke my heart deeply. And thank you, Under The Scope, for making this video, it made me realize how much of a masterpiece this movie truly is.

  • Your Name was beautiful, but watching it 2 times is enough
    I could watch Koe no Katachi a thousand times over and over again… that's truly a masterpiece.

  • You made me feel like I just lived a thousand lifetimes and every single time, I watched this with the same feeling of awe I first felt watching the first time. Thank you.

  • The end of the movie, where he lets the sound back in and let's himself look at everyone, is a very real and very amazing and intelligent way of showing everything. It's hard to explain what I mean, but when I finally escaped depression and saw things in a positive light again, everything truly did change. It felt like I could actually see the colors surrounding me, I could see the brightness of the sun, I could feel the warmth and the breeze, and I could truly hear people and understand them again. It truly is a life changing experience but it's amazing and I loved how they showed that, because I and many others can probably relate to and understand the meaning behind it.

  • Hey I'm not sure if I'm the only one or if I'm just like thinking too much on it. But doesnt the scene where Shoya is looking down while holding an umbrella and listening to Yuzuru, look kind of like he is talking to his past self. Since he thought it was OK to bully her before, but after he started getting bullied he kind of understood what he did wrong. Yuzuru lashing out on him and the scene only showing his feet, looks kind of like his past self is screaming at him (Shouya) for what he did. Lol. I'm not sure if I'm just overthinking it lol

  • One of the few movies I've seen that I can say is honestly perfect. I was crying multiple times throughout, and flat out sobbing by the end. I'd never even heard of this movie before, but was really intrigued by the trailer on netflix, and ended up being completely blown away by the animation, symbolism, story, soundtrack, everything. I'll never regret watching this masterpiece.

  • One part of anime I love is names have meaning. Shoya Ishida translates to "It is good". Which I thought was a fun way of saying he was good at heart all along.

  • Man I just CANNOT watch your videoes without tearing up, the way you talk about the shows you like is so beautiful

  • I watched A Shape of Voice for the first time without the sound or with hardly any sound on purpose to keep from waking up my family because it was night time, but now I want to watch the movie again with sound.

    As someone who has attempted suicide, in a very similar way as Shoko, though I was forcefully stopped twice before I could jump and then after a conversation with a lot of tears I had to agree to go inside though I still wanted to die, I thought the movie was done in a very realistic way–something good can happen the very same day as an attempt. It can seem like the strangest, most random thing in the world. I had not planned on suicide that day or even before that day, but so many things added up to the point I was so exhausted and overwhelmed by mental images and thoughts that I could not stop it and decided enough was enough. It's not good, but it's very understandable from someone who has been overwhelmed to that point before. I wanted to end the pain and didn't know how else how to. But I'm alive now and doing much better.

    To anyone who struggles with suicidal thoughts/feelings or self-hate: Find a counselor you can trust and connect with, someone you feel/know is helping you. Get help, and don't let yourself make up excuses for not getting help. Your existence matters, and your mental/emotional health matters far more than experiencing some discomfort, getting out of your comfort zone by seeking help. Think of it as an adventure. You're on a journey to health, and you're the hero. When I finally found a counselor I could trust, I learned so much about how to manage my mental health and my feelings, catching myself before anxiety explodes, allowing myself pockets of time to de-stress or exercise to get out intense feelings instead of bottling up my feelings till I explode, learning to show myself self-compassion and be able to check in with close friends regularly as a safety net, learning how to forgive myself and lessen the scariness of intrusive, violent images and thoughts over time.

    It's a process, but it is doable and possible. I am in a much better place emotionally and mentally than I was last year. I want to live. I am able to live, even when I momentarily get overwhelmed by something. I'm able to remember that the moment will pass. Feelings change. Situations change. Possible solutions exist. Take care of your physical health as much as possible too, because often it's connected to your emotional/mental health. For instance, Candida/parasites and vitamin deficiencies. They're real and can cause chaos in emotional/mental health.

    Take care of yourself. You can have a happy life despite everything that led up to where you are now. Just like in the movie, things can change for the better. You are loved. And I know this might be weird, but I believe that even if no one else does, God loves you and cherishes you a lot and I pray you experience his wonderful love.

    I hope this helps someone.

  • That's why i always thought that a silent voice was better than your name it moved me more bcuz i know someone of every one of the kind of people silent voice has

  • This movie brought me to tears. Its not a sad story by any means. Its a beautiful story. I can't describe it in words, truly a masterpiece.

  • When you said friendship lies somewhere beyond words and logic, I felt that since one of my closest friends now was my middle school bully.

  • Why was the mom giving the chick money and why did she have blood on her ears where earrings would have been

  • Me: Oh, this was such a good analysis, It captured and explained everything so well and WHY THE FRIDGE AM I CRYING ITS NOT EVEN THE ACTUAL MOVIE

  • Honestly, I didn’t cry once in this movie, I don’t understand how it’s sad that you have to cry. Ive never been bullied so maybe that’s why idk

  • I didn’t quite understand the movie when i watched it, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so crazy about this film. Yea the visuals are amazing but i didnt get emotional or shed tears or felt that clumping you feel in your chest but after this video i might understand more of the value in this movie. thank you I’ll try this movie one more time.

  • This film is magnificent and beautiful in all its aspects. I woke up earlier in the morning finally deciding to watch this animated film. I've been greeted with a big surprise when I found myself bawling my eyes out in the first few minutes of the movie. The feelings that were delivered to me were so impactful that I'm still experiencing the emotional roller coaster. What can I say… This is such a wonderful movie, and I'm inspired in many ways to pursue my dreams, and to be more appreciative of others and their thoughts. I appreciate every detail in this movie. Naoko Yamada and everyone involved in the making of this movie, thank you. I await for more lovely films in the future.

  • I’m hard of hearing so I struggle to hear and sounds are muffled I can understand some sign language but not much besides my name, stop, and no ,sorry

  • 2:14 That quick glance blew me away when I watched the movie. I mean it's less than a second but it communicates SO MUCH. This anime was just beautiful.

  • Disagree significantly – he could communicate with Shoko, just didn't want to.

    Not lack of ability, lack of desire.
    His complaints about not understanding in the fight, and his earlier demands that she say it is him complaining the world isn't giving him what he wants the way he wants it – no desire to communicate, just a desire to have what he wants the way he wants it.

  • This movie beeaks me, i am just a boy who happend to saw this movie clip on you tube and after i watch it i cried a lot, i am a victim of bullying and a perpertrator bullying itself, i have huge temper when i am angry i dont think of anything, only wanting revenge but when sttle down i feel like a coward who didnt wanna be hurt its painful and guilty at the same time after i beat someone who wrong me, even now i am still strugling to change!

  • This movie really does have a perfect way of telling its story and conveying the thoughts and feelings of its characters with much more than just words. The version of the movie I have comes with a "silent" audio track where it just plays soft ambient music for the whole movie, and it was amazing to see just how much you can still pick up on watching it this way. It was quite an experience, and it was really cool that they put that in there.

  • i liked the movie but I wasnt satisfied with Kawai and Ueno's characters. They never owned up to their wrongdoings or sincerely apologized. They shouldn't even be hanging out with Shoko especially when Ueno continues to beat Shoko up and no one addresses it. The reunion of Nishimiya and Sho after 5 years felt awkward to me as well. I know that Nishimiya always blamed herself and wanted to be friends with Shoya, but I feel like the immediate romance was unrealistic. He bullied her terribly. I feel like she should have been more upset/frustrated with him or avoided him when seeing him after all those years. Then later, she could have warmed up to the idea of being around him again since he was trying to be a better person.

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