This theatrical feature-length animated adaptation of OIMA Yoshitoki’s manga (Kodansha, 2013-14) of the same title conveys the difficulty―and hence the preciousness―of communication between human beings. Elementary schooler ISHIDA Shoya, a class bully who hates “being bored,” is innocently curious about NISHIMIYA Shoko, a deaf girl who transferred from another school. Her arrival relieves Shoya of his boredom, but a bullying incident involving Shoko causes the rest of his classmates to reject him. Five years later, Shoya and Shoko have become high schoolers in different schools. Since that past incident, however, Shoya has shut himself off from others and lost the desire to live. Determined to end his life, he visits Shoko to return “something she left behind” five years ago. Rich with realistic depictions of sign language and the inner lives of contemporary youth, this is a tale of one young man coming to terms with a young woman, his peers, and ultimately with himself.
For better or worse, neither people nor organizations can stay in the same place for long . . . That’s what occurred to me as I watched the screen and recalled previous films I had seen by Kyoto Animation or YAMADA Naoko—the Haruhi Suzumiya series (2006, 09, 10), K-On! (2009, 10, 11), Tamako Love Story (2013). This one, the first of their works I had viewed in two years, dramatically exceeded my expectations. The entire staff, from the producer on down, had to grapple with numerous challenges, and the result testifies to their courage. In adapting the original manga to film, two requirements that would pose a challenge to anyone were “action” and “sound”—and in this regard I want to shout out a sincere “Bravo! Well done!” to the staff. They have created a marvelous work of animation in which the techniques of expression they have honed to date are brilliantly applied to a story that addresses the hardships teenagers face in communicating with others, as well as complex issues like bullying. (TAKAHASHI Ryosuke)