No Eyes Will Stay Dry: A Silent Voice Review

I’m a mild to moderate manga reader and anime watcher. Like, I’ve read all of Death Note, but I’ve never read Bleach. I’ve watched a chunk of Naruto, but I haven’t even scratched the surface of Attack on Titan.

That said, I have friends who are avid manga and anime consumers. They are the ones who reproach me for never having seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or for reading an issue of Shonen Jump. They also advise me on absolutely everything I should be watching/reading.

Side note: Demon Slayer is apparently really, really good.

Of all my friends who watch anime, my good buddy Bubba is probably the best. (Hey, shaka brah!)

Since this whole pandemic started, we’ve been watching movies with each other using Discord or Xbox Live. From Blade Runner to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we’re chewing through films.

One of the movies we settled to watch was A Silent Voice, an anime film made in 2016 that hits you right in the feels. As of this writing, it is on Netflix.

It’s honestly a very touching story. Using blunt symbolism and dialogue left unspoken, A Silent Voice dives into tough subjects like bullying and depression. I approached this movie with absolutely no expectations, and by the time the credits rolled, I had to wipe my eyes and sniff snot back up my nostrils.

Needless to say, I thought the film was good.

The plot revolves around a boy named Shoya, who was a merciless bully to a fellow student named Shoko. Shoko is deaf, and it is this that forms the basis for her getting bullied. Egged on by his “friends” and classmates, Shoya is relentless in being mean to this girl.

However, after leaving middle school and entering high school, things have changed. Shoya elects to make up for what he’s done to Shoko, and spends the rest of the film desperately trying to make amends.

I seriously don’t want to spoil the ending, so I won’t detail how this situation is resolved, but it is a damn roller coaster of emotions.

The genre of the film is clearly slice-of-life, focusing on Shoya and Shoko’s teenage and childhood years. In the grand scheme of things, nothing dramatic or remarkable happens, but the emotional revelations the story places in your lap are enough to keep you engrossed in what’s going on.

A Silent Voice is based on a manga, so, as with anything that gets adapted into a film, there are parts that feel unexplained or rushed. While some might take this as a con of the movie, I feel like it contributes to the concept of peeking at the flashes of Shoya’s life.

That leads to one of the major draws of the movie. The manner in which the characters are examined perfectly encapsulates the overall message of the story. You don’t always know what is going on with a person below the surface. The film successfully conveys this in the way it gets you to (eventually) sympathize with a bully. Plus, there is a near-end-of-the-movie twist that emphasizes that point even further, showing that just because a person looks happy doesn’t mean they’re not struggling.

While it can get heavy-handed, the symbolism in the film is one of its strengths. At one point, Shoya feels like he can’t interact with other people without hurting himself or them. He effectively cuts himself off from socializing with classmates. The film demonstrates this by having every person who isn’t Shoya’s family bear a giant X on their faces. Shoya never meets their eyes, and the movie ensures that viewers can’t as well. This feature of the film is one that only an anime could successfully pull off.

Needless to say, the story covers some triggering topics, with suicide being referred to several times. I think it is handled well, especially with the notion that no life is worthless being incredibly stressed by the end of the film. Anyone can come back from the edge, and while forgiveness does not come easily, it can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Though I did cry, the movie’s end left me with a positive feeling.

Bubba and I like to make jokes throughout our movie-watching, but A Silent Voice managed to temper them. It’s a sobering and poignant story.

I rate it a silent-and-resounding-success-that-should-be-seen-at-least-once.

Top 5 Hayao Miyazaki Films

You might not know who Hayao Miyazaki is, but I thought I’d write about my top five favorites of his movies.

That’s right, folks! It’s time for yet another Below Average list!

Hayao Miyazaki is the creator behind several wondrous animated films, each one brimming with detailed and immersive worlds and engaging characters. Miyazaki is a genius of the highest order. He knows how to tell one heck of a story.

The fact that his movies are animated might fool you into thinking they’re meant for kids, but you’d be dead wrong. The narrative appeals to people of all ages, dealing with morality and fantasy in equal measure.

Plus, all of his movies have insane replay value. Whether you’re looking for a movie to put on in the background while you do something else or a movie to intensely revisit in order to learn something new, Miyazaki’s films can satisfy both needs.

So, even if you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki movie in your life or if you’ve seen them all multiple times, here are my top 5 favorite Hayao Miyazaki films!

5. Spirited Away

Spirited Away is the classic Hayao Miyazaki movie. It’s probably the one that most average moviegoers have heard of. It’s about a little girl named Chihiro whose parents turn into pigs due to an unfortunate case of the munchies. Chihiro then has to embark on a peril-infused journey through a fantastical ghost world in order to save herself and her parents. She makes a few friends along the way and learns about the strength she’s had inside the whole time. Spirited Away is a pretty vanilla story when you look at its bare bones, but the trappings surrounding the narrative are what make it so special. The ghost world is absolutely magical, and by “magical,” I do mean that magic is involved. I rewatch this movie about once a year. Feels new every time.

4. Ponyo

If my sister made a list about her favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies, Ponyo would be the number one for hers. She loves this movie so much, she actually stole my copy of it. Ponyo tells a version of the Little Mermaid story. A little girl falls in love with a little boy and abandons her watery home to live with him. It’s a very cute story, with a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere considering it’s about a phantasmic underwater world. It actually reminds me a lot of My Neighbor Totoro (another Miyazaki film that sadly did not make my top 5) because of how quaint and unique it makes the average character feel. Ponyo is the perfect rainy day movie. (Unless your sister then starts butchering the final song by only singing the word “Ponyo” over and over again.)

3. Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky is actually one of my favorites for reasons that are external from the movie itself. My mom bought me a DVD copy of the movie one day, completely out of the blue. She got it for me simply because she knew I liked Hayao Miyazaki movies, and she figured I didn’t have this one. The spontaneity of this act of love touched my heart so much that it made the movie hold a special place there. And funnily enough, this movie about a boy and girl who have to find a lost city in the sky is all about those random acts of kindness. Plus, it features Mark Hamill as the voice of the villain. You just can’t beat that.

2. Princess Mononoke

Okay, remember how I said Hayao Miyazaki makes animated movies that please both adults and children? Well…Princess Mononoke is a tad gruesome, so be wary when showing this PG-13 rated film to kids. But the story is truly epic! I love this movie so much! It deals with man’s destruction of nature, love, and integrity in the face of rising odds. The name of the movie initially put me off from watching it when I was younger because I thought it was going to be a weird “princess” movie. It’s not that at all. It’s an engrossing story, and what I like the most about it is how it has these two opposing perspectives and neither one of them are truly evil. It’s about compromising and realizing when you have to change and when you should hold to your ideals.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle

I’m a bit embarrassed that Howl’s Moving Castle is my number one Hayao Miyazaki movie because it is unabashedly a love story. But I like how unexpected a lot of it is. Sophie, the main character, is a quiet girl who meets the flamboyant wizard, Howl. As you might guess, they’re the romantic couple of the story. But get this: Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch at the beginning of the movie to be an old woman. This love story feels unconventional because it truly is about loving a person for what’s on the inside. I mean, say what you want about strong Disney princesses or whatever. You can’t deny that those chicks are gorgeous and that their looks are usually what garners them the attention of their romantic interests in the first place. Not so with Sophie. Her willpower, practicality, and dry sense of humor are what make her stand out from the other girls vying for Howl’s attention. Plus, Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal) is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best side characters.

The Latest Disney Trend

Let’s have a talk about these upcoming Disney movie remakes.

About a week ago, I went to the mall with my friend Bubba. The local mall is home to my favorite stir-fry noodles. If I could, I would eat these noodles at least once a day. Sadly, my wallet and my waistline would probably protest this.

The best spot to eat said noodles is by the carousel (yes, our mall has a carousel) and the movie theater. That way, you can hear calliope music blaring in your ears while you eat, and you can look at the “Coming Soon” movie posters, too.

So while we were slurping up noodles (yes, Bubba got those stir-fry noodles too because they are amazing), I noticed that out of the ten movie posters on the wall, three of them were for Disney remakes (Aladdin, Dumbo, and The Lion King).

These three posters gave me pause. I didn’t know how to feel about them. Still don’t, if I’m being entirely honest.

I wouldn’t call myself a Disney nut, but I own nearly every Disney animated movie on VHS. You name it, I probably own it. My sister and I would watch them together back when we shared a room as kids. We can quote from a Disney movie as well as anyone, and we have favorite songs from each one, too.

So I’m talking from the perspective of someone who has been steeped in Disney.

On the one hand, I’m extremely fond of all the movies. Seeing any of them remade does give my heart a little flutter because they are getting attention. It’s like hearing a remix of your favorite song on the radio. You just have to listen to it (before you judge whether it’s good or not) because it’s your favorite song.

But on the other hand, it’s also extremely irritating to me.

On multiple levels.

It feels like a cash grab. Is that just me? Am I the only one feeling that? And what makes this sensation all the more sour is the fact that even though I know it’s a way for Disney to make money, I’m still going to pay to go see them.

It also rubs me the wrong way because, at least in regards to Aladdin and The Lion King, the originals were perfect. I feel like the cartoon versions of those movies were made the way they were meant to be made, and trying to remake them is like trying to improve on perfection.

The same issue came up with the Beauty and the Beast remake they did a few years back. The original animated film was gorgeous. And while the live-action remake did add a few things, nothing they added really boosted the story because the story was already at its peak.

Dumbo is in a different category of remakes, similar to The Jungle Book. Early Disney movies did not have the narrative strength that more recent ones have had. Remaking those is like a civil service.

Well, I’m still going to see all these Disney movie remakes when they come out, like the Below Average person I am. (Actually, depending on the box office numbers, I may be square in the average category this time around.)

So what do you think about this latest Disney trend? For? Against? Or somewhere in the middle like me?