A Silent Voice director Naoko Yamada: “I wanted to send out a message of hope and redemption”

The Japanese anime film follows the story of a deaf schoolgirl and her childhood bully

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A Silent Voice is a curious film: the main character Shoya is a vicious bully, and his victim is a deaf schoolgirl who only wants to make friends, communicating with sign language and pen and paper. Neither fits the classic profile for a lead role.

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But the groundbreaking Japanese anime feature – an adaptation of a popular multi-volume manga – takes viewers to unexpected places as we see classmates turn on Shoya, turning him into a suicidal teenage pariah forced to live with his guilt about the way he treated Shoko. 

It may sound heavy, and it is (you’ll need tissues), but the film is also ultimately uplifting.

“Personally I really wanted to send out a message of hope, redemption,” director Naoko Yamada tells RadioTimes.com. “I also wanted to create something emotionally comfortable at the end.”

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The film was a box office hit in Japan, and now has a limited cinema release in the UK where Yamada’s treatment of themes like friendship, regret and growing up has struck a chord. 

“I was actually thinking internationally when I was making it,” she explains. “That’s why probably the film has got universal appeal – it deals with human emotions, and I think no matter what your nationality is, that’s pretty much the same for everyone. It’s a common thing.”

The film may have international appeal, but the setting is distinctively Japanese – and visually stunning, having been carefully created by almost 200 animators. 

“I really wanted Japan to look beautiful,” Yamada says. “And the actual place, the location is Ōgaki, Gifu. It’s known for really natural spring water. It’s really beautiful. So I actually wanted to promote Japan and show its beauty.”

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You can catch A Silent Voice in select UK cinemas until 23rd March