What Makes Koe no Katachi Work?
Koe no Katachi is a series I strangely only had experience reading the one shot. By the time I realize the manga actually exists (typical of my relationship with manga in general), the film was greenlit before I even had the chance to consider reading it, so I opted for the film.
Though because I read the one-shot, I know at least what to expect from the movie (this is from someone who rarely even check synopsis). And boy did I ever love the living hell out of the one-shot. Koe no Katachi is a poignant story revolving around a deaf girl and how she influences all those she met in her life.
Even for someone who never read the manga (one-shot aside), the movie more than meets my expectations. From what I know, the movie did cut a few things here and there, but as a non-follower of the manga going in blind, I feel it is streamlined enough that I was able to follow the story well, which is definitely a testament to the studio’s capability. That aside, the movie is a very character-driven film and the characters are really what makes it shine the most.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this, so I will just be frank — the characters are scum. I mean, you have a protagonist here who bullied a deaf girl just to ease his boredom. With the rest of the cast just as bad, or even worse, this is a film that doesn’t paint people in the brightest ways, though I suppose “realistic” may be a better word. We humans are not saints, and the flawed aspect of people is something Koe no Katachi portrayed extremely well.
While we humans are not saints, that doesn’t mean we should not strive to improve ourselves; to accept our faults and to right the wrongs our past selves committed. I think what makes Koe no Katachi work so well is that the movie focuses a lot on the theme of redemption, and instead try not to over-dramatize. Koe no Katachi conveys the optimistic message that while it’s difficult to change, you should strive for it nonetheless — and even that endeavor already makes you a better person than the one you were yesterday. The movie is focused more on the journey, the progression, rather than the destination. At the end of the movie, you get the sense that the characters are still flawed, but they have definitely changed, however slight and their journeys are still yet to have conclude.
At the end of the day, Koe no Katachi is just a simple, heartfelt story about flawed people. The underlying theme is grim, but spun in a positive, but bittersweet light. With a story about deafness, the visual narrative provided by the cinematography gives the story life. The camerawork provides copious context — framing and composition, zooms and body language; purposeful visual cues that tell a story just as good, if not even better than it’s verbal counterpart.
…Sounds familiar? Yup, the film is adapted by KyoAni.
With a story that is more low-key like this, you can never go wrong with KyoAni. In fact, KyoAni may arguably be the only studio that can animate two characters “talking” in sign language and still make the scene looks like a work of art. With an anime about deafness, KyoAni with their visual prowess, almost makes the perfect “hearing aid”.
I suppose KyoAni now has another incredible work under their belt yet again. Koe no Katachi is an amazing, touching story of self-atonement and forgiveness; a simple movie that is simply about people and their flaws, and their journey to overcome them. While the characters provided the backbone of the story, KyoAni gives it life — the perfect combination.
If you watched Koe no Katachi, what do you think of it?