Naoko Yamada's "A Silent Voice: The Movie," which won the 2017 Japanese Movie Critics Award for Best Animation, presents an unflinching depiction of the cruelty children inflict on each other.
Shoya Ishida (voiced by Miyu Irino) is the most obnoxious boy in his sixth-grade class: He goofs off, pulls pranks and gets into trouble. When Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami), a shy deaf girl, transfers into his class, he torments her so mercilessly, her mother moves Shoko to another school. Even his friends are disgusted by his behavior. Shoya spends the next six years so lonely and alienated that he sees the students around him with X's hiding their faces.
Eventually, Shoya realizes he needs to atone for his heinous actions. He studies sign language and tries to apologize to Shoko and the kids who followed his lead and mistreated her. But the filmmakers refuse to settle for a pat resolution. Shoya, Shoko and their classmates have had to live with their regrets, resentments, pain and guilt for many years. There are no facile cures for their deep, festering wounds. It takes time and effort for Shoya to forgive himself and to earn the forgiveness he sincerely desires.
The pacing of "A Silent Voice" drags in places: Its 130-minute running time could easily be trimmed. But its wrenching honesty provides a potent counter to the simple-minded let's-all-be-friends-and-sing-a-song inanities of "My Little Pony," "The Emoji Movie" and other recent American animated features.
‘A Silent Voice: The Movie’
In Japanese with English subtitles
Running time: 130 minutes
Playing: Regal L.A. Live, downtown; Harkness Cerritos 16; also Oct. 23, 7 p.m., selected theaters