Producers for A Silent Voice are planning to accommodate fans who, like the series’ female lead, can’t hear.
Manga creator Yoshitoki Oima’s A Silent Voice, titled Koe no Katachi (literally “The Shape of Voice”) in Japanese, begins with a new student transferring into elementary school student Shoya’s class. His new classmate is a deaf girl named Shoko, and as is sadly, yet often, the case, that difference makes her the target of bullies, with Shoya acting as the ringleader of her tormenters.
But bullying just leads to more bullying, and eventually the vicious circle comes back around and Shoya finds himself on the receiving end of taunts and jeers. Unable to form a lasting friendship throughout elementary and middle school, upon entering high school Shoya resolves to make amends for mistreating Shoko when they were younger, and the story follows his attempts at redemption and the challenges that arise along the way.
The manga began serialization in 2013, and has attracted enough critical and popular acclaim that it’s being adapted into a theatrical anime by the talented team at Kyoto Animation, with its opening scheduled for September 17. The trailer looks impressive, filled with the sort of careful yet emotional character animation that the studio has become known for.
But while nice visuals are always a plus, it’s the story of A Silent Voice, and its willingness to have a deaf character play a key role, that’s won praise for the franchise. As such, it’s only fitting that theaters nationwide will be showing the film with Japanese subtitles, for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
Making this move particularly surprising is the fact that most televised anime in Japan is broadcast without closed captions. Likewise, the majority of anime DVDs lack Japanese subtitling, preventing deaf fans viewers from fully enjoying a huge portion of the country’s animation output.
The decision to accommodate deaf audiences in a film featuring a deaf character is somewhat evocative of 2015 anime Miss Hokusai, in which the protagonist’s younger sister is blind. Japanese home video versions of the film include an audio option in which a narrator describes the on-screen settings and action for those who cannot see.
All theaters scheduled to show A Silent Voice will show the subtitled version, which will be screened once a day at each location between September 24 and 30. While making all screenings subtitled, or at least showing the subtitled version on opening day, would have sent a more powerful message, it’s still a largely unprecedented accommodation for hearing-impaired anime fans, and the producers have said they’re considering extending the subtitled theatrical run, depending on reaction to its currently planned one week.
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