When you think of Studio Ghibli, what immediately comes to mind?
I am pretty sure that at least 90% of you instantly thought of Spirited Away, the 2001 Hayao Miyazaki film that is hailed as being one of the greatest anime of all time.
I remember watching Spirited Away once when I was very little, but I had not watched it since then so the film was definitely a new experience for me, going in.
And what did I think?
Well, Spirited Away is certainly a masterful film but I would not call it a masterpiece.
The hero of this story is the young Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi), who is thrust into a magical world full of Yokai, when her parents are transformed into pigs.
She must then find a way to save her parents and get back to the real world, all while working at a Yokai bathhouse; a strange combination, I know.
What’s striking about Spirited Away is its amount of creativity, with multiple interesting Yokai that lead to entertaining interactions between them and Chihiro.
This includes the Yokai No Face (Akio Nakamura) and, in particular, a foul smelling river spirit, in a scene that provided some big laughs through Chihiro and the witch Yubaba’s (Mari Natsuki) facial expressions.
Speaking of Yubaba, I thought that the witch would be the villain of the film, however, much like Dola from Castle in The Sky, she turned out to be a far more complex and interesting individual than I first thought.
Another surprise for me is the connection to another Miyazaki film, with the soot Yokai from My Neighbor Totoro making an appearance.
What was not a surprise though, because of how much praise the film has had, is how emotional the story gets at times.
This is mostly achieved through the great voice acting of Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro.
Along with this, the animation is also solid as it contributes greatly to the emotion of the film.
But, like I said, I do not think Spirited Away is perfect.
In my opinion, a certain storyline about the character of Haku (Miyu Irino) felt rushed and some characters befriend Chirhiro way too quickly, since they were antagonizing her a few minutes before.
It these kinds of things that keep Spirited Away from being a masterpiece, in my mind.
It is still an excellent film though, and I would probably rank it as on par with Castle in The Sky as the best Studio Ghibli film I have seen so far.
I remember hearing a lot about A Silent Voice when it was released.
The film got a lot of praise as one of the best animated films of 2016 and there was much controversy (entirely warranted in my opinion) that films like the Boss Baby were nominated at the Oscars over it.
However, despite the praise, I never got around to watching it.
In fact, prior to a few days ago I had never watched anything Kyoto Animation had made, as far as I am aware.
This changed when news of the horrific arson attack at their studio, which has currently claimed 35 lives, hit me.
Along with this news, I heard countless statements about what a wonderful studio it was and how it not only put out amazing anime but also provided progressive working conditions for its staff, which is unfortunately a rarity in the anime industry today.
This motivated me to watch A Silent Voice and experience the emotional roller coaster the film is.
And, after seeing it, I can say that I regret not watching the movie when it first came out. A Silent Voice is an incredibly thoughtful and tear jerking movie that can only be described as an experience.
Directed by Naoko Yamada, and based off the manga by Yoshitoki Ōima, our main character is Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino), a student riddled with guilt over his relentless bullying of a deaf girl named Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami) years ago.
Struggling through depression and isolation because of his actions, Ishida sets out to makes amends and pursues a friendship with Nishimiya.
And so the emotional tale unfolds.
I have to say that choosing Ishida for the main character was a risky move since showing the perspective of a bully could have failed miserably.
Had A Silent Voice gone the cliche route with Ishida simply being misunderstood and acting out because of a bad home life, it would have done so.
Thankfully, Ishida’s actions are portrayed naturally with reasons given for why he treated Nishimiya so horribly.
But, this does not excuse Ishida of what he did and he knows this.
His guilt manifests in such a harmful way that he can no longer look anyone in the eye, ingeniously shown by a blue X over his classmates’ faces.
The journey he goes through to make amends with those he has hurt and to forgive himself is moving.
Along with him, we are also given the struggles of Nishimiya as she deals with her hearing impairment in a world that struggles to understand and often lashes out.
The growing friendship of her and Ishida, and both of them moving towards self acceptance, is the emotional core of the film, resulting in many tear jerking moments.
I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the film’s ending.
However, A Silent Voice is also an anime that deals with harsh material like suicide so it is not for the faint of heart.
Even if you think you will be alright watching it I still suggest preparing the tissues before doing so. A Silent Voice may be my favourite anime film.
I know I have just seen it but I cannot remember the last time an anime affected me on such an emotional level.
I am just sad that it took the tragedy at Kyoto Animation for me to finally watch it.
I will leave the link to the GoFundMe page for Kyoto Animation down below.
Over two million dollars has already been raised and it would be great to see this number rise.
I hope the money goes to helping the victims and their families, and I hope this is not the end for Kyoto Animation.
I could say a number of things to sum up A Silent Voice and what an emotional experience it is but, after thinking it over, there is really only one thing that needs to be said.
Thank you, Kyoto Animation.