http://www.visiontimes.com/?p=92122

Japanese Animation Tackles Bullying and Disability On Screen and Off

This animated film tells a unique story. (Image: KyoaniChannel via Screenshot/YouTube)
This animated film tells a unique story. (Image: KyoaniChannel via Screenshot/YouTube)

For all the Japanese animation lovers across the world and in Japan, deaf fans among them usually have a hard time finding accommodation for enjoying what they are seeing equally as much as non-deaf people.

It has been rare to get Japanese animated moves that come out with Japanese subtitles, and even rarer that those subtitles are projected on movie theater screens or shown on TV.

That’s why A Silent Voice is groundbreaking in what they are doing for deaf people who love anime.

Japanese animation often comes out in subtitles of other languages so they can feed the overseas market, but since the characters on screen speak Japanese, producers haven’t always thought about people in the domestic market who are hearing impaired.

In magazine and manga form, that didn’t matter. A Silent Voice ran in serialized form in Weekly Shonen Magazine from November 2013 through to December 2014. Before that, it first appeared as a one-shot in the Weekly Shonen Magazine spinoff, Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine.

The story is interesting in that it takes you on the journey of Shoya Ishida, a former bully of a deaf girl who tries to make amends with her. He goes out of his way to make things better after people turn against him after she leaves the school.

He then finds out what it is like to be bullied. When he runs into the deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya, again, he tries to reconnect her with those who she didn’t get a chance to enjoy being friends with because of him.

Of course, the story is full of loneliness and friendship, isolation, and making amends. It’s a story that even gained the support of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf.

The story has also won awards, including Best Rookie Manga and the New Creator Prize, and has even been nominated this year for the coveted Eisner Award for its English language translated edition.

The movie will capitalize on the love A Silent Voice has been receiving, as well as on what makes it unique. For each night the movie is screened in theaters between September 24 and 30, one of those screenings will have subtitles.

A Silent Voice opens in Japanese theaters starting September 17. Both from the story and the special set of subtitled screenings, the movie hopes to continue bringing awareness to what it’s like to be bullied for being deaf through its story.

It also sends a message about the effects of bullying in general. The manga is getting produced by Kyoto Animation.

Besides numerous televised and theatrical anime productions, Kyoto Animation is also known for their very strict annual Kyoto Animation Awards, where they judge written works along with works of writing and illustration.

The original creator of A Silent Voice is 27-year-old female manga writer Yoshitoki Oima. She was only 18 years old when she first started writing the story, but could not get it serialized until 2013 due to the seemingly sensitive subject matter.

Even as early as 2008, Oima had won an award for the story.

Another aspect that makes the story unique is that it’s written from the perspective of the bully rather than the person being bullied. Oima discussed why she took this approach with Kodansha Comics.

“First of all, I didn’t want to write this story from the perspective of the one who was getting bullied, because I didn’t think that was interesting to me or anyone else. To me, it’s easier to get into the story from the perspective of a bully, or Shota’s point of view.

“I’m sure more readers can relate to Shota than to Shoko. Most people can only speculate what it feels like to be a girl with a disability who gets bullied. But the truth is, you won’t be able to know how she really feels. I thought that was the more important point to convey.

“So I didn’t want to reveal Shoko’s inner thoughts or her true feelings.”

The series should get another boost of popularity if it goes on to win an Eisner Award, as well as once the movie’s English version is made available.

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