Review by C_Cheung
Koe no Katachi

This is a powerful and profound down-to-earth romantic coming-of-age story, with heavy emphasis on themes of regret, acceptance, atonement, forgiveness, self-discovery and change. From my standpoint, this resonated with me on a personal level and it felt so very realistic as there was little difficulty in identifying with these characters. Particularly with Shouya’s strive to achieve redemption, there was a surreal sense of heartfelt sincerity in his desire to finally wake up and face the music instead of running away, passing the blame and acting foolishly. As he recognised the scars and wounds he had inflicted, Shouko saw her own short comings that allowed her to be broken so easily, though labelling them aggressor and victim would be an oversimplification.

Admittedly, there were some minor aspects that were to the film’s detriment – Ueno’s character motivations went beyond having repressed contempt and were rather unreasonable, and some of the cast members were less fleshed out than others, received less screen time and were consequently quite forgettable; the latter can be forgiven when one considers the necessity for the film to fixate on the duo to avoid it appearing disorganised. Despite this, there are equally many wonderful supporting characters, though namely Tomohiro, who helps to create points of hilarity throughout the film and is all in all a lovable well-meaning, although impulsive and clueless, friend that stands up for those he cares about.

This beautiful intertwining narrative regarding two individuals that learn to get to understand each other properly and wish to make amends for their mistakes, strewn in with the importance of collective endeavour, truly tugged at the heartstrings. Albeit they come across initially as being in stark contrast to one another, they are very similar in various regards: both are riddled with insecurities, filled with remorse and an intense dislike for themselves but also a growing willingness to mend their ways and put a stop to their unending self-destruction, weighed down by their sense of responsibility. It might be considered especially striking when one considers how it touches upon the topic of suicide and the feelings of worthlessness, guilt and self-loathing that culminate building up to that point, which struck close to home and were dealt with in a convincing and succinct manner. A real sense that they mattered to others, and likewise others mattered to them, even when blinded by their own melancholy, was carried across perfectly – in opening up their hearts and minds to others, they could rely on others to give their lives vibrancy and meaning.

There is something to be had for everyone who watches this delicately handled, emotional film that surpassed my expectations and should hopefully exceed yours, rather than bring you underwhelming disappointment.