Hiroi Sekai
The vast world of Japan


Blend: The Sound of Personalities

Featuring: Koe no Katachi


Humankind. We're a vibrant species constantly evolving to accomplish unbelievable things. We can relay information between each other, and while we are barraged by an everlasting necessity for belonging, our own personal quirks are intrinsic to providing each other the support we need to thrive. However, without the proper consideration of our differences, we can seriously harm someone that we think we're helping. Today, we're diving further into the canvas of emotion known as Koe no Katachi to find out more. We're going to be delving into several spoilers here, so please ensure you're either comfortable with that fact or return to the article after watching the film.

If you're coming over from my Spring 2017 impressions post, then you'll already know what this movie is about. If not, welcome to all of you newcomers! To briefly sum it up, Koe no Katachi started off as a one-off manga, but evolved into a fully fledged development about a deaf girl who is tragically bullied throughout her earlier school days. It would be several years until she would be once again faced with her tormentor, but hopefully under better circumstances. The film documents the clashing voices of the two personalities against the other people in their lives.

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I can never truly relate to the fact, but it must be difficult to live with accessibility needs. Nobody is born into this world wanting a life built around them, and it's just something that sticks with them, like it or not. Shoko is the transfer student with that need. Right from her introduction to her new class, she is required to retrieve a notebook from her bag to even communicate the fact that she is deaf. It's the discomfort of engaging with someone with unfamiliar needs that throws the class in discord, even though the prospect of spending just 3 simple minutes a day on learning sign language is something so minor.

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Through a series of scenes that are frustratingly reminiscent of my own school days, Shoko is bullied relentlessly, day in and day out. There's no room for rest, from the constant fear of onlooking judgment to the expensive belongings that keep going missing to the vocal ridiculing she faces. While Shoko is shown bravely combating them by forcing smiles and by confronting her tormentors with the prospect of friendship, I was not as strong as she was.


My earliest memory of being bullied was at the age of 3, when I attended a Korean language school every weekend. While class itself was meticulously attentive and silent, we'd always have time in the gymnasium to interact and play ball. It was always at this time that the kids would tease me with the personal things: how we were poor, how short I was, and how timid and "non-social" I was. Right into elementary school, I developed a friendship with someone who would essentially use me as an emotional punching bag to release his frustrations out on. I particularly remember my few precious video games my poor parents saved up to buy going missing, and the one snowy evening after school where he brought all of his friends over to pummel me with snowballs until my worried father came looking for me. It must have been insanely tough on my parents as well. Keeping a best eye out for me at all times, they were moving jobs and pulling me out of toxic environments in hopes of something better. We moved so many times in my earlier years, leaving behind the few friends I had and frustrating me further when I couldn't fit into my new schools. In the same way, Shoko disappears from her school when protagonist Ishida goes too far with his bullying.

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High school was probably the hardest time, right in the ripe time when we all care so much about popularity and fitting in. Each of the formed social groups rejected me; not that I ever would have fit in, but the complete lack of acknowledgement definitely hurt. Yet again, I'd be teased day in and day out about my height and quiet nature, while feeling the immediate effects of having my homework and expensive band instruments stolen. Some of my teachers wouldn't even believe this was actually happening. When you're young and abandoned by the people of your own age and circle and your school, you instinctively and subconsciously attach yourself to a symbol of safety to relieve yourself. When Shoko vanishes, Ishida is abandoned by his supposed friends, who turn him into a scapegoat and isolate him as their new target. Even the teacher lashes out and rats him out in the middle of class. He's almost driven to the point of suicide when his loving mother confronts him and acts as an instigator in Ishida's newfound raison d'être.

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Years later, Ishida matures and finds his own personal reason to press onward. For him, it's the prospect of learning sign language and being able to one day atone for his wrongdoings to Shoko. For me, it was the realization that I've always subconsciously wanted to be expressive. I was green with envy that the people around me could so easily fit in, talk loud and proud, and ask out the people they liked. At the time, I hated myself for being like this. Now that I'm older, I realize it's a part of who I am as a person. I embrace the fact that I'm quieter. I value the friendships I build as 100% genuine. I have better faith in the people I used to repel. But it still tears at me when I see that shot of Shoko trying to hide from Ishida, because it's such a strong visual metaphor for someone like me trying to run from my emotional trauma when I was younger.

I've already spoiled much more than I'd like to admit, as this movie is just an experience one must go through to truly understand how it relates to those of us who have felt the sting of bullying in our lives. The important thing to note from this is that we all take that extra 3 minutes to consider if what we're about to do could be harmful. Some people are born with different necessities. Others are born attracted to their own gender. Many come from a different country, and many of those people come from a different religious belief. We may lean on the left or right side of the political spectrum. We may find a deep connection around animals. Maybe some like the colour pink. There are so many echoes in the symphony that is the idea of a personality, I ask that you reconsider how you conduct yourself out there in the big, scary world. It's scary to many of us because we don't care enough about things like this. The next time you're about to judge someone for not being "social", take those 3 minutes and ask yourself: "if I was asked to do something I personally didn't like, would I want to be judged for it?". You may start to hear those silent voices that paint the bigger picture.


To close it off, special shout outs to caring parents. You're seriously cool. Thanks, moms around the world. Thanks, dads. Happy Father's Day.