2016 was an exceptional year for anime movies, with two movies standing high above the rest: Your Name and A Silent Voice. Both massive successes at home and abroad, a lot of extremely positive buzz has been generated by them. I’ve been fortunate to see both these movies and have a lot of thoughts about them. So with home releases coming very shortly and the chance for everyone to see them, I’ll be looking at the two and why the constant comparison of them isn’t helpful at all.
From the surface, it’s easy to see why they’re easy to compare to each other. They both have high school kids and explore the relationships between each other. It’s a very simplistic way of describing them, but that’s all I can see between the two that’s similar content wise.
Your Name tells a story about the central relationship between the the two main characters, Mitsuha and Taki. It explores themes of love, distance and the lengths people go for each other. It’s an contemporary movie, incorporating much of the technology used in modern day Japan. It’s also a reaction to disasters such as the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
A Silent Voice tells a story about Shoya, a boy who struggles in life due to his previous actions. He struggles to form relationships due to his guilt, especially with Shoko, a girl he bullied in the past for being deaf. Mental health, bullying and living with disabilities are just a few of the topics it explores. It’s a movie that’s very emotionally draining and can be tough to watch at points. Extremely different from the exciting tone of Your Name.
With the two movies being extremely different from each other, why the comparisons? I think there’s a couple of reasons, but ultimately it comes down to time. Your Name released in Japanese theatres on August 26th, whilst A Silent Voice released less than a month later on September 17th. It’s an exciting time! It’s not every year you see two highly anticipated anime movies release so close to each other! However, it’s also what has lead to this constant comparison of the two. At the time, if you could only see one, then it made sense to compare. Seeing a movie in cinemas takes a good chunk out of the day in comparison to watching a home release. It’s been a long time since then, isn’t it time that we looked at the movies individually?
I also think the way movies are talked about amongst publications and fans are also a factor. Film making is an extremely competitive industry. Box office figures, award ceremonies, film festivals. There’s even cases of Your Name and A Silent Voice being in competition with each other, such as at the Scotland Loves Anime festival in 2016. These are all things that are widely talked about, but why? Does it matter how many people see a movie and how much money it makes? It shouldn’t do. It’s the same with film festivals and award ceremonies, they’re useful for seeing which movies are getting critical buzz (and a quality filter against fundamentally broken movies) but it’s all marketing in the end.
The most important thing in all of this is you. They’re both very emotionally charged movies and have left a big impression on many people. If you love both, that’s great! If you like one but dislike the other, also great! If you couldn’t care about either of them at all, why that’s fine as well. Every person is going to have different reactions to individual pieces of media.
But judge them for what they are: individual pieces. There’s no need for them to be in constant competition with each other. The release of these movies were some of the most exciting times for me as an anime fan. Seeing the near-universal love from around the world for two non-Ghibli anime movies was amazing to see. I’d highly recommend both Your Name and A Silent Voice, and I hope that you find something to love about them as well.