Some thoughts on this award-winning film about a deaf-mute girl, bullying, guilt, and reconciliation, taken from a discussion I had at the anime review site That Just Figures!.
I think the key to this film, and to the characters of Shoko (Saori Hayami), Shoya (Miyu Irino / Mayu Matsuoka [kid]), Ueno (Yuki Kaneko), and the other friends from elementary who end up in the same group later, is self-loathing in its various forms. Shoko is different, because hers stems from the trouble she feels she causes everyone, which objectively is true but of course what she (and her tormenters) see as “trouble” we see as a lack of basic human decency on the part of the bullies. Shoya and co.’s self-loathing stems from their guilt at bullying Shoko, and it manifests in different forms: major guilt complex (Shoya), self-righteous denial (Ueno), rationalization (Kawai [Megumi Han]), cowardice (Sahara [Yui Ishikawa]), etc.
What Shoko’s suicide does is to make everyone see that everyone is basically in the same boat of guilt, and Shoya’s ability to step outside his self-imposed exile is metonymic for everyone else. Actually, that’s my biggest complaint about this film: too cliché. (Of course maybe I would feel different if I were in their group . . . .)