I don’t think I’m too far off in saying that silent was the series to watch this past drama season. It had an advertising roll-out that was inescapable for large cities. It regularly charted as a twitter hashtag, search term, and so much more. The domestic and international audiences showed up each and every week, glued to the screen waiting for the quiet reveal of what happened next.
There’s so much to unpack about silent, that I’ve tried more than once to do a ‘proper’ review for this. But there’s so much to talk about that I could write an entire graduation thesis on it probably. Instead of a standard review, I will instead do as my title suggests and give you the top three reasons to watch. As always though, I will prime you with the premise just to give you a taste of what’s in store.
silent is a melodramatic romance story. Aoba Tsumugi (Kawaguchi Haruna) fell in love with Sakura Sou (Meguro Ren), a boy who gave a speech to the school, and was in the same class. They had a mutual interest in music, that allowed their relationship to deepen to dating. The duo continued to date even after graduation, only for one day Sou to break-up and disappear from Tsumugi’s life. Eight years later, Tsumugi lives and works in Tokyo, working part time at Tower Records surrounded by the music she loves. While commuting she sees Sou, and attempts to gain his attention. It’s during this reunion, that she realizes that Sou has lost his hearing.
Now, let’s dive into the reasons why you give silent your attention if you haven’t already.
3. Sound Design
With a title like silent, the drama is anything but. It seems so obvious to say, but it can’t be understated that there was so much care put into this series regarding sound. The small details of domestic life, daily commute, the way weather impacts our hearing, and how we alter our own soundscapes with headphones and more. All of these sounds are carefully curated so when you realize they’re absent from a scene, it’s impactful but not distressing.
This extraordinary selection of sound design is then coupled with a meaningful soundtrack that truly only trickles into scenes when absolutely needed, and with the same crafted quality as the soundscape. The final topping is the spoken word of the verbal actors, paying attention to words, emoting them and how even those without hearing impairments can be misheard. Truly, and outstanding example of what it means to take sound design seriously.
2. Sou’s Story
It might be another obvious point, but work with me here. I’ve mentioned several times that Japan is on the rise with having more diverse stories about those with a variety of circumstances, in this instance a deaf male lead. Many of these stories tell the stories of someone who was born with, or developed their conditions at a young age.
Sakura Sou is the very common, but very under-represented demographic of someone developing it during the critical years of young adult-hood. Sou has the striking story of a young man who loved music, and fell in love with someone due to that shared interest. He had until that point, been able to function as someone with hearing, someone with memories of sound. To have that gradually change, to the point of being unable to enjoy it, of not being able to remember the sounds of his former partner or even his family – is a heartbreaking realization that most of us will never understand.
I speak for myself, but also know it to be universal that Sou’s story really resonates well beyond the statistics and target demographics of the audience.
1. Emphasis on Interpersonal Communication
silent isn’t the heartwarming story of everyone coming together to learn Japanese Sign Language (JSL), in order to make the world a better place. It is a melodrama after all. What silent does do is show how much interpersonal communication works on a non-verbal level.
Tsumugi and Sou’s first encounter post-breakup is one of the most emotionally overwhelming scenes I’ve watched in years. The way Tsumugi is taking in Sou’s signs, clearly aware that Sou is communicating to her directly, but unable to respond, let alone understand what is being conveyed to her. How Sou is frantically signing, explaining the only way he can at the moment, that things have changed. That he has changed, and their old connections and communication strategies are mostly gone. That’s a hard truth to swallow.
It’s never directly mentioned, but a large part of silent‘s communication is body language. What’s nice is that most characters have previous connections to one another, a certain amount of familiarity to know or infer how a person is thinking and feeling. Every character has the small quirks and habits when communicating that are so important for directing a conversation, regardless of their ability to sign. It’s after Tsumugi learns more conversational sign, that she begins to pick up and press Sou on his self-censoring behavior when he cuts off his signing, or as his expressions subtly change.
There’s also the obvious solution of the app developed that converts speech to text. Sou uses it with both Tsumugi and Minato (Suzuka Ouji) at first, and it manages to bridge the gap quite a bit. However, the drawbacks is that both Tsumugi and Minato have so much to say, that Sou has to wait to read in full and then respond usually via a notes app or text. This leads to a silted, stop and start style of conversation that isn’t very natural or free-flowing. It’s a learning curve for the speaker’s to make their thoughts concise and keep a natural flow of conversation going, allowing Sou to reply with a concise sign or text. It’s an imperfect solution, with pros and cons that we see emphasized most specifically with Sou and Minato’s relationship.
The last and most obvious part are the characters that bridge the gap. The ones that learn a fair amount of JSL, and have a fairly good command of it, in addition to other strategies of communication. The entire Sakura family has some comprehension of JSL, with varying degrees of conversational use. What’s more interesting to watch is Tsumugi’s first round of JSL with Sou. She does what every new language learner does and introduces herself in JSL, a promising start and indication that she is trying. The thing is – Sou already knows these things about her. It’s a moment where the intention is clearly there, Tsumugi wants to learn to communicate with Sou as fluently as she can. In that same moment, it’s an uphill battle and a mere class or two is not going to allow them to meet in the middle. It’s up to Tsumugi to decide if she’ll continue to the point of fluency or not.
Of course, there’s a million other points I couldn’t get to in just three reasons – cast chemistry, locations scouting (holy cow did silent spark a lot of tourism), cinematography, and so much more. Melodramas aren’t for everyone, but silent makes it worth while to give it a go. As an extra incentive, it was officially licensed and subtitled on Viki so what are you waiting for?
For those who watched with me, what are your thoughts? Is silent worth calling the smash hit of the past drama season? What were your reasons for watching, or even dropping it? Let me know down below!
This sounds interesting. I will try and find a streaming service that is showing it. Or I will try SBS, the public broadcaster here in Australia that shows a lot of foreign film content. I recently watched “Drive My Car” based on the Haruki Murakami short story and loved it.
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“Drive My Car” was an interesting piece! Saw it in theaters and think I need to re-watch it to really appreciate it.
(Also it is floating around online unofficially if you’re out of luck. >..>)
I will watch it now, Thankyou 😊💕😇
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