“People who know flower language will be able to interpret each one’s message and that’s great, but I made it so that even if you don’t you can feel something because of the shot’s layout or the flower’s color. I’m happy to let that audience have their own interpretation.”
–A Silent Voice director Naoko Yamada on the usage of flowers in her film
This is the second of two posts on Naoko Yamada’s use of floriography or hanakotoba (flower language) in her movie adaptation of A Silent Voice. The first post, The Flower Language of A Silent Voice Part 1: Fireworks and Daisies, can be found here. It covers daisies, cosmos, and cyclamen, which frame the film’s two leads, Shoya Ishida and Shoko Nishimiya.
Azaleas appear in the mouths of Shoya and his childhood friend, Kazuki Shimada during a flashback montage of their elementary school antics.
Although azaleas have more flattering meanings like modesty or patience, they also send a message of temperance to those who are going to an excess. Shoya is the only one blamed for bullying Shoko, despite others’ involvement, and Shimada often eggs him on. These azaleas in their mouths could be urging them to exercise restraint, despite the fact that they only escalate their bullying behavior towards Shoko in the film.
As a child, Naoka Ueno often wears a shirt with two hibiscus flowers. Hibiscus is often used to represent overwhelming beauty in a young woman. This is a blinding, but short-lived and impermanent beauty, so hibiscus flowers also remind the recipient that beauty is fleeting and should be enjoyed while present.
Ueno is an interesting character in the anime adaptation of A Silent Voice. Despite Miki Kawai’s position as class representative, it’s Ueno who acts as the ringleader for girls in their class. She’s abrupt and rude to people she doesn’t like, especially Shoko. However, Shoko’s arrival also eventually shatters Ueno’s control over the class and Shoya. Her older self is similarly aggressive and mean but she has a palpable air of loss. She desperately tries to get her former friends back together — ignoring Shoko as much as possible — and it takes a while for her to realize that this is impossible. Their friendship of that time is gone completely, and now she has to forge new bonds with Shoko included if she wants to reconnect with Shoya.
When Shoya throws Shoko’s communication notebook after another round of bullying, Shoko gets down on her knees and wades through the pond to find it. In the foreground, out of focus, is a bed of marigolds and what appears to be veronica blue speedwell.
Marigolds are often the flower of the dead, and are used prominently in religious ceremonies and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Despite their cheery appearance, they’re also associated with pain over the poor treatment of a loved one — Kiznaiver uses them to frame Honoka Maki for this reason — along with feelings of jealousy or guilt. At this point in time, Shoya hasn’t wrapped his head around his inner animosity towards Shoko, and the placement of the marigold flowers at her feet reflects this.
This scene transitions to Shoya in the pond, now bullied by his former friends. Replacing the marigolds are what appear to be white anemone flowers. Anemones have a variety of meanings. White anemones specifically can be harbingers of bad luck or death. They can also mean a forsaken love or relationship.
In this moment, Shoya finds Shoko’s old communication notebook — which he later returns to her once he’s a bit older — reflecting her sincerity, another meaning of the anemone. Anemones are a constant reminder to not desert people you care about while also carrying a message of anticipation for the future.
A blue rose wreath is the primary decoration above the Ishida family dining table. It’s one of the few flowers in the series that looks visibly artificial, a possible reflection of the fact that it’s a fake wreath for decoration only, or a nod to the fact that blue roses themselves are artificial.
Roses cannot naturally grow in a blue color — the closest they can come to this in nature is violet — and have come to reflect mystery or unattainable beauty. It’s an interesting choice for Shoya’s family home, and their meaning of a longing to obtain what is impossible somewhat reflects Shoya’s feelings towards Shoko as well as his mother’s many attempts at getting him to open up to her through the years.
In Japan, small nemophila (baby blue eyes) flowers can turn hillsides into oceans of blue. A small blue flower that looks like nemophila appears after Shoya undergoes another misunderstanding with his classmates, now older. He’s called out by Kawai for bullying Shoko in front of his entire class, which includes his two new friends. Shoya runs away, nearly vomiting, and rides his bicycle home. In this scene, the camera cuts away to a cluster of nemophila.
Nemophila carries a message of forgiveness. Gifting someone nemophila tells them that you stand by them in the face of adversity or forgive them for past wrongdoings. This is highly applicable to its appearance here, where Shoya is once again confronted with how awful he was in the past. Shoko forgives him and, once they finally talk everything through, so do his friends, both old and new.
Sunflowers are well-known for their bright and cheery message. They stand for positivity, longevity, and happiness.
In A Silent Voice, sunflowers appear when Shoya and Shoko go on a summer day trip. On that trip, Shoko tells Shoya that he’ll never be happy with her, while he still blames himself for what happened in their past. The sunflowers appear to be forcing cheer at times, but they also point to the strong bond between Shoya and Shoko, despite various misunderstandings and pain.
When Shoya returns home from the hospital, he finds Maria watering what look like red begonias outside of their house. Begonias have an interesting meaning that includes weariness or preparation for things to come, similar to the feelings of a guardian or watchdog. As a gift, it’s meant to return a favor to the recipient or strengthen relations between the two. Throughout the film, Shoya keeps his family at a distance, but they’ve always been watching over him, especially Miyako.
Additionally, Ueno cared for Shoya the entire time that he was in the hospital and is shown in this scene spying on Shoya’s homecoming before running away. Despite her prickly personality, Ueno did her best to watch over Shoya while he was injured. It’s also hinted that she may have some unrequited feelings for Shoya, which are also represented by the red begonia plant.
Yuzuru Nishimiya takes many photographs throughout A Silent Voice. After her sister tries to take her own life, Yuzuru admits that she was taking pictures of dead things to help inspire Shoko to live. Yuzuru is someone who has sacrificed herself almost entirely for Shoko. By the end of the movie, we see a more content Yuzuru, who is attending school again and succeeding in her artistic endeavors. She’s moved on from photographing things solely to save Shoko.
The photograph that Yuzuru shows off to Shoya is one of flowering clovers. Clovers have a popular message of luck, but the flowers carry an additional meaning, “Think of me.” They can also represent revenge for broken promises — Flip Flappers used clovers to express revenge within the character of Mimi — especially if the object of someone’s affection expressed through the clover rejects them. In Yuzuru’s case, it’s safe to say that luck for the future is the most likely meaning.