A Silent Voice Manga Review
Every once in a while, there comes a manga that challenges what we know of guilt, forgiveness, and our effect on others.
Managing these kinds of themes and emotions in any medium can almost feel like walking on a tightrope. Keep it low-key, and the story won't feel relatable, and will not produce the emotional impact it leans on. Focus on it too much, and it'll feel too over the top, and forced. So it's seldom we get to see these kinds of manga, and even more seldom are they good.But, ladies, gentleman, and others, A Silent Voice, or Koe no Katachi, is that manga, on of those rare manga that can walk the tightrope, and be amazing while doing it.
The story follow the redemption of Ishida Shoya, who at the start of the manga is an elementary school student. Shoya is constantly bored, and is always looking for something fun, or just time consuming, to escape his boredom, but never realizing how that affects those around him.
So when Nishimiya Shouko, a new transfer student who is deaf, transfers to their class. Shoya starts bullying her, day after day, unaware how that affects her.
The rest of the class did nothing to mitigate the situation, mostly because they look at her like a burden, because of her condition.
But with Shokuo being a timid girl, who doesn't like confrontation, she doesn't really fight back, until she is eventually pushed into a corner, and forced to change schools, because of the incident that Shoya started.
After Shouko left school, the class put all of the blame on Shoya's shoulders, even though he wasn't the only one that bullied her, and have started ostracizing and bullying Shoya instead. With Shoya now experiencing the similar situation as to the one he put Shouko in, he decided to right his wrongs, and five years later, he meets Nishimiya Shouko again.
Narrative and Characters
When Shoya and Shouko meet again, a lot of things have changed. Shoya is now responsible, self-aware, and even knows sign-language now, which surprised Shouko.
But he's also shadowed by the ghosts of his past, and feels like he has no right to see Shouko, or to have any friends.Shouko is surrounded by a supportive community, so she is actually somewhat content with her life.
But Shoko always wanted to be friends with Shoya, so it meant a lot to her when they met again, in spite of all of the things he did to her in the past.
So they start to hang out, meet some new friends, and even reunite with former classmates from elementary school, and also develop strong feelings for each other.
One of the strongest qualities of A Silent Voice is that even though it's only a manga with 64 chapters, it has a great number of amazingly written characters, and most of them have great development, either through the narrative in the present timeline, or through flashbacks, and sometimes both.
They are memorable, and even though maybe you wont' remember their names, you'll remember their presence, and how they made you feel. That's possible because the characters seem alive, they don't seem like they are in some faraway place, they feel like you've meet them before. And all of the characters that are prominent, are essential to the narrative. You rarely see panels wasted on unimportant characters, so you always feel like the story is moving forward, there's no stagnation.
What I love the most in A Silent Voice is, of course, the relationship between Shoya and Shouko. Most of the time, in anima, manga, or any other story telling medium, there someone strong looking out for, taking care of, someone what is kind of broken, and has is experiencing difficulties. But that's not the case in A Silent Voice. In this manga, we can see a beautiful relationship between two seemingly broken people, with Ishida troubled by his past, and also being a loner now, and with Shouko feeling like she's a burden to her family, friends, and community because of their conditions. But in their relationship they show to each other, that they matter, and they show that through emotional and physical effort. They support each other where they cannot support themselves, and that's why they create such a strong bond.
Also the supportive cast is one of the strongest supportive cast I've seen. Whether you like their personality or not, why leave a strong presence on the narrative. But I would like to single out one supportive character. Shoko's mother, Nishimiya Yeako.
She is one of the best supportive characters I've seen, but I don't see anyone talking about her. She is a strong character, but strong because of the responsibly to be strong. She is the epitome of a character that does everything for others, but seeks no rewards, of validation for their effort, not even a thank you. Even though people might hate her for that. Someone that stays strong through sheer willpower, to help others, but doesn't want any help herself, no matter what she's going through. And her character and reasoning were further elaborated in a one chapter special, which came out when the movie adaptation aired. It's called: Eiga Koe no Katachi Special Book, and I highly suggest you take 10 minutes to read that one too.
A Silent Voice is, without a doubt, one of the most emotional manga I've even read. And it's not only that it's building towards a big emotional climax, but it's extremely emotional as it goes. In every volume there's at least one very emotional moment. And for someone that prefers emotional impact over narrative structure, this is as good as it gets. I'm not saying that the narrative is bad, it's actually excellent, but the emotional impact that A Silent Voice has is off the charts. The kinds of emotions that A Silent Voice invokes makes you reflect on your own feelings, and how they affect the people that surround you.
It's emotionally taxing, but in a good way. What i mean by that, is that whenever I finished a volume or several chapters, I had to recharge for a bit, to structure my own emotions for a moment, before I could continue reading, and that is something I really value in manga.
The People Behind A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice, or Koe no Katachi (聲の形), was written and drawn by Ooima Yoshitoki, who was only 24 at the time, and this was actually her first attempt at writing a story for a manga.
She created art before, for a manga Mardock Scramble, but this was the first time that she created a story and art for the manga, when she created the masterpiece that is A Silent Voice. Yoshitoki's mother knows sign language, so she helped her a lot when she was making this manga.
A Silent Voice was released weekly in Shounen Magazine (Weekly). The series was published in English by Kodansha Comics USA as A Silent Voice from May 26, 2015 to May 31, 2016, and again in a complete box set on December 19, 2017.
Before Koe no Katachi was serialized, Kodansha's Legal Department had an extensive consultation with the Japanese Federation of the Deaf.
The manga was adapted into an animated movie, which too, is critically acclaimed.
I'll talk about the movie at a later date, and give out my thought on it as well.
The series won first place in the Male Readers category of the 2015 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! and the New Creator Prize in the 19th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. It was also nominated for the 8th Manga Taishou Award, where it ranked third place, and the 38th Kodansha Manga Award for best shounen category.It also has a stunning 8.85 score on MyAnimeList.
A Silent Voice is an emotional roller-coaster, with strong narrative that makes you feel like you're a part of whatever situation is happening in a manga.
It's a great manga that is neither too short, nor too long, and has once conclusive story and ending, which was carefully structured by everything that preceded.
To me, A Silent Voice manga is a 10/10, and is the best manga I've read. I may be a bit biased because, as I've said before, I prefer emotional impact over complicated narrative, but I have no doubt that any kind of reader can enjoy this manga to its fullest.