I love graphic novels and manga. I worked at a comic book store for three years, two of them as a manager. Graphic novels/manga are something I feel passionate about and that inspired my last resolution: to update the manga/GN collection at the Carrollton Public Library and to read/review them with more regularity.
In light of that, new series have been ordered, and “A Silent Voice” (Koe no Katachi, literally “The Shape of Voice” ) by Yoshitoki Ōima, might be my new favorites.
The basic premise: This is a shonen manga that was originally written as a one-shot. It follows Shoya Ishida, a daredevil and a bully, as he meets a new transfer student, Shoko Nishimiya, a girl who is deaf.
She seems like a complete alien to him and she becomes Shoya’s favorite target, bullying her to the point where she transfers schools. Six years later, Shoya meets her again and tries to make up for past mistakes.
The plot: For volume one, they honestly give away the plot on the back of the book. It starts out with Shoya meeting Shoka in high school, and then jumping back six years to when they first met. The rest of volume one chronicles what Shoya was like at that age, how he treated Shoka, and how his classmates responded to both Shoya and Shoka.
Spoilers: Shoya is not a particularly good guy.
The art: Aesthetically, it’s quite beautiful. Ōima has a fairly modern style with clean lines and minimalistic shading. Scenes are dynamic and Ōima isn’t afraid of drawing his characters at any angles, which keeps the scenes dynamic and full of variety. The character design is much closer to what “real” people look like, forgoing crazy clothes, colors, and hairstyles that would be very normal in most other manga. For manga, they also have smaller eyes than a lot of typical shojo (i.e. eyes don’t take up half their face).
The verdict: Everyone loves an underdog. It’s one of the reasons Spiderman and Naruto are so popular. There’s something great about being able to cheer a character along and see their hopes and dreams realized. They’re easy to empathize with because everyone’s had bad days. Sometimes they’re really bad days. And it’s nice to read that bad days get better.
This is not that kind of book.
In a lot of ways, it’s a manga about how life isn’t fair. Near the beginning of the book, Shoya’s teacher tells him that “There are some things in this world that you just have to deal with.” Sometimes it’s a physical handicap, sometimes it’s something you caused, and sometimes that thing you are dealing with is horrifically unfair, but just because it’s unfair doesn’t make it go away.
This is a fairly different manga. It’s very slice-of-life, but without the typical over-the-top characters and antics. It’s also incredibly interesting to read a book where the main character is the kind of person that’s usually an antagonist, not a protagonist. Ōima does an incredible job of making him relatable while not condoning his bullying actions.
Warning: Reading this book might cause the reader to become uncomfortably self-aware of their own social decisions. Want to take that chance? You can find this manga here!
The verdict: I give this a 5 stars of 5 stars and declare it a Top Banana book. …don’t worry, most books will not get this verdict. We’re just starting the year on a super positive note.
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Information about the manga taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Silent_Voice_(manga)