Anime Trending got the chance to read the first volume of A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima digitally! BookWalker describes the manga as:
LEARNING TO LISTEN. Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his? past mistakes, or is it too late? Read the manga industry insiders voted their favorite of 2014! “A very powerful story about being different and the consequences of childhood bullying… Read it.” -Anime News Network “The word heartwarming was made for manga like this.” -Manga Bookshelf
Here’s Isaleebelle’s thoughts on it.
[The review contains some spoilers. If you wish read the manga digitally, it is available on BookWalker.]
A Silent Voice begins with one of the main characters, Shoya Ishida, a teenager who blocks everyone out in front of him. In the first volume, his past with the newly transferred student, Shoko Nishimiya, is exposed. It’s clear from the beginning that he isn’t very excited about the student, and quickly becomes annoyed after learning about her disability — deafness. However, he notices her reactions are significantly different than how other people would normally respond to bullying; because of this, Shoya begins to bully her in order to ‘fight boredom’ until she finally transfers out. Yet, the moment she transfers out, Shoya becomes isolated from the people he once considered his friends and is forced to live with his life changing decision as well as the regret that comes with it… that is, until he meets Nishimiya once more.
The manga at first presents itself as seemingly lighthearted and nostalgic, but as you read on, you will soon notice that it is a piece of loneliness, great regret, a tale of trying to make amends and surviving teenagehood in Japan. At the same time, it is also a tale of growth, depth, and lastly, the lonesome feeling of silence. It was amazing to see how such deep and heavy topics could be shown through manga as a medium, presenting such a childhood for Shoya who eventually becomes lonely and nearly suicidal. The manga switched back and forth: starting from Shoya’s high school life, then his prolonged elementary school past, and then throws the audience right back into the present, right where the main characters to this meaningful story step in again. It makes you wonder why Shoya became such a person, how it happened to him, and how he would act in the future.
The thing with A Silent Voice is that many of its themes and struggles hits home for a lot of people. Granted, everyone has their own circumstances and own story. What A Silent Voice brings to light is not only childhood struggles, but brings up topics that usually aren’t fully developed in other works or are glossed over a lot; one of which is bullying and its effects. The truth is, bullying is very real and happens directly or indirectly to almost every single human being. One of the most popular places for it to happen is, sadly, during our childhoods while in or out of school. As a child, Shoya embodies one of the worst kind of bullies out there, from torturing animals and insects to making things extremely difficult for Nishimiya. So why does Shoya do this, and why is he so cruel to Nishimiya in particular? Shoya doesn’t have a clear answer, but it can be seen that Nishimiya is definitely different from all her peers. Because she’s deaf, it’s hard for her classmates to move along in class. Everything has to be repeated to her, she can’t sing in choir class, and overall many of the students feel that she isn’t one of them; she’s thought of as an alien. But Shoya, thinking of himself as the crusader against boredom, takes on this task of tackling Nishimiya the Alien for everyone else in the class. His boredom is again satisfied, but is it truly? And out of all the cruel things that he does, why does no one stop him? Even the teachers don’t have a great answer.
In the end, Shoya gets a taste of his own medicine. With Nishimiya’s abrupt leave, everyone takes the chance to use Shoya as the scapegoat. When he pleads for others get on his side, no one offers. Everyone knew what they did was wrong; they also had teased and bullied Nishimiya one way or another, but the person in the most wrong was Shoya. In addition, they ended up using Shoya as a sacrificial scapegoat, blaming everything on him. And thus, in his place, someone else silently takes over as the leader of the bullies in the class, and before he even realizes it, Shoya is the new target for everyone to laugh at.
One of the greatest scenes in Volume 1 is where Shoya’s mother apologizes to Nishimiya’s mother. Nishimiya’s mom isn’t too impressed, but Shoya’s mother goes above and beyond to deeply and truly say sorry for her son’s misdemeanor. But all is done and said, and the amount of money that she owes to the Nishimiyas is no small amount. Struck by the change in his friends, classmates, and how his mother had to take the burden of it all in front of someone else’s parent, something changed in Shoya himself. Who was it that cared for him most of all? Who would he come back to after getting dumped by his once so-called friends? It would be his mother. And for her, for all the things he did, he began to pick up the pieces of his regret once he entered high school.
And Nishimiya’s actions during their elementary days are perhaps one to highlight. Maybe because she knew she was different, she tried hard to fit in. If I were her, I definitely wouldn’t have put up with all the bullying and teasing. I wouldn’t even have lifted a finger to clean up young Shoya’s desk after all his actions, even if the other children were bullying them both together. This makes me wonder just what went through Nishimiya’s mind, and she still has the patience and compassion to deal with her bullies even with her disability. I wonder if she wanted to fit in with her classmates, or if she just wished to try to be herself: a friend to anyone that can understand her. Either way, it’s hard to decipher her thoughts only through her writing and actions.
All in all, the first volume has a lot of great material, and prompts for many, many questions. Isolated Shoya runs into the girl that he once physically fought with over his personal beliefs and thoughts. Why does he grab her sleeve? Is it to apologize once, or ask for forgiveness forever?