Really didn’t expect Yoshitoki Oima to blow my mind on this one, but she did. In all the best ways, this story is so prevalent over issues of bullying people with disabilities. Let me give you the low-down.
A Silent Voice Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
First we meet Shoya, a daredevil little runt that does anything necessary to escape the boredom. Only now he’s got one more year until middle school and his friends are done with jumping off bridges, getting into fights, and skipping cram school. They want to grow up…which is a terrible thing to do by the way. I hate growing up. In comes the beautiful Shoko who’s a new transfer student and get this…she’s deaf. How do we know she’s deaf? Well Shoya shouts, “What a weirdo?” really loud, you can practically feel it reverberating from the book, just to test the waters. Obviously, she can’t hear him and he finds that fascinating.
Then, he goes on to continuously disrupt class using her disability to his advantage. He’s a little asshole I tell you. It’s like he had no empathy for a person who can’t hear at all. Pestering her. Treating her like an alien. All the while the class is accepting, until they aren’t so accepting anymore. Everyone gets annoyed in class when it takes longer for her to do something or when she has trouble doing something because of her disability.
He bullies her to get a reaction and keeps doing it when she gives him none. Instead, she gives an apology or a polite gesture and that aggravates him to no end. The tables get turned around, trust me on this, and it’s just a wonderful story to read. I loved the themes, the characters, and the art. The artwork is really simple, but some areas provide more detail than others. I’m okay with it, it’s a very typical slice-of-life style.
I think that what this does such a great job at is incorporating realistic characters in a school setting along with common themes like bullying. That may sound like something we’ve all read before, but I don’t know…this one is different. This one packs a punch, because even though Shoya is a little shit, I still like him. I still hope for him to change and I want to be there to witness it. And now after all the elementary school flashbacks, we see him at the end of high school in the last few pages, so I’m wondering where it’s going now.
Great manga focused on a troublemaking kid getting through the highs and lows of elementary school. There’s friendship, school events, fights, and all that good stuff. Really loved everything overall.