Bullying is not something that is commonly used as the central element of a story in manga. However, A Silent Voice challenges this convention by using bullying to tell a tale about two children who face the consequences of such actions, and traces their lives following the experience from both sides.
Shoya’s life has been nothing but misery since he bullied Shoko. Although he wants redemption, it’s not just something that you can just receive, and so he set out to work for it. After his first meeting with Shoko in years, Shoya realizes that even the time he has spent learning sign language and saving up money isn’t enough, but despite this his perspective (and thus, his life) begins to turn around.
If you are an avid slice-of-life fan, you will likely enjoy the series, but A Silent Voice is the kind of story that could appeal to just about anyone.
The second volume of A Silent Voice was particularly compelling because it managed to take the emotions of the first volume and capture the same level of feeling yet did so in a way that felt different from before. The first volume began at the same spot as the second volume, but instead of delving back in time, this time the book began to explore what happened after Shoya and Shoko became reacquainted with each other.
Although the narrative now takes place in the ‘present’, Shoya’s character is explored further as we see more of the psychological effect the bullying had on him through his actions, some of which take on new meaning as the readers are made to realize the significance behind them. The reality is that Shoya was on the verge of suicide, and that moment that the story began with in both volumes was the moment that things began to turn around for him. I was particularly impressed with this narrative technique, as it feels like the same moment is re-explored in a more and more engrossing manner in the first two volumes, which is not only interesting but also original.
That being said, what is overall the most important and highly intriguing element of the story is the evolving relationship between Shoya and Shoko, a relationship that has shaped Shoya’s life. A Silent Voice is marketed as a story of redemption, and I’m beginning to see why at this point. Shoya has realized his actions were wrong, and while I would have liked to see a more in-depth progression of this thought process, the story works well merely jumping from his previous childhood mindset to his current one as readers get to instead draw their own conclusions about the change’s exact nature. That’s not to say that Shoya has become some sort of great person yet, either. Although he is working to become better, he still has multiple personality flaws, including his perception of people in general. It’s details like this that make A Silent Voice such a wonderful literary work, as the series feels like something that could appeal to just about anyone, even if they might not already read manga.
It’s not just the characters from the previous volume that are the only focus of the story in the second volume, however. Following Shoya’s initial reconnection with Shoko, Shoya makes a new friend, Tomohiro, and is introduced to Shoko’s sibling Yuzuru. Each of these characters help further both the development of Shoya and advance the primary plot. Tomohiro is able to provide Shoya a more direct look at how friendship works after all the years he spent alone, and while I felt like Yuzuru just seemed to be a character thrown into the narrative for the sole purpose of log-jamming Shoya and Shoko’s progress, she was interesting enough that I can see her being used effectively in future volumes.
A Silent Voice’s second volume manages to stay fresh while maintaining most of the emotional intensity of the previous entry in the series. With the excellent storytelling and character building used to continue into the redemption portion of the plot, an excellent narrative is created. Needless to say, if you liked the first volume then you will also enjoy this one, but if you were holding out in fear of the series going downhill after the initial concept, I think it is safe to say that the time to try it is now.
A Silent Voice Vol. 2 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on July 28th, 2015. Authored by Yoshitoki Oima, the series began in 2013 in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and concluded late 2014. Volume 3 will be published in English on September 29th, 2015. A feature film adaptation has been announced and is in the works.
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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher
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