Not done with the emotional beatdown, A Silent Voice returns to continue telling the story of a bully and his path to redemption.

Shoya and Shoko may be friends now, but Shoya still has his doubts about what he can do for Shoko and whether he deserves to be her friends in the first place. These questions become even more exasperated when Shoko’s childhood friend Miyoko and Shoya’s childhood friend Naoka come back into their lives.

A Silent Voice is the kind of story that could appeal to just about anyone, but readers looking for a dramatic and emotional story will be most pleased.

I was curious after the stellar first volume of A Silent Voice how the series would take the story and turn it into the next six volumes of the books already released in Japan. This third volume has explained it to me: much like real life, Shoya’s ‘redemption’ is not so simple. It’s not a matter of just apologizing and then moving on and healing, Shoya and Shoko have a variety of people that influence their lives and still have a ways to go in their relationship with each other.

This third volume can be most simply summarized by the characters from Shoya’s past focused on in each half; the first is Miyoko. In the first volume, Miyoko was the girl who befriended Shoko and attempted to learn sign language before being driven from attending school by the other students. In a fascinating turn of events, everyone involved blames themselves; Shoya thinks that his bullying took away their time with each other, Miyoko thinks that she abandoned Shoko by not going to school, and Shoko thinks that Miyoko was forced out for their association. The result is that no-one is happy, and this disconnect between the three of them was a definite highlight in the first half of the volume both in and of itself and because of how it is brought to the forefront when Shoya finds Miyoko and the three of them become friends.

In the second half, the focus of the volume shifts over to Naoka, the girl Shoya and the gang used to hang out with in elementary school. She, too, has been greatly affected by Shoya’s bullying and ostracization, but for different reasons: she wanted to be close to Shoya. The mob mentality, however, pushed her away from him as being associated with Shoya was such a negative thing that the younger Naoka stopped talking to him. Naoka directed her feelings exactly the opposite from Miyoko and Shoya, instead blaming Shoko for her problems. As ironic as this seems to the readers, it does actually make her a very human, if slightly unlikable, character, and she adds substantially to the story.

Despite essentially serving as foils for each other, Miyoko and Naoka actually highlighted similar issues in Shoko and Shoya’s relationship, which as we know is the primary conflict of the story. Miyoko, as a blatantly positive force for Shoko, not only makes Shoya feel more guilty for his supposed ‘separating’ of them but also shows him how little he understands Shoko. Naoka futhered this by bluntly accusing them of being ‘forced friends’, a concept Shoya and Shoko realize that they can’t refute. To this point, the relationship hits a crossroad: at what point is Shoya acting out of obligation and at what point is he doing it purely out of legitimate interest in Shoko? As the volume explored this concept, I found myself entranced due to the humanity and depth behind it. Although the volume concluded with a rather abrupt shift in tempo concerning Shoko, the use of resurrecting old characters to highlight new elements of Shoya’s struggle with Shoko made for an excellent read.

A Silent Voice continues to be one of the more impactful manga being released stateside in its third volume. Through the introduction of characters from Shoya and Shoko’s past, we get to see more of their mental struggles and how they relate to each other, and the story benefits all the more because of it. At this point it is clear that the series is hitting its stride, so if you are interested be sure to give volume three a read.

What do our scores mean?

A Silent Voice Vol. 3 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on September 29th, 2015. Authored by Yoshitoki Oima, the series began in 2013 in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and concluded late 2014. Volume 4 will be published in English on November 24th and a feature film adaptation has been announced and is in the works.

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