Shoya, Shoko and their new friends being to plan to make Tomohiro’s movie over their summer vacation. When Shoya is tasked with securing his former school for a location shoot, he is forced to confront more of his terrible past.
As summer vacation approaches, Shoya, and gang start planning to make Tomohiro’s movie together. After convincing the rest of the group to bring Shoko into the fold, Shoya is tasked with getting permission to use his old elementary school as a shooting location. With Satoshi and Shoko in tow, Shoya heads to his old school for a torturous experience as he re-enters the place where he bullied Shoko for so long. Afterwards, the group begins to spend their summer days leisurely planning the movie as both Shoya and Shoko have the most fun summer of their lives. However, Shoya slowly begins to feel a creeping insecurity of what might happen if the others find out about how he once treated Shoko. This comes to a head after a serious misunderstanding with Miki that puts the entire group in jeopardy even as Shoya and Shoko begin to spend more time together.
It’s becoming a bit of a routine now to say this, but A Silent Voice continues to be a thematically rich yet difficult series to read. This volume tackles some potent emotional issues as Shoya returns to his old school, dealing with this segment in a wonderfully careful and thoughtful way. Shoya’s development over the course of the series has been handled extremely well, and this scene stands out because it does an excellent job showing his regret hanging over him. This comes to a fore in a scene where he encounters his old teacher, and here we get a very tangible sense of his inner battle to convince himself that he has changed. Shoya’s guilt is portrayed vividly, but we also get to see his perception of the friends he has made challenged as well. This culminates in a result that really does justice to the weight of the conflicting emotions he feels, and this made for some extremely impactful reading.
Shoya’s journey back to his old school did a fantastic job conveying his creeping guilt as he finds his situation improving, and this continues to linger effectively throughout the entire volume as he interacts with his friends. Shoya’s longing for acceptance and fear that his new friends will abandon him if they find out about his past with Shoko is emphasized well, and I thought that this volume did a great job putting his fear in context to make it feel very personal and appropriately raw. This provides a strong grounding for the later half of the volume, making each scene resonate because of how familiar we become with Shoya’s fears.
Shoya’s fears eventually come to fruition after a misunderstanding with Miki, and although I enjoyed the emotional poignancy of this moment, I felt that the execution itself missed the mark a little bit. This entire situation felt a little bit off in the sense that a number of the supporting characters felt like they were acting unnaturally given their personalities as established (albeit fairly lightly) up to this point. There wasn’t a whole lot of context given to the way Miki and the others overreacted, and it felt a little bit off how quickly things devolved into such a nasty situation given the lengths the previous volume went to in establishing their friendship. Of course, the speed at which friendship can turn ugly is a theme being addressed by this scene, but I felt that it could have used a little more context to make everything feel like a more natural progression.
Although I felt the destruction of Shoya’s group of friend group wasn’t handled as well as it could have been, what this volume absolutely nails is in conveying the emotional toll this takes on Shoko. The disconnect she felt being unable to hear her friends tearing each other apart was well portrayed, emphasizing her feelings of helplessness. This becomes a driving factor throughout the rest of the volume as Shoya tries to spend more time with her, and it becomes very apparent that both Shoko and Shoya are quite shaken even though they each try to put up a brave front with varying degrees of success. The volume ends on one heck of a cliffhanger - one that is both shocking to witness but is extremely well done in the sense that it felt appropriately contextualized based on the preceding events. Without spoiling anything, the last quarter of this volume was A Silent Voice at its best in portraying the emotional struggles of both Shoya and Shoko with a remarkable degree of care and nuance as it all comes to a riveting climax.
A Silent Voice’s art has never really struck me as particularly impressive, but this volume is a noticeable improvement that caught my eye much more often. The first chapter is a well-detailed portrayal of the concept of the groups movie which stuck out because of the grittier and more detailed look compared to the rest of the volume. Character expressions are drawn with more detail generally, but this shines through especially well in several climactic scenes which show close-ups of facial expressions. This really helped to get across the emotions in several scenes and help give them the emotional heft they deserved.
A Silent Voice continues to be a series richly worth reading as well as one of the most emotionally affective manga on the market today. Shoya and Shoko’s story comes to an impressive and shocking climax thanks to the care with which this volume portrays their emotional development. Although this volume misses slightly with its portrayal of the secondary characters, the personal journey that each of these characters continues to venture on is equal parts heartwrenching and joyful.
A Silent Voice Vol. 5 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on January 19th, 2016. Authored by Yoshitoki Oima, the series began in 2013 in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and concluded in late 2014 with seven volumes. Volume 6 will be published in English on March 15th, 2016, and a feature film adaptation has been announced and is in the works.
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