After an unfortunate romantic setback for Shoko, things have gotten a little awkward between her and Shoya as they head to the amusement park in a trip that finds them both slowly continuing to change.
Shoko tried her hardest to tell Shoya that she loves him, but after he misunderstands she quickly retreats home to Yuzuru. While things get a little bit awkward between the two, Shoya is able to slowly connect with some of his other classmates for the first time as they all head to the amusement park with Shoko in tow. However, much to Shoya’s displeasure Naoka is invited as well, making for an awkward experience given her history with Shoko. At the amusement park, Shoya starts to realize how much his perspective has changed over the past months as both he and Shoko consider what it really means to be friends with someone.
A Silent Voice continues to be an extremely challenging read because of the potency with which it addresses the themes of bullying, loneliness and belonging, with the journeys of both Shoya and Shoko equal parts painful and fulfilling to witness. In the previous volume, Shoya’s old friend Naoka accused Shoya and Shoko of being “pretend friends”, forcing the two to really consider where they stand in relation to one another. The culmination of this is Shoko’s attempted confession to Shoya, which she quickly aborts due to Shoya’s inability to understand her words. This volume picks up right at this point, with its main strength being how it effectively conveys its chosen themes.
The theme of communication is portrayed extremely well in this volume thanks to how strongly it highlights the difficulty in communicating that each of these characters share. Shoko’s confession to Shoya is just the beginning of the exploration of her troubles communicating, and I thought this volume did a really great job at really exploring the meaning of Shoko’s struggles. While it goes without saying that she has difficulties verbally communicating, the really thematically rich part is in the nuance this volume shows in emphasizing that much of her struggle is with working up the courage to actually face her own feelings head-on and convey them to others. There is a perceptible barrier between Shoko and the audience as we have to interpret Shoko’s feelings through her actions just as the rest of the characters do, masterfully conveying the sense of distance that Shoya and others feels in trying to understand her. However, by the end of the volume it feels like we do understand just a little more about Shoko and can see her own growth to satisfying effect. I enjoyed that this volume doesn’t come up with any easy answers, examining some of Shoko’s backstory to enhance her depth of character to great effect.
Although communication is perhaps the central theme of this volume, the exploration of what it really means to be friends continues to be well portrayed. This is most apparent in Shoya’s character development in this volume, as over the course of the group’s trip to the amusement park he starts to realize that his own mental image of what it means to be “friends” is beginning to vanish. I enjoyed how vividly this was portrayed, first at the amusement parks where Shoya reaches a satisfying if tentative realization that he’s actually enjoying being around other people. I’m continually appreciative that this series takes the time to reflect upon the journey’s of these characters to cement how much they’ve grown, with both Shoko and Shoya’s character arcs portrayed effectively in this manner. They aren’t perfect, and have plenty of ways to go but the series takes the time to celebrate the littler, happier moments in this volume as the reward for difficult journey these characters took to get there and as a reader this is the real ongoing payoff of this series.
Even as the main couple continues to grow, this volume is effective in emphasizing the role the supporting characters have in their development. This is best exemplified by Naoka, who continues to make her presence known in this volume. It’s interesting that for all the unpleasantness she continually embodies, it is perhaps her who has had the most impact on both Shoya and Shoko, forcing them to really challenge their own self-perceptions. This is most apparent in her interactions with Shoko, who is forced to really confront her unwillingness to communicate with others as discussed above. The supporting characters make their impact most apparent during the trip to the amusement park, and this is done extremely well from Shoya’s perspective as the volume does an excellent job conveying the uneasy sense he feels in questioning whether the group are actually friends or not.
Perhaps the most effective part of this volume is its final story during which Shoko’s family dynamic is explored, with Yuzuru’s relationship with Shoko’s grandmother brought to the forefront. Without spoiling anything this was an incredibly strong story which was handled very well, not only providing a strong bit of character development for Yuzuru but also serving to bring the themes of this volume together incredibly effectively. I really enjoyed the vivid sense of Yuzuru’s character that we get from this volume, providing a significant amount of context for her personality which really enriches her character.
Shoko’s mother is also given some significant depth, as we see for the first time the real barrier between her, Yuzuru and Shoko as they all attempt to go through life. I appreciate this context as it really shed light on this family’s dynamics, making me more invested in their overall progression than before. Finally, I loved how this occasion demonstrated how far Shoya has come as he attempts to provide comfort for Yuzuru, demonstrating that they all have indeed become genuine friends and putting an impactful capstone on their collective development from these past volumes.
A Silent Voice continuing willingness to tackle themes that are not particularly pleasant to look makes for a engaging yet emotionally draining read. The examination of friendship and communication in this volume is wonderfully done, capturing the texture and context in the experiences these characters go through as they attempt to grow and understand themselves just a little bit better. I continue to appreciate how this volume makes the effort emphasize how these characters have grown, creating a deep thematic richness that continues to make the series a fulfilling experience.
A Silent Voice Vol. 4 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on November 24th, 2015. Authored by Yoshitoki Oima, the series began in 2013 in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, and concluded in late 2014 with seven volumes. Volume 5 was published in English on January 19th, and a feature film adaptation has been announced and is in the works.
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