A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima is a series of manga in seven volumes. In 2016 a movie by the same name has been released (sometimes it can be also found as The Shape of Voice). The movie was one of the most aesthetically pleasing animations I’ve experienced in a while and I loved it so much I decided to read the manga. If you’re interested, both the movie and the manga series can be found on archive.org!
Shoya is a kid like many others: he spends time with his friends doing reckless things and playing video games. One day a new girl comes to school, Shoko. She smiles a lot and is really shy, but still tries to be friendly. There’s only one thing: Shoko is deaf.
At first, it seems everything might be well, but soon everyone in class starts making fun of her, Shoya being the one who harasses her the most. Even those who don’t participate actively, stand by and look. Or make fun of her behind her back, like the girls do. When the games go too far, Shoya becomes the scapegoat for the mischief he helped creating and enjoys the same bullying he inflicted on the girl.
As the years’ pass and Shoya move to middle school and high school, nothing changes. He isn’t bullied anymore, but he has withdrawn from society, has no friends and shows what to me seemed like social anxiety. He decides to throw himself off a bridge, but first, he wants to see Shoko for the last time and apologize to her. When he finally meets her, everything changes.
From there, the story goes on portraying the will of Shoya to be forgiven and reclaim his life, Shoko dealing with depression, her sister Yuzuru’s struggle to save her and Shoko and Shoya’s former classmates trying to make up for the past.
Bullying, depression and suicide are the big themes of the story (so yeah, big trigger warning for that!) but overall it’s not pessimistic. As much as it gets sad sometimes, it surprisingly manages to also be heartwarming and make you smile. This is partly due to the fact that is easy to sympathize with the characters, to the point that even the least likeable have understandable motives.
It’s not only about the bad things: the story portrays how powerful forgiveness and compassion can be. That’s why it manages to be so full of hope, despite it all. Despite the fact that some characters don’t seem to feel there is any. We need more stories like this one: hopeful and gentle, instead of the many nihilistic portrays of life that we so often see around. Especially in the teenage section of the bookstores.
I hope to write more extensively about how forgiveness is central in this series, hopefully, the post will be out in a week.