Shouya Ishida, a boy always looking for ways to beat boredom, ends up looking for it in the wrong place. Weirded out by his new classmate, a deaf transfer student named Shouko Nishimiya, he deems her as the target of his ostracizing and bullying. Day after day, Shouya picks on Shouko, unaware of the effects of his thoughtless actions. He finally understands the pain he has inflicted on her when one day, his bullying culminates in her leaving the school, and his classmates begin to shun and harass him every chance they get instead. Determined to right his wrongs, five years later, Shouya, now a third year high school loner, meets Shouko again. Thus begins the story of a young man's path to redemption.
Before Koe no Katachi was serialized, Kodansha's Legal Department had an extensive consultation with the Japanese Federation of the Deaf. The series won first place in the Male Readers category of the 2015 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! and the New Creator Prize in the 19th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. It was also nominated for the 8th Manga Taishou Award, where it ranked third place, and the 38th Kodansha Manga Award for best shounen category.
The series was published in English by Kodansha Comics USA as A Silent Voice from May 26, 2015 to May 31, 2016. Crunchyroll simulpub the series. It was also published in Spanish by Milky Way Ediciones from February 24, 2015 to February 23, 2016.
East Asian schools are somewhat infamous for the teasing, ostracizing and sometimes inhuman oppression students can inflict on their fellow classmates. This is not to say that educational institutions across the world, from preschool to graduate, are exempt from bullying in some form or another. It’s a universal phenomenon that crops up wherever social order exists.
Those who are doing the bullying may not realize the extent of the damage they cause (“We’re just having fun”) or otherwise justify it through the abasement of their victims (“he’s so weird; she deserves it”).
Those at the receiving end often “demonize” their oppressors and curse the world and themselves.
Very rarely is a victim able to smile and take it quietly.
“Koe no Katachi” is a story that is unusually mature and respectful of reality. It acknowledges Guilt, not from simple misunderstandings and circumstances but from foolish, painful, irreversible mistakes that can’t be undone by a thousand apologies.
It explores painful knots that aren’t easy to untie, life as unpolished and horribly complicated. It acknowledges the reality of ugly faces, bloodshot eyes, and even pimples.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ishida Shouya, after deciding to commit suicide, reaches out to the one he made miserable and took so much away from... and finds that Nishimiya Shouko doesn’t forgive him. She denies there was anything to forgive in the first place. That deafness wasn’t the reason she was staying silent. It wasn’t because she was weak, but because she was strong.
An “I’m sorry,” doesn't go very far, but as for how far it goes, the guilty must cherish every millimeter, every little step toward making that huge mistake right again. New friends are met along the way, and old “friends” and former accomplices have to be faced once more.
Sometimes the worst thing that happens in stories like these is that the harshness of reality makes happiness look foolish. Sometimes the mangaka views tenderness as a fault to be overcome and the art and story reflect it, turning everyday faces into grotesque caricatures.
This story doesn’t make that mistake. More cynically-minded readers such as myself may be tempted to see such a hopeful new start as “unrealistic” and “soft.” Because my life didn’t give me that kind of second chance. I wasn’t even able to think to be kind to the those (********) that made my life miserable. And the ones I looked the other way from? That I bullied in return? There’s no way they’d be to me.
But stories are a wonderful place to find hope. One must remember that there if there is a shadow, there is a light behind it. Nishimiya Shouko makes Ishida Shouya start his life over again, and, unknowlingly, invites the reader to do the same... or, you know, just cry their eyes out. But maybe that's enough for now. read more
If you were a bully, would you try to change who you were? If you were a victim of bullying, would you forgive your assailant? Koe no Katachi (literally translated “The Shape of Voice” in English) by Ooima Yoshitoki details the story of Ishida Shouya, and his growth from a savage terror in elementary school, concerned only with satisfying his own need for stimulation, to a young man with concern and empathy for those around him.
We’re first introduced to Shouya as a child, performing a “test of courage” with his friends. You see, dear reader, Shouya is afraid of boredom. School is boring, stagnating is boring, living is boring, so he has to do something to cut through that cloud of drivel. What does he do? He jumps off of bridges. He pours salt on slugs. He eggs his two best friends on into getting into the same sort of trouble that he does. Shouya is a problem child, and this is made very clear from the very beginning of Koe no Katachi. When he meets Nishimiya Shouko, a deaf girl who transfers into his elementary school, he does not treat her like a person – he treats her like a tool to alleviate his boredom. He yells in her ear, pours dirt on her, and tosses out her hearing aids, not thinking for a moment that she is just another human being. No, she’s an alien from the planet Nishimiya, and she doesn’t understand human speech.
Still interested in this manga? Hopefully, you are. The first part of Koe no Katachi is written so realistically that we can only feel hatred for Shouya as he goes through the motions of his existence. His behaviour toward Shouko and his sudden realization that what he has been doing is wrong is portrayed so masterfully as to be simply exceptional. This primarily unlikable child, Shouya, is the main character of this story, and this story is about his redemption as he transforms from a bully into a good human being. We watch him as he ruins his life, and we watch him try to build it back up again. His development is handled marvellously. His desire to better himself and help his mother (as well as Shouko, when he encounters her again later on) is commendable, and his ability to face the facts and stand his ground despite the shame and hatred he feels toward himself is nothing short of amazing.
However, since Shouya is the narrator of our story, he is also an unreliable one. We don’t learn much about Shouko due to his influence. Now, some people may complain that it is because Shouko is poorly developed as a character. I disagree. I think it is more because we see Shouko through Shouya’s eyes, and Shouya himself doesn’t know very much about her. The only thing he can see is her expressions and what she says through her hands. That is all we can use to infer how she feels and what she thinks. And, for the most part, she is very expressive. It isn’t too difficult to guess what her emotions are based on the way her eyes blaze or which way her mouth curves – up or down. What about the more intricate thought patterns, you ask? Well, that’s all up to our own interpretation, and Shouya’s, too, which is where we begin making mistakes, and where the majority of the problems our hero faces stems from.
We have the same amount of information about the other characters in the manga (of which there are numerous), but these characters speak with their voices, which is why we find them to be more readily understandable (and Shouya as well, by extension). None of the characters fall into regular tropes such as tsundere or yandere – although it could be argued that Ueno has traits of both – and they all feel like very real people. They are likable and dislikable just like regular old individuals. Some of the most important characters we come across are Ueno Naoka, Kawai Miki, and Sahara Miyoko, all of whom were Shouya’s classmates when he was a child.
Ueno, at first, seems like a fairly pleasant girl, until we learn how bratty and spoilt she is. She joins right in with bullying Shouko, and indeed doesn’t seem to grow up, as she carries her hatred with her all the way into high school. While she is definitely a dislikable character, she is a well-crafted one. She understands her flaws and she wants to change who she is, but she doesn’t know how to and isn’t sure how to move forward. Moreover, her own motivations trump any sort of misgivings she has for her own behaviour, and while she may do a lot of things wrong, she also does some things right. She is forefront, honest, and blunt. She speaks her mind, and in some ways is a true driving force for the plot later on.
Kawai may be kawaii in appearance, but personality-wise she is anything but. Giving off the façade of a well-to-do honour student, Kawai breezes through life by doing whatever best benefits her and her vision of the world. While not as influential a character as Ueno, she certainly has her part to play in Koe no Katachi, as you’ll see once you read it. Sahara is a shy bookworm sort of character who warms up to Shouko the best in elementary school, although her attempts at making contact are ruined by peer pressure and psychological abuse. She is one of the characters who truly tries to make Shouya portray how much he has changed as a person.
The rest of the haphazard group is composed of Nagatsuka Tomohiro, Mashiba Satoshi, and Nishimiya Yuzuru. Nagatsuka wants to become a movie director, and his attempts at making a movie are what draw the characters together in the first place. Mashiba is one of the people Nagatsuka drags in to his dream. Yuzuru, meanwhile, is Shouko’s younger sibling, and enjoys taking pictures.
No character roster of Koe no Katachi would be complete without naming Shouko and Shouya's mothers. Both are very well designed characters, Nishimiya especially, and they both showcase different forms of love to their children.
This manga is riddled with hints, foreshadowing, and seemingly insignificant or confusing phrases and expressions. Certain heart-tugging events that may leave you stunned and at a loss for words may seem very natural and even inevitable when you take into account the main character’s lack of understanding of the situation and the cryptic messages we were privy to earlier. The second part of the manga, detailing Shouya’s growth as a person while he tries to make amends to Shouko, mixes the genres of drama, psychology, and slice of life together in a wonderfully immersive tale. The third portion of the manga is just as well-written, if more drama-filled than the relatively tame second part. Nothing changes the fact that the author seems to have a very good understanding of the mind. While she certainly could have made this manga darker, it is very good for what it is, and realistic enough that it doesn’t need anything more depressing to be considered a masterpiece.
Ooima Yoshitoki is a very good artist. Koe no Katachi has stellar art for a manga published on a weekly basis, with very few inconsistencies and no deterioration in quality that I have been able to notice. Both characters and backgrounds are detailed, and each character has a distinctive design to make them stand out from the rest. Characters are actually fairly realistic looking apart from Nagatsuka. Screentones are used to their full potential and there are definitely no cuts and corners taken when it comes to the artwork.
What can I say about Koe no Katachi, in closing? It was certainly an amazing ride and I’m glad I came along for it. While it does have its issues here and there, one must take into account that this is the debut work of a very young author. It is truly an exceptional manga with the subject matter it tackles and the quality it is written, and I wholeheartedly label it a must-read for anyone interested in literature in general. Remember, kids, no matter what mistakes you’ve committed in the past, if you regret them and see them as they are, you’re a good person. Don’t be afraid of facing your fears, because that is only the first step of the journey you’re about to take. Growing up is a painful process – but we all have to do it. And at the end, you’ll reach a door. You know what you’ll find behind that door? Your future, yours to take into your own hands, as bright as you are able to make it. You can only help yourself as long as you are alive.read more
Koe no Katachi sensitized me. It kept thinking about it during all the time I read it, and also after. I'll try to explain why this manga is so powerfull.
We follow Ishida Shouya in his quest for redemption, because in his childhood he bullied a deaf girl, Nishimiya Shouko, then being he himself bullied. Many would say he does not deserve forgiveness, but yet, he is trying his best to make up for the time he ruined for Shouko. This journey is just so relatable and credible because ,just like live itself, it has its ups and downs, its happy moments and its sad moments.
During Shouya's quest we face lots of diferents aspects of life. In the bullying theme, we get to see how lack of communication and comprehension, how jealousy and how the pressure of the society takes people to bully someone. Also its after-affects are greatly depicted. We see how bullying takes people to hate themselves and to devalue their own lives, to the point they wish to die. Nevertheless, many other themes are aboarded: we get to understand what real friends are and what gives one right to be friends with people; we get to see and understand family relations, like the love and protection between siblings and parents.
During the manga, Shouya tries to compensate for the time he ruined for Shouko. One of the ways he does that is by reintroduncing her to some of their childhood classmates, who she could have been friends with, if not for his actions, and by trying to get her to participate in the his activities, like the production of a movie . This aspects is good because, besides making Shouya face his past problems, it introduces lots of great characters. The side characters are great because they are all very credible and realistic, because none of them is perfect, all of them have or had their problems and suffering. It just makes us want to read more because, in my case, it made me curious and made me want to understand that character and what happened to him/her. Ueno is a troubled girl who suffers because by some reasons she despises herself; Kawai is an egocentric and manipulative girl but who hard-worked to get in her position, and for that hates not being recognized; Matsuba is someone who suffered bullying in the past and now expresses his anger mostly through violence when facing some bully; Nagatsuka is someone who does not have friends and who compensates his loneliness by being extremely energetic; Sahara suffers because she abandoned Souko in the past and because she tries to become someone better, but feels she can’t do it; Shouko’s mother is someone who struggled to raise her daughters, who suffers with the fact Shouko is bullied and who just wishes her daughter were strong enough to take it, although being too ; Yuzuru loves her sister and for that she also suffers when she is bullied and comes to hate the ones who made her suffer. Also, it is interesting because, with the experiences these characters pass in the story, little by little, they become able to understand and to accept themselves, which is a very interesting event follow.
About the lead, Ishida Shouya,. He is also far from being a perfect person, and that’s what makes him a great character. He is in many times insecure, in many occasions he gives up on what he wants/should do because he is afraid, and besides being his intention, in many times he does not truly tries to understand Shouko, he just “ intended to hear her voice”, which is a a great metaphor. Nevertheless, he is great developed. As the side characters, he learns how to deal with his defects and weaknesses, then seeing there is no reason to wish to die and being able to enjoy life .
Now to the most interesting character of the manga: Nishimiya Shouko. First of all she is a very interesting character because, for being deaf, her ways of expression are her communication notebook, sign language and her expressions. And OH MY GOD!!! What expressions she has and how well they transmit her emotions, because they are perfectly chosen and drawn. I couldn’t help feeling happy when she was happy, sad and sorry when she was sad and, most of all, feeling her pain when we come to understand the suffering she bears. All of that resulting in results in lots of crying. Also, she is the element which brings to discussion the heaviest and the most serious themes. Through her we see the suffering that accompanies those who are bullied, and how it takes people see themselves as burdens, to hate themselves and to wish to die. That is very well done because it happens in progression. We understand her like Shouya does, little by little. First, besides being bullied, we see her as a very strong character. Then, by the time of the climax (and what climax, my heart stopped for a moment; it just has so many feelings in it) we see her as someone who suffered A LOT. But then again, with her experiences and her interactions with the other characters(mostly Shouya), she learns to value her life, to see herself as more than a burden, to find happiness and to enjoy life. That journey of hers, through pain, suffering and happiness, is just so emotional I couldn’t help feeling empathy for her and, through all of it, loving her.
Then, I am going to finish this review reinforcing the greatest aspects of the manga, because I am pretty sure I said it by some point. This manga gathers amazing characters with dense, significant and touching themes and messages resulting in a very emotional piece of art, the most emotional I have ever read, I dare say, because if there is one thing ever present in this work is feelings, they being happy or sad feelings, reading Koe no Katachi will make you feel. That is why I love it. read more
Story/Enjoyment: Koe no Katachi started as a one-shot and evolved in to so much more.
The original storyline focused on the main character, Ishida Shouya and his interactions with the new girl in class, Nishimiya Shouko. Nishimiya is not just any transfer student, she is deaf. This fact is very difficult for Ishida, his class, and even his teacher to grasp.
The manga itself deals with very heavy topics, like bullying and suicide. Although the one-shot portrayed the bullying and its effects on not only Nishimiya's but Ishida's lives, the manga continuation of Koe no Katachi deals with the after-affects of bullying and Ishida's life a few years down the road from when he first met Nishimiya.
I found myself crying throughout several chapters of Koe no Katachi. There are many aspects in this manga that make it relatable. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Art: Overall I feel that the art in this manga is fantastic. It is interesting to see how the mangaka incorporated sign-language in to the illustrations. I also love that all of the characters look like real people. There are no overly-attractive characters or females with huge breasts: the characters' appearances fit the tone of the story.
Character: Ishida Shouya is the main focus of the manga continuation. The mangaka does a great job of showing the readers Ishida's bad and good points. Ishida is by no means a hero, but I find him relatable. He is lost, confused, and looking for answers on how he should be living his life. I'm not sure whether I like him or not, but I do not dislike him.
Overall: I highly recommend this manga. If you choose to read it, I advise you to keep tissues nearby!read more