A Silent Voice (聲の形) is a 7-volume manga by Yoshitoki Ōima which ran from 2013-2014 in Japan and was released in the US by Kodansha from 2015-2016.
Shoya Ishida is a 6th-grader whos a bit of a rambunctious class clown looking for anything that gets rid of his boredom. After the class gets a new student, Shoko Nishimiya, who’s deaf the early difficulties of interacting with her turn to frustrations which Shoya vents by starting to bully her, with the rest of the class following his lead. When the principal is forced to get involved due to the severity of the bullying the class turns on Shoya as a means of assuaging their own guilt and begins bullying him as well. Six years of being ostracized later Shoya decides to track Shoko down to try and apologize to her in an effort for atonement.
Well it ain’t because its all sunshines and rainbows, thats for sure. This is a series dealing with some serious issues and rare to any medium it actually handles those issues rather realistically. Shoko ends up being bullied not because of anything she did or any misunderstanding, but because the class was frustrated; whereas Shoya gets turned on because no one else wants to admit they had a hand in the original problem escalating. Moreover when Shoya goes to apologize to Shoko the first thing she does is run away, she really doesn’t want much to do with him at first and her family is even less inclined to forgive everything that’s happened. Over the course of the series Shoya reconnects with a number of his former classmates and there’s a real sense of how that one year still hangs over all their heads, some have carried it as regret while others have doubled down on what they did as a defensive mechanism. In the end there are no easy answers for the problems they are all dealing with.
Moreover, for dealing with such a heavy topic the series actually manages a rather light tone so its not overbearing ever. Make no mistake, its never a comedy and there’s a constant through line of self-loathing from Shoya as he’s been utterly broken by what happened, but a lot of the series is him and Shoko just hanging out together with their old classmates and working on a movie together.
Sometimes realism hurts, and the scourge of bullying hangs heavy over the series which can make it difficult for some people to read. There are a few different instances of characters contemplating and/or attempting suicide as a result which can also be hard to deal with.
While true to real life people, not all of the characters are redeemable either. Some outright refuse to admit they ever made a mistake and their presence can be rough as you constantly want to punch them. I can’t adequately describe my opinion of Naoko Ueno without violating the Avocado’s word filter several times over. The series doesn’t let them off the hook the way some shows do, and if anything has scenes of them getting called out for their behavior, you just don’t want to be reminded that people like that exist when you’re looking for some escapism.
Yes. In 2016 Kyoto Animation released a movie adapting the entire series which is really good. Like, it got robbed not being nominated for an Oscar and legit deserved to win it over Coco good.
Weeb Level: 1/10- I really don’t think the themes of bullying or difficulties people with disabilities have is uniquely Japanese.
Fanservice: 1/10- Outside of one shot of someone drying off in a towel there really aren’t any underwear shots or anything.
Quality: 10/10- Its not the easiest read and you probably wont want to jump back to rereading it right away, but it is possible to reread which is pretty impressive considering the topic.
Where to get it: Kodansha has released the entire series in the US and its readily available in most bookstores as well as online on Comixology or other Kodansha locations. Crunchyroll used to have the manga and while I see some reports still say you can buy it there, I don’t see it directly so thats inconclusive.