Shoya and Shoko’s lives are hanging by a thread...
After the destruction of his friend group from finding out about his past with Shoko, Shoya is left reeling as their movie project lies in taters. Shoko feels a deep responsibility for the disaster and after a trip to the festival with Shoya, her sister, and her mother, she attempts to pay for it with her life by jumping off her apartment balcony. However, Shoya’s hand reaches out at the last minute to stop her from falling, and as the two dangle from the balcony he pleads with her to live. Shoko grabs onto the balcony as Shoya loses his balance and falls into the pond below, leaving Shoko to pick up the pieces while he lies unconscious in the hospital.
How Was It?
A Silent Voice has made its trade on delivering an emotionally resonant if deeply uncomfortable story of personal growth, but the series reaches an emotional climax in the volume in delivering some of the most potent scenes I’ve ever read. This volume continues right off of the the last volume’s gut wrenching cliffhanger as Shoko and Shoya dangle from her apartment balcony, and the two chapters that follow are extremely intense as the raw emotions of these characters come to a head. The first chapter is from the perspective of Shoya as he mentally pleads with Shoko to live, and we see him try to reason his way out of the situation with little effect while his memories of the past begin to blur with the present. This scene was fantastic in the way it was able to effectively portray the culmination of Shoya’s conflicting thoughts which had been a running theme in the previous volumes, and this did a great job putting his emotional growth in context.
The next chapter follows Yuzuru while she waits in the hospital, showing the immediate aftermath of Shoya’s fall. This is another emotionally intense chapter which really does justice to the complexity of the various emotions involved, and this comes through extremely well in Shoko’s mother’s apology to Shoya’s mother in the hospital. This was done minimal dialogue, and I though the art did a great job adding an extra layer of depth in between the lines by portraying her conflicting emotions very well. We also get to see some of Yuzuru’s inner thoughts as she assumes the narratorial role in this chapter, and this leads to an extremely effective scene which lays out some of the long-running emotional threads in the series between her and Shoko in very stark terms. This helped provide the context for Shoko’s suicide attempt again, providing no easy answers for these characters but clearly showing the emotional stakes involved in a meaningful way that really resonated with me.
The remainder of the volume follows the rest of Shoya’s friends one-by-one as they each try to come to terms with his fall. The background context to this is a last ditch attempt to rally them all around the movie once again, but getting to a point of agreement is never easy for these teenagers. I thought that giving each character a bit of the spotlight worked out incredibly well in terms of providing the characterization that I thought had been missing in the previous volume to really explain why they each acted the way they did, and I was thankful for the time taken to frame each character’s emotions in a meaningful way. As noted above, there are really no easy answers for any of these characters, but watching them struggle through felt appropriate given the magnitude of the emotions involved. While I can’t said that I really fully understood the motivations behind someone like Miki Kawai, what I took away from it was that appropriate due was paid to the messiness of emotions in real life, and this willingness to show characters confronting some really difficult personal questions continues to be one of the things that makes this series so potent.
The final two chapters in this volume follow Shoko as she attempts to process everything. This was notable because Shoko has always been held at a bit of a distance from us throughout the series, and this has played into her character effectively in terms of reinforcing the other characters’ perceptions of her as someone who puts on a reserved front because of her disability. This made it extremely powerful to finally see things from her perspective, and this is done in an effective way by obstructing the dialogue of characters to get across how she experiences the world. I thought that this got across the corresponding distance that Shoko feels towards the world effectively as a counterpoint to the distance that she’s always been held at, and this helped to really cement her emotional state leading into the final chapter. This chapter is completely free of dialogue, and nicely bookended this volume in the sense that it displayed Shoko’s raw emotions for the first time just as Shoya’s inner emotions were the focus of the first chapter during his struggle to save her. This was an emotionally rending way to end of the volume, finishing off this emotional tour de force extremely well.
The emotional potency displayed in the story is complemented by another strong effort by creator Yoshitoki Oima in terms of her art. One thing that really struck me was the increased emphasis on the faces of these characters in order to provide extra subtext for their feelings to complement their words. This is done particularly well throughout the entire volume with regard to Shoko, who has very little direct communication with anyone in this volume. However, the variance in her facial expression clearly shows her emotional states without any explication, and this culminates in the final chapter noted above when she finally lets her emotions loose. There are also a number of well detailed backgrounds in this volume, and it really feels like overall this series is continuing to get stronger in terms of its art.
A Silent Voice’s penultimate volume is a whirlwind of emotion as these characters are forced to really face themselves in a raw way for the first time. The emphasis on the rest of the cast really helped to round out the context of the story really well, and I felt much more invested in their joint stories as a result. However, the strongest scenes were left for Yuzuru, and later Shoko, and it was amazing to see Shoko face her emotions head on for the first time in such a visceral way. As the story heads into its final volume, it’ll be fascinating to see what will be in store for Shoya and Shoko in the last leg of their journey.
A Silent Voice Vol. 6 was published by Kodansha Comics USA on April 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. The final volume will be published in English on May 24th, 2016, and a feature film adaptation has been announced and is in the works.
Date of Publication: April 19th, 2016
Translator: Stephen LeCroy
Author: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA