I don’t know what it is, but there is something about A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima that speaks to me on a fundamental level. I first came across this story when I noticed the movie and was interested in seeing it, and then I finally watched it. This was a few years ago. I recently picked up the collector’s additions which combine the 7 volume serialization into two, hardback volumes that also includes interviews and supplementary materials. I read both volumes in two days.
This story is admittedly heavy. It covers hard topics and each volume opens with a warning label recreated here: “This manga contains depictions of bullying, ableism, physical and emotional abuse of children, depression, hospitalization, death of a loved one, suicidal ideation, and a suicide attempt.” Not exactly an enticing list, but these are also societal issues that are often overlooked, dismissed, and avoided, which is why I think this story is so important.
The main character bullies a deaf girl when they are young and he regrets this as the years pass which fuels his desire to atone for his past behavior. This development of empathy, the uncertainty of ones place in the world, and the inability to interact with others all lead to a story that I couldn’t stop reading. The core theme is communication (something I value highly). The entire story shows characters who struggle to understand each other both physically and psychologically. Even those without disabilities often cannot get their point across accurately or want to open up but shy away for various reasons.
Have you ever wished you could/would have said something to a friend or in a specific situation? Have you ever failed to speak up or defend someone who was bullied? Maybe not, but I think we’ve all encountered some barrier or failure of communication which has resulted in someone being hurt, confused, rejected, or otherwise misinterpreted to their detriment.
I think we can all work toward improving how we communicate. Some people listen to respond while others listen to understand. We should all work toward being the latter. In a perfect world, we would be able to telepathically transfer our knowledge of what we want to share, along with corresponding emotions, to another person so that they would instantly understand.
That may or may not be the perfect form of communication, but we are stuck with words. Scribbles on a page or vibrations through the air, how we communicate already includes mediums where we need to decipher what someone wishes to convey. The way we decipher communication is based on our personal experiences as well. In a way, it is impossible to truly know someone, but we can try our best to understand each other, and that is what makes this story incredible. It shows a group of people who at first cannot communicate but then work as hard as they can to understand each other.
P.S. I recommend at least watching the movie if you don’t want to give the books a shot. Even if it may be uncomfortable, I think it is beneficial.