One of the best manga series of the past year reaches a highly satisfying conclusion in A Silent Voice Vol 7.
Shoya’s life is hanging by a thread after he jumped just in time to save Shoko. Despite the despair, Shoko is determined to move forward and get back what she thinks she has ruined… But broken friendships can heal, too. Quietly, but surely, the disbanded crew finds their spirit — the show must go on! As the movie-making reconvenes, the kids begin to transform the world that had once been so cruel to them. What could the future hold for everyone?
As I said in my write up for the series in my 2015 recommendations, A Silent Voice is a pretty harrowing read as it examines the effects of bullying on both the bullied and the ones partaking in the activity. That said, it has been a great read from start to finish and this volume bring all plot points to a great conclusion. Shoya and Shoko have truly come full circle in their friendship as both move past the insecurities that they developed as a result of their traumatic encounters with each other in their youth. But it is their other peers and fellow filmmakers who seem to have the most trouble coming to terms with the results of the events. Naoka is still looking for ways to justify her past behaviour and still steadfastly believes that Shoko was the one in the wrong, and Miki – after showing a great deal of hypocrisy – has had to deal with being bullied for the first time after years of being popular. Whilst many of the characters still have a long way to go before completely overcoming their problems, there is a sense of optimism in the concluding chapter that spells good for the future, and Shoya and Shoko – who suffered more than any of the others as a result of the initial bullying – appear to both have reached a level of maturity the others are yet to reach.
Yoshitoki Oima has provided stellar storytelling throughout through both her artwork and creative devices (a chapter in the previous volume showing the world through Shoko’s perspective is particularly strong example) and this volume is no exception. Throughout the series, following his bullying of Shoko and subsequent bullying from his classmates, Shoya has been seeing all but those he is close to with Xs over their faces as his ability to socialise and make friends is severely damaged. It is in this volume when Oima brings this device’s use to its conclusion and shows how Shoya’s experience throughout the series has affected his outlook on people. Once again, Oima also excels in her nuanced style of artwork as Shoko manages to express her feelings through her facial expressions and body language in a way stronger than any words. The opening and concluding chapter moments with Shoya and Shoko are incredibly touching made all the stronger by this truly great artwork.
A Silent Voice is one of the 2016 Eisner Award nominees for Best US Edition of International Material — Asia award and I cannot think of a more deserving title. While I am very sad to see the series finish, it has been a hugely enjoyable reading experience from a great creator who clearly cares about her subject matter. It’s also set to be adapted into an anime film from Kyoto Animation set for release in September of this year. It is already one of my most anticipated titles on the anime release calendar and I hope it is as great as the manga it is adapted from. I could harp on forever, but I cannot recommend this manga enough. Amongst several strong releases in the past year, it is a must read.
A Silent Voice Volume 7 is published 2 June by Kodansha
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