Sunday, March 20, 2016

Manga Review: Koe no Katachi (A silent Voice)

Rating: 9

Ishida Shouya is a 6th grader who is always after fun and daring stuff. Due to his daredevil personality, it is no surprise that he is also a bully. One day a new girl named Nishimiya Shoko transfers to his class. Unfortunately, Shoko is deaf by birth and thus uses her notebook to communicate. Unable to understand her, Ishida seeks darker methods and starts bullying her causing her to transfer to another school, leaving negative impact on his life as well. Few years later, Ishida, all alone and miserable, decides to meet Shoko again and apologize for all stuff he did back then.

I stumbled upon Koe no Katachi two weeks ago while going through random recommendations, I don’t know how but I landed on its MAL page accidentally. I had nothing better to do so I thought of giving it a try. Given how good it was I think I should randomly click every time I use the net to discover new stuff.

Koe no Katachi is a short manga with just 64 chapters that cover a story that actually has some meaning and moral. Bullying is a problem in almost every school. It comes in many forms so it is difficult to distinguish it from regular jokes. Koe no Katachi explains both, and more importantly, it explains what it leads to. Nothing in the manga is sugar-coated but the facts are presented as they are in a very beautiful manner. The story begins with Ishida being a jerk in 6th grade and progresses with him despising his past self when he enters high-school. Due to circumstances created after the bully incident in 6th grade, Ishida has lost all his friends and lives a lonely life. The way he looses his friends is something almost everyone encounters at one point of life, be it directly or indirectly. Ishida’s way of bullying Shoko is very cruel and is enough to startle any normal person and make him angry. The sadness is doubled because of the smile Shoko keeps up while getting bullied. But the grown up Ishida is a different person. He cares for others and truly wishes to devote himself to Shoko. He even learnt sign language for many years just to communicate with her. The whole story deals with various characters and their current relationships, which is greatly influenced by their past.

The characters in Koe no Katachi are very realistic. We have Ishida, who goes from an a&%hole to a gentleman. Shoko, a cute deaf girl with a very complex personality. Shoko’s sister Yuzuru who is very protective about her, Ueno, a former classmate of Ishida who is very short tempered and hates almost everyone. Sahara, whose life was scarred and she never came to school after the bullying incident, “Kawai”, who studies in the same class as Ishida and was also his classmate back in 6th grade, Shoko and Yuzuru’s mother who keeps her poker face up all the time and….I could go on all day!
Lets stick to main characters here. Ishida-I hated him at first but by the end of the series he became one of my favorites. What he did was wrong but his devotion to make Shoko’s life good was something to be appreciated. Although at some level, his apologizing to Shoko was for his own personal satisfaction, he soon discovered this and removed such selfish feelings. The childhood Ishida was very annoying and went too far while bullying Shoko. Because of him, two lives got destroyed, one of Shoko’s and other being his own. Shoko- I hate her and I love her, I love her for who she is and hate her for thinking herself as a bother and for what she did later in the story. Shoko has a complex personality, she keeps up a smile all the time to make up for her lack of communication skills while on the inside, she is getting eaten by her own thoughts. She considers her life worthless and doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. But, she is the reason everyone got along with Ishida and despite being bullied by him in 6th grade, she forgives him and apologizes instead. I really like her and yes I did pity her at first because of her disability being used against her, that pity disappeared in between only to hit back again later and disappear again. Her smile is beautiful and is enough to melt even the coldest of hearts that lie many degrees beneath the deep freezer (ERB reference: Blackbeard vs Al capone)
Despite having such strong main cast, my favorite character was Shoko and Yuzuru’s mother. She seems very strict and unjust at first but when her backstory is told, you get to know why she turned out like that. She seems like a person who doesn’t care much about others but we and Ishida get to see the side her own daughters are unaware of. She is strong woman who raised to daughters on her own while facing a very hard time.

Character development in Koe no Katachi is very rapid due to less number of chapters but still it is done beautifully. It deals with relationships that are defined at various levels. It deals with what it means to be a friend. It is something beautiful. All the characters that were connected to the bullying incident are still haunted by the guilt of feeling, even Shoko, the main victim is one of them. Even though the character development is fast, it is not the case for every character. While Ishida completely turns out to be a new person, characters like Ueno stay the same. A mix of such characters gives rise to conflicts which are required for the story progression. With a single character shown from so many different perspectives, it is not easy to hate any one of them. 
I loved how this manga portrayed the effects of bullying on the lives of everyone related to it. In the end, everyone was a victim, even Ishida. Koe no Katachi is heartwarming experience that will bring you to the tears. The simplicity displayed through art and story makes it a memorable experience. Oh, from art I remember that it is beautiful and a delight for the eyes. No big-breasted girls or cool guys with weird dressing style, just normal people leading a normal life.

In the end, Koe no Katachi is one of the best manga I ever read. Every once in a while, it is good to take a break from mainstream stuff and read something that seems real, something beautiful. Koe no Katachi might not be perfect, but I don’t think I deserve to point out its flaws. So, for the first time, I am writing a review that contains only the good, simply because Koe no Katachi is good. I did not find any urge to look for flaws in the plot or art, because I was busy enjoying from the bottom of my heart.

Who would read Koe no Katachi?
Anyone with a heart, simple question, simple answer.

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