A Silent Voice Volume One is the first volume of the manga series that was adapted into an anime film of the same name.
A Silent Voice Volume One
Written by: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Ltd.
English Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: May 26, 2015
I had already seen the anime film that was based off this manga series before reading this volume, so I will admit up front that this could likely cause me to see things in this volume a little differently than if I had read this volume before seeing the film.
The two main characters of A Silent Voice are Shoko Nishimiya (who is deaf) and Shoya Ishida (a boy who bullied Shoko in elementary school). Right at the beginning of the volume, we see a high school aged Shoya finding Shoko, but she runs off. After this, most of the volume is spent establishing what happened back in elementary school and leading up to what happens to Shoya in middle school and high school.
In the sixth grade, Shoko transfers into Shoya’s class, and we see the awkwardness she has when it comes to communicating with her new classmates because of her disability. Shoya leads the others in bullying Shoko, although there is one girl who tries to be friends with her. Unfortunately, this girl later leaves the school, so Shoko is left without any of her peers being an advocate for her. After the principal learns about the bullying and the fact that Shoko’s hearing aids keep disappearing, he goes to the class and asks for the guilty party to confess. The other students are all too eager to point the blame at Shoya and try to act as if the rest of the class is innocent. Unfortunately, since the teacher has had to deal with Shoya so much in regards to his bullying of Shoko he believes that Shoya is only one who’s guilty.
After this, Shoya begins to be bullied by his classmates, and the bullying and harassment only becomes worse after Shoko transfers out of their school. His two best friends turn on him, and when they go up to middle school, one of the former friends makes it clear to their new schoolmates that Shoya is a bully. He becomes ostracized, and goes through his middle school years and up to where he is now in high school as a loner.
What I found interesting in the section that establishes what happened between these two characters back in elementary school, there is a “side chapter” story that doesn’t appear in the anime film. This scene shows Shoko going to Shoya’s mother’s hair salon to get her hair cut before she transfers into Shoya’s class. Shoko’s mother tells Shoya’s mother how she wants her daughter’s hair cut, but Shoya’s mother decides to go with the cut that Shoko wants. Shoko’s mother is quite rude to Shoya’s mother, going so far as to wonder out loud how her hair salon stays in business when she doesn’t listen to her customers. I thought this was interesting to see, since we know from both the film and later in this volume that the two mothers have to interact again after Shoya keeps destroying Shoko’s hearing aids. We even see Shoko’s mother make a snide comment to Shoya about him and his mother during this interaction. To be honest, I don’t remember Shoko’s mother being portrayed quite in this way in the film, so it seems like a decision was made to dial back Shoko’s mother in the anime adaptation.
Another major difference I found was that Shoya’s sister (who has yet to actually be seen in the manga) is known for going through boyfriends. We see two guys referenced in this volume, and one of them ends up being the older brother of a kid who steals Shoya’s shoes one day while Shoya and his friends are playing at the river. Shoya punches the kid and feels so proud of himself, and later runs into his sister’s former boyfriend… who punches him in the stomach as payback for beating up his brother. This is an incident that takes place before Shoko transfers into Shoya’s class and it’s not included in the film. While it shows that Shoya was willing to pick on someone other than Shoko and establish that he had this kind of a tendency, it ultimately wasn’t needed for the story that the film was trying to tell. And since this scene was cut for the film, it makes sense to cut out Shoya’s sister’s first boyfriend as well. This section helps to flesh out Shoya as a character, so I appreciated seeing it in the manga, but I also understand why it was cut from the anime adaptation. This volume also introduces us to Shoya’s sister’s other boyfriend, which is the one that we see in the A Silent Voice anime film.
One of the notable things in the anime adaptation is when we see Shoya at high school, and how other people around him have an “X” covering their face. When I saw Shoya in middle school and high school in Volume One, I saw that this same convention was done in the manga. Since seeing the film, I always wondered if this was a decision on the part of the anime director or if it was a convention from the manga. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this concept for depicting Shoya and his classmates in high school originated in the manga.
When it comes to the art style of the manga, each character has their own distinct look, so the reader doesn’t become confused over who is who. Since I saw the anime film before reading this volume, I can say that the character designer for the anime adaptation did a great job of retaining a lot of the characters’ looks from the manga.
I enjoyed reading A Silent Voice Volume One. If you’ve seen the anime adaptation and enjoyed it but haven’t read the manga, I would recommend reading this series. If you’re not already familiar with the story from the anime film, then I think readers who like reading manga featuring school-age children experiencing the drama of their pre-teen and teenage years will find an appreciation for the series. And I think having a main character with a disability adds an additional layer to the story that helps to lift it up from being just an “average” slice-of-slice story.