I’m not a proactive manga reader. I usually pick one up because waiting for a new season of an anime adaptation feels too long and excruciating specially when it ends in a cliffhanger — or, as it is with most of the shows these days, when it won’t be getting any new season at all (e.g. Chihayafuru, Shingeki no Kyoujin, Spice and Wolf). In some cases, the premise is simply interesting enough for me not to ignore. Koe no Katachi partially fits these two conditions. It hasn’t been aired yet, by the way. It will be getting a movie adaptation this year which I’m really looking forward to after reading the source.
You may mistake Koe no Katachi for a shoujo romance genre, but in a way, you’re not exactly correct. Yes, we do have romance as part of the story here, but that’s just a thin veil covering the true nature of what the mangaka is trying to tell us. We follow the life of Shouya Ishida and his group of friends who, by some cruel joke played by fate, ended up as strangers after the events following the meeting of the deaf Shouko Nishimiya. A bully, a tone-deaf moeblob damsel in distress, romance, youth, highschool… I thought I was in for some fluffy and cute love story but I totally missed the mark here. Koe no Katachi is dark. We’re presented with seriously flawed characters who are trying to cope with deep and ugly scars from their past. Bullying is at the central theme of this; at one point, it started to feel disturbing to me. It’s even more disturbing given that these kinds of people actually do exist and that it happens in real life, often resulting in suicide.
Now, I can’t blame them, really. We all have our own dark side and secrets. They are a part of our selves that we grew up with and kept stored shut in a box. It feels better to leave it at that, and it feels even better to forget about it. However, that’s not what the choice our characters took. Change was necessary in order to make amends to their own past and wrong doings, as well as to bring them again together. They grew up, thinking that they’re different from who they are yesterday — it’s the naivety of someone who is trying to escape the undeniable truth. Instead of the thought of change, perhaps accepting yourself and others is enough. Just as what Shouya once said, “There are some things we just can’t change. I think the time we spent changing is more important”. It’s painful to see them go through this, honestly. There are moments wherein the conflict felt out of place and sudden. Probably an attempt by the mangaka to advance the story or fish some tears in our eyes. Still, the melodrama managed to hook me until the conclusion of their journey.
Koe no Katachi started off strong and solid in the early parts. Midway through feels a bit dragged out. The author probably is thinking whether to go walk the fluffy romance route, or join the dark side which may account to the instances of those forced conflicts. Either choices would have been fine. Although I was really rooting for a few more chapters dedicated to Shouya and Shouko’s love story. I mean, they didn’t even legitimately confessed to each other or anything! Judging by where the manga ended, it’s safe to assume they’ll end up together anyways. Well, my ranting here should give you a hint that I’m a sucker for a soft-romance genre.
Oddly enough, my favourite character is going to be Shouka’s mom. She’ll give you an impression as someone antagonistic; an iron-lady. There’s more to her than her strict attitude. Most of my tears were shed thanks to her scenes and backstory alone. My most hated character? It’s no doubt Kawai, the class rep chick. Seriously, we have a bunch of whacked up people thrown into one manga and by far she’s the only person I find very, very difficult to empathize with. There’s something about a manipulative person that ticks my nerve. The worst part is that she’s the only one in their group who haven’t thought of changing, because she firmly believe she did nothing wrong. Man, I’m gritting my teeth every time there’s an encounter with her. Anyways, all’s well that ends well for our casts.
Comprised of 60+ chapters in the span of 7 volumes, I finished Koe no Katachi in two sittings. It has its up and downs and felt like a roller coaster ride not only to me, but to the characters as well. There are some visible inconsistencies with the mangaka’s indecision on how to progress the story — sudden twists in development, forced conflicts that the characters took and always back-fired at them…but just like Shouya or any other character we came to knew, the manga itself is very much flawed. Regardless of this, it still managed to convey the story and lesson it served despite every criticism it gets, and I can honestly say that the ending left me satisfied and fulfilled. All the best wishes to them! I can’t wait to see how they’ll portray a deaf person in the movie adaptation.