3 out of 5
What a mixed bag.
The same caution I felt during the first volume rears its head again, several times over, but is sandwiched between some brilliantly nuanced moments, as we sift through the ripples of Shoya having been such a bully back in elementary school. The problem with this pairing is that it makes the flaws seem more offensive, because it suggests that creator Yoshitoki Oima uses some questionable moments – Shoya’s friend getting dressed down by Naoka, another of Shoya’s grade-school associates with whom he finds himself reconnecting; an accidental love triangle that develops regarding the same – as surface level plot distractions, and not actual emotional accoutrements to the other characters and story. While I’m reading this series after To Your Eternity, I’d been on guard because of similar flaws there, wondering / worried if we’d see that same approach here; it’s still possible that Oima will prove to be seeding these things in for deeper reasons, the way the story sets up Naoka as an enemy to the somewhat shallow meet-cute between Shoya and Shoko, now both in high school doesn’t feel like the right steps to achieve that depth, while also highlight said shallowness.
…Because without it, it’s possible to read the bungling way our two leads are flirting around one another as a gray-toned exploration of the push and pull of relationships, bringing in uncomfortable topics of emotional abuse into the mix, and the role that can play in shaping things. …But then is Uncomfortable Voice also an apologists’ take on the same? If we continue to go to long without seeing things from Shoka’s perspective, this will get worse and worse, as she’s currently portrayed as pretty damn naive, saved from offenses of which she’s unaware by the people around her. …But then Oima will counter that by having Shoya question if he has the “right” to try to make up for his past in the first place.
So mixed. Every fascinating question gets ping-ponged off of something shallow. I think I’ve said this before, but I suppose there’s a version of this story which purposefully cuts out Shoka’s point of view up until near the end, then uses it to cast a brighter / new light onto events, and that can be interesting, but it leaves the possibility of drawing some not-great conclusions from how things are presented until then, where it’s cool to be broody and ghost people as long as you’re in a cute crush relationship with them, and your overweight friend can be the butt of every joke because their role in the narrative is just to be a goodhearted goofball.
Some great stuff here. Also some not great stuff. On to the next one…