A Silent Voice vol. 4 – Yoshitoki Oima

3 out of 5

This is pretty much exactly the same in tone and temperature as the previous volume, and given that it brings us past the halfway mark of A Silent Voice, definitely has me wondering about the ultimate “point” of this story. It starts out suggestive of being a pretty searing examination of bullying, but I had my cautionary tape strung up already due to the way Oima would handle some heavier subject matter in To Your Eternity, written after this. And unfortunately, the way the series has continued to dodge out from confronting some aspects continues to stretch against that tape, including events in this volume, which “justify” Shoko’s mother’s horribly unsupportive parenting by explaining it as a way of toughening her daughter up. Where Oima, I think, skirts under the radar with this stuff is that they do offer up discomforting emotional grays, and A Silent Voice tends to live in those: Shoya shows evidence of the ignorance / defensiveness that made him a bully way back when, even when trying to do right by Shoko now by surrounding her with friends, but my disappointment stems from the author not doing anything with those aspects of the characters / story, leaving them all as incidental. If it felt more purposeful, I think I could stand by it, but instead it feels like elements of non-apology apologies that we’re all used to nowadays from various celebrity responses to newly (or more widely) exposed offenses: “I’m sorry if you felt that way, but it wasn’t my intention.” That’s, like, Oima’s default for everyone – it’s okay that Shoko’s mother said horrible things because it wasn’t her goal to make her daughter feel bad, and look, Shoko’s okay now and her mother has her own problems, right?

Again, there is stuff worth examining there, and Oima does give us some of those details, digging in to how differing points of view shade events in different ways, but it’s just filler, to get us back to those non-apology apologies.

Anyhow, the bit with the mum is the main offender here, but the rest of the volume is a solid mix of meet cute and faux-heartwarming bits with Shoya stumbling over himself to, like, save Shoko (sigh), because she still has no personality of her own beyond being really humble and the one everyone dotes on. Yuzura is more of a focus here, and I liked the casual way Oima sifts through her relationship with her grandmother.

I realize I’m mostly hating on the book, but I guess I’m more going back to my opening – it’s more of the same, no more or less offensive than it has been, and thus no more or less pleasant as well. What’s been fun continues to be so; and the same for what’s noxious.