4 out of 5
A series of character-focused chapters, building up to finally allowing us into Shoko’s world, is exactly what A Silent Voice needed to fully mature its story of, essentially, consequences. That’s the larger narrative flower Oima has been cultivating and has allowed to blossom, with the seed being the bullying between Shoya and Shoko as youths, and then the reverberations – but obvious and less-so – amidst the people directly or indirectly affecting or allowing that bullying. The subplottings to get us here have had questionable beats that, unless tying into some masterful swoop in the next, concluding volume, are still rather asides – comical ones; story padding – and some of that style is still evident here, but it’s used for a better purpose: insight into what makes all these people tick.
Volume 6 is partially the aftermath of the preceding near-tragedy in volume 5, with each character who’s had notable interactions with Shoya over the series visiting him – or trying to – in the hospital, and each then having to come somewhat full circle with how they feel about Shoko as a result, who’s hanging around and trying to understand her own role in these relationships. This gives Oima cause to hop around from perspective to perspective by chapter, with some very nuanced portrayals… and then some somewhat shallow ones. Which is fine, actually, because it’s more real to say that not everyone has a “deeper” self, and I think it’s more interesting to allow that. But the trickiness to it is Oima’s intentions with showing that, and sometimes – and maybe it’s just a translation thing, or a lack of understanding of cultural signifiers on my part – it feels like such shallowness is intended as gravitas. This is only really a sticking point with Nao, who is pretty much being made out to be a villain. And I mean, I guess a story needs one… but if you’re going to accept shades of grey within people, it’d be okay to extend that to her as well.
But these are things I think I’ll nitpick moreso in the conclusion, on the suspicion that they aren’t developed past their current point. (Perhaps I’ll be surprised, though.) What’s more important is that all of these character snippets are incredibly effective within the context of the fallout from last volume, and ending the tankobon with chapters dedicated to Shoko is not only something of a relief, since we’ve been denied it up until now, but also allows for Oima to function at her best, when storytelling is somewhat abstracted. Shoko’s depression and sense of helplessness hit hard in these chapters, and I’d agree that that power likely couldn’t have been achieved if such insight had come earlier in the story.