3 out of 5
While I don’t want to softball the strong work Yoshitoki Oima has delivered across A Silent Voice’s seven volumes – including some very strong moments in this concluding volume – the ending once again veers things closer to a rom-com “all’s well that end’s well” vibe that underlines some of the recurring issues I feel the series has had.
To an extent, this was unavoidable: while there have been some heavy moments in the series, it’s been clear that Oima was going to side towards comedy or light drama most of the time, and given that, once an ending has been set, you’re going to have to do the wrap-up dance, which inevitably means some pat endings. To structure this around the presentation of Tomohiro’s movie – first to fellow students, then to an amateur film competition – is smart, as this turned out to be the bridge that brought Shoya and others together, personalities clashing and then resolved to plow through after the climactic incident between Shoya and Shoko, and I think the contrasting opinions between those two presentations was also well conceived, but it leads to such a simple followup that it draws the whole gambit into question. This is part of that underlining: that Oima often used her subplots and side characters to make very surface level observations or points, things that could have been expanded upon in a series with a wider focus but often felt tangential to Shoya’s progress. He responded to these subplots interestingly, but the way we’d spend chapters on details didn’t seem to give those responses enough emotional weight.
There’s also something about how I solely mentioned Shoya’s progress, as Shoko continued to feel like a side character throughout most of this book. I allowed that that worked for some of the punctuations in the last couple volumes, but overall, I think it really underserved her character; making A Silent Voice a dual narrative between Shoya and Shoko and, perhaps, not giving the mic to other characters as often, could’ve made all the series’ strong points even stronger. Instead, we bounced between several key concepts, with the starting point of how our perceptions alter our experiences ending on an expectation versus reality comparison. Oima does use the former to inform the latter – our POV characters all grow as a result – it’s all just a little jumbled, though, never consistently hitting those peaks.
Some really nice moments from this volume: when Shoya and Shoko have their first real heart-to-heart, not narrating Shoko, and just letting her sign. That was really beautiful. And later, when the two are discussing their future plans and Shoya immediately has a gut reaction to shut Shoko down, he realizes his misstep almost right away, this being a perfect example of how he’s realistically matured thanks to what’s he’s experienced. I would’ve loved to have felt / seen more beats like that, as opposed to the more typical romcom detours we took.
Overall, this is what I expected from the ending by this point – something of a gentle wrap-up – but that’s not a bad thing. It’s the kind of ending you walk away from feeling pretty satisfied, and with a grin. It’s not life-changing, but it’s pleasant.