Hello! I’m back for another OWLS blog tour! This month, we’re covering the topic of depression, suicide, and other mental illnesses, so if that’s something that bothers you, be wary. I will be discussing how the characters in this manga grew past it, but I also discuss the dark reality of the things they faced. The topic is “Treasures,” talking about the people in our lives that tell us we are worth something, and that we are something to be treasured.
For those of you unaware, OWLS is a wonderful group accepting all people regardless of age, gender, religion, sexuality, etc. We try to show everyone that they are beautiful and loved no matter what, through different anime and pop culture. If you’re interested in joining, feel free to go to our website and fill out a form! We’re always accepting new members!
Onto the topic at hand.
If you’ve been reading my posts since the beginning, you may remember my post Best Manga I’ve Ever Read. In that post, I discuss the manga, A Silent Voice. Even though I wrote that nearly a year ago, I still believe it is my favorite manga/comic ever. Unfortunately, I still have been unable to watch the movie adaptation, but will when the Blu Ray comes out in America.
In that manga, there are so many rough topics covered. So that’s why when given this topic, I immediately thought of it.
The story is majorly in the perspective of Shoya Ishida, a third year boy in high school. But much of the focus of the actual story is on a girl, Shoko Nishimiya, who is deaf. Both of these characters are constantly dealing with self-doubt, for different reasons.
So I don’t get a bunch of angry people after me, there WILL BE SPOILERS in this post. If you have not read the manga or watched the movie, I recommend you go and do that before reading this. I must talk about a lot of vital points in order to do this topic justice.
The Deaf Girl and Her Bully
Shoya was a bully in elementary school. He pushed Shoko around, taking advantage of the fact she was deaf. Day after day, he picked on her. He thought that doing this would make him popular, and be accepted by others. And he thought it was working. He stole her hearing aids, and destroyed them. He grabbed the notebook she communicated with and tossed it in a fountain.
Shoko just smiled. She didn’t fight with him, she just pretended like it didn’t phase her. Of course she was mad. But she’s never been good at showing her true emotions. Only once did she lash out at him, right before she transferred to a different school.
When Shoko left, Shoya realized that all of the things he did was not helping him gain popularity. When Shoko left, he saw nasty words scrawled on his desk. They all blamed him wholly for what happened to her. He now became the bullied. He now knew how Shoko felt, and started distancing himself from the kids in his class.
The Past is in the Past
Five years pass, and it’s the time the rest of manga will take place. Both Shoya and Shoko are now in their final year of high school.
Shoko still doesn’t have many friends, but attends a sign language regularly, and feeds the fish in the river on Tuesdays.
Shoya has been suffering from his past ever since Shoko left their school. He never tried to mend the wounds he’d caused in other people. They see him and can only remember the bully he was, or they never get to talk to him in the first place. This distance causes him to still hate himself after all these years. He is so harsh on his past self, and won’t let that go to live his last year of high school in happiness. He’s once quoted as saying, “I wish I could kill him,” referring to himself as a sixth-grader. This self-hatred becomes so toxic, brewing inside him for so many years, he completely gives up.
He decides that as his final moment on the earth, he’ll apologize to Shoko for what he’d done. And then he would leave for good. He finds out about her meetings at the bridge on Tuesdays, and talks to her. Well, signs to her, as he’d learned sign language during those five years of not seeing her.
To his surprise, she instantly accepts his apology, and they decide they can become friends. All of his previous plans are completely shot. He finds the new meaning to his life, to focus on being friends with Shoko and mending the broken bond between them.
The Present is a Demon
Shoko, however, moves past what happened back then easily. That’s not her problem. After all those years, people still insult her deafness. Or they just don’t know how to get around it.
People still hate her simply for having a disability. One girl in particular, who was part of the group of students who bullied her along with Shoya when they were younger, is the main one who targets her. Her name is Naoka, and she is a major factor in Shoko’s later attempted suicide. This wasn’t purely Naoka’s doing, as the problems had been happening to Shoko for years.
Naoka practically forces herself into the group of friends that forms throughout the manga. She confronts Shoya, and tells him that they are so similar, but that is not the case at all, and she wiggles her way into the group.
Things Naoka has done include: slapping Shoko, pulling at her hair violently, calling her “a blight” and “self-absorbed,” telling her she hates her, yelling in her face, etc. Shoko, being who she is, says nothing about the abuse Naoka puts her through. She smiles through all of it, acting as though nothing was wrong. As she does any time there is something bothering her. She actually reaches out to Naoka a few times, attempting to be friends even after what Naoka has done.
The event that puts her in the worst state of mind, though, is when the group gets into an argument discussing the past events of elementary school. Some blame Shoya for what had happened, and he retaliates with being so blunt with each of them, it hurts them. There is yelling, and Shoya physically sits away from the others.
Because Shoko sees all of this, she is concerned for her friends. She doesn’t know what happened, since nobody was translating into sign language for her. She was completely confused, and walks away from the scene frazzled.
Yuzuru, her sister, later tells her the entire scene.
The group stays away from each other for the summer, but Shoya and Shoko continue to meet for much of the break. During the meetings, Shoko becomes even more unsettled due to Shoya’s strange behavior. He’s been thinking of what the others said about him, and makes him reconsider things.
Then comes the dreadful moment. During a fireworks display, Shoko leaves early to “study.” Her sister sees through her excuse and sends Shoya after her. He finds her seconds away from plummeting over the edge of their apartment building. He barely saves her, landing himself in the river below in place of her.
For about a week, Shoya was in a coma after this event. Blames were passed around. Who was really responsible for him falling? Answer: Nobody in particular. He did it to save his closest friend from dying.
The Future is what you Make it
The traumatic events of this manga are hard to swallow. I had a hard time reading it at moments, but it is so important to make it to the end. What happens to Shoya and Shoko could very well happen to anyone. Bullying and disabilities are something we must live with as a society. And, accepting them and addressing them is the most important part. Both of these things led to the main characters suffering with some sort of mental disorder, most likely a form of depression or anxiety, but I’m not one to diagnose.
Shoya’s fear over opening up to others crippled him socially. He was unable to accept himself, and believed that others wouldn’t either. He had to learn how to move on from the past that was weighing him down, and not let others get under his skin. He did this through confiding in Shoko and the others, and ignoring the harsh words others said.
Shoko felt like she was responsible for the others fighting. When she learned of what happened, she decided to jump, because she felt she was only causing them problems. Shoya worked hard to heal the relationships they used to have, so when things went badly, she felt she broke what he had built. The group had been working on a movie, but when the topic of bullying Shoko came up, they dismissed the project. She took that as being a nuisance, and the sole reason why they left. She felt this same way back when she was in elementary school. She was hated by people, and she took it all as there being something wrong with her. Even back then, she told Yuzuru that she wanted to die.
I think the most important takeaway from this is to never drown in your emotions. Confide in others. Tell them what’s on your mind. Chances are, if they truly care, they’ll do everything in their power to help you back on your feet. If Shoko were to have told Shoya how she felt about the topic, things would have gone differently. He had no idea. Yuzuru was aware of how Shoko felt, and tried helping by taking pictures of dead things. Strange, but, she figured that if Shoko saw how ugly it was to be gone from the world, she’d never commit suicide. Unfortunately, this didn’t work, but it did keep her from doing it earlier.
The ending of the manga was a breath of fresh air compared to the bulk of it. Everything is calm. Shoko reveals her dream to move to Tokyo to Shoya, who reacts negatively. He doesn’t want her to leave him, since he would no longer be able to keep an eye on her to keep her safe. He’d dedicated the life she saved to living for her. He does let her go, but is wary of it still. The others are also pursuing their dreams, many of them also moving to Tokyo.
If Shoko and Shoya never met, I doubt they would still be alive. Definitely not pursuing their dreams. The connection they created through their suffering was what gave them new meaning. As I stated before, it’s important to have someone to lift you up when handling tough situations.
Shortly after I read this manga about two and a half years ago, I began having these strange panic attacks before bed (the attacks weren’t due to the manga, they just so happened to start after I read it, no worries). They went on for a good long while before I could figure out what it was. It was when I had one during the day that my mom figured it out.
For the most part, I kept these hidden from others. I was fearful of what people would say if I told them. They could tell me it was fake, or I was overreacting, or I’ll get over it. Instead, my mom told me I may need to see a therapist or be prescribed medication. This was worse than anything other people could say. When I was told this, I thought there was something horribly wrong with me. It was strange I thought this, since for years my brother had been taking medication for his ADHD, and I never thought much of that.
Since then, I’ve been able to adapt to it, and accept it as part of my life. I know my brain functions in a way that is not the same as others, and I’m okay with that now. I still haven’t gone to a therapist as my mom suggested, though I know I should. Things have died down a lot since that first attack, and I haven’t had a random one in about a year. I still have problems with calling people on the phone, or approaching a stranger in public to ask a question, or calming myself down when my friends don’t answer my texts right away.
I found that telling my friends and family about it did help, since the attacks became fewer and further in between once I told people.
My experience is nowhere near the severity of what occurs in this manga, but I can understand where the mangaka was coming from writing her characters the way she did. Neither felt the need to burden others with their problems, and in the end, it hurt them more than if they would have spoken up.
Hope you enjoyed this post! I absolutely adore this manga with all my heart, and felt it needed a mention again. I had to reread most of it again to be able to write this, which I’m totally fine with. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Even though I spoiled much of the plot in this post, it’s not the same as experiencing what happens. It’s so memorable, and I feel that every person should be able to read it at some point in their life. If you’re not fond of reading backwards comics, the movie should be released in America soon, and hopefully to other parts of the world soon as well. From what I’ve heard, it does a decent job of highlighting the important topics discussed in the manga, and the artwork is just stunning.
Also, OWLS is doing a giveaway! You’d be entering to win a copy of Lighter than my Shadow by Katie Green, a book that highlights some of the disorders focused on in our blog tour this month. All you have to do is comment on one of the tour posts! To enter, use this link.
See you guys!
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