It’s October in Baltimore, and that can only mean one thing. It’s time for the annual Fell’s Point Ghostwalk. The Original Fell’s Point Ghostwalk gives you a terrific and terrifying new view point of our fair city in the witching hours. And as scary as it can be, so too can you find your amusement. Just be warned that straying off too far isn’t advised as you never know what may go bump in the night. Speaking of eye openers, let’s pick up our manga for the week. Koe no Katachi, by Ooima Yoshitoki, takes the idea of bullying and puts it very much into your face.
A one-shot about a middle school class that accepts a girl with impaired hearing. Everything is not as happy as it seems. Although this one-shot won the 80th Weekly Shounen Magazine Newbie Best Mangaka Award, the vector of the content made it difficult for publication on any manga magazine, until it was picked up, after months of legal dispute, by the February edition of Bessatsu Shounen Magazine, where it got first place despite its being a one-shot. 
The first volume tells the story of Shouko Nishimiya, and then retells the story according to Shouya Ishida with more detail from his side. The way it’s done is perplexing at first as you’re led to believe that you’re either reading the same chapter twice or a review chapter after only reading on chapter. This illusion is quickly shed as you realize that the story is retold from another perspective. At the end of the day, it’s a story about bullying and the effects there within, especially in schools. Ishida is one of the popular kids and seems to be at the top of his world until Nishimiya ‘invades’. She doesn’t upstage him, but just exists. As a deaf person, she finds it harder to get by, but that doesn’t deter her from trying. She keeps trying even when her classmates and even teacher torment her, ridicule her, and make her life more stressful. Worst of all though is Ishida who can’t quite place why he dislikes her, but torments her all the same. In the aftermath of hurting her, Ishida finds himself thrown in front of the perverbial bus as his so called ‘friends’ turn on him in an instance. Finding himself now the bullied and cast out, he lasses out and finally pushes the last person to show him kindness away. The way the story flowed made sense after reading about Ishida’s build up then downfall. The manga does a lot in a little bit of space to touch on human nature of adults and children. You don’t see a good example of how adults cope with the stress well, but that only feeds into how the way they act effects the children and vice versa. You also get to see how the effect of being bullied effects children long after the initial incident is over and done with.
As characterization goes, there’s a lot of it focused around Ishida. This is for good reason as most of this is his story. Ishida is a good example of how being popular can quickly leave you alone if the wrong choices are made. You go from seeing Ishida as this adventurous kid to just a jerk. Let’s face it, he was a straight up jerk. But in time, you see that he falls to the waste-side and you begin to feel sorry for him. You end up cheering for him as he decides to change his fate. Ishida is a very well rounded character. You watch him grow not only physically but mentally as he comes to see how he’ll end up if things continue as there were. You feel the sting of betrayal as his once good friends leave him beaten and battered on multiple occasions. The other part of the story would be Nishimiya. Our little deaf heroine doesn’t do much to change on the surface, but she does have quite the effect on Ishida. For some unexplained reason, no matter how badly he treats her, she still desires to be friends with him. This only pisses Ishida off more. When all comes to climax, and she leaves, Ishida finds out just how much she was trying to help him when she’s nowhere to be found. Despite how he treated her, he realizes that she was perhaps his salvation. Even still, she’s portrayed very well as she’s shown to have her own issues that she’s dealing with both at school and home. While you feel bad for her, you almost have to applaud how strong this little girl is.
Alright, so let’s wrap this series up and stick a bow on it. Koe no Katachi is a one shot manga that makes you really want to see more of something like this. Classified as a slice of life manga, this manga hits home in an environment that’s out to advocate the elimination of bullying. This is definitely a good piece for students and teachers to read, even if they’re not into manga. While it can’t be said that this will hit home with everyone, this manga presents a good push in a good direction to teach the effects of bullying. To put the bow on this review, this manga is one that this examiner will definitely recommend.