Koe no Katachi, Chapter 1: It’s Not a Sequel

ScreenHunter_211 Aug. 24 14.23

Oh, so Koe no Katachi actually did get greenlit for a serialized version. I hadn’t heard anything of that aside from some wishful thinking by those who read the one-shot, though apparently it was announced right before I read the one-shot myself. Go figure. Personally I think I would have preferred if this was a sequel, even though Koe no Katachi didn’t really call for one, though there’s still the possibility that the story will continue on past where the one-shot ended.

(With the rest of this post I’m assuming you’ve already read the one-shot, so read on at your own discretion.)

The first few pages take place at the end of the one-shot with high schooler Shouya attempting to talk with Shouko, but it turns out to just be a set itself up for a book end. The rest of the chapter mostly focuses on an elementary schooler Shouya and the antics he gets himself into with his two buddies. Since this is based off of a one-shot it’s probably inevitable that the plot is going to feel dragged out, particularly since the one-shot already said all it needed to to tell the story in 60 pages. Thus all of the extra material runs a big risk of just feeling like a bunch of pointless fluff and padding. Hopefully this will actually add more depth to the plot, but so far this chapter doesn’t quite succeed with that.

What the chapter aims to do is add more context to the way Shouya acts. Throughout the chapter we see Shouya hanging out with his two best pals and partaking in various “Test of Courage” challenges; he’s disinterested in studying and instead only cares about having as much fun as possible, “waging a war against boredom.” Maybe jumping off of a bridge into a river everyday is a bit much, but that kind of behaviour isn’t too abnormal for a kid his age. What’s important about the chapter is how it shows how he yearns for companionship and how that affects his actions. He’s jumping off a bridge for the fun of it, yes, but he’s also doing it in order to impress his friends and to get them to stick around with him. When told that what he’s doing is childish and foolhardy by one his friends, he clearly seems disconcerted by that and quickly tries to find something else to keep his friend’s interest. And then again when his two friends abandon the Test of Courage’s for good, he feels lost and betrayed.

ScreenHunter_214 Aug. 24 14.25

One possible problem here is that this is all portrayed as some sort of war on boredom, while everything else we learn about Shouya is much more subtle. Hopefully the war on boredom doesn’t remain the central focus of Shouya’s character, since I feel like that might lessen the criticism on Japan’s problematic ideals on conformity, as well as downplay the many other reasons that children resort to bullying. Having it be some aspect of his character would be fine, or even better it could be a flimsy excuse that he uses to justify his actions, but otherwise it might just worsen the story’s message on bullying. Plenty of bullies harass others for fun, sure, but there’s usually more to it than that.

Initially I was a bit skeptical about this chapter containing a clear antagonists with the shoe thief and his douchey older brother who beats up Shouya. For a story about bullying it seems a bit odd to have such characters included, since when Shouya gets beat up it almost seems like just general bad shit happening to him—a simple consequence to his actions, without any sort of moral like “violence is bad” or whatever. Though I suppose it’s a bit too early to actually have any of the bullying commentary before we get to the main plot. It’s also important to note that this is still being told from the point of view of a soon-to-be bully, so to have Shouya ultimately portrayed as a victim would only make sense. After all, it’s common for bullying to be motivated by the bully themselves feeling weak or belittled from other forces.

I thought it was funny just how more melodramatic and cheesy they made Shouya’s reaction to first seeing Shouko. Him looking at her with a background of earth and the moon to emphasize how pivotal this is to the story is just really overblown. It sort of redeemed itself right afterward though when Shouya blurted out “What a weird girl” in front of the whole class; that was also funny but intentionally and non-ironically so.

My only real concern is if this will be able to live up to the excellence of the original one-shot. Otherwise this is still a fairly well-written comic, and I have faith that Ooima will be able to make something worthwhile here.

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