The past can come back to haunt you
It's not often you come across a manga where a person has a disability, and this is what drew me to Koe no Katachi. The huge difference in what you usually come across in the world of manga and anime, you know your fantasy worlds, typical high school romance stories and what have you, is a nice breath of fresh air, and after coming across it via tweets when the movie was what everyone was talking about and seeing a couple of clips, I just had to get in on the hype.
And it truly is amazing. Koe no Katachi follows Ishida Shouya, a boy who's bored with life and tries to add some excitement to it by becoming somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. His fearless actions are adored by his friends even though they aren't really fans of what he does, if you get what I mean. Nevertheless, they want to be around him.
Anyway, life goes on for Ishida and his friends until a transfer student joins their class, and it's none other than Nishimiya Shoko. She has a hearing impairment and tries to communicate with everyone via her notebook. Things are fine for Nishimiya until Ishida decides she is his latest way of killing boredom. Essentially, he bullies Nishimiya to the point where she transfers schools. But what goes around comes around, as Ishida is the one to be bullied by those he thought were his friends soon after his antics have caught up with him.
A few years pass and everyone is in high school. Ishida tries to start his school life anew, but this is ruined by his former friend telling people he was a bully. Isolated and on the brink of suicide, Ishida seeks out Nishimiya to apologise and ask for her forgiveness after what he did, only to find out that this reunion will change their lives.
Seeing Ishida's life change from bully to bullied is another big step in the manga universe, because you usually get guys who are bullies but are loved and later mellow down a bit because of romance etc. but are still loved. Here that's not the case; Ishida is a bully loved by all but whose actions are questioned by some, and later becomes the bullied who hates all and himself for what he did. An interesting concept introduced in an already unique manga, which becomes even more interesting when he is reunited with Nishimiya and is able to communicate with her via sign language. Just seeing that character development within a short amount of time (for us) with Ishida really trying to make amends simply by learning sign language is quite moving in a way, considering what happened in middle school and after Nishimiya transferred.
From there, Ishida and Nishimiya's steps to make amends is just brilliantly delivered yet emotional. It grasps the slice of life element perfectly, because it makes you think about how far one must go to make up for what they did to someone knowing they can't give x amount of their life back, whilst trying to overcome hatred from others who don't want them to come back into Nishimiya's life. Seeing this from Ishida's side after what he has been through, you kind of do feel for him at times because you know he's doing this for the better, yet you understand why those don't want him to come back. At the same time, those who were his friends try to come back into Ishida's life, and after what they did to him, you do feel on the edge a bit because they may have some hidden agendas. At least I felt this way, and I liked that because no other manga has made me feel that kind of connection with the MC. Tachibana Mei from Say I Love You made me feel a bit cautious for her because people suddenly wanted to be part of her life after she met Yamato, but that was really it. Koe no Katachi goes a step further and makes you even more cautious about Ishida, as well as feel for him when he's trying to improve his and Nishimiya's lives. You have to admit that Ooima Yoshitoki did a splendid job in making me feel for Ishida and Nishimiya, not to mention a few other characters.
Basically, you have to have some Koe no Katachi in your life. It is just brilliant and emotional when you learn more about other characters like Nishimiya and how they felt about past events, and the character development is perfect. Everything falls into place and you can't help but shed a tear at times. My only criticism however is the abrupt ending, but then again I guess you could see it as Ooima Yoshitoki's way of saying that Ishida and Nishimiya are prepared to encounter the past once again but as better people. But I love love love Koe no Katachi.
I will watch the movie soon to see how the story is portrayed. I have seen one scene and it's just as powerful as the scene in the manga, if not more emotional. I have high hopes for the movie, and for those of you who have already seen it, do let me know what you think. I will also buy the manga series in the near future (always try to give back to the animanga community!) just because it is re-read material. It is just that good.