Are You Deaf (to Real Love)?!

I claim that this blog covers anime and manga, but in reality, we do little of the latter – mostly because I don’t read much manga.  But yesterday, my attention was drawn to a captivating gif on Tumblr for a manga that I just had to check out.  Entitled Koe no Katachi, the one shot focuses on a middle school transfer student with a hearing disability through the eyes of the class bully.

Nishimiya Shouka
Art by ループ

On the opening pages, the side editorial claims that there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the manga would be published because of its controversial subject matter.  We east Asians are prone to exaggeration, and I assumed this to be the case in this instance, but…no.  The 61 pages were full of painful moments – the kind of cringe-worthy pain only middle schoolers can cause to each other.

But in the midst of suffering, Nishimiya, the transfer student, stands as a beacon.  Throughout all the bullying she faces, she remains almost impossibly kind, even to her greatest tormenter, Ishida.  He breaks her heart (and her hearing aid) by his utter ruthlessness.  But he’s simply the leader; all of Nishimiya’s classmates join in the tormenting.

Without giving too much away, the climax of the tale occurs when we realize just how patient and loving Nishimiya has been all this time, even after she has been removed from the story.  The climactic gesture she makes is not over-the-top (surprise!), but it’s powerful in as a sign of sacrifice and selflessness.

What we come to realize this whole time is that Shouka is the embodiment of love.  She’s exactly how Paul describes this action:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

– I Corinthians 13:4-7

Cleverly, we as the readers are hit in the face by this revelation as well.  Although we dislike Ishida, our narrator, we also don’t completely buy into Nishimiya until this moment.  She is too patient, too kind, and too loving.  We want her to fight back (though when she does, we don’t feel satisfaction).  We realize that we, too, are tormenters – possibly in our youth, but maybe more likely in how we judge people, how we ignore those that are challenging to interact with (like the homeless), or how little time we spend comforting the hurting.  We all value love, but radical love, the kind that forgives in the face of the unforgivable, is too much for us – in practice as well as in theory.

But it’s precisely that radical love that can change hearts.  It wrecks havoc on a really vile character in the story, transforming and completely reshaping that individual.  But it can equally do the same in our lives.  And ultimately that’s what makes this short story so powerful – yes, it features a lesson about how we should treat individuals with disabilities, but more broadly, the manga provides a glimpse into a world of impossible love – and how that love can do the improbable, and change hearts, even likes ours.


9 thoughts on “Are You Deaf (to Real Love)?!

  1. That’s a sweet, sad little manga. I have to be careful with those; I’m less likely to see the redemptive love and more likely to think “humans are bastards,” with those kind of stories. Mostly because they remind us of the dark side of the culture, the ijime and the scapegoating so serious that it can drive children out of school or even to suicide.

    1. This was a sad, bittersweet manga.

      Yes, I also subscribe to the “humans are bastards” view of the world. When people say morality is a control mechanism I agree, because without it would be at the level of the beast.

      Our kindness to one another, and even more our forgiveness of those who are unkind to us, is the one redeeming feature we have going for us as a species. Otherwise we come under that wolf pack mentality. The harsh law of tooth and claw.

      Another painful one shot manga that is in the same vein is Onani Master Kurosawa. Yes the title of the manga is squicky, and the first half of it is also squicky, but stick with it. It’s like a redemptive blow to the stomach.

  2. This manga sounds very intriguing. I think for the most of us it is true that we tend to be hostile at some point in life. I think this due to the fact that we all try to fit in somewhere.
    As you said in your post, the others blindly followed. A way to fit in somewhere, instead of being abandoned by the group.
    The quote you selected was also very good to depict how the character’s personality was. At least how you described it in the post.
    Good post.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. And yes, we all fall into that mentality (or most of us do). Some of it is maturity, and a big part of that is finding out who we are and trying to find where we fit in.

      1. I’ve read this manga thanks to this post. I must thank you for that. That was one epic manga. I really loved the main character, she was an outstanding character to say the least. I also really liked the subject, that the writer was daring enough to make it into a one shot. It was very admirable. This series deserves an anime adaption:p

        1. Well, who knows – it might get one! First things first, though – I read that the one-shot had been picked up to become a serial manga series. Yay!

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