The Power of Three: A Silent Voice

One of the nice things about A Silent Voice is that it’s about kids growing up, and it treats the kids honestly as characters in that it lets them do it. Right? Not just Shoko and Shoya, but the people around them change as well as they confront their own bad behavior and resolve to be better people.

What that does is make the social milieu of the kids, especially Shoya, wider. Right? At the start the only one he cares about is Shoko. He feels badly about how he treated her in junior high and wants to make amends. Everyone else? He doesn’t even look at them. He sees them as nobodies. In both the manga and the film all they are is mannikins with X’s over their faces.

That starts to break up when Tomohiro, the chubby boy, forces himself into Shoya’s life. But structurally the interesting thing about Tomohiro is that he’s Shoya’s friend, while the movie is about Shoya AND Shoko.

Well, as Shoya and Shoko grow closer, it turns out Shoko has a protector: Yuzuru. Right? Yuzuru recognizes that Shoya is one of the boys who tormented Shoko and tries to have revenge on him: She posts photos that paint him in a bad light, pretends to be Shoko’s boyfriend to tell Shoya to back off.

Of course, Yuzuru is not Shoko’s boyfriend. She’s her little sister. There’s a bit of mistaken identity that only works in the movies!

But what that does is start to broaden Shoya’s circle of friends, and it does that in a very interesting way: It forms Shoko, Yuzuru, and Shoya into a Princess, Protector, Protagonist trio.

Like a lot of narrative trios PPP is neat because it contains natural creative tension to it. The Princess typically needs both Protector and Protagonist because the Princess is by definition weak in some way; if she isn’t, if she is a Self-Rescuing Princess, then she doesn’t need the other two. So, being weak, she needs a Protagonist to drive the plot and a Protector to guard her.

Shoko (left) and Shoya

Princess: Shoko is not only deaf but emotionally fragile due to the terrible teasing she has received for her disability
Protector: Yuzuru knows what her sister has gone through, and is determined to keep people from hurting Shoko again
Protagonist: Shoya wants to atone for his bad behavior, and that drives him to try and make up for his bad treatment of Shoko. Drives him, right? That’ll put your plot in motion!

Yuzuru

So you can see the natural tension there: Shoya wants to show Shoko (say that five times fast) that he is changed, but to do that he has to actually get close to her and communicate with her despite her difficulty in communicating. And Yuzuru sees this guy who treated her sister badly trying to get close to her. Obviously he wants to mock her again!

So Shoya is pushing in toward Shoko and Yuzuru is in between them pushing away. THAT’s narrative tension, and that’s how the PPP combination works: Protagonist pushing in toward Princess, Protector pushing Protagonist away.

What’s nice about A Silent Voice is that Yuzuru comes to like and accept Shoya after he treats her in a kind way even though she’s been pushing against him the whole time. This does two things in terms of the story: Shoya’s circle of friends expands again, and his development as a person is illustrated.

You’ll notice what’s NOT going on here: Yuzuru hasn’t asked Shoko for her opinion on the matter. I’ve pointed this problem out before: Shoya is the Protagonist. He drives the series. But by making Shoko the Princess they leave her with no agency. At a key point she is literally a Princess in Peril as she attempts suicide, and consistent with his role as Protagonist Shoya saves her.

Poor Shoko. She’s just a plot device. I hate that.

But the neat thing about the Princess, Protector, Protagonist relationship in A Silent Voice is that once Shoya shows Yuzuru he can be trusted, Yuzuru is willing to let other people into Shoko’s life as well. After all, if that total creep Shoya can change, maybe other people can as well. And then the trio dissolves away: Shoya gets friends; Shoya’s friends become Shoko’s friends (some more than others); Yuzuru becomes part of the gang as well. That resolves the dramatic tension between Shoya and Yuzuru.

That doesn’t resolve ALL the tension, of course. But it does push the plot forward, and does it in a nice way that heads where the creators wanted it to go: Lonely Shoya opens up to the people round him.

I wish the story was about Shoko. Oh, well. It’s still really good.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

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