What Komi can’t communicate and a silent voice say about disability

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WARNING: The following article contains a brief discussion of suicide and self-harm.

Few anime, manga, and light-hearted novels portray people with disabilities as protagonists with their experiences brought to the fore in their character arcs. In this regard, both the manga series A silent voice (Koe no Katachi) by Yoshitoki Ōima and Komi can’t communicate (Komi-san wa Komyushou Desu) by Tomohito Oda stand out from their competitors. Both works have been adapted into highly successful anime, with Komis also adapted in a live action drama set in Japan.

While the two A silent voice and Komi can’t communicate Follow the daily struggles of female protagonists named Shoko with limited communication skills, they also explore two very different handicaps. In A silent voice, Nishimiya Shoko’s communication skills are affected by the fact that she is deaf, a physical handicap. For Komi can’t communicate titular heroine, Komi Shoko, her communication skills are affected by extreme social anxiety – less visible disability. While the two series explore disability differently, they still have some recurring themes in common.


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Komi and Nishimiya explore physical and invisible disabilities


Komi can’t communicateThe protagonist experiences extreme social anxiety in the form of a crippling fear of human interaction. As such, Komi is very aware of how she behaves around people, is sensitive to rejection, and tries to avoid embarrassment by not drawing attention to herself. As soon as she is the center of attention or attracts attention, she immediately freezes in place and is unable to concentrate or perform simple tasks.

When other people try to talk to Komi, she freezes and begins to shake, unable to express her thoughts. The only way for her to communicate with others is to write her thoughts in a notebook. On very rare occasions, Komi is able to speak with a stutter. Although social anxiety is not considered a physical disability as a brain injury, in Komi’s case a genetic predisposition is still established as several members of her family on her father’s side are affected by both disorders. anxiety and communication.


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On the other hand, A silent voice‘s Nishimiya Shoko was born with extreme deafness, which in the manga was not discovered until she was three years old. As such, Nishimiya is unable to hear and distinguish sounds below a certain decibel level, which impacts her ability to speak and hear others clearly. She only learns to speak by observing and feeling the movements of the mouth, and uses hearing aids to help her perceive sounds better.

When interacting with others, Nishimiya can only understand people by reading their lips and communicating using Japanese Sign Language (JSL). In many cases, she uses a notebook for herself and for others to write to ensure clear communication. While Nishimiya makes an effort to be a part of the group, her ability to participate in group activities is still limited by her deafness. For example, she is unable to participate in events that require the ability to hear, such as singing in a choir. In the latter case, she made her class lose a choir competition.


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Komi and Nishimiya explore welcoming disability in Japan


Although affected by different disabilities, Komi and Nishimiya share many similar experiences as Japanese girls who grow up with the cultural norms and societal expectations of their country. Since Japan places a cultural value on conformity as a means of maintaining group harmony, individuality is not celebrated as it is in Western cultures. As such, deviant behavior is discouraged, and the Japanese are collectively reluctant to stand out in a crowd.

As two Japanese girls living with some form of disability, Komi and Nishimiya are both very aware that they are different. Much of this is due to their respective disabilities which impact their ability to connect with other people. Komi is greatly admired for her beauty and is often approached by other people, but her crippling fear of rejection prevents her from responding to the attention she receives.


In Nishimiya’s case, her classmates are ready to help her at first, but end up exhausting themselves from having to constantly help her. In the worst case, she is rejected by them or they resort to bullying after resenting her needy behavior. Another recurring theme between Komi and Nishimiya is that their schools never offer resources to facilitate their learning and overcome communication barriers. The systems also do not educate teachers and students on how to work with students with disabilities.

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Komi and Nishimiya explore the impact of disability on self-esteem


One of the major consequences of growing up in a society that values ​​group conformity as a person with a disability is the devastating toll it takes on self-esteem. This is easily observed with Komi can’t communicate and A silent voice in different ways. For Komi, her extreme anxiety and communication disorders resulted in a very lonely childhood, which only exacerbated both her disorders. While Komi strongly wishes to have a group of friends and have new experiences, she also doesn’t think these goals are realistic and makes no effort to pursue either.

Like Komi, Nishimiya also strongly desires a group of friends with whom to share her experiences. Unfortunately, her efforts to make friends often end in rejection and, at worst, make others feel exhausted and hostile towards her. This in turn causes Nishimiya to see himself as a burden to others and to internalize people’s hostile behavior as self-loathing. When she feels particularly responsible for destroying the relationships of those close to her – like Ishida Shoya and Sahara Miyoko – she envisions suicide as a way to end her painful experiences and retreat as a burden on those close to her.


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Komi and Nishimiya explore the importance of support systems


A silent voice and Komi can’t communicate also explore the importance of acceptance and having strong support systems. The two prove crucial to Komi and Nishimiya’s character development, as it is only through forming healthy friendships that they – and their respective families – begin to heal from their past emotional scars.

In Komi’s case, befriending her classmates Tadano Hitohito and her childhood friend Osana Najimi turns out to be an important stepping stone to facilitate communication with her other classmates. It helps people like Yamai Ren and Nakanaka Omoharu become aware of her communication disorder and understand how to communicate with her. Komi, who enjoys the support of her family members when she makes new friends, also gives her the confidence to try new things.


In Nishimiya’s case, the discovery of her deafness led her father to divorce her mother, leaving her alone to raise her, and her then unborn sister, entirely on her own. It is only with the support of Nishimiya’s maternal grandmother that her mother overcomes some of her depression and the stress that comes with raising a deaf child. By befriending her former tyrant Ishida, Nishimiya is also able to mend some of her damaged friendships and form new ones, which helps her build her self-esteem. Her friendship with Ishida also helps her mother befriend her mother, which further expands her support system.


For more information on warning signs and suicide prevention, click here. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or planning to kill yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you live outside the United States, click here for a list of international hotlines.

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