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East Asian Studies
Nishimiya Shōko is the female protagonist in the hit Japanese manga and anime film adaptation, A Silent Voice. She is introduced as a transfer student to a sixth-grade classroom and is immediately ‘othered’ for her deafness. Nishimiya goes on to suffer from relentless bullying at the hands of classmates she tries to befriend with little to no intervention from the homeroom teacher. Doing her best to participate in everyday classroom and extra-curricular activities proves fruitless, and her mother pulls her from school. Seven years later, several former classmates attempt to reconcile with Nishimiya and seek redemption and forgiveness for their past misdeeds. Transgressions arise all the same, resulting in the young woman’s attempt at suicide. Through analysis of the narrative and Nishimiya’s actions and behaviors, I conclude that her suffering stems not only from her deafness, but also from her gender identity. This intersection of gender and disability provides the crucial critical foundation needed to fully comprehend the unique social situations Nishimiya endures, further activated by concepts of abjection that society associates with disability and compounded by certain elements of abjection connected with traditional female gender socialization in Japan. Nishimiya engages in abject behavior such as constant self-abasement and apologizing in response to bullying. As she recovers from her despair, Nishimiya acquires resources for success, both from her social network and self-realization, and begins down her path of self-worth, finding her voice in a society that prefers her silence.
Weber, Amanda, "A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi): The Intersection of Gender and Disability in Japanese Society" (2021). East Asian Studies Summer Fellows. 5.
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