( Notice>>>>>>CONTAINS SPOILERS<<<<<< )
Childhood and Teen Development
- Shōko Nishimiya (西宮 硝子 'Nishimiya Shōko')
- A likeable girl who was born hearing impaired, and as such was bullied by Shoya and other classmates in elementary school, to the point that she was physically assaulted, and had to transfer away to another school. Her father left the family when Shoko was quite young, because his parents pressured him to file for a divorce and separated from the family after it was learned that his daughter Shoko was a deaf/mute.
- From early childhood, Shoko seems to have been given the silent message from family and friends that she is somehow 'damaged goods'. Like Shoko ordered up her circumstances when her mother was pregnant with her !?! This message of her supposedly being a less than desirable person was taught to her by the actions of her father, who divorced her mother when she was once again pregnant with Shoko's sister, Yuzuru. Mrs. Nishimiya even plays into the 'unworthy child syndrome' by determining that Shoko be remade into a 'boy', so as to cover her femininity and disability with seemingly superior masculinity. From early on, resolutely deciding to follow her own path in life, Shoko resists the two other life courses that were already laid out for her; being directed by a masculine infused outlook, or being directed by a fatalistic outlook dictated by her disability.
- Years later, the bully Shoya searches for her to apologize for his past actions, and as a last gesture before his own suicide. Although Shoko has always held a bit of resentment towards him, she accepts his apology, causing him to postpone his suicide. Unbelievably, and because of her incredible shyness around other people, she starts to spend time with him, even going on an occasional date with him, once even to an amusement park. She is shown to almost never get angry with her attackers; in fact, she often smiles at them. Others, however, in particular Naoko, thinks she only fakes them out, and at one time calls Shoko out to stop doing fake emotions, as such behavior only makes her seem weak.
12 Year Old Shoko
With her small frame and delicate appearance, Shoko gives the impression of that of a very precious human porcelain doll. She has pale, evenly toned skin. Her hair color is that of a dusky, smoky pink, and she wears it in a cute, longer length bob cut hairstyle with front bangs to her eyebrows, and side bangs falling just below her chin. Shoko has adorable 'big eyes' that are a medium auburn color, set in a round face with a slightly pointed chin. She stands about 4 feet 8 inches tall, with a slim, almost lanky build of her body. Shoko, at this age, has yet to develop a bust. Although Shoko's mother wanted her to dress and act as if she were a boy, however, Shoko refused to do so, and always dressed herself in the very feminine appearance of dresses and short skirts, typical of that of a little girl. She was always seen as neat and clean, thereby making her an easy target for other students to bully her by disheveling or soiling her clothes. Although somewhat plain and ordinary in fashion style, she always would wear a pretty dress, or a shirt and a mini-skirt to school, as well as at home and out in public. It became common for her to wear one or two hearing aids in her ears, usually made of red plastic. Because of her hearing impediment, Shoko would always be seen with a notebook and writing device, as that is how she would communicate with other people, by writing notes in the notebook.
Early on, Shoko seemed to accept the fact that she was forever hearing impaired. But she seemed to mistakenly think that the condition was the result of something in her early life that she did or did not do, something that she deserved as a supposed recompense. In childhood, she came to accept the mistreatment of herself socially, and would do so without apparent malice, as she was misguided into believing that she was destined to be treated as such for being the deficient outcast. However Shoko was determined to 'play with the cards that she was dealt with' , and such diamond-hard determination, deep personal conviction, and iron clad self-discipline carried her through the many difficult times she experienced when she was a young child.
Since very young, Shoko's misguided mother wanted to raise her as a boy, with male attributes and appearances. However, Shoko had such a strong feminine personality, along with choosing very feminine dress and grooming, and she would have none of that ! She never developed or showed the masculine traits of aggressiveness or dominance. This is why the mother raised Shoko's younger sister, Yuzuru, to be masculine in personality and grooming, and to be the 'boy' who would 'protect' Shoko throughout her childhood. Always mild in temperament and social graces, yet, when Shoya took to physical violence to undeservedly rebuke Shoko, she, so uncharacteristic of her, was able to defend herself in the fight, eventually striking Shoya with her fists into submission. Perseverance also factored in to Shoko's attitudes, and with only a one time exception ( her attempted suicide ), always had a 'never give up' attitude towards life. Even with the social and emotional abuse that she was subjected to as a child, young Shoko was always friendly and composed, and would offer to communicate with people by means of writing in her ever present notebook and pencil.
17 Year Old Shoko
By the time Shoko had reached her seventeenth birthday, she had outgrown her 'little girl' appearance and developed into a cute, pretty, extremely attractive teenage girl. Shoko had evenhandedly achieved the almost impossible and virtually unattainable fashion and social status of presenting and being simultaneously cute, sweet, and innocent, and yet hardcore sexy with a very erotic appearance. Shoko still has a small frame with a thin appearance, but has grown taller with long, lean legs. Her skin tone of pale beige is evenly distributed, with a soft, creamy texture. Her face is somewhat rounded out, with her anime girl 'big eyes' dominating her face. A shy smile is always present. Her eye color is of a deeper hue now, almost a chestnut brown. Her hair is still a smoky pink, but now with light maroon highlights. It is much longer now, with her bangs reaching straight down to her shoulder blades. For special occasions, Shoko will wear her hair in a cute ponytail, held in the back by a bow. Shoko now has a well developed bust, but of an average size and shape.
Although being from a poor family, she is always kept herself neat and clean, and continues to dress in a plain and ordinary fashion style. She seems to prefer day-to-day mundane clothes rather than the latest, hottest teen fashion. She now attends a private school for the hearing impaired, and wears the female school uniform consisting of a shirt, a sweater vest, a business jacket, and a plaid, pleated mini-skirt. Shoko wears a pretty necklace now. Expected of her very feminine personality, she prefers to wear nice dresses that emphasize her female attributes. For the summer festival, Shoko decided to wear a traditional yukata, much to Shoya's delight. Due to some progress in her hearing abilities, she only wears one hearing aid now. Overall, Shoko gives the impression of a very confident and pleasurable person in plain fashion style and good personal grooming.
Shoko has matured and developed her overall personality, despite many roadblocks, opposition, and downfalls. However, a few undesirable traits still remain, which lead to her first considering, and then implementing suicide. Shoko continues to remain steadfast in trying to better herself emotionally as well as socially. Her loyalty to her family and friends continues to be displayed as an earmark of her devotion to them. This even for her mother who many times is misguided on how to handle her seemingly severely disabled daughter. Shoko begins to gradually develop her own independence so that she can function in society without needing someone to give her baby-sitting style assistance. Her diamond-hard determination is still intact, as evidenced by her progressing in learning sign language, as well as learning to speak out loud to the extent that she can given that she can not hear clearly the speech of others. The seventeen year old Shoko also discovers and has a taste of Eros Love, love that has a romantic and/or sexual connotation. She does a Love Confession to Shoya, ( a request to begin serious dating as a committed boyfriend and girlfriend ), however, because she chose to do this verbally, instead of using sing language, he did not understand the full import of it at that time. And finally, Shoko's Agape Love ( love of what is good and proper ) becomes firmly established in her personality, blocking any hint of revenge or payback to those that emotionally or socially injured her so badly, so that it acts as an anchor and stabilization to her other traits, all for the good.
Unfortunately, a streak of self-inflicted, detrimental false responsibility for Shoya, Naoko, and others plagues her time and time again. It becomes so severe that she feels that she must die in order to supposedly relieve others of their problems, or their problems supposedly with her. This is seen in the fact that she felt responsible for Shoya repeatedly losing his friends, when in actuality it is Shoya's own misery that is driving them away. Shoko is also somewhat gullible, this is shown by the way that Naoko is able to buffalo her into believing that she is the genesis of many emotional problems, when those problems need to be owned and solved by the various ones who create them in the first place.
By the time that Shoko is able to celebrate the Coming of Age day, that is, when she is twenty years old, she is stable enough to establish herself as meaningful self-employed person. Plus due to her natural beauty, she keeps getting cuter and more attractive, whether others notice or appreciate it or not. She has already learned the trade of hair dressing and styling in Toyko, and returns to her village to begin to establish her own clientele of customers, this despite her hearing loss. It is implied that she will begin working in Shoya's mom's hairstyle business, with Shoya as the manager.
- With Family
When early on in Shoko's infancy and childhood, when it was discovered that she was born deaf and would become mute, her intimate contact with the members of her family began to gradually deteriorate. Like she ordered up her disability while her mom was pregnant with her ? Later, it was speculated that mom had an adverse reaction to something that ended up affecting the fetus, such that the developing child was born deaf. The first outward reaction was that her father's parents began to advise and lean on her father to leave the family and file for divorce, which he eventually did while mom was pregnant with their second child. Her father's supposed personal pride and status in life was stronger than his love for his special daughter and pregnant wife.This left Shoko's mom alone to raise two daughters, although mom's mother, Shoko's grandmother would move in and help from that time forward. With mom having to work all the time, and do everything else about the family by herself, she had little time for any quality parenting. It seems that mom, deep down, would always resent the fact that father left the family supposedly because of Shoko. This would occasionally contribute to strained relations between Shoko and her mom. Another point of contention was the fact that mom wanted Shoko to be raised as a boy, with a masculine identity and expression, supposedly for Shoko's own protection and ability to defend herself as a deaf person. But Shoko had such a strong, unchangeable female gender identity, and always dressed ultra-feminine in dresses and skirts, that mom's plans never took hold on Shoko. Mom then raised her sister, Yuzuru, born a female, as a male in identity and appearance, with the purpose that Yuzuru would be the 'boy' that would 'protect' Shoko all the time.
Shoko was, for the most part, an obedient child, but as she had grown older, and became the object of repeated ridicule and bullying, she developed an iron will along with an independent social relationship with her mom. Over the years, Shoko actually became closer and more intimate with her sister, Yuzuru, then with her mom. Yuzuru was fine with Shoko being a very feminine girl, and Shoko was fine with Yuzuru dressing and being tomboy masculine. Shoko also had a good working relationship with grandmother, who lived with the single parent family.
- With Shoya
On the day that Shoko introduced herself as a new twelve year old transfer student to the class of the public school, Shoya was in the same classroom, but Shoko took no note of him. He did not think much of her, the new transfer student, either. It wasn't until several weeks later that a couple of incidents brought Shoko's attention to Shoya. In class, Shoko tried to read from the lesson at the behest of the teacher, but her pronunciation was greatly slurred, since she can not hear the correct sounds of the words. When it is Shoya's turn, he mocks Shoko by deliberately slurring his reading, with the class laughing. After school that day, in the playground, Shoko has sand thrown in her face by Shoya, along with insults. Thus begins a soon to be day-to-day confrontation with Shoya and his cruel, morbid pranks and bullying on Shoko. All through this time, Shoko bears no animosity or ill will towards him, many times offering the olive branch of peace to him with the offer to be friends.
After months of this unbearably cruel and wicked treatment, the bullying now escalates to hardcore physical violence. Shoko endures Shoya drawing blood when he rips her hearing aid from her ear. One morning, Shoya picks a fight with Shoko, and she is forced to defend herself, finally wrestling Shoya to the floor and striking him in the face to get him to stop. Shoko is then transferred out of the public school, and has no further contact with Shoya for several years.When Shoko is seventeen, and attending a private high school for deaf/mute teens, one day she sees Shoya in the hallway of the business building. He wants to apologize for his past conduct ( prior to his plans to commit suicide ), and asks if they can finally be friends. Shoko is quite taken aback ! Shoya is too, since this means that he must postpone his suicide. Over the next several weeks, Shoko notices that Shoya sometimes finds the time to visit with her, and even do a few things together, like feed the fish from atop a bridge. Bad feelings about Shoya, if there were any, are beginning to heal inside Shoko, since he seems to be an entirely different, kinder, gentler person now. As Shoya tries to make amends, Shoko becomes more and more interested in him, especially that now he knows sign language and can communicate with her. Lonely Shoko begins to see Shoya as the intimate friend that she has never had. As time passes, they even go on 'dates' together. One special day, Shoko meets with Shoya, and tries to do a Love Confession to him, but she does it in her slurry speech, and he does not understand the full import of what she is trying to do.
Nevertheless, Shoko and Shoya continue to date, even going to an amusement park together with friends. But Shoko begins to think that her shipping with Shoya is somehow a detriment to him. This wrong perception grows in her to the point that she decides to commit suicide for (supposedly) his and her own good. On that faithful night, Shoko excuses herself from the summer festivities, and walks home, not letting on to anyone that this is the night that she will commit suicide. Just by an unbelievable set of circumstances, Shoya follows her to her home, and unexpectedly rescues her from her attempt to jump off of a three story tall ledge. Shoya himself is injured as he is the one that goes down three stories, and spends the next several weeks in a coma. Shoko tries to be by his side, but is prevented from doing so by Naoko, the self-appointed caregiver.
Next confrontation and revelation with Shoya is on the bridge where they used to feed the koi fish. Shoko is there crying her heart out in the middle of the night, when Shoya, of all persons, shows up. He has just come out of his coma, and slipped out of the hospital unseen to be with her. A very profound shipping then takes place between the two of them, in the black of night, that portends that they now and in the future will be together through thick and thin.
Some time later, Shoko and Shoya attend the Summer Festival. During the festival, and with Shoko next to him, as they are again on a date together, Shoya makes good on his redemption to a new life, for all the bad things that he did earlier in his life. He reaffirms to providence that he will do better in life, not only for himself, but to take care of Shoko. Shoko is by his side, seeing for herself the change that is coming over him, a much needed change for the good. But most importantly, Shoko understands what is happening to him spiritually, and is ready to greet him with a big, happy smile, and a heart full of love and acceptance !!!
At the end of the manga series, after having studied hair styling in Tokyo for a year on a scholarship, Shoko returns to her hometown and reunites with Shoya for the Coming of Age Day Celebrations, the year that they both turn twenty years old. It is strongly implied by the manga that Shoya will marry Shoko, and spend the rest of his life with her !
- With Miyoko
When Shoko was introduced as the new transfer student to the public school, it seems as if every other student either ignored her, or worse yet, was displeased with her presence. Later, when the Special Ed teacher, Kita, proposed that the class begin to gradually learn sign language to be able to effectively communicate with Shoko, only one student was willing to do so---Miyoko Sahara. Shoko noted that Miyoko was the only student that put her hand up when called upon to help learn sign language. Even at this younger age, Miyoko already had strong empathy and compassion. She observed Shoko being ignored and mistreated, and wanted to help any way that she could. First off, learn sign language, so that she could talk to Shoko without the slow process of using her notebook.
That afternoon at noontime lunch, Shoko is approached by Miyoko. Shoko is asked to use sign language to display her name, and Miyoko's name, too ! A friend at last! , Shoko must have thought. But friendship with Shoko turned out to come at a very high price. Later that day in the school hallway, Shoko and Miyoko are seen walking together. This elicits jeers and cruel remarks from other students about the two newly formed friends. Shoko, of course could not hear the vile speech, but Miyoko was shocked and mortified. The next day of class, Miyoko was absent. It is later found out that she withdrew from public school that very day, rather than endure the social torture needed to be Shoko's only friend.
Many years go by before Shoko will see this special girl and friend again. Shoya talks Shoko into renewing contact with Miyoko. They travel by the train, with both Shoko and Shoya standing by a side door, silent as mixed emotions are assaulting both of them. After a while, Shoko begins texting, saying that she is glad to be searching for her sixth grade friend, Miyoko, and follows up the text with her rapturously shy smile. At the designated arrival station, the couple find themselves descending a step elevator, and in an almighty coincidence, Miyoko is ascending the same elevator. As they pass midway, Miyoko cries out to Shoya. They meet up, and retire to an outside bench, where the three get caught up from old times. Miyoko now knows sign language, and converses in sign language with Shoko, whom she has never forgotten. A very tall, thin, and stately Miyoko with the looks of a fashion model, so unlike the chubby, quiet girl from before, wants to know if Shoko's boobs are getting bigger ( they are !!! ), and wants to 'have a feel' for herself. Both girls tussle, laughing all the time. Thus, a friendship that seemingly was lost, was in fact, renewed and given another chance to flourish !
- With Naoko
From Day One, when Shoko was introduced to the public school class as the new transfer student, it seemed like Naoko was going to be an ally to Shoko, since Naoko would write down the class work assignments for Shoko in her notebook. However, soon enough, the relationship between Shoko and Naoko turned adversarial. However, the nastiness was just about all one-sided, with Naoko the genesis of the displeasure towards Shoko, and Shoko having a somewhat neutral attitude towards Naoko. Shoko did not know or suspect the real reason for the situation between the two of them, because Shoko was not party to Naoko's other relationship feelings, that with Shoya. Naoko always secretly admired Shoya for his 'bad boy' appearance and demure, which dovetailed with her own 'bad girl' image of herself. She wanted Shoya's attention and respect, something that she craved. But when Shoya began to divert his attention from her and sling resentment towards Shoko, naturally, Naoko began to resent Shoko, too. When Shoko began to be on the receiving end of Shoya's bullying, it was Naoko who also was working 'behind the scenes' to generate dislike of Shoko among the other girls. It was Naoko that began the campaign of mockery and intimidation towards Miyoko when Miyoko befriended Shoko. Whereas Shoya was 'up front' with the bullying, Naoko was always sly and 'under cover' with her efforts at socially torturing Shoko.Years later, not much has changed with the uneasy relationship between Shoko and Naoko. But now Shoya has not only left off from bullying Shoko, he has, much to the consternation of Naoko, made peace with Shoko, and has even began dating her ! This causes Naoko to go from covert to overt in her vendetta with Shoko. At an amusement park, wherein Shoko and Shoya are on a date together, along with several friends, including the obnoxious Naoko, Naoko takes Shoko on a Ferris Wheel ride, and uses the opportunity to be alone with Shoko to promptly berate her for all of the 'trouble' that she supposedly caused her and Shoya. Later, when Shoya is in the hospital in a coma, as a result of stopping Shoko's suicide attempt, Naoko begins a 24 hour vigil in his hospital room, thereby blocking any attempt for Shoko to see him. Naoko even tries to physically assult Shoko by impailing her on a chain link fence, outside, in the hospital's parking lot. But her nefarious plot is prevented from happening by Mrs. Nishimiya, Shoko's mother, and Naoko gets a real smackdown herself from the adult woman.
Through all of the ill feelings that Shoko has had to endure from Naoko, Shoko has held to a 'Christian style' attitude of tolerance and forgiveness, in a sense, 'turning the other cheek' at ever opportunity that Naoko has used to treat Shoko with malice and disrespect. It may be that some day Naoko will make peace with Shoko, and more importantly, make peace with herself, so that she can at least have a 'live and let live' policy towards Shoko, and towards her life in general.
Shoko seems to be an individual who is not one that has been limited by her disability, but the rare person who is able to work around and even thrive, for the most part, despite her disability. The acid test of Shoko's own life's self determination is presented to her when her mother decides to transfer Shoko into an ordinary public elementary school, a school setting that has no sympathy or compassion for a deaf/mute girl. Shoko enters with the expectation that the other students, even teachers, will be kind to her, realizing that she can not hear, and will help her whenever possible. What Shoko actually gets is bullying, ridicule, and ostracism from students and teachers alike. Instead of her soul being eaten alive by such, Shoko fights back by 'turning the other cheek' and steadfastly 'making lemonade out of lemons' that have been daily handed to her. Only Miyoko becomes her friend at this time, and only for the brief period of time until Miyoko withdraws from public school. Finally, when insults from the main bully turns to physical blows, is Shoko removed from the toxic environment of that public school, with her coming off as the moral and spiritual victor.
When Shoko has grown into a cute, mildly confident teenage girl, another dilemma was presented to her---instead of being on the receiving end of the nasty, vile, debased actions of a bully, could she forgive the nasty, vile, debased actions of a former bully, namely Shoya. And going further, would Shoko want to become friends with such a person, and even further, would she want said person to begin dating her ? Shoya is called upon to try and look beyond Shoko as 'damaged goods', supposedly because of her disability, and to see himself as the 'damaged goods' and her as having the good qualities of endurance, long-suffering, and Agape Love. However, Shoko is not perfect, as she wrongly perceives that she is supposedly the cause of Shoya's emotional suffering, and that the cure for that is supposedly her own suicide. Shoko does hold some form of self-loathing about her deafness. She becomes suicidal, at one point attempting to commit suicide when she learns that Shoya lost all his friends supposedly due to her. Realizing how depressed Shoko has become, Shoya manages to stop her suicide, but almost with the cost of his own life. Shoya saves Shoko from her own suicide attempt, but is injured himself and is beset with being in a coma. When he finally recovers, and they both have a heart-to-heart talk on the bridge over the koi fish, in the middle of the night, they see that now the both of them share a common adversary. That emotional disability being they both have their own emotional and social demons to slay, but they are stronger together than being apart.
After this incident, Shoko realizes how unbalanced she has become, and resolves to do better for her own sake, as well as that of Shoya. She gradually falls in love with Shoya and tries to declare this to him verbally instead of using sign language, but due to her awkward speech patterns, he fails to understand her love confession and remains somewhat oblivious of her feelings. Nevertheless, over time Shoko and Shoya grow very close to one another, and continue to frequently go out on dates.
As time goes by, with Shoko and Shoya being together socially, as well as being intimate friends, this gives them a foretaste of what it may be like if they were married to one another. Both have crossed paths with teenage suicide, but have come off of that with renewed determination to face one's problems head on, to work with and around one's disabilities, and to learn and grow into adulthood with positive life attitudes. Friends can also play a role in helping and offering encouragement, and reconnecting with them can work for the better, despite less than desirable past happenings. Shoko can not undo her past, or the cards that were dealt to her by life, but she can play with the best of intentions, and continue to come off the victor.
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