Manga, Sign Language and Deaf Characters


Japanese manga is a comic book tradition that began to spread in the West in the 1980s and, with that, we have discovered that some of them have starred Deaf people and Sign Language. Here we review some of them in order of publication, from oldest to most recent.

X (エックス)

  • Original run: 1992
  • Volumes: 18
  • Anime sereis: X (years 2001-2002, 25 episodes)
  • Anime film: X (year 1996)
  • Summary: The end of the world is near and Hinoto has prophetic dreams in which a young man named Kamui is the hope for a devastated world. Therefore, Hinoto summons the Seven Seals, seven people who must find Kamui and convince him to join their side in the Final Battle so that the world and humanity can have a new chance.
Hinoto is a leader and visionary, who can see the future in her dreams and thanks to this ability she works for the government. But in exchange for this great power she has had to pay a high price, as she is blind, deaf, mute and also unable to walk, so the only way she can communicate with others is through telepathy.

Vagabond (バガボンド)

  • Original run: 1998
  • Volumes: 37
  • Summary: the story begins in 1600, after a battle in which two teenagers from the losing side, Takezō Shinmen and Matahachi Hon'iden, lie wounded on the battlefield and pursued by hunters of survivors. They succeed in escaping and vow to become Invincibles under the sky (Tenka Musō). Takezō decides to become a wanderer and wander the world challenging strong opponents, until a monk makes him reconsider his purpose in life, renames him Musashi Miyamoto and ends up becoming a legend as a master swordsman.
One of the main characters in the manga is Sasaki Kojirō, arch-rival of Miyamoto Musashi, deaf and famous for his technique called Swallow Cut, inspired by the movement of a swallow in flight.

Psychic Detective Yakumo (心霊探侦八 Shinrei Tantei Yakumo)

  • Original run: 2009
  • Volumes: 14
  • Anime series: Shinrei tantei Yakumo (year 2010, 14 episodes)
  • Summary: Saitou Yakumo is a reserved college student who was born with a red left eye, which allows him to see ghosts and spirits. This special vision does not frighten Yakumo, but he firmly believes that ghosts and spirits are bound to the earth for some 'cause' and, by talking to them, he can set them free.
Yakumo's cousin is Nao Saito, deaf since birth and living in a Buddhist temple. Although she is deaf, she is able to perceive the feelings of the people around her very clearly.


  • Original run: 2011
  • Volumes: 8
  • Anime series: Gangsta. (year 2015, 13 episodes), available in Netflix
  • Summary: Gangsta follows the lives of two friendly neighborhood gangsters, Worick Arcangelo and Nicolas Brown. Known as 'Benriya', they make a living on the chaotic streets of Ergastulum as hired thugs.

One of the characters is Nicolas Brown (ニコラス・ブラウン), a Deaf swordsman who communicates with Sign Language. Nicolas is very skilled with the sword and has superhuman abilities, such as being able to jump very high, extreme reflexes, and increased endurance.

Nicolas Brown, in the anime Gangsta.

Koe no Katachi (聲の形)

  • Original run: 2013
  • Volumes: 7
  • Anime film: A Silent Voice (year 2016), available in Netflix
  • Summary: The story revolves around Shōko Nishimiya, an elementary school student who has been Deaf since birth and is bullied by her classmates. One of the main perpetrators is Shōya Ishida who ends up forcing Nishimiya to change schools. Years later, Ishida seeks redemption from Nishimiya.
Shōko Nishimiya is the girl who is teased and abused by her classmates for being Deaf. From the manga was derived the acclaimed film A Silent Voice, which has received numerous animation awards (in-depth Exceptional article here). In both the manga and the film Nishimiya communicates in Sign Language.

Hidamari ga Kikoeru (ひだまりが聴こえる)

  • Original run: 2013
  • Volumes: 4
  • Film: Hidamari ga Kikoeru (year 2017)
  • Summary: During high school, Kōhei Sugihara goes deaf and, since then, has had difficulty relating to others. Now a college student, things haven't improved much for him and he has trouble integrating into everyday campus life. One day he accidentally meets the cheerful Taichi Sagawa, who offers to take notes in class for him in exchange for bentōs (prepared takeout ration).

The entire manga revolves around the character of Kōhei Sugihara, a loner and introvert who hates it when others are nice to him. He worries about losing his hearing completely and no longer being able to hear Taichi's voice.

Ōsama Ranking (王様ランキング Ōsama Rankingu)

  • Original run: 2017
  • Volumes: 9
  • Anime series: Ōsama Ranking (release in October 2021)
  • Summary: The story centers on Bojji, a weak prince who cannot hold even a child's sword. Bojji and his firstborn have a great desire to become the most powerful king in the world, but no one intends to accept him as king.

The main character of the manga, Bojji, is deaf, which makes the story focus more on the visual aspects and expressions of other characters. Since he has not received any oral or Sign Language training, he communicates is through body movement and gestures.

An anime series is scheduled for release in October 2021, of which the first trailer has already been released:

A Sign of Affection (ゆびさきと恋々 Yubisaki to Renren)

  • Original run: 2019
  • Volumes: 4
  • Summary: Yuki is a typical college student whose world revolves around her friends, social media and the latest sales. But when a chance encounter on a train leads her to meet the friend of a friend and fellow student Itsuomi-san, her world begins to widen. Although Itsuomi-kun can speak three languages, Sign Language is not one of them. Can the two learn to communicate the budding feelings between them?
The authors of the manga wanted the main theme to be Sign Language, as they were very attracted to the idea. However, since neither of them had much experience with Sign Language, they did research, read books on the subject, interviewed Sign Language teachers, and got someone to supervise Sign Language in the manga.

Illustrations from A Sign of Affection, showing the use of Sign Language

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