Naoka Ueno (植野 直花, Ueno Naoka) is a character in the Koe no Katachi series. She was Shōya Ishida's classmate back in elementary school, and sat next to him. She used to be the closest female with Ishida, until she denied any part in helping Ishida bully Shōko Nishimiya.

Personality

Ueno is a rather blunt and straightforward person, being rude and frank to people she dislikes, especially to Shōko Nishimiya. Ueno, being the "traditional tsundere", has been shown to be somewhat dull and insensitive to many of the characters, although she admits to this. She is also known to be somewhat rash with her decisions and will resort to violence rather quickly, as shown in chapter 44 when Ueno assaults Shōko after her attempted suicide, which resulted in Shōya Ishida being injured.

She often shows remorse after these violent outbursts, and even admits to her actions, but is hesitant to change. Despite this, Ueno has shown a soft and sweet side toward the end of the manga, and can also become flustered relatively easily. It is also hinted more than once that she has a crush on Ishida, the main character and a childhood friend who assisted in the bullying of Shōko.

Toward the end of the manga, Ueno displays progress of changing her ways, attitude, and mindset toward others, and releases most of her tunnel vision views towards her friends and others around her. She later shows remorse for her earlier actions and apologizes to those such as Ishida, and attempts to with Shōko.

Physical appearance

Ueno is a pale-skinned teenage girl with straight mid-back length black hair with long bangs and dark purple eyes. She is normally seen in her school uniform: a traditional white and red sailor fuku uniform, along with a dark skirt and a tan school sweater. Ueno is also shown in her part-time job uniform, in which she wears glasses and ties up her hair as well as her bangs, making her unrecognizable to those who search for her in her workplace.

List of appearances

Volume 01

Volume 03

  • Chapter 18 — "I Don't Care in the Least"
  • Chapter 19 — "How a Cat Feels"
  • Chapter 20 — "Reason"
  • Chapter 21 — "Pretend Friends"
  • Chapter 22 — "I Want to Know"

Volume 04

  • Chapter 24 — "Change"
  • Chapter 25 — "Just My Imagination"
  • Chapter 26 — "Birds of a Feather"
  • Chapter 27 — "Hate"
  • Chapter 28 — "Reply"

Volume 05

  • Chapter 33 — "Big Friend 'N'"
  • Chapter 36 — "What I Wanted"
  • Chapter 37 — "Now and Forever"
  • Chapter 38 — "Jumping at Shadows"
  • Chapter 39 — "Just Some Passerby"
  • Chapter 41 — "Everyone"

Volume 06

  • Chapter 44 — "Blight"
  • Chapter 45 — "It Was All for Nothing?"
  • Chapter 46 — "Tomohiro Nagatsuka"
  • Chapter 47 — "Miyoko Sahara"
  • Chapter 48 — "Miki Kawai"
  • Chapter 49 — "Satoshi Mashiba"
  • Chapter 50 — "Naoka Ueno"

Volume 07

  • Chapter 57 — "Reunion"
  • Chapter 58 — "Results"
  • Chapter 59 — "The Future"
  • Chapter 61 — "Graduation"
  • Chapter 62 — "A Silent Voice"

History

Please Note: This section has spoilers for the anime and manga.

Suimon Elementary

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At Suimon Elementary school, Ueno develops a crush on Shouya Ishida during their school’s sports festival. In the manga, she is shown bumping and meeting Shouya; it can be inferred that young Ueno developed a crush on him after watching him perform wonderfully in a sports game.

After that incident, Ueno attempts to catch Shouya's attention and impress him. She compliments him on his speed and offers him chocolate, but is unable to catch his attention. She even helped him, Shimada, and Hirose perform “acts of courage” by luring an opponent to an area for them to fight. In the movie, young Ueno is shown looking back at Shouya’s group of friends as the boys parted from the girls wistfully, further hinting at her childhood crush.

Sometime in the school year, Shouko Nishimiya is transferred into the same classroom as Ueno and Shouya. Ueno can be inferred to be a bit uneasy with this transfer, as Shouko was a girl and potentially could catch Shouya’s interest. She plays this uneasiness off jokingly in the anime, tapping Shouya and asking him if he was interested in Shouko (to which he responds “I don’t care”). Shouya words may have stifled any sort of threats that Ueno had started to have of Shouko.

Later on, Ueno is assigned to look after Shouko. She had the responsibility to let her know what was going on in the classroom, what the homework assignments where, and additional information that was presented to the class. Unfortunately, this was a big responsibility for someone of her age; though she didn’t originally hold anything against Nishimiya, Ueno began to grow weary of her job. The stress from her responsibility and her desperate need for Shouya’s attention led Ueno to start bullying Shouko. This is because helping Shouya tease Shouko was the only thing that seemed to snag his attention. In addition, she could relieve some of her own stress from taking care of Shouko onto Shouko herself.

Ueno’s actions at this time, like the actions of her peers, soon became conditioned. In this scenario, bullying Shouko became reinforced by the laughter and approval of the other children and the inability of the teachers to punish the children. Believing that they weren’t doing anything wrong because they were never punished for their actions, the class continued to bully Shouko. When the bullying was finally addressed, all of the blame was put onto Shouya. Ueno was among her peers, pointing her fingers at Shouya. Consequently, only Shouya’s actions were punished, and everyone else felt like they had done nothing wrong and felt no need or guilt to discontinue the type of actions that they had done.

Later on, Shimada asks Ueno to join in on the bullying and ostracization of Shouya. She joins in, very reluctantly, due to peer pressure. This is shown in a manga flashback. This is a pivotal turning point for Ueno’s character development and what will lead her to the things that she does in the future. At that time, Ueno had joined Shimada and written hateful things on Shouya’s desk. Later on, she spies Shouko wiping off the spiteful words on the desk, leading her to believe that Shouko had a crush on Shouya and was playing the role of an innocent girl to win his heart. Because of this, Ueno developed a hatred and jealousy of Shouko continued to bully her: this time with a stronger reason or conviction than before. Ueno would continue to bully Shouko until she transferred out of the school.

Taiyo Girl’s Academy

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After graduating from her elementary school, Ueno had gone to attend the Taiyo Girl’s Academy. This had surprised Sahara, who had earlier transferred out of the elementary school in fear of Ueno (who had commented that Sahara scored “brownie points” by trying to make friends with Shouko). When she introduced herself at the academy, Ueno is shown to have cut her hair to the middle of her neck. This hairstyle, compared to her hairstyle when she meets Shouya again, suggests that Ueno and Sahara have been at the academy together for some time before the reunion with Shouya (as it took time for her hair to grow back).

At the Taiyo Girl’s Academy, Ueno took to designing clothes. This had been something that Sahara had been doing as well, but it is shown that Ueno had talent in the field because she won the first place prize and beat Sahara’s team in the flashback of chapter 47 (“Miyoko Sahara”).

At some point in time, Ueno started her part time job at the Meow Meow Club.

Pre-Graduation

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Before the graduation ceremony, Shouya stumbles upon Ueno sprawled in his room under the blankets and jokingly threatens to throw peanuts at her if she doesn’t get out. Ueno reveals that she just wanted to talk to him and the two of them take the conversation to the park nearby.

Ueno offers for Shouya to come to Tokyo with her, Shouko, and Sahara, but Shouya declines and speaks of how he wants to stay and take over his mother’s hair salon. Ueno comments on how Shouya is similar to Shouko in how they’re both pursuing the same career and proceeds to say that there are three things that the boy doesn’t know.

The first is that Shouko wants to be a hair dresser (Shouya had thought she wanted to be a beautician). Ueno learned this from Sahara, whom she has a stable friendship with at this point.

The second fact Ueno reveals to Shouya is that the people who fished him out of the river were Shimida and Hirose. She tells Shouya that the two didn’t want him to know that they helped him out, but she wanted to tell him.

Ueno proceeds to talk about the old friendship that the three formerly had. This conversation differed from the ones that Ueno had with Shouya before. This time, she isn’t trying to reignite the friendship between the three. Instead, Ueno addresses the past events, reflecting on how they all used to be great friends who liked each other but somewhere along the way it changed. She ties herself into the reflection and reveals to Shouya that she, along with Shimida and Hirose, tried to erase the fact that they were friends with him.

Ueno apologizes for writing on Shouya’s desk and joining in on the bullying. She tells him that she’s an awful person, and admits that even after all that he had tried to do to help Shouko back on her feet, Ueno couldn’t bring herself to like Shouko.

To Ueno’s surprise, Shouya tells her that she does not need to force herself to like anyone and that Ueno will be able to change when she needs to do so. After this, Ueno calls Shouya soft and wipes away tears. She leaves Shouya behind, and as he questions what the third thing he did not know was, Ueno replies that he should use his own brain for once (implying that he is too dense to understand her crush on him).

Coming-of-Age Ceremony

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In Chapter 62, Ueno is shown styling Sahara’s hair alongside Shouko. The two seem to be getting along now, and the three girls sit together for the ceremony. Ueno even is shown teasing Shouko, saying, “Stop you’re flirting!” Shouko’s mom also seems to be monitoring the girls’ friendships, commenting that Sahara and Ueno are planning to start a brand together.

Later, when asked about a ring by Kawai, Ueno teases that someone who wouldn’t keep bugging her about being Ueno’s partner gave it to her, to which Shouya congratulates Ueno. Ueno tsks at this because Shouya did not understand her intent behind those words and Sahara smacks Ueno because she was the one who gifted the ring.

Relationships

Love Interests

  • Shōya Ishida: Ueno used to be one of Ishida's friends before she, along with the rest of the class, denied any part in Nishimiya's bullying. She seemingly has a crush on him as well, being reduced to tears after discovering that he and Nishimiya were friends and assuming they were going out together. After meeting him in the streets a few years after Ishida's isolation, she approached him wearing cat ears and tail and blandly offered him a coupon for the diner she worked at. They seem to be recreating their lost friendship slowly and steadily.

Friends

  • Shōko Nishimiya: At first, Ueno was helpful and tried to talk with Nishimiya, up to the point where she apparently began to realize that she was slowing down the whole class and that they might lose a singing competition, given that she cannot hear and, therefore, cannot tell if her voice is off (which, coincidentally, happened to be when Shōya started to bully her). She ended up developing a deep dislike towards Nishimiya and joined in as one of her main tormentors, although she denied it when asked about this.
  • Miyoko Sahara: Ueno and Miyoko became friends after Miyoko told off two girls for harshly criticizing her drawings, stating that she'd "always admired her work". Their relationship had started off badly after Ueno called her a "hypocrite" for wanting to learn sign language, at which Miyoko stopped coming to school. When she started coming back is unknown.
  • Tomohiro Nagatsuka: Ueno and Nagatsuka met by mistake when he discovered a cat pillow given to him at the cafe Ueno worked at, a note, possibly destined for Ishida, claiming that she'd "always liked him. Nagatsuka went to meet her, which ended disastrously (Ueno practically mugging him for Ishida's email), Nagatsuka falsely claimed that he was there to test if Ueno was a good match with Ishida, and stated that he wouldn't want to be with someone who judged people by their looks. Over time, their relationship seemed to have improved, even though Nagatsuka still feels some fear upon seeing her. However, they don't converse very often which leaves this in question.

Etymology

  • The name Naoka means "fix, frankness, honesty, repair, straightaway" (直) (nao) and "flower, blossom" (花) (ka).
  • Naoka's surname Ueno means "to plant" (植) (ue) and "field, wilderness" (野) (no).
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