The Isolator Vol. 2 - Light Novel Review

After gaining the power of “Isolation” and defeating the villainous “Biter”, Minoru Utsugi joins Yumiko Azu and the rest of the SFD in hunting the serial killer “Igniter” in this new series from the author of Sword Art Online.

The Lowdown

Minoru Utusgi’s life changed immeasurably when he was infected by an alien parasite called a “jet-eye”, giving him the power of Isolation - the ability to create an unbreakable shell around his body. Using this power, Minoru was able save his friend Tomomi Minowa from the “Biter”, a villain who went berzerk after being infected by a “ruby eye”. Wishing to have his memory erased one day, Minoru joins Yumiko Azu - codenamed “Accelerator” - and her colleagues at the Special Forces Division (“SFD”) as they hunt other ruby eyes. After receiving reports of a ruby eye burning innocent people alive in broad daylight, Minoru and the SFD spring into action as they try to hunt down the “Igniter”.

How Was It?

The Isolator Vol. 2 is a much stronger effort in terms of its writing compared to the first volume, delivering a more focused and measured story that made for a thoroughly read. The book wastes no time in getting straight to the plot, and I greatly appreciated how little filler this story had as Minoru and the SFD engage in a book-long chase after the “Igniter”. This created an enjoyable detective-thriller that focused on the SFD’s efforts to identify Igniter, and it was neat to see the way that science was integrated into the plotline to give this volume a interesting twist. However, the tone remains relatively grounded in a way that felt appropriate to this series’ emphasis on the tragic backstories of its characters.

One of the strong parts of the first volume was that it alternated between Minoru’s perspective and that of the Biter, and this carries through into this volume as there are a number of scenes which follow Igniter. Although his personality isn’t anything special, I enjoyed this added perspective as it helped to give some context to a number of scenes - for example this was used quite well to give a dual perspective during a chase scene, making for a more exciting and tense read. There aren’t any monumental twists in this volume, but the story is well plotted in the sense that events flow together nicely, clearly explicating what was going one while avoiding getting bogged down in too much exposition. The action scenes are similarly well-paced and conveyed clearly, complementing this interesting story effectively.

Minoru’s struggle to integrate into the SFD is a strong underlying plot line that complements the SFD’s chase after Igniter effectively. The first volume introduced Minoru as an emotionally broken person, and this still comes through heavily in the first portion of this volume. Minoru’s general pessimism and lack of confidence pose a major obstacle at several instances, colouring all of his actions as we get a vivid depiction of the intensity of his mental barriers. However, one of the best parts of this volume was the very tangible progression that Minoru experiences over the course of the story as his journey with the SFD leaves him with some memories that make him really question his desire to forget everything and be forgotten. This is also conveyed quite naturally, as we see the impact his interactions with the other characters have on him in slowly changing his outlook without relying on explication. This is integrated extremely effectively into the climax of the volume, giving the battle between Igniter and the SFD a wonderful emotional resonance as a fitting culmination of Minoru’s progression to this point.

Although Minoru’s character development remains front and centre throughout this volume, his relationship with Yumiko becomes a significant plot-thread in this volume. I enjoyed the characterization Yumiko gets in this volume as she transitions in the lead heroine role effectively after spending the previous volume at a distance. Naturally we get another tragic backstory, but in this case it feels like Kawahara was reaching just a little too far in terms of giving everyone - Minoru, Igniter and now Yumiko - tragic backstories. However, this was helpful in the sense moving Minoru to do a bit of self-reflection, and I enjoyed watching the effect it had on their relationship as the book progressed. The two have a pleasantly understated dynamic that avoids the gross exaggeration often seen in many series, and the way their relationship had a very visible effect on Minoru’s development was especially good in the second half of this volume.

After a minimal introduction in the first volume, the SFD are fleshed out in a significant way as Minoru works with them to take down Igniter. Although the gang is inoffensive and thankfully free of the rote tropes that plague many series, they aren’t all that interesting outside of Yumiko and feel a little bit flat. I got the feeling that this was because of the focus remaining squarely on Yumiko and Minoru throughout this volume at the expense of the rest of the cast, and I hope that the next volume provides them with a little more characterization. Similarly, Minoru and Tomomi Minowa’s relationship is only minimally touched upon in the volume, and I was a little surprised at this considering how central their relationship was to the first volume. However, this wasn’t much of a loss as Yumiko and Minoru’s relationship in this volume was much more interesting thanks to the emotional resonance in play.

Final Thoughts

The Isolator Vol. 2 is a strong second entry in this series, building upon the elements introduced in the first volume to deliver an enjoyable thriller that those looking for an action-adventure series should definitely check out. The SFD’s struggle to track down Igniter was well-done, integrating Minoru’s character development over the course of the volume into the plot effectively. This, alongside his growing relationship with Yumiko, culminated in some wonderfully tangible character development for him that was brought together nicely in a satisfying and well-plotted climax.


The Isolator, Vol. 2
By Reki Kawahara

The Isolator Vol. 2: The Biter was translated by ZephyrRz and published by Yen Press on January 26th, 2016. Authored by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by Shimeji, the series is currently ongoing and published by ASCII Mediaworks’ Dengeki Bunko imprint. First published in Japan on June 10th, 2014, three volumes have currently been released.

Verdict:

B+

Date of Publication: January 19th, 2016

Translator: ZephyrRZ

Author: Reki Kawahara

Publisher: Yen Press



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka