The Isolator Vol. 1 - Manga Review

After a chance encounter with a strange black orb, Minoru Utsugi begins getting pulled into a world that betrays his every wish of living a quiet life of solitude.

The Lowdown

Worldwide, people are finding bizarre objects falling from space and, upon discovery, becoming hosts to them. In doing so, these individuals develop amazing powers that reflect the true nature of their heart’s desire. One such person is Minoru, a boy whose traumatic past has him running away from his thoughts and building walls up around him and the rest of society. When his classmate Tomomi starts taking interest in the introvert, Minoru learns of an extraordinary ability he has. Unfortunately for him, a curious friend will be the least of his woes when his powers lead him to crossing paths with people as extraordinary as himself.

How Was It?

For a sci-fi action series, I was impressed with just how well written the main character Minoru was. Action protagonists often have a way of either being dense or an inorganic amount of edge to them that disconnects the reader from their journey. Rather than having a complex about being too good for the world or something akin to the “live apart from society” angle, there is a really compelling backstory (albeit brief) that sets the right emotional tone for such a lifestyle. As his classmate struggles to pour her heart out to him, Minoru bouts with his wishes to stay apart and being a good person in an unexpectedly effective way. All of these little bits that went into writing the hero set things up well for future character development, showing a ton of storytelling talent from author Reki Kawahara (Sword Art Online).

Despite how well the hero is constructed, the antagonist in this addition, known simply as Biter, was rather underwhelming. Without much else besides his desires to eat things being explained, the character really struggles to be effective opposite of someone fleshed out like Minoru. Granted he probably won’t be a major factor in the grand scheme of things in the story, but I am hoping that there is more to the villain for the sake of keeping the characters creative. That being said, I enjoyed all of the other characters in the story far more than the one-dimensional bad guy. Minoru’s guardian Norie Yoshimizu had a lot of charm that the parental figures often lack in stories (her reasoning for taking him in particular was moving). The emotionally charged Yumiko Azu who shows up for the big fight of the volume leaves enough of an impression to know she probably has the same amount of depth as Minoru mixed with a dash of fire.

While there was only one real action sequence in this volume, it immediately stuck out as a really well executed moment in the story. The pacing felt appropriately fast, yet took the perfect amount of time to highlight tiny details such as someone slipping on their back foot or the repositioning of a baton. It doesn’t seem like much separated, but when added into the entirety of the fight, it helps things flow and doesn’t take away from the energy (how enjoyable would it be having to flip back to figure out how something happened or have four frames of exposition?). Working powers like teleportation into the fray mostly without a hitch makes the entire experience a thrill. On paper, the fight shouldn’t have been as exciting, but the attention to keeping things moving so fast yet detailed won it over.

The art in The Isolator really shines in these fast tempo moments of conflict as well. Rookie manga artist Naoki Koshimizu captures the mayhem without skipping a single beat, effectively working in the aforementioned positioning and precise movements whilst blending everything in rather stylistically. Not to say that things don’t look well in slow tempo moments of the manga, but in the belly of conflict things work so much better. While it really should be a no brainer that things in the action genre should be at their peak in moments of action, it is alarming how little works can get that concept. It is incredibly refreshing to see a distinguishable style of action in the crowded space that is sci-fi action.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the first volume in The Isolator is an original stab at one of the more popular manga genres. Most of the characters are very grabbing in unexpected ways, with tons of potential for future development. The pacing feels just right, with the fastest moments keeping effective without compromising detail. While it is just getting its feet wet in the world, there are a lot of questions that might have been able to be worked a little bit smoother and distract from a collectively enjoyable read. Great characters, unique style, and exciting action makes The Isolator one to keep on your radar for many more installments to come.

The Isolator is a manga adaptation by Naoki Koshimizu of the light novel series of the same name written by Reki Kawahara. Volume 1 was released on January 24th, 2017. 



Date of Publication: January 24th, 2017

Translator: Jenny McKeon

Author: Reki Kawahara and Naoki Koshimizu

Publisher: Yen Press