The Isolator, Vol. 3

By Reki Kawahara and Shimeji. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by ZephyrRz.

It is rather startling how little time the main events of The Isolator are taking place over. The eyes descended to Earth three months ago, despite the presence of what seems to be a long-standing secret organization dedicated to harnessing their power. It’s only been a day or two since the events of Book 2, as well, and this book also only takes a couple of days. And at the end, they’re discussing invading the enemy’s stronghold. I’m not sure how long Kawahara intends for this series to go, but I don’t think it’s meant to be that long. Though, given there’s an anime coming out this Winter, that may change if it gets popular enough. In any event, a new volume of The Isolator, and hey, a new cover girl.


Yes, after getting the first two covers to herself, Yumiko is forced to give way to Suu, who really should be invisible on the cover, but a) that would give the game away, and b) that would mean there is no cute girl on the cover. Yes, Suu us a teammate of the group who can turn herself invisible (with the exception of her pupils), and as with all the other characters, it stems from past personal trauma. I was wary of getting too attached to her – literally everything she did from the moment she showed up to her final sacrifice screamed “I am going to die so that the main guy can learn a valuable lesson”. Fortunately, she doesn’t quite die (though if Book 4 takes place right after 3, she may not appear much), but the lesson is still learned.

Minoru and Yumiko continue to be the stars of this book, thoguh Suu obviously steals Yumiko’s spotlight a bit, something she is keenly aware of – her discussion with Minoru about her jealousy is possibly the best hart-to-heart they’ve had so far. And Minoru continues to find new ways to use his talent, turning the ability to isolate yourself in an impenetrable sphere into an actual dangerous weapon. Which is good, because the new villain of the book we meet, Trancer, manages to get away along with his boss, who is more of an arc villain. (You can tell that we’re not done with Trancer as we still haven’t heard his tragic backstory beyond that apparently he has his childhood friend frozen in ice somewhere.)

The Isolator continues to have the same strengths and weaknesses the previous two books had. The strength is the action scenes which are really first rate – it’s a short novel, but the pacing is perfect, and there’s lots of cool superhero moves on display. The weakness continues to be that, despite best efforts to try to inject levity into the series at odd points, this is still the most straightfaced and serious of Kawahara’s books, and given the incipient tragedy at the back of everyone’s lives, it can get a bit depressing if the reader isn’t prepared for it.

I’m not sure where the series goes from here – the next volume isn’t scheduled in Japan yet, so it will likely be at least a year till we see it – but I’m still on board. I just wish we could add a goofy ditz or a perverted best friend or something to take the edge off.

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