LN Reading Program — July 19

(pictured: The Isolator)

(pictured: The Isolator)

(Apologies for getting this post up a day late. Things have been hectic this past week, but I should be back on track and can catch up on everyone’s comments now.)

For the second week of this summer reading program, we will discuss the second act of The Isolator (volume 1) and Twilight-Colored Song User (volume 1). For The Isolator, you need to have read chapters 5, 6, and 7 (ending at page 138). Meanwhile for Song User, you need to have read the “interval play” and “third play” chapters.

If you have read further ahead, please refrain from spoiling anything past the points in the stories mentioned above.

The Isolator

Act two of The Isolator featured the Biter Takaesu kidnapping Tomomi, then Minoru and subsequently Yumiko intervening, then Takaesu escaping, recovering, and finally kidnapping Norie in hopes of having his revenge on Minoru. It’s a pretty straightforward series of events, but I’ve found it all engaging enough so far. I’ve continued to appreciate how the protagonist’s character is being developed, and have also been a bit surprised by what’s been revealed from the antagonist’s point of view.

Discussion Points

Throughout the story, there have been times where we follow events from Takaesu’s point of view. At first I felt this was just a way for the author to convey information that Minoru wouldn’t be aware of, but at this point it seems there’s more to it in a thematic sense. What purposes do you feel the author is aiming to fulfill in regularly sharing the thoughts and aims of the antagonist?

I think this story is set up in such a way that encourages a comparison to be made between Minoru and Takaesu. Though their actions and general personalities are as different as night and day, it could be interesting to look at what similarities exist in their lives. Both suffered tragic childhoods, grew up as loners, and would eventually receive a “third eye” from space. The power each obtained relates directly to how they have struggled to cope with said tragedies: Minoru attempting to mentally sever his connections with everyone else in the world, and Takaesu furiously lashing out against the world in retaliation. I find it interesting to note how while Minoru has hoped for a state of “non-existence,” Takaesu’s reforming of himself as a shark has fulfilled a similar function (i.e. no longer considering himself a human being–but with the caveat of also seeing himself as something innately superior).

The arrival of Yumiko and DD has advanced the main plot of the story, though their conversation with Minoru has mainly raised a lot of questions. What are the “third eyes” exactly? Why have they latched on to people and granted special abilities? Why are some intent on killing humans, while others aren’t? Just how much of an effect do they have on the minds of those they are tied to? Why must the existence of the “third eyes” be kept a secret from the public? Do you expect Minoru will join Yumiko and DD’s organization by the end of this volume?

(The Isolator art by Shimeji)

(The Isolator art by Shimeji)

Twilight-Colored Song User

Act two for this story dealt with preparations for the recital contest, and then the recital contest itself.

Discussion Points

While Kluele managed to perform a successful Recitation, I found it interesting that Mio and Neight both failed in theirs. I don’t have a lot to add to this thought, other than finding it nice that time is being taken to show the difficulty behind the magic system of the story, and that major characters are not immune to such setbacks.

What is your take on the story’s message regarding lofty goals? How important is the effort to push yourself in self-improvement, in comparison with achieving safe results? The conversation between Kluele and the lizard familiar Arma is the scene that stuck out to me the most during this act. What do you make of the lizard’s words and Kluele’s subsequent decision?

Xins (the rainbow reciter) has revealed to Neight his connection with Evhemary (Neight’s mother and mentor), something that happened sooner than I expected. Where do you imagine this will lead, and how will it affect the rest of the book? How do you predict things will go down for the final act of this volume, what with the tampering of the “egg” catalyst that has taken place?

———

As mentioned before, feel free to discuss any point you would like to bring up about either (or both) of these two books. General impressions, predictions for how the stories will play out, some compare/contrast between the two books, or any random observations and things you’d like to analyze are all fair game.

10 responses to “LN Reading Program — July 19

  1. I was logged in to the wrong Twitter account for the last post, sorry.

    First I would like to say I love how Barnes & Noble and Yen Press made light novels a part of their “Manga Mania” this Sunday. On the back of the Sword Art Online poster they gave away was a poster of The Isolator. There was also a Durarara poster with both the Yen Press and Yen On logos on it. Also, the 3-for-2 sale that is going on right now until July 26th is for all manga *and* light novels.

    Regarding Takaesu’s point of view, I think he wants to show that there is a human side to the antagonist. He may have tried to lash out at society as a child, but maybe he didn’t want to be a murderer. The ruby eye is what is turning him into a murderer and we see his story so maybe we see a side of him that will make us like him and possibly hope for a cure for the ruby eye.

    It seems that the eyes are given based on desires. Minoru was given an eye that keeps people away, reflecting his desire for total isolation, and Takaesu an eye for his taste for food and lack of the teeth. As you said earlier, their personalities are completely different, so maybe those with kind hearts get jet eyes and those with malicious intent get the ruby eye. But, now you got me wondering why these powers were granted. My first thought was it was god or someone controlling the world dolling out the powers, like SAO’s first arc, but i’m not sure.

    I predict the end of the volume will be Minoru saving his friends with his powers and then realizing that he is needed in the world and should use that power for the good of society.

    • Reading this, I’d never even considered that there would be a cure for the ruby eye, but that’s a really interesting thought. I don’t know if I’d be satisfied with such a nice ending for him (that scene where he’s “admiring” Tomomi’s feet was a bit much for me), but when I read your comments, it was a definite, “Oh!” moment for me. I think I’m reading too bleakly. ^^;

    • (Sorry for the late reply)
      I’ve also been pleased with Yen Press’s effort to raise awareness of light novels–particularly among the manga crowd (which they’re continuing to please with many new licenses on that front too). Obviously they want their investment to pay off, so it makes sense.
      Yumiko did make it sound like the “third eye” was something that could be removed, which seems to hint there could be a chance Takeasu can be healed. It’s a tricky situation when it comes to pinning down Takeasu’s character, as his actions are influenced by the “ruby eye.” The ultimate goal of said entity is a mystery as well at this point…

  2. I agree that this novel is set up to parallel Minoru and Takaesu’s experiences, but was struck more by the major difference in their backgrounds than by the similarities- the presence/absence of family. Minoru’s family, murdered though they might be, is shown in a hazy, idealized light. Though they’re gone, they still have a positive influence on his actions. Wakaba’s memory is a driving force for him. With Takaesu, however, his family background seemed to me like it had been ripped out of a trashy 70s YA novel, the kind that junior high girls pass around under the illusion that teachers don’t notice the giant, tragedy filled paperbacks they’re carting around. (I substitute taught for a couple of years, so it’s probably an odd comparison.) I mean, his mom pulled out his own teeth? Seriously? As motivation, though, it works in a gothic literature or supervillain kind of way, I think. Plus, it’s a sharp counterpoint to the “wow, isn’t family great?” feelings that Minoru’s history evokes.
    I also think that the parallel is important because Minoru constantly second-guesses his own motives. When the two character arcs are next to each other, it pulls Minoru more into focus for the reader. It might be selfish of him to want to help people, but as far as selfish actions go, helping kids pay for trading cards to avoid seeing something unpleasant seems a lot better than revenge cannibalism. For a younger audience, I suspect that this stark contrast would help eliminate a lot of the itchy ambivalence that Minoru’s thoughts bring into the story.
    As for the last question, I’m sure that in some last minute plot twist, Minoru will go, “Yeah! Time to join the shady organization and fight the bad guys,” but to be honest, I don’t care. I thought this book was doing a really effective job of doing dueling character studies, so when the time came to get action-y and fight the bad guys, I was a little disappointed. So far, Yumiko and DD aren’t very compelling. If the book steps into their stories, maybe that’ll make me more curious how Minoru chooses to relate to them, but right now, as far as I’m concerned, they can go back to their secret hideout, which I’m sure is just super-cool, and discuss secret government stuff away from the printed page.

    • It is interesting to look at the characters’ family situations and note how that ties into their personalities. We don’t know too much about Minoru’s family though, save for his having a kind sister. (I imagine all their deaths will tie in somehow to the overarching narrative, though it’s hard to guess what any of them might have had to do with the “third eyes” at this point.) And as for Takeasu, it’s unclear if there was ever any actively caring figure in his life at all.
      The scene with Takeasu at the convenience store was certainly an odd one, though I did like it for showing more hidden aspects of his character–namely his feelings of… well, a sort of self-loathing(?) even when in the act of helping others. It’s a kind of overthinking that I’ve been guilty of as well, so I found the atmosphere conveyed in that sequence hit close to home.

  3. Twilight-Colored Song Use
    I guess some kind of very strong creature was summoned, now ours main characters will have to deal with it. My personal bet is now that Neight forced by situation will have to help others and his Recitation will be successful.
    About Xins confession, for me it wasn’t rushed, but natural. He had come to event looking for that kind of Recitation, he saw it, he talk to performer.
    About being successful in Recitation, I think in this case is simple. In order to do it well, you have to cut yourself off from everything what affect you, stress, worrying, expectation, and so on, because it all distract you.

    • It’s a fairly basic setup for a magic system, and to some degree I wish there was a little more to it. However, it can all perhaps be considered a means for the author to work with the story’s themes in a more vibrant and fantastical manner. The characters have to work within their limits, but balance that with actively pushing said limits–extending their reach in order to summon greater creatures.

  4. Finally posting my thoughts. I wanted to post sooner but I’m rather bad at managing my time. Anyway here we go.

    I definitely agree the assessment that it is meant to encourage a comparison between Minoru and Takaesu, and your points about how Takaesu has achieved a state of isolation that Minoru has craved are very interesting. Like you said by exploring one character we can explore the other by comparing and contrasting them.

    In that sense it’s a lot like SAO. In SAO, particularly from Vol 2 and onward, Kawahara usually writes the stories from the viewpoint of different characters. In SAO, the story is usually written from the point of Kirito and whichever character is the secondary focus, like Suguha/Leafa for Fairy Dance or Asada/Sinon for Phantom Bullet. Though with Kirito it’s usually written from a first person perspective rather than the third person like with The Isolator, Accel World, or the second focus character of SAO.

    In both cases by looking at the thoughts of one character we can explore and learn more about the other and better understand that character. In this case Minoru. Minoru is a good kid, despite the tragedy and his desire for isolation. He still cares. Even though he could have just left the park when he picked up the smell of The Biter coming from the direction that Minowa ran off in, he didn’t instead heading off into the forest. He still cares, there are still people important to him like his second sister.

    Meanwhile, Takaesu appears to have descended into psychopathy lashing out at the world around him. He is quite frightening but his backstory does work helping to build on the rather terrifying villain fear that he gives.

    As for the Third Eyes, it seems that the third eyes are some kind of alien lifeforms, though they don’t appear to be highly intelligent. As for why they have latched on to people and why some want to kill humans and others don’t that remains to be seen, but I do have a theory.

    First off, the Eyes seem to communicate with their host even if it is only a little. With the Ruby Eyes seemingly driving them and edging their host on driving them deep into a well of depravity while the Jet Eyes appear to be trying to help their host. Based on this and Fragment 02. I believe that the Jet eyes or some other extraterrestrial had set out a signal to warn humanity of the upcoming disasters that would be a prelude to the appearance of the Third Eyes. I think perhaps the Jet eyes joined them in descending to Earth in order to prevent the Ruby Eyes from.

    • No worries, russellstar! It’s fine to share comments whenever you wish. (I was slow with things as well; things have gotten so busy lately.)
      Interesting to hear that the author has worked with multiple viewpoint characters before, though I’d still say The Isolator is doing something pretty unique with having the second point of view be for the antagonist. I found it interesting that for the first two acts at least, little is done to make the antagonist out to be a sympathetic villain–most of Takeasu’s scenes are just too unsettling for that, given his rather inhuman thought process behind his cannibalistic ambitions.
      Minoru does take the time to follow the scent exuded by Takeasu’s “third eye,” but this does make me wonder if–to some degree–Minoru might be guided there subconsciously? His “jet eye” may simply be part of the opposing faction to the “ruby eyes,” meaning humans are just the puppets being used for the aliens’ war. The “ruby eyes” perhaps kill people for the sake of honing their special abilities (in order to successfully kill “jet eyes”), while the “jet eyes” make more of an effort to symbiotically work together with their hosts (in hopes of gaining more power that way).

      • Yeah, it is really great that Kawahara chose to follow his antagonist in this story. It definitely does makes it unique, and its probably one of my favorite elements about it. It really does help make him a truely unsettling individual.

        There definitely could be some influence from the “third eye”. It is a possiblity, and defnitely a thought that should be kept in mind.

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