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"Island in a Puddle" Vol. 1 Review

Personal Rating: 5/5 Stars

*Review is not spoiler free!

Publisher Summary:

Minato’s tiny apartment might as well be on a deserted island. Despite being in elementary school, it falls on his shoulders to care for his little sister Nagisa, who never stops asking when their mother will make one of her infrequent visits home. One day when she stops by, their mother takes them to an amusement park, only to give Minato some cash and leave them on the Ferris wheel. However, as they reach the top of the ride, lightning strikes their car—but what Minato finds when he awakens is not the grim tragedy he expected…


I received this book as an ARC from Kodansha/NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While I have never read Kei Sanbe’s previous work, Erased, I have heard many people compliment the series, so I was really interested in this book. However, I rarely read more than the first bolded tagline in the description of a suspense or mystery manga, so I went into this completely blind. From the very start, there is a dreary and dismal atmosphere to this story. We begin with rain, something all three of our main characters mention disliking, and this carries on throughout the most shocking or depressing scenes. The manga opens with our main character, Minato, and his younger sister, Nagisa, as they start to wonder when their mother will return home. A picture of child neglect rapidly forms from their nervous glancing at the calendar, the last package of ramen as a dinner for two, and an apartment full of trash and dirty dishes. With only their slightly older neighbor having begun to catch on to what’s happening, it’s obvious Minato has been forced to look after Nagisa like a guardian rather than a sibling.

Even when their mother does return out of the blue, Minato has a difficult time feeling hopeful or secure. As a child who has been forced to mature so early, he’s already picked up on the signs that his mother isn’t planning on sticking around for long again. It was painful to watch as his mother treated him and his sister to a sudden trip to the amusement park and showered them with treats, all while knowing something nefarious must be lurking beneath the surface of their mother’s half-concealed expression. As of this volume, we have no idea why she chose to abandon them, nor if she knew about what would happen on the ferris wheel.

It was at this point in the story that I was completely surprised for the first time. I was not expecting a sudden lightning strike leading to a body swap, and especially not into an adult criminal who had just murdered someone! The point-of-view switch that shows how the man had led up to this point in order to connect the two plotlines was intriguing enough. A pretty basic heist-gone-wrong filled with betrayal, so far. However, having Minato and him swap places mid-way through his plan to retrieve the cash (and having just murdered a woman) made things much more interesting. I was also satisfied to see that Minato’s thinking wasn’t out-of-character for a child his age. He does panic and originally tries to go to the police before realizing that his new body is a wanted murderer, but he also wasn't a stranger to hiding the truth while acting natural before that. While this situation was a much more extreme version than what he’s used to, Minato has been forced to survive days or weeks without reaching out for any support, and that’s why his quick (if not sometimes sloppy) thinking is still realistic for me.

Art-wise, the style isn’t completely to my taste. Some of the proportions can be a little wonky, but the backgrounds are charming enough and expressions are done well. So are the paneling and inking needed for this kind of suspenseful atmosphere.

I’m really excited to see how this story will play out in future volumes! Thank you for giving me a chance to review this book.

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