The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 114 – World Trigger

World Trigger 1

Continuing to look at anime adaptations of the most popular manga magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, this week we look at one of their more recent efforts.

World Trigger is a sci-fi series, the manga having begun in 2013 by Daisuke Ashihara. The anime began a 50-episode-long adaptation that started in October 2014 and is therefore thus still going, made by Toei Animation. It is a series that takes a lot of action and battles, and mixes it with complex issues such as xenophobia. However, the anime has had some issues in terms of quality.

The story is set in the fictional Mikado City, where four years prior it was attacked by otherworldly beings known as “Neighbours” – or “Neighbors” as it is spelt in all the translations because that is all done in America (we’ll stick to the UK spelling). Normal weapons do not harm them, but a group of people is able to fight them off using special weapons called “Triggers” which are made out of a form of energy called “Trion”. This group forms an organisation called “Border” to protect Mikado City from Neighbours.

Bespectacled student Osamu Mikumo secretly works for Border as a lowly C-rank agent, but has no natural talent for the job. Things begin to change when a strange, short, white-haired, black-ring-wearing boy transfers to his class named Yuma Kuga. The two soon form a friendship, but then a Neighbour attacks and Osamu tries to fight it. He fails, but then is shocked to see that Yuma is able to defeat it. Yuma then reveals the truth: the monsters are not Neighbours but are drone “Trion Soldiers” sent by Neighbours. Yuma knows this for he himself really is a Neighbour, and even has a mini Trion Soldier of his own; his chaperone Replica.

Yuma comes from one of the world’s in the “Neighbourhood” that are at seemingly constant war with each other, and his ring a powerful “Black Trigger”, which can also give the user a powerful “Side Effect” – in Yuma’s case he can tell when people are lying. For having saved his life, Osamu tries to keep Yuma’s identity secret, but it is not long before they are rumbled and Yuma is the subject of internal politics at Border between those who want to simply eliminate all Neighbours, those who think it might be better to establish relations with them, and those who just want to protect Mikado City.

Eventually Osamu and Yuma join a branch of Border which believes it is best to work with the Neighbours rather than just kill them. Together they work under the brilliant Black Trigger user Jin Yuichi, whose Side Effect allows him to see into the future. They also recruit a friend of Osamu’s into their group, a young girl named Chika Amatori who happens to possess huge amounts of Trion. Thus they unite and train up in order to prepare themselves for future battles against Neighbours planning full scale attacks.

As mentioned in last week’s column on Gintama (No. 113), part of the reason for looking into these series is to see if any are likely to become as massively popular as other Shonen Jump series that are soon to end. The answer to whether or not World Trigger will do this is in my opinion: “It should do, but it probably won’t.”

The reason why it should do is because it contains many of the same elements you find in Shonen Jump’s current “Big Three” manga titles of One Piece (No. 6), Bleach (No. 15) and Naruto (No. 95). For example, it features big battles, you have the ever expanding range of characters, the slowly developing plot leading to bigger situations in the future, and the leads are enjoyable – you have Osamu as the kid with no natural talent but willing to give it his all to prove he can just as useful as anyone else, and then you have Yuma who looks weak at first but is actually much stronger and smarter than just about everyone else in the series. Not only that, but the basic situation seems to fit the mould set by the original Big Three. One Piece covers pirates; Bleach covers the supernatural and grim reapers; and Naruto covers ninjas. World Trigger’s sci-fi setting and attacks from other worlds would seem to be the ideal.

However, while the manga contains all of this, and is both drawn and written very competently by Ashihara, the anime version by Toei Animation has been made unbelievably shoddily and cheaply. I have known anime reviewers that have simply given up on it because they thought the animation was too awful for them: either a character’s eyes are too far apart or close together, their smile looks a bit weird, or their chin is drawn on in such an appalling way.

It is not just that the animation is sometimes bad, but you can tell that Toei is doing anything to cut costs. For example, nearly every episode begins with about two or three minutes explaining first the overall setting, and then the current plot, thus eating time into the show. Also, while most anime series often have 90-second-long opening and another 90-second-long ending, World Trigger has just one title sequence, right in the middle of the episode, meaning that they cut costs by merging the two together. World Trigger is also not an isolated incident. They recently made the new anime adaptation of Sailor Moon (No. 63), and there have been complaints that this series has also been poorly made.

I am a big fan of the original manga, and I think that the quality of the animation has picked up a bit recently, but much of the damage has already been done. I fear that World Trigger is a brilliant series that has been badly let down.

World Trigger is available to stream via Crunchyroll.

EDIT: In March 2016 it was sadly confirmed that the anime would be ended.