Episodes 1-25 (Streaming on Crunchyroll)
“I can imagine in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it.” – Jack Handey
One question that has been raised by some anime and manga fans is about the status of the “Big Three” Shonen Jump titles: One Piece, Bleach and Naruto. Regarding the original manga however, Naruto has ended and Bleach is currently in the final arc. Thus some are asking if any new series will take these slots, if at all.
It is tricky to say. The only other Shonen Jump-style series to have as sizable an impact as the “Big Three” is probably Fairy Tail, which itself is released by a different company, so arguably doesn’t count. Attack on Titan on the other hand is very popular, but it looks as if it will not be a long-running series, and that too is published outside of Shonen Jump.
There are several Shonen Jump series however that might make the cut. In terms of the anime adaptations however, they could be variable, and poor adaptations might result in preventing these manga from making it big. The English versions of the anime are often released before the manga, and so people’s view of them from outside Japan may have been influenced by the anime first.
The anime adaptation of World Trigger for example, made by Toei Animation, has already been criticised by some viewers for lacking quality in terms of animation. At times, when you’re watching it, you can see some of the issues the critics highlight, such as the drawing not being just slightly off, but terrible. Indeed, if you go to the Anime News Network and see the episode reviews, they are all basically the same, commenting on how cheaply the series is made, with all the episodes rated around “C”, only very occasionally going into “B” and sometimes as low as “D”. Their reviewer eventually gave up at around Episode 11.
This is all very annoying because the manga does not really have these problems, and the story itself has all the hallmarks of the typical battle-style series that you associate with the “Big Three”. However, while One Piece deals with pirates, Bleach with shinigami and Naruto with ninjas, World Trigger focuses on invaders from alien worlds.
The series is set in Mikado City, where four years ago a strange race of monsters known as “Neighbours” (or “Neighbors” due to all the subtitles and translations being done in the USA) attacked the people. Normal weapons did not work on them, but an organisation known as “Border” does have the capability to destroy them using so-called “Triggers”. These Triggers are weapons that make use of a form of energy known as “Trion” which all people have in them of varying amounts.
Moving to the present, the story begins to cover bespectacled student Osamu Mikumo, who is secretly a C-rank agent at Border, the lowest rank in the organisation, and who also happens to have no natural talent at all for the job. A new transfer student joins his school named Yuma Kuga, who is surprisingly short, has white hair and constantly wears a black ring. Later that day a Neighbour enters Mikado City and starts attacking. Osamu tries to destroy it but fails, but the Neighbour is destroyed by Yuma. Yuma reveals to Osamu that what attacked was not a Neighbour but a “Trion Soldier”, a kind of drone sent by Neighbours. The reason he knows this? It ‘s because Yuma is an actual Neighbour. He even has his own private Trion Soldier in the form of Replica, his chaperone (whose main role in the series seems to be explaining the plot).
It turns out that they are humanoids from various other parallel worlds and all come from an area known as the “Neighbourhood”. Also, Yuma’s ring is a special “Black Trigger” which has extra abilities depending on its creation; it also gives the user a “Side Effect” that acts as a bonus inside and outside of battle. In Yuma’s case, it means that he can detect if someone is lying. As thanks for helping him, Osamu agrees to protect Yuma’s identity, and also teaches Yuma about society on Earth.
However, it’s not before long that fresh attacks from Trion Soldiers, and Yuma’s attempts in stopping them result in Border finding out the cause. This ends in some internal politics within the organisation, with Osamu being helped by an elite Border agent named Jin Yuichi, a Black Trigger user whose Side Effect allows him to see into the future. Eventually Osamu, Yuma, and another friend of Osamu’s named Chika Amatori, a girl with an exceptionally high amount of Trion, all join Jin’s branch of Border which believes in trying to work with Neighbours rather than eliminating them. They share their knowledge, improve their skills and protect each other, as eventually everyone in Mikado City will have to prepare for a possible full-scale invasion.
As stated, some have criticised the quality of the animation in World Trigger, and the problem with learning this is that once you do know about these issues it just heightens your awareness of them. You spend too much time trying to figure out if somebody’s smile looks odd or if someone’s eyes are too close or too far apart, rather than concentrating on the plot. But at times it is really bad. These is one scene in which Jin has this strange- looking chin which is a bit hard to describe in words, but let’s just say it is far from realistic. This is not the only anime recently made by Toei Animation which has had issues with in terms of quality, as you can find out elsewhere on Anime UK News (see reviews of Sailor Moon Crystal).
There are some other problems as well. Each episode begins with the narrator of the story explaining what Neighbours are and what Border is, which is fine for the first few episodes, but by the time you reach around the tenth episode it gets a bit tedious, let alone the twenty-fifth. Also, because it starts with this sequence, the main title sequence often ends up in the middle of the show. Thus you only have one title sequence, rather than an opening and a closing one. At the end of the show you instead have an explanatory section recapping the events of that episode. Regarding the title sequence, the main original theme: “GIRIGIRI” by Sonar Pocket is pretty decent. It is used for the first 23 episodes. The next song used, “Ashita no Hikari” by AAA is less impressive and tends to appear at the end of the episodes now, with a title sequence mainly made up of clips from previous episodes
It’s a shame that there are so many issues with quality because the actual story itself is really good. At first you think it is a simple alien invasion, but then it turns out to be an invasion from humans from other worlds. Then you have the internal strife within Border itself, between those who want to kill all the Neighbours, those who want to work with them, and those who just want to protect Mikado City. There is a lot of intrigue going on. The characters themselves are good too. Yuma and Jin are funny, while Osamu makes for an entertaining straight man in the more humorous moments. Then finally you have the battles which are thrilling. You are engrossed as not only Border fight against the Trion Soldiers, but also against themselves, and then sometimes a new form of enemy will turn up, so the plot takes a new turn.
However, no matter how much you try and say the story is good or the characters are entertaining, you are never able to get away from the fact that the animation is not just poor, but simply bad. Bad animation does not always signal the death knell for an anime. My favourite anime, Gurren Lagann, sometimes had poor animation, but that was primarily concentrated in just one episode, whereas in World Trigger it seems to linger on, cropping up here and there, constantly reminding you how shoddy it is. I personally think the animation quality might be getting better in the more recent episodes, although this might just be wishful thinking.
I want to defend World Trigger as much as I can, because the manga is great and the art in that is perfectly good, plus it has all the standard features you want in a long-running Shonen Jump-style anime, plus as a series that is scheduled to run for at least 50 episodes it certainly has the length to be a long-running show in the future. However, with the shoddiness of animation, the repeated use of the introductory segments, and the use of one single title sequence, the most recent of which is just clips from old episodes, you become increasingly aware that this series is made on the cheap – and this is as it comes from Japan. Imagine what it might be like if it is released in English by a distributor with a poor track record.
Overall, I fear that all the people like me who are shouting: “The manga’s great!” are going to be heavily outweighed by the people who are shouting: “The anime’s crap!” Because of this, I suspect that if there is going to be a new “Big Three” World Trigger will sadly fail to make it because it has been let down in another medium. One wonders how the original creator Daisuke Ashihara is taking it all.