I actually heard about World Trigger before it was licensed and eventually released by Viz Media on a podcast where two guys were discussing manga and what they read on a weekly basis, including this one in particular, via the scans. Oddly, the main takeaway from that podcast was that one of the characters kept making a duck face constantly throughout the book. You know, this: =3= for an expression. And that basically wraps up all my knowledge of the series, so let’s check it out. Is it good?
World Trigger Vol. 1-2 (Viz Media)
Written & Drawn By: Daisuke Ashihara
Translated By: Lillian Olsen
Mikado City was a peaceful city, and then everything changed with the Neighbors attacked. Well, by Neighbors, I mean these big-to-gigantic size beasts from another dimension that have different technology than the regular world and travel to this plane of existence via gates/cracks in space. When all seemed lost, a special group known as Border Defense Agency (Border for short) came to the rescue, using technology the enemy had, and dispelled the monstrosities back to their homeland. They pledged to protect this world and created their own base within the city, willing to fight the monsters wherever they may be.
Four years later and everything seems to be getting back to normal, despite the presence of Border and the occasional gate opening. Our tale focuses on two kids: The first one is Osamu Mikumo, a high school student who always wants to do the right thing, but isn’t physically tough enough to fight back against bullies. He’s also secretly a Border Agent, but a rather weak and a lower ranked one. The other is a mysterious foreign exchange student named Yuma Kuga, who’s strangely cheerful and extremely naive to the culture of Japan. He also has a secret; he’s a humanoid Neighbor, though not a bad one. From there, their lives will never be the same after crossing paths.
First off, I just want to say that I’m glad that Viz Media is releasing the first two volumes of the series together at once because, honestly, World Trigger Vol. 1 isn’t completely strong on its own. It comes across as your typical shonen action series in the first volume; laying out all the necessary setup, concepts, and characterization with some of action to help the audience get into the story. It’s not really doing anything particularly new or shocking here either (nothing like say Tegami Bachi or Deadman Wonderland) to help make it stand out more in the crowd. It does introduce some interesting ideas about the world and the monsters while leaving a decent enough foundation to build off of, but it lacks a strong execution of its ideas.
Luckily, the second volume is where the series definitely starts picking up and helps forge its own unique identity. The momentum does admittedly build towards the end of the first volume when it starts introducing the idea that gates are starting to open up all over the city and not around the Border base like they should, but picks up more when we see the Border Defense Agency, meet a lot of the members, and continue to build the supporting cast. It helps you understand more about how this group works and solves problems, the interesting strategies they have, the inner politics, and more. Heck, the characterization is much stronger here and at least gives character motivation and a sense of purpose for the developing cast. For instance, there are some very assholish individuals that are introduced in the second volume that’ll make you hate them for their behavior. However, the comic then shows in future chapters why they are like that or how competent they are in Border, so it never feels like these individuals are just there to be jerks.
Now let’s discuss the characters: Osamu Mikumo is our main lead and he’s decent. We don’t really learn too much about his motivation for joining Border outside of some vague lines, but he comes across as a very likeable and relatable character. He’s someone who wants to do good and has the power, but he lacks the physical (and sometimes mental) strength to truly defeat or face his enemies. He often tries and will constantly get backup, but he more often than not fails. It definitely makes him stand out more as a shonen protagonist, since you don’t often see a protagonist who is weak on almost every front. He does grow a bit as time goes on and he remains a very humble underdog, so he’s someone you can root for.
Hey, don’t piss him off! He might Hulk out or something.
Then there is Yuma, who is rather divisive as a character in my mind. While we don’t get much of a look at his background, he definitely seems to have one of the most interesting ones: he’s a Neighbor and he has been living in constant war for most of his life. His background definitely shapes his beliefs and outlook on life, particularly when it comes to bad people and constantly pointing out the faults he sees with people and the world. However, coming from a much different culture, he is incredibly naive to how the world works in Japan and looks to Osamu for guidance on that front, which leads to plenty of hijinks and goofiness. His most significant and defining trait, though, is that he is constantly making this expression: =3=. He makes that even during the most serious moments a lot of the time and it looks silly. He’s both annoying and interesting at the same time due to these traits; a rather “meh” comic relief character but also one who is very important to the plot and with some depth (so you can’t really toss him out). Maybe he’ll get better as time goes on.
We don’t have an apparent female lead (these series tend to have one), though we were introduced to two possible ones: Ai Kitora & Chiko Amatori. Ai is an A-Rank member of Border and seems to be very full of herself, not liking when people can either surpass her strength or overshadow her. She definitely has some skill to back her ranking up, but we don’t honestly see enough of her in the first two volumes to fully believe in her or even get much of an idea of why she’s like that. She just comes across as an egotist and the weakest character introduced so far. Chiko, on the other hand, is a shy but nice girl. She has a terrible problem when it comes to Neighbors and its gotten to the point where she’s a loner and shuns a lot of people (at least, that’s what we are told). However, the backstory given is pretty good and you can honestly see why she’s like that and also see her worries are very much legitimate. Again, we didn’t get to see much of her in these two volumes, but the series does seem to have a plan for her.
There isn’t a lot to the rest of the cast, besides one person. Some characters get more focus and characterization than others, while others either get to do a lot or not much at all. There’s honestly not much to comment on with characters like Miwa or Masamune Kido at this point, but like stated earlier, it was nice at least to give them motivation or show some competency from them. The only supporting character that gets a lot of focus is Yuichi Jin who debuts in the second volume. He’s a lazy genius type of character, the one who is definitely competent and good at his job (he introduces us to the concept of the Side Effect ability), but is very casual, laid back, and doesn’t seem to play by the rules too much. He’s also someone who should have been sued for sexual harassment (yay), but good natured. There seems to be potential with him, but he needs more fleshing out and a look at what motivates him (because right now it’s hard to believe he would join Border without a reason). In general, I’m hoping the series really develops these characters more as time goes on.
What the heck are you doing with your face white haired kid?
Overall, the story’s writing isn’t bad at all. The story flows decently from scene to scene, with no awkward transitions or jumps. The characterization is fine and introduced well enough, without shoving it out unnaturally. The humor is hit or miss, with a couple of moments that are either chuckle worthy or groan inducing. Speaking of which, the dialogue is alright and isn’t bad, but not particularly memorable either. The exposition is handled fairly well and never feels overwhelming. The biggest thing about the writing that stood out to me was the pacing. This is a fast moving series, never wasting its time with introducing something or progressing the story or characters. The plotlines can come and go quite quickly (like Osamu being a C-Rank and what that rank entails), not letting some of them develop as much as they could. Heck, it even introduces ideas and concepts you think the writer would hold onto for a while quite quickly. While problematic in areas, it’s not a bad idea to make the series fast moving since it makes the comic never exactly have a down/slow moment. There are unfortunately some moments that raised a few questions with me since they didn’t seem to be properly explained, like how Border can modify people’s memories (I don’t honestly see the point) out of the blue.
Finally, there is the artwork and it’s solid. It’s a bit simplistic in its look and style, particularly with the characters (they’re distinctive in appearance mostly because of their hairstyles and occasionally their eyes), but it gets the job done. The action is clean and fluid enough, while the layouts are easy to read and follow. The monster/creature designs are decent looking and have a similar look to them in areas. There’s also some nice use of angles and shadows for certain moments that I liked. Overall, the art is nice here.
Is It Good?
World Trigger Vol. 1-2 are sort of your run-of-the-mill Shonen Jump style manga with how it starts and is executed. It doesn’t feel like it really comes into its own until the second volume, where everything really picks up. It’s laying down an interesting foundation with its world and characters so far and shows potential depending on where it goes from here. If you are looking for a new shonen manga to read or looking to introduce a younger kid to manga, this might be the series to try out (especially if you get both volumes).
World Trigger is available from Viz Media. The third volume of the series is set to come out this December, with the following in February. A recent anime adaption of the series by Toei Animation has officially just started this month and is currently being streamed online by Crunchyroll.