Anime Retrospectives is ComicsVerse’s series on anime that ended prior to the story’s true conclusion. 

Imagine a world where you could ditch class to fight robots using energy blades and barrages of bullets. Rather than sit through another hour of lectures or discussion, you could serve on a powerful protective force. You could become part of a group that saves lives on a daily basis. This is the action-packed world of WORLD TRIGGER, an anime that began airing in 2014 and stopped in 2016. In addition to the anime ending, the manga went on indefinite hiatus due to author Daisuke Ashihara’s health declining.

A Sudden Stop

The manga debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine back in 2013. After a couple successful appearances, Ashihara’s manga released several volumes over the course of the next year. In September of 2014 however, Ashihara took a week off to undergo treatment for cervical spondylosis. This condition affects the neck area of the spinal column, making something as labor intensive as drawing and designing manga panels nearly impossible.

Over the next two years, Ashihara periodically took short breaks to undergo treatment for his condition. The anime, which continued to air during this time, had to slow its pace down to account for this. Finally, in November of 2016, Ashihara announced that his physical health had grown worse. The WORLD TRIGGER manga was subsequently placed on indefinite hiatus. In April, months prior, the anime announced the end of its 73-episode run. While fans guessed that the anime was taking a break until more chapters of the manga released, Ashihara’s unexpected illness and the progression of his condition made future episodes unclear. On Twitter, Toei Animation commented on the anime’s end.

The tweet reads:  “Tomorrow, Sunday April 3rd at 6:30am, the 73rd episode “To the future” will air, signaling the end of World Trigger Season 1! The total participating cast was over 40 people, so recording was intense (lol). Since so many people worked hard, please look forward to seeing them on air! #WorldTrigger #AniTori #WaTori #TriggerOn”

But this anime is far too incredible to have that uncertain of a future. It combined an incredible world with amazing characters and consistent battle mechanics. There are shows with hundreds of episodes that can barely handle one of these. Given that, it’s a shame that an anime with all of them ended so soon.

So what’s this great story?

One day, a strange gate to a different world opened up in Mikado City. Out of this gate poured strange creatures, called Neighbors, causing widespread mayhem and chaos. Military weapons proved to be completely useless against them. But, against all odds, an organization called Border reverse engineered the Neighbor weaponry. Using Trion, a mysterious energy existing within humans, they created new weapons called Triggers and struck back against the invaders.

Relative Trion levels of different characters
Relative Trion levels of different characters | Image Courtesy of WORLD TRIGGER VOLUME 1

The Trigger is able to store an agent’s real body within the device and replace it with a sturdy Trion body. On top of that, it can give the wielder the ability to create a swath of weapons. Using these weapons, Border is able to repel Neighbors when they appear. In the four years after the Neighbors’ first attack, Border grew into its own massive defense force. There are several regional branches, hundreds of agents, and near complete suppression of Neighbors.

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Non-Ideal Structure

No series is beyond critique, even one as incredible as WORLD TRIGGER. One of the most frequent complaints from fans was how slow individual episodes took and how little the plot advanced every week. Part of this is due to how the show aired; rather than be released as multiple twelve or thirteen-episode seasons, WORLD TRIGGER had one massive season with over seventy episodes. Had breaks been taken between major plot buildup, the anime likely would have had time to let the manga produce more source material.

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Even if filler was necessary, splitting the show into proper seasons would’ve given production staff time to create decent filler. Every episode, there were recaps at the beginning that sometimes lasted as long as ten minutes. For a 24-minute show with beginning and ending songs, this meant only about thirteen minutes of the show had new content.

Most people who watched the show stuck with it, but the anime could’ve gone more mainstream if the fans it had were more excited about watching. I personally had several friends drop it after a few weeks because the pace frustrated them. Shows as conceptually great as WORLD TRIGGER need to keep viewers’ attention lest they tire of it and stop watching.

Major Discrepancies

These long recaps and filler may not have changed the overall events of the story, but they killed the essence of it. While Ashihara had only been recognized once for his manga ROOM 303 at the Tezuka Awards, the quality of his work is comparable to authors with years of accolades. Among shonen manga, the attention to detail he puts into abilities, strategies, and plot is mind-boggling. The story is better than how the anime treated it. It wasn’t just a progression of events; it was a narrative with structural purpose. The time between arcs emphasized certain details while downplaying others, only to capitalize on readers forgetting that detail later. Action was quick when needed, and slow when practical. In the anime, everything was always slow. There are episodes that adapted single chapters of the manga, meaning fans had to wait weeks for plot points to connect.

As someone who religiously followed the manga, this was incredibly frustrating. Small details that stuck out on the printed page were often absent or glossed over in the anime. The opener would play mid-episode in an attempt to punctuate for commercial breaks. But, in the process of adding in a 3-minute break, the action lost focus. Imagine if your favorite book was adapted into a movie that played in slow motion with 10-minute commercials every half hour. That’s how excruciating it was at times to bear with the anime. But even though speed was an occasional issue, Ashihara’s incredible work still kept me hooked. Turns out even poor production strategies can’t ruin genius works like this too much.

A Solid Core

The real story begins by introducing Mikumo Osamu, a high school student who works as a C-Rank Border agent outside of classes. During the first Neighbor invasion, his tutor and close friend Rinji Amatori was abducted by Neighbors. Osamu joined Border to protect Rinji’s younger sister, Chika Amatori, but she decides to join alongside him. The pair’s ultimate goal in WORLD TRIGGER is to become A-Rank agents, giving them the clearance to travel to the Neighbor world and try to save Rinji.

This sort of broad, overarching plot does two amazing things for the series. For one, it makes fighting simply a means to an end. If there was some more efficient or efficacious way to save Chika’s brother, the two would pursue it. It gives every action more significance because fighting in a defense force isn’t even something either Chika or Osamu wants to do.

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Secondly, it guides each individual arc of the show in a way that makes progression logical. WORLD TRIGGER is about Osamu and Chika climbing from C-rank to A-rank so they can earn the right to travel to the Neighbor’s world and save her brother. Every arc is something that stands in the way of that journey but isn’t entirely inherent to the journey itself. If an anime is all about pirate crews finding a secret treasure, it’s easy to guess a lot of those pirates will be fighting each other. I was never able to predict every arc of WORLD TRIGGER, especially once more and more characters jump into the mix. The series created a world in the truest sense of the word, and even the anime couldn’t undo the layers of complexity and connections.

Interpersonal Relationships

Alongside Chika and Osamu is the third member of the main trio, Kuga Yuma. Unlike the other two, Kuga is from a different world. He is technically a Neighbor, but not in the way most humans would think. The entities usually referred to as Neighbors are merely autonomous Trion weapons that attack and kidnap humans. The series made the awesome revelation that other humanoids exist in different worlds, and those people are considered a constant threat to Earth. On his home planet, Kuga was an incredible soldier. On Earth, he tops most Border agents in combat ability despite being a few years their junior. But, since Kuga is a literal alien, Osamu has to keep his identity as hidden as possible while Kuga fights alongside him and Chika.

Kuga, Osamu, and Chika wearing their Border uniforms
Kuga, Osamu, and Chika wearing their Border uniforms. | Image courtesy of Crunchyroll

This limitation on Kuga is important for his character to develop. In order to stay discreet, he can’t make use of his full power and has to resist his impulses. These sort of weaknesses exist in Chika and Osamu too. Chika has a Trion supply so high that meters can’t put a number on it. For aggressive agents, that level of Trion would make someone unstoppable. But Chika is incredibly timid and lacks a huge focus on strategy.

Osamu, for his part, has a sort of codependency with Chika and Kuga. Kuga keeps their unit powerful in fights and Chika can lend Osamu Trion. This allows him to make use of his incredible strategies and intelligence, but he’s usually useless alone. It’s gratifying to be able to like every character collectively instead of individually. I loved the way Osamu and Chika could sync and launch massive attacks, or the way coordinated assaults fell together.

A Grasp on Power Scaling

Character-specific impediment and limitations to Triggers help mitigate what would otherwise be a horrible power scaling problem. For those who haven’t heard of this concept before, it’s essentially balance. In shows with a lot of action, there’s a power scale that helps watchers understand how powerful someone is relative to others. Without power scaling, fights don’t make sense. If the strongest person in the series randomly loses to someone weak, it can make a whole arc seem less legitimate.

Jin Yuichi yielding two Trion blades
Dual Trion blades maximize speed | Image courtesy of Tumblr user beckelow

In WORLD TRIGGER, while talent and physical prowess are large components of strength, strategy is just as important. It’s super annoying when an anime lets a character pull a win out of thin air for plot purposes. WORLD TRIGGER has a power structure with strict rules. You can only use certain weapons, and they all have unique weaknesses. This means that someone strong might lose to someone else with a Trigger setup that counters them well. It’s amazing to observe the detail of that system, and it keeps fights from getting dull or monotonous.

Kuga fighting Reiji Kasaki in WORLD TRIGGER
Triggers for a katana and shield can counter someone only wielding blades | Image courtesy of Crunchyroll

A limit like this is especially important when the story is built around people like Osamu rising through the ranks. Stronger agents need to not be so powerful that they can dispatch any attack from Neighbors. But at the same time, the strengths and weaknesses of agents that Osamu, Chika, and Kuga fight need to be logical. Rather than making someone strong for the purpose of plot, WORLD TRIGGER presents logical reasons for why a weaker agent might beat a stronger one.

Problematic Ending

If the show is so incredible, then why did it end? Well, a couple things led to that. A large part involved constant hiatuses of the manga during the anime’s production. These breaks limited the speed at which source material was produced, and the anime often slowed down as a result. The earlier episodes were already slow to begin with, so this was excruciating for eager fans.

Secondly, the anime ended with filler that more or less spat in the face of where the series was going. Nations from the Neighbor world begin to invade Earth in search of Trion. The show reveals how incredibly important Trion is to Neighbor nations. With Neighbors kidnapping agents, the series was set up for a massive warfare arc. So many new layers and elements came into the show but stopped short.

A militant Neighbor arrives in Mikado City
Once militant Neighbors get involved, the story gets incredibly addictive | Image courtesy of Crunchyroll

The last filler arc bastardized that amazing detail. It involved people from the Neighbor world, sure, but it completely abandoned the geopolitics and complexity that had been building up. To be clear, it made practical sense to end with a filler arc considering how little source material was left. But from a viewer’s perspective, I would rather end with a cliffhanger than with trash that doesn’t fit the series. After the end of filler, there were a few episodes with more buildup, but zero resolution. If there’s any hope for a return of WORLD TRIGGER, and I think there is, it needs to know when to just wait.

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Trigger, On!

Ultimately, shows like this are still great even without an ending. While I’m the sort of person who longingly checks for a new chapter every month or so, I can accept that some things just end. But despite that, new watchers can still fall in love with the show and the WORLD TRIGGER universe. Most of Ashihara’s hiatuses were around a week long, but this one was officially termed indefinite in November of 2016. The block of time where WORLD TRIGGER used to air is now for sports broadcasts. An official update was released in the last volume of the manga eleven months ago. But even that update simply confirmed Ashihara was alive.

If WORLD TRIGGER is ever to return, it’ll first be with new manga chapters. The anime should wait for a couple volumes to release before resuming so it can move at a decent pace. That, and the incorporation of more and more detail from the manga, will make for a much better adaptation. What will allow it to return is the support from fans of Ashihara’s work. Things like buying manga and watching the anime are the best way to keep it alive. With so many anime and manga out there that simply rehash tired clichés, it’s important to maintain the better ones. My hope is that Ashihara will recover and grace us with more of his genius.

Featured Image courtesy of Hulu.

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