World Trigger Season 2
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 5 of
World Trigger (TV 3) ?
It feels odd to say it now, but back when World Trigger first introduced the idea of the Rank Wars, I was sure it'd be the death knell for the series. Up til that point, the series had been a solid but standard shonen battle series – it might be a little more cool-headed than hot-blooded, but everything up to and including the invasion arc was familiar ground that moved along at a solid pace. So to slam the brakes and introduce a tournament arc on steroids – potentially 10 rounds of multi-squad battles, each involving new 3 or 4-man squads to introduce and flesh out, all while acting as a training arc for our main trio – seemed like it would sap all that energy and turn World Trigger into a legendary exercise in tedium.
But it's become clear by this point that these Rank Wars were probably the best thing Ashihara ever could have come up with. By taking away all the specialized and super-powered triggers, giving the combatants access to the same basic power set, and explicitly gamifying the battles with points systems and direct commentary, the series found a way to harness its greatest strength: crafting complex, strategically-defined battles that are fascinating to follow. I've at times wondered if Ashihara originally pitched the manga as a MOBA e-sports series, before editorial forced him to tell a more straightforward sci-fi action story, and the Rank Wars saga is his way of getting revenge. Which, hey, more power to him when he can deliver fights as engrossing as the one we (start to) see in “New Technique.”
True to that episode title, we do see Tamakoma-2's new techniques, but not before a good bit of place-setting for this next battle. First we meet Kakizaki Squad, a team with 2 up-and-coming attackers led by a former member of Arashiyama Squad. They're established as a talented crew struggling with their captain's conservative strategies. It's a decent premise for an enemy team, but in both design and personality they're definitely playing second fiddle to the other new crew. That would be Katori Squad, who is an absolute hot mess. Ostensibly a strong team, they've dropped from the top of the B-Rank pack after a harsh losing streak that's left the other teammates at odds with Yoko, their captain and ace fighter.
Yoko's a real piece of work right off the bat, practically ignoring her teammates during their pre-match prep, then telling one of them to shut up with his criticisms until he starts pulling his weight in battle. It's an awkward, obviously dysfunctional dynamic, a stark contrast to the typically in-sync squads we're used to seeing from Border, and that's honestly pretty refreshing. These are teenagers after all, and no amount of sci-fi weapons training can stop them from acting moody or illogical at times, and exploring a team that has more talent than teamwork is an interesting way to add some spice to this battle. Plus I just appreciate how eternally DONE with everything Yoko looks all the time – girl has negative amounts of patience for all the scrubs around her.
On a purely visual level, this episode struggles a bit. The brief flourishes during the initial skirmish are serviceable, but the writing of this fight is definitely shouldering most of the burden. Thankfully it's up to the task, as just this opening act provides an immediately engrossing, ever-evolving three-way fight. We get to see just how dangerous Kuga can be now that he has Osamu's wire-traps to upgrade his mobility, and that combined with Chika's new lead-bullet sniping makes for a near-certain death trap for their opponents. Meanwhile Yoko hurls herself at Kuga just to get the fight over with, confident she can take him out and become the biggest threat on the board, leaving her teammates to scramble in as backup and throwing them all off their balance. It turns out to be their Operator, Hana, who saves them from a swift defeat through clever positioning to force a three-way stalemate. Or at least that's the plan, but as we end the episode on Chika staring down the scope of her rifle, it seems Tamakoma-2 have more tricks up their sleeves than just some new moves.
That's a lot of play-by-play, but that's also what makes Rank Wars so engrossing. Even while the immediate stakes of these fights are nearly non-existent, they suck you in with complex, tactically-minded battles that can shift on a dime. Characters' positions, strategies, and ability to gain advantages in terrain or visibility are immensely important, and the lack of special powers on any character's part makes every small win or loss feel earned in a way even some of the best shonen battle series can't accomplish. Just the back-half of this episode is some of the best, most engrossing action writing I've seen this year, and the fight isn't even over – it's easily World Trigger at its strongest and most unique.
World Trigger Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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