Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
When Osamu was in elementary school, Earth suffered the invasion of mysterious creatures known as “Neighbors.” At first the Neighbors ran rampant, destroying the city where they appeared and causing huge numbers of casualties. Then a group calling themselves the Border Defense Agency appeared, claiming that they had been studying Neighbor technology and preparing for this day for a long time. Known simply as “Border,” the group took care of the problem and to this day keeps Mikado City safe from Neighbor attacks. Now Osamu is a third year middle school student with a strong sense of social justice. This compels him to help weird new transfer student Yuma out when the school bullies start in on him, only to discover that Yuma is, in fact, a humanoid Neighbor. Could it be that there's information that Border isn't sharing?
There's a real skill to explaining everything about a story's world without just having long, explanatory speeches or panels. Daisuke Ashihara has that down to a science in World Trigger's first volume. While the story itself is fascinating and a just a good read in general, the most impressive thing about it is the slow build of information that never feels slow, a natural revelation that feels natural and leads us to see the gaps in the characters' knowledge bases without screaming, “Look! Look! Plot point!!” The result is a first volume that easily pulls you in and holds your attention as it introduces you to characters who both fit the established types and buck them. Simply put, World Trigger is off to a really good start.
The story revolves around two main characters – Osamu and Yuma. Osamu is a third year middle school student in Mikado City, a town that has been savaged by the bug-like alien creatures known as Neighbors. Most people have enjoyed a sense of complacency since the mysterious agency Border established itself a few years ago, dramatically reducing the number of Neighbor attacks, but Osamu seems to hold on to his worries. He has a keen interest in helping people who are in trouble while at the same time really keeping himself to himself. This seeming contradiction does have a root – he's a trainee Border agent, but he'd prefer to keep that fact private. He doesn't say why, but there's a real feeling that he has a very specific reason. His reticence and penchant for social justice are a source of endless fascination for Yuma, who plays the role of “mysterious transfer student.” Yuma's a bit more than just that, however – he's a Neighbor, and more importantly, one who really seems like he knows what's going on. He's utterly clueless about how to live in Japan, which is at first why Osamu takes him under his wing. However it soon becomes clear that there is much more to this whole Neighbor thing than Osamu, at least, was aware of, and he becomes concerned about what will happen to Yuma if Border gets wind of his existence...and there's a small implication that perhaps Border is keeping some hefty secrets of its own, although that is pure reader speculation at this point.
One of the most enjoyable things about this volume is Yuma himself. Yuma is the proverbial child who says that the Emperor's got no clothes on – he shuns false politeness and points out faults where he sees them. To say that he's refreshing as a character isn't quite right; there is, however, really something appealing about his forthrightness. He sees Japanese society as something a little ridiculous, a viewpoint that is mostly shown through his interactions with the three school bullies. He doesn't see why they shouldn't be taken to task as harshly as possible, musing that without that sort of lesson, they'll just keep bullying. In one interesting exchange with his chaperon "Replica" (floating black ball with bunny ears), Yuma muses, “Japan is so nice to bad guys.” (Replica answers, “Perhaps it means they have fewer of them,” a mildly baffling response.) Pages later Yuma informs his classmates that he grew up in a war zone, however, so his view of reality is clearly coming from another place in terms of normalcy rather than an alien world. Likewise we see this in his reaction to Ai Kitora, a girl Osamu's age who is considered a prodigy in Border. When Ai sees Osamu getting complimented she gets angry; Yuma calls her out on being jealous of hearing someone besides her get praise, which no one else is willing to do, despite the fact that it's obvious Yuma is right.
Ashihara has clearly built a pseudo-Japan for his story that is primarily like today's. We can, in fact, only tell that there is a difference (apart from the aliens) by the character profiles – Ashihara uses made up astrological signs that don't appear to have any correspondence with our familiar twelve. Whether or not this is a clue remains to be seen, but it is something worth keeping in mind. Also worth paying attention to is the fact that Yuma is shocked at the dearth of knowledge that Osamu has. Why can't he distinguish between the different types of Neighbors? How can he not know where the titular triggers get their power? Clearly someone is not telling Osamu some important things; whether or not the rest of Border is similarly ignorant will be worth finding out.
The art for World Trigger is very pleasant. It is deceptively simple with somewhat child-like faces, and some running scenes bear a distinct resemblance to Attack on Titan in their angles. The action is clear and dynamic, and characters are almost all distinctive. Ashihara discusses some of his inspiration for them at the end of the book, which is pretty interesting – apparently Replica looks like his rice cooker.
World Trigger is an exciting read that distributes its information organically rather than relying on info-dumps. The plot is fast-paced and carefully withholds some pieces of the story that may turn out to be important later, unless I am reading far too much into this. Right now this is definitely a series to keep an eye on: unique enough to pull you in and well-written with attractive art that will keep you reading.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Yuma's tendency to speak his mind makes annoying characters bearable, good pacing on the distribution of information. Fast-paced and generally interesting.
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