Thursday, February 9, 2023

How Will World Trigger End?

Today marks the 10th anniversary of World Trigger's first chapter in Weekly Shonen Jump. It's a huge achievement for any comic series to run as long as World Trigger has, and that's all thanks to the dedication of an author that won't stop and fans that will are willing to see this masterpiece through to the end. But that begs the question: how exactly will it end?

World Trigger is my favorite manga and anime series of all time. It's my favorite comic from any country, ever. It's my favorite TV series of any kind, ever. It's my favorite story and it features my favorite characters and if you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about you should probably read my last article on the series. And, before we go any further, you should expect spoilers for at least the end of the 3rd anime season with some references to the unadapted manga chapters.

Anyone who has been keeping up with World Trigger and understands the standard shonen battle manga structure can tell you that the ending of the series is pretty obvious. The good guys are going to beat the bad guys. Peace will be established between Border and the Neighborhood. Villains will be defeated or redeemed. There will be a timeskip and at least one baby.

But World Trigger has never been one to stick to the tropes, - at least not without breaking a few of them first. So before we can talk about how it all ends, we have to talk where it's currently going.

It's been quite a while since Osamu Mikumo crashed a Border press conference and declared his intent to travel to the Neighborhood and rescue everyone captured by Aftokrator during the large scale invasion. Ever since that moment, the members of Tamakoma-2 have made it their objective to land a spot on that mission.

To get there, the squad planned to ascend to A-Rank in their debut Rank Wars season. However, that plan hit a snag when it was announced that the Rank Wars were getting cut short with the Away Mission selection test occuring before advancement tests. In other words - the mission was going ahead before Osamu and his team had a chance to make A-Rank.

However, some B-Rank agents are going to be selected for the mission - but a special stipulation from Commander Kido himself requires Tamakoma-2 to at least make B-Rank #2 to be eligible. At the Rank Wars conclusion, Tamakoma-2 now sits at the #2 spot. They did it.

I know this image has nothing to do with the arc but it's the last color page we got so it is was it is.
Currently, Tamakoma-2 and most of Border's B-Rank Agents are shuffled up in new squads and - without getting into the details of the most detail-oriented story in comics history - things are not looking good for anyone except Chika, who is already confirmed to join the mission. But... let's be real for a second. They're all (probably) going to pass.

So after the Away Mission Selection Test arc will be the Away Mission Training arc which will probably just be a short chunk of chapters at the start of the Away Mission Arc itself. The Away Mission will probably be long and then that's it. The End. Right?

I often see a misconception among World Trigger fans that the upcoming big Away Mission is "the end" because they're going to Aftokrator and will rescue all the captives and defeat the bad guys. However, the Away Mission is specifically to retrieve the C-Rank Agents who were captured during the Large Scale Invasion. And that's basically it.

World Trigger has a lot of little details that can be hard to keep straight, so I get that some people probably get confused about... well a lot of things. No matter how many times I reread or rewatch I'm constantly asking the same questions over and over again, so I understand why Aftokrator can sometimes feel like the endgame. And it might be.

However, besides the captured C-Rank Agents - none of whom even have names - the only Aftokrator-related stories we can reasonably expect to be touched upon during the Away Mission are the whereabouts of Replica's bisected corpse and some political drama involving Hyuse.

While it is possible, there is no guarantee Aftokrator has anything to do with the whereabouts of Chika's brother Rinji, her friend Aoba, Agent Hatohara, Yuma's killer, and many other stories including the identity of the nation behind the first Neighbor invasion that occurred four and a half years before the story.

The Neighborhood is vast. Rinji, Aoba, Hatohara, Yuma's killer, and Mikado's invader could easily be from five different Nations. And that could mean the Away Mission to Aftokrator could only be the first of many. Instead of the final arc, it could very well be a new beginning.

However, the Away Mission to Aftokrator isn't just walking through a portal and stepping foot on Aftokrator. They're expecting to make a few stops on various nations along the way. That flight alone could be an entire Astra Lost in Space style adventure where each stop has its own mini arc, leaving for plenty of chances to tie up loose ends. Not to mention Jin is staying behind to defend the city and we've been getting hints for seven years that Katori Squad is going to get some serious spotlight during those events.

So maybe that's how World Trigger ends. Maybe they head to Aftokrator to rescue the C-Rank Agents and Replica. Maybe along the way they visit other nations and find Rinji, Aoba, and/or Hatohara. Maybe they identify Yuma's killer. Maybe they identify whoever was behind the first invasion.

Or maybe they go to Aftokrator, rescue the C-Rank Agents and Replica, and introduce even more new storylines, and head back home. Maybe then Tamakoma-2 advances to A-Rank. Maybe there will be another invasion. Maybe there will be more Rank Wars. Maybe we're much further from the end than we realize?

As much as I love the series, the end of World Trigger is something I try not to think about too often. While the series is still being serialized after ten years, it cannot go unmentioned that two of those years featured a complete absence from the pages of Shonen Jump and since the end of 2018 it's been running in Shonen Jump SQ which is published monthly instead of weekly. However, that doesn't mean we get World Trigger every month as the series takes a brief hiatus almost every month. Sometimes we get two normal sized chapters. Sometimes we get a single, extra-length chapter. Sometimes we get as little as thirteen pages. Sometimes we get nothing.

When the series is released at a pace like that, it's understandable that some readers question the future of the series. This isn't a slice-of-life sitcom that can end with little fanfare and satisfy everyone. This is a story about soldiers fighting a war against multiple alien civilizations. And for the past two years those soldiers have been doing homework and playing video games in a fake spaceship.

If there is really going to be an epic Away Mission arc with mini-arcs on other planets and scenes back on Earth with Jin and Katori Squad, that's gonna take a while. If we're going to find out what happened to Rinji, Replica, Hatohara, and Aoba that's gonna take a while. If we're going to learn who killed Yuma and who invaded Mikado, that's gonna take a while. If Tamakoma-2 is going to make A-Rank, if we're gonna get more Rank Wars, if we're going to learn why there's a prince hiding in the Galapoula group or if Ikoma really can sense the fourth wall or whether Katori or Kitora has Osamu's timeskip baby then that's all going to take a while.

There is, unfortunately, a very good chance that we'll be here in 2033 talking about the 20th anniversary of World Trigger and less than half of these stories will have wrapped up. And, if we learned anything from Hunter x Hunter, there's also a pretty good chance most of those stories will be wrapped up bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion and then a whole new arc will start out of absolutely nowhere.

And, of course, there is always the grim possibility that the series will never end at all.

I see a lot of discourse about anime where so much credit is given to the writers, designers, and directors at the animation studio. While that's certainly true, it often comes across as being ignorant of what should be a well-known fact: comics in Japan are almost exclusively the creations of one, maybe two individuals pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into every single page. The industry is known to overwork its creators and one such creator is World Trigger author Daisuke Ashihara.

As far as I can tell, every single time World Trigger has taken a hiatus - whether it's for one month or two years - the official reason given has always due to the author's poor health. Whatever his condition or illness may be, the man simply can't keep up with the pace of a weekly manga magazine. Not many can.

The unfortunate reality is that Ashihara's health can take a turn for the worse at any time. He could go on an extended hiatus at any time. And if his health worsens there is always the chance that he could go on hiatus and never come back. Obviously that's a reality for anyone. Any comic creator could drop dead at any moment for any reason. But each issue of Jump SQ without a new chapter of World Trigger is a reminder that the series could abruptly end at any moment. No Away Mission. No resolution. No timeskip baby.

And quite frankly... That's okay with me.

Anime and manga fans do not have a good reputation. Pick any series and you'll find toxicity among the fans. Awful, terrible people gatekeeping and fighting and arguing over trivial things for awful, terrible reasons. I see the comments some fans make and wonder how any creator keeps going.

Maybe I'm lucky, but I've never seen this in World Trigger fans. Every time the series misses an issue due to the author's poor health - even back during that long hiatus - I've always seen nothing but well-wishes from fans. Everyone loves his work, but no one seems to care more about his comic made for kids than his actual health and well-being. I've never even seen someone speculate what his recurring health issues are - because it's none of our business.

And let's not forget how he's treated by his publisher and editors. So many series get the greenlight at Shonen Jump and so many don't survive the first half of their first year. While World Trigger may not be a household name to rival My Hero Academia or Chainsaw Man, Shueisha at least has enough faith and respect in Ashihara to keep it going. They let him take the years that he needed to come back. They transferred the series to a monthly magazine and even then let him take off entire months at a time to catch up. They believe in him. The fans believe in him. And we will stay with him until the end.

Part of me, the fan, hopes he lives long enough to tie up every loose end and then start a new series about Osamu's kids causing trouble while he works as General Manager of Border. Part of me, the fellow writer, hopes he gets all the time off and money he rightfully deserves even if that means another long hiatus or a permanent end without a proper finale.

I don't know how World Trigger will end. There's a chance Daisuke Ashihara himself doesn't know either. But he has given me one of the greatest stories I have ever read and I would be perfectly content if it were to end fantastically after an epic final battle or abruptly in the middle of a scene. I'd even be okay with him taking the next ten years off. He deserves it.