Animu-time: Jormungand

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Jormungand is a good anime

So, I decided to watch Jormungand. And it’s made by the fuckers that made Steins;Gate. Which means I’m excited. Spoilers in black text as usual. They also made the very uneven Katanagatari, but that’s a story for another time.

Jormungand is the story of a crew of arms dealers, led by the charismatic Koko Hekmatyar. The series is mostly episodic, weaving in some character arcs on the way. Usually the formula is this:

  1. The crew arrives.
  2. Stuff goes awry and they need a way out / need to out-think their opponents / straight up kill dudes.
  3. Mission completed and on to next arc.

Pretty easy formula to make a series from. I’m sure that if you’ve heard about this series earlier, then you’ve heard about the series that undoubtedly stands as a huge influence: Black Lagoon. Black Lagoon is about a small group of people who conduct usually illegal business and get in trouble with all sorts of people. Jormungand is basically this, but with a bigger group. Now, obviously Jormungand isn’t a straight rip-off of BL, it just builds from the same ground. While BL arcs usually comes together with cooperation and the combined with of the Lagoon Crew, Jormungand is basically The Koko Show. And that’s perfectly fine. Koko carries the series very well. For a more fleshed out character run-down, look below:

  • Koko Hekmatyar: Arms dealer, handling business mainly in Europe and Africa. Very charismatic and beautiful. Usually very energetic and behaving sometimes like a child, she has a ruthless interior and on multiple occasions called a monster.
    Although usually cool with a smile on her lips...

    Although usually cool with a smile on her lips…

    Koko has one of the most intimidating glares in anime.

    Koko has one of the most intimidating glares in anime.

  • Jonah: Child soldier. His parents were killed in an air-strike and he became a child soldier shortly after. Has a strong hate for weapons, but still works for Koko, often serving as her bodyguard.

    Jonah. Shows more understanding than expected from a child.

    Jonah. Shows more understanding than expected from a child.

  • Lehm: Ex-Delta Force operator. Used to be active in Somalia. Second in command of Koko’s crew. Veteran mercenary who takes charge when armed conflict arises. Used to work for Koko’s father. Very versatile in weapon use, ranging from long-distance sniping to close quarters combat.
    Lehm in action, sniping suckas from a car.

    Lehm in action, sniping suckas from a car.

    Valmet: Ex-Major serving for UN forces in Africa. Her unit got slaughtered by Chen Guoming and she lost an eye in the attack. Since then, she suffers from anxiety whenever she sets foot in Africa. Very proficient with knives and pistols.

    Valmet, close combat specialist with a crush on Koko.

    Valmet, close combat specialist who is in love with Koko.

Then there are the rest of the cast, that aren’t given much other than support roles most of the time. Technically only Koko and Jonah are the only real main characters, but Valmet and Lehm are given much more time on screen than the other side characters, so they got images as well.

  • Mao: One of the regular grunts of the group. Was discharged after a training exercise went awry. Picked up by shortly after. The only one of the group to have a family (as in wife + kids). He lied to them in order to leave. Teaches science to Jonah between missions.
  • R: Former Italian intelligence officer. Revealed in the last episode to be a mole for the CIA. Not given much screen-time, sadly.
  • Ugo: Former Mafia driver and enforcer. Spared by Koko when his family was destroyed. A behemoth of a man, he possesses immense strength. The crew’s driver when needing a getaway.
  • Lutz: Former police sniper, part of a counter-terrorist unit. Very hesitant to kill young targets.
  • Tojo: Previous Japanese black-ops operative, working in places like Cuba. In charge of teaching Jonah maths between missions.
  • Wilee: Former explosives expert and ex-lieutenant of the 20th Engineer Brigade of the XVIII Airborne Corps of the US Army. Assigned to give Jonah English lessons between missions. Is the only member aside Koko to be black-listed by the FBI.

The big cast isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it doesn’t help either. It’s quite logical that an arms dealer would have a decently sized squad with her, but most of the characters see very little air time. Everyone gets to have their arcs play out (some have theirs in the second season) sooner or later, but it’s a shame we aren’t given more time to know the entire cast better. Especially, since they keep being given airtime and dialogue with Koko that are defined by their characters and their pasts, both of which we don’t know. Valmet has a very strong arc in the second half of the series. The characters mostly revolve in and out when they have an arc or not. When they’re around, they contribute to the colourful group of people.

To my surprise, there is little discussing of morality around, especially considering Jonah is a fucking child soldier. Sure, it’s brought up, but quickly shot down at times. Let’s be frank about this, the characters in the show aren’t good guys. They’re varying degrees of bad, I guess. Or, a better way to put it would be that they are all in the moral grey zone. They’re portrayed romantically as the heroes, so naturally you’re going to root for them when the oddball villains pop up to kill them. I wanted to see some more discussion or feelings about war, than what we got. It is a character-driven drama/action series, which is right up my ally, but I feel they do themselves a disservice to skip some strong discussion points on the way. And it’s topical because, you know, there’s tons of child soldiers in the world.

As for the story, there’s not a whole lot to be had, except for when the supporting characters have their arcs. The story follows the crew as they deliver and/or sell weapons and other necessities to a diverse set of people. They’re usually dealing in Europe and Africa through the season. Then there’s usually a villain for each episode, with some villains lasting another one or two more. The formula mentioned before is how the episodes unfold.

Something that quickly stands out is the very distinct art-style. It’s not super drastically different compared to most other anime. It’s usually very realistic, sometimes with some exaggerated details, usually the eyes. For the most part it’s absolutely gorgeously drawn and animated. Backgrounds are usually done nicely as well, and at times with great and impressive detail.

The voice acting is excellent across the board. The only drawback is that there’s rarely chances for the actors to use a wider range than slow drama and some comedy here and there. The soundtrack is good when used. Pretty sweet electronic battle music. OP (opening theme) and ED (ending theme) are both excellent songs.

As far as the general theme of the show goes, it’s usually a slow-paced drama with some comedy blended in. Then there’s the occasional high-speed action scenes when deals either go tits-up or there’s other people that want to hit Koko’s group.

As for the comedy, it’s a bit too much. I would have prepared being almost completely without it. In the most serious episodes, there’s practically none of it, and they’re so much better off without. The comedic parts being randomly inserted here and there just disturb the pacing and atmosphere of the series. It just feels like something inserted to please the mainstream audiences. The thing is though, that this isn’t really a series made for mainstream audiences. It’s about killers and mercenaries selling weapons to guerillas and warlords. Not something that you want your kids or the family to sit down and watch in the evening. Inserting comedy into the formula is detrimental to the concept and leaves us a worse product to enjoy. I want to stress that I’m not anti-comedy, but doing it as half-heartedly and shallow as it is here it can only work badly.

The antagonists that pop into the episodes are along the lines of the comedic tendencies mentioned. They’re almost always very eccentric or have some crazy fighting style. In some arcs it works, like when the crew goes to Africa and come face-to-face with an old enemy of one of the crew members. They usually don’t take anything away from the enjoyment, but they don’t usually add to it either.

As for the enjoyment, it’s great. While not being the best I’ve veer seen, this series is highly enjoyable. It’s variance is it’s strength, and while I don’t usually like the comedy, some light-hearted scenes are always good in a series like this. From slow-paced planning with some tense meetings with antagonists; to high-speed gun-play and chase-scenes, Jormungand is one hell of a ride, and it’s a pleasure watching it. While not always ending in cliffhangers, the show still gets you excited to watch the next episode after you finish one, and that’s high praise for a series. Jormungand is a delight to watch, and should be seen by people interested in serious drama, and is obviously very recommended for fans of Black Lagoon.

If you like it, check out it’s sequel, Jormungand: Perfect Order.

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