I remember it was just about this point where I really surrendered myself to Jormungand the manga and began to love it unreservedly. Interestingly, I’ve also read some reviews where readers said it was around this point that they began to have serious issues with it. I don’t think it was a coincidence – this arc is the logical place for most people to surrender any expectations that the series is going to offer much in terms of traditional rewards. It had an incredibly loose structure, with no “payoffs” for plot development most of the time. There’s hardly a trace of sentimentality, and barely a whiff of exposition or even post-facto explanation. It just throws a bunch of loosely connected stuff at you and lets you sort it out. I mean – after all that happens, including a cliffhanger, Dr. Manami and Koko never even meet. There’s really no “resolution” to why she was even featured in the last two eps at all. I wouldn’t blame anyone who threw up their hands and said “No mas”.
Oddly enough, it was the exact opposite with me. I think it was here that I let myself sink into the depths of the world Takahashi-san had created and stopped expecting it to be something it wasn’t trying to be (among the many things in that category “logical” is certainly one). What drives the story for me is the interaction between the members of Team Koko, plain and simple – it the sugar that makes all the social commentary and existential symbolism go down smoothly. There’s a rhythm to their dialogue that’s impossible to describe but hard to resist, and an almost touching sincerity in the way they relate to each other.
Let’s reverse-engineer this episode, then, because it was the short postscript at the end that exemplifies what I’m talking about. It’s basically unrelated to the rest of the ep and appears to serve no useful purpose from a plot standpoint – it’s the team at an airport making a connection for a flight to England. But it does wonders to cement the audience’s (this part of it, anyway) bond with the team. Basically, it’s three minutes talking about a bullet in Jonah’s ass and Valmet mashing a passenger’s face. But it’s Jonah’s matter-of-fact explanation to the security officer, it’s Koko’s maternal attempt to rescue him, it’s Lutz’ (who was just wounded in his own ass) continued droning on about Jonah’s butt as Jonah’s face gets progressively redder, than the reactions of the team (especially Lehm) when Jonah says he doesn’t get it removed because he’s scared of a pain-killing injection. There’s an honestly and openness to this exchange that I find incredibly appealing, a kind of affectionate sadism that tells you that the bond between these people is exceptionally strong (and that Jonah has been accepted into the family) and even if we don’t fully understand why this tight bond has formed, knowing it has formed makes all the difference for me in how I view the events of the series.
As always with Jormungand, characters will drop clues about themselves if you’re attentive to them, either by word or deed. In this case it’s certainly true of Minami-san, who says of Koko “wherever she walks the guns start singing.” As usual we’re given little detail to work with, but it’s clear she knows Koko very, very well. She tells us something of her personal philosophy too – that the minute guns enter your life you become one tooth in a giant cog – such as when her child’s toy was turned into a missile. She doesn’t quite get around to telling us what Koko’s dream is (though she knows her well enough to know that) but she does imply that with Koko, it’s something more than just a question of “not being able to outrun” her – whereas with Guoming, it may be nothing more than the free rice bowls.
Speaking of Guoming, it was quite ballsy for Koko to put herself into his hands with only Ugo (Katsunuma Kiyoshi) staying behind to protect her (largely from her own drinking, seemingly). It’s clear enough that Koko knew exactly what Guoming was planning all along, and each of them had the same idea – to buy time and occupy the other while their own plan was being carried out. She also knew that Scarecrow and assistant Chocolade (Koshimizu Ami) were keeping tabs on the both of them, and found a way to use that to her advantage when the shit hit the fan in the mountains. In the arms trade necessity often makes strange bedfellows, and the enemy of your enemy is sometimes your friend – and Koko is nothing if not practical.
If you were hoping to get a lot of detail about Valmet, this ep might have disappointed you – though it did throw a few bones our way. Her time in Africa is still mysterious but we know that during her time as “Major Velmer” her entire squadron was killed by a man who had many of the same moves Karen Lo has. While Valmet gets the better of Karen in their memorable duel (one of the best choreographed of the series) it doesn’t feel as if it gave her much satisfaction – if anything, she was disappointed Karen wasn’t strong enough to do more than give her a scratch. In the end she lets Karen live – and if anything the whole encounter was as interesting for what it told us about Valmet’s teammates. In fact, it was Lehm who killed every member of Karen’s team just as Valmet’s own team was massacred – and Lehm did it using a plan built on Jonah’s superior mountain combat instincts (he found Manami first, too).
What did I tell you way back after the first episode? Listen to Lehm, because he never says anything that isn’t worth saying. “Weakness means death. Might be cruel – but that’s combat.” Can you imagine Lehm ever doing what Valmet did in charging Karen’s position – or what Jonah did in charging Orchestra’s a few eps ago? Jonah at least has the excuse of being a child, but the way I see it, each member of Team Koko is very formidable in their own niche – and Velmet is a remarkable artist at close combat – but Lehm is the one who should truly be feared. He just kills – efficiently, without malice or mercy, never unnecessarily taking a life or sparing one. He’s the perfect soldier – and he’s chosen to dedicate himself to supporting Koko. What does that say about her – and about Jonah, whose instincts were sharp enough to tell him that this was the first question he should be asking after he joined the group?