That was about as inside the beltway an episode of Jormungand as we’ve seen so far, and that’s saying something. In general I like the arcs from this series that are steeped in politics and the minutiae of the arms racket less than the ones that deal with the interpersonal dynamics of Koko’s team, and as a result this honestly isn’t one of my favorites. It’s adapted perfectly well for the most part – I felt the same way when I read it in the manga. But there’s always bleed between those two halves of Jormungand’s nature and “Mondo Grosso” is certainly no exception.
There are definitely times that I miss Jonah’s first-person narrative – whose omission is the one major change from the manga to the anime – and this episode is one of them. It serves to contextualize events a little, which I think is much-needed in a series so starved for explanations. It also gives the reader a stronger sense of just how keen Jonah’s observational powers are, and how little he misses. Jonah has a child’s curiosity paired with an adult’s perceptiveness, and while we’ve gotten a little sense of that, I don’t think it’s as clear as it was in the manga. The next chapter – “Dragon Shooter” – is going to be the real acid test, because Jonah’s observations are a critical component of setting up that story, and framing some of the things we saw in this one. If it’s once again left out, that will be the proof that White Fox really has jettisoned it completely after the premiere.
As for the meat of “Mondo Grosso”, we start more or less as we left off – with a humorous yet insightful short about the psychological underpinnings of Team Koko. We get a little peak inside Lutz’ mind (he’s been the most developed team member apart from the Big Four) and we can see that he’s still marinating over having failed to pull the trigger with Chinatsu in his sights, and what it might have cost the team if things had worked out differently. We also see that urban cop Lutz is no match for wild boy Jonah when it comes to mountain fighting, as witness the paintball challenge Valmet has set up somewhere in the South England countryside as a sort of punishment for Lutz for getting shot in the ass last time. Jonah rather heartlessly toys with him by shooting him in the same place, then leading him into the paintball trap he’s set up. Jonah shows us a rare glimpse of carefree childish glee here, though the implications are as much disturbing as heartwarming.
After that it’s full-on Jormungand technical overload – a pitched battle between HCLI and the Euro Group for the drone concession in “Country A” and “Country B” – in reality Greece and Turkey, always dancing on the knife’s edge of open conflict. The Euro Group has sent out their top gun, former actress Amelia Trohovski, to try and win the day – and what follows is the arms-dealer equivalent of all-out war, a pitched battle with the generals on the streets of London that plays out across Europe, though front and back channels. Meanwhile there are idyllic scenes of Koko and team in Hyde Park, Jonah feeding the ducks and lots of banter between Koko and Amelia as the gears churn beneath the surface.
The more interested you are in this sort of thing on its own merits the more likely you found the episode compelling, I suspect. There was certainly a lot of insight into the weapons Koko uses on her kind of battlefield. She’s still using Chocolade to her advantage, this time bribing her with a diamond. She uses Italy as a cover to sell Predators to hide American involvement, which the media-savvy Amelia leaks to the press. Koko replies by working to get big countries like Spain and Germany in on the Preds, putting pressure on little Greece and Turkey to fall in line. She also uses HCLI funds to make a play on the stock for the Euro Group’s front company, causing its money people to panic, and eventually forces them to buy back the stock at a 5% premium.
What’s the point of all this? To show that Koko is serious business, whether she’s smiling or not. For all her antics she’s a master of this Byzantine world of underground business, and the meeting with Amelia is the culmination of this. There’s a larger war here between Euro and HCLI for control of the European market that’s hinted at, but in this battle Koko has trumped Amelia at every turn. Amelia has seen beneath the mask that Koko wears, and learned a valuable lesson from it – and as usual, Koko enters into their eventual meeting at the docks much better prepared, with the better snipers at her disposal (indeed, I suspect Amelia was not aware that she even had snipers on the scene). Koko wasn’t kidding when she said she was letting Amelia off easy at a 5% premium on the stock – she’s given her foe a good education and let her walk away still in condition to use it later on.