Jormungand – 11

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Jormungand will sometimes let you forget just how ugly and brutal a world it is, but never for too long.

Season one looks like it will continue it’s note-faithful adaptation right up to the end, finishing with a two-part adaptation of Valmet’s arc (though curiously changing its name in the process).  After the relative clarity of “Dragon Shooter”, we’re back to the style more common to the first few arcs, where it isn’t so easy to tell the white hats from the black hats (hint: everyone in this series wears pretty much the same hat) the plot is a maze of Byzantine schemes and double-crosses, and you need a scorecard to tell the players.

It’s been obvious for a while that Africa sets off the voices for Valmet in a pretty bad way, but never has this been brought to bear quite so much as with this arc.  The sheer complexity of the double-dealing in this affair is rather impressive.  Koko has bribed Schokolade in order to get her working for her behind Scarecrow’s back.  Valmet has secretly paid off Schokolade to give her information on those who wiped out her Finnish Rapid Deployment Force squad while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Africa, without telling Koko.  Schokolade did this, but then double-crossed Valmet by giving Koko the details anyway.  Jonah tagged along when Valmet sneaked  away from the group, telling her that he was doing it because he was looking after Koko’s interests – but he’d actually been ordered to do so by Koko, who had an inkling Valmet would try something like this.  Even Lehm was impressed by that last one.

You’re seeing a clear difference here between Lehm and the others in the main group, in that he seems to never lose his cool.  Valmet is tormented by her demons and frequently loses it as a result (in Lehm’s own words, “a screw loose”), Jonah has an annoying habit of charging the enemy with guns blazing, and if you doubted Koko could be driven off her game by emotion, this ep should disabuse you.  Lehm simply goes about his business with a wry smile, offering incisive analysis of what he sees and (seemingly) letting Koko make her own decisions.  His true value to the team has only begun to revel itself, but what’s revealed in plain enough. 

The key to Velmer’s Valmet’s trauma, of course lies in Chen Guoming, head of Daxinghai, whom we met early on in the series.  He looked a lot different when he was wiping out Finnish squadrons single-handedly, but stepping on a land mine will do that to a man.  Karen’s failure to take out Team Koko has taken her out of favor with the Chinese government, though she hasn’t given up trying to work her way back into Chen’s good graces.  In flashback we see the first meeting of Velmer and Koko, as the latter moved in somewhat vulture-like and scooped up the disgraced Velmer as she dealt with the aftermath of her own failure in South Africa.  Koko, in her own words, gave Valmet “the key to the world” and in doing so, established a relationship that she thought was unbreakable.

I don’t know about you, but when I read the manga I was pretty shocked when Koko pulled a pistol and shot the local mob boss in the head after he tried to pay for his arms shipment with heroin.  In the first place, I could be wrong but I don’t recall her shooting anyone with her own hand so far – and certainly not in an act of first blood.  There are a couple of important lessons here, the first being that we shouldn’t have any illusions about what HCLI and Team Koko are.  They’re selling weapons to the local mob, and they kill off the lot of them in gangland fashion over a pay dispute.  Make of the refusal to accept horse what you will – one might charitably say Koko had ethical reasons, but a more jaundiced (and realistic) view is simply that selling heroin is simply too messy and too dangerous.  Team Koko sells instruments of death, but not the kind you inject into your arm.

The other critical point is this – with Koko Hekmatyar, it’s personal.  Loyalty is everything, and her team is her family.  There’s a very practical application to that – it’s the very reason they’re so unfailingly loyal to her in a business where loyalty goes only as far as who has the bigger pockets and bigger guns.  And when the family breaks down, Koko breaks down.  I don’t think anyone would argue that she handled the drop well – in fact, it was a royal botch-up, and it was her emotional state that caused it.  Did that cause her team to be off their game enough to be taken off-guard when the team of assassins sent to kill them showed up?   Who’s to say – but it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, for more than one reason.

That team consists of Dominique (Fujiwara Keiji, who’s been quiet lately by his standards), Gregoire (Koyanagi Yoshihiro), who kills with garden shears in a manner that seems like it fell out of “No Country for Old Men”, and Liliane (Asumi Kana), proving that the hit girls in Jormungand are getting younger and younger.  We don’t know who paid them (there are hints) but Gregoire is tiring of the game and the smell of blood, and would like to open a restaurant after finishing this last big job.  His plan is to take out Team Koko one by one, starting with Ugo – who’s revealed to be a former Mafioso himself – but the absence of Valmet and Jonah provides an opportunity too good to pass up, and the game is afoot.  And poor Lutz gets wounded in the ass by a kid yet again…

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  1. B

    Strange, Ugo doesn't sound like an Italian name. Unless it's a nickname it's hard to imagine the circumstances that would lead him to being in the mafia.

  2. Actually Ugo is an Italian name. There are a bunch of Italian restaurants by that name a few modestly famous people too…

  3. B

    Hmm, I've never heard it before and a quick google search didn't turn anything up but I'll take your word for it, I'm not a nameologist or anything ;).

  4. A

    Hey Enzo was Ugo the driver specialist guy? Just want to make sure I'm remembering them right.

  5. e

    @Beckett: I'm Italian and I can assure you Ugo is an Italian name, slightly unusual nowadays for real people here but well known , if anything because it's the titular character in one of the most popular comic/satire movies series ever in my country (the Fantozzi saga [full character name: Ugo Fantozzi) starring Paolo Villaggio). You won't find many parents willing to name their son Ugo as in the movies Fantozzi is, among other things, the universe's butt monkey :p.
    An earlier variant of such name – Ugolino – belongs to one of the most iconic and tragic characters in Italian literature, featured in Dante Alighieri's Inferno at the very bottom of Hell (XIV century, people).

  6. Yep, Ugo is the driver specialist.

  7. N

    the part where Koko pulled out a gun really caught me of guard, so much so that I started doubting my own eyes and memory and had to rewind back after the battle ended just to make sure.
    I really really hope that their 'no drugs' policy was not meant to show that team koko has some kind of morality :

  8. b

    Yeah, I also rewinded that scene a few times. Koko mercilessly shooting someone came out of nowhere.
    And uhoh, Lehm looks heavily injured, though he surely won't die (yet). We still have to learn about his past, after all. 😀
    My guess is that even Ugo will make it out alive.
    Anyways, must be my favorite series right now.

  9. S

    Drugs are bad for business and can get caught very easily. They can deposit their money or keep it (they're arms dealers, so it's part of their functionality; plus HCLI owns a bank, so they can deposit whatever), but drugs can be very hard to shift.

    Koko & company can operate in the "real world" as arms dealers. Can't really do that as drug dealers. That's why. It's all a business decision.

    Killing the local mafia was just Koko being pissed off.

  10. S

    It kind of looks like Jonah has gotten taller in this episode.

    And I think Ugo might not be with us next episode. 🙁

  11. A

    I kinda alway saw Lehm as the toughest of Koko's men second only to the one woman army that is Valmet. And he was taken down. That was shocking.

  12. I would dearly, dearly love to post some reaction to that comment, but it would be impossible without spoiling.

  13. A

    Regarding this episode's assassination attempt, I believe one other thing that might further complicate things for Team Koko is the fact that the assassins are targetting a member of her team this time. In most of their past encounters, Koko is usually the target, so her team is usually prepared for that. Also, Valmet has gone AWOL and Lehm seems knocked out, so I'm interested in seeing how the rest cope without their two main aces. Live, Ugo! Your badass driving skills are still needed!

  14. M

    Gregoire's method of killing is absolutely brutal. It does seem like something out of No Country for Old Men. Heh.

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