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…