When a note-faithful adaptation of a brilliant manga opens a season with two letter-perfect episodes, it’s hard not to be optimistic about what’s to come.
I loved the first season of Jormungand, but there were times when it felt a bit disjointed. It’s not accidental – the manga is that way too, and in a series that makes very little effort to give the audience a firm footing there’s naturally going to be a lot more stuff that doesn’t quite click in the first half than the second. The first half of Jormungand is largely about the thrill ride – embracing the insanity and watching the larger-than-life cast go through their paces. The second half, by contrast, is free to take the storytelling to another level – and what a story it is.
Without giving too much away, it’s plain to see that the pieces are in place for a grand collision of titanic forces – sort of a seinen version of Hunter X Hunter. You have the crazy but charismatic heroine, burdened by a troubled past and clinging to her humanity by grasping the lifeline of the child soldier. You have the boy who loves the arms dealer and hates the guns she sells. You have the rogue CIA agent who loves and hates her country and has no qualms about using any methods to achieve her goals, the primary of which is to hurt the arms dealer – and you have the brilliant but arrogant intelligence genius who believes he can make anyone a tool for his own ends, no matter how formidable. And you have the mole, the double-agent whose loyalties are about to be tested with extreme prejudice. It’s a grand and terrible scenario waiting to play itself out.
As it so often does Jormungand is spending a lot of time switching back and forth between the past and present, recognizing as it does the fundamental truth that the past is a burden we’re doomed to always carry with us. For Koko, part of that burden is the memory of Echo (the criminally underappreciated Hamada Kenji), the Delta Force soldier who took a bullet protecting a young Koko during a firefight with Hex’s squad. He pledged to protect her on the condition that she never stop smiling (a moment Koko referenced earlier in the series in a conversation with Lehm). Echo’s spot in the group is now filled by Renato, who has his own past weighing him down.
I’m not going to talk about the conversation between Koko and R, because I don’t see how I possibly can under the circumstances. But what’s clear is that R is increasingly uncomfortable with the position he finds himself in, with Hex – who doesn’t seem especially interested in covering her tracks – making no secret about her intentions towards Koko. R and Bookman have a long history together, but it should be obvious that to George Black, R is but a tool – a valuable tool, no doubt, but a tool nonetheless. Just as Hex is, and if Bookman is a bit miffed about her increasing disregard for protocol and the Company’s hierarchy, he’s not ready to give her up as long as he needs her.
It might be my imagination but it seemed as if Koko’s smile was a bit forced at times during this episode. She certainly chose an interesting time to upgrade the team’s arsenal, and there was a conversation with Lehm that was just as interesting as the one she had with R. I said way back when the series was just starting out that when Lehm talks, it’s a good idea to listen – because he’s not a man who wastes words on trivialities. Among the many differences between Koko and Bookman as leaders is the way they view those that work for them, and it might be looked at as competing strategies for chess – one who’s willing to sacrifice pieces in order to gain a stronger position in the endgame, and one who seeks victory by zealously guarding every piece on the board. But even for that sort of strategy, there are times when you have to weigh the value of one piece against the value of others – are they all equal in your eyes, or is a rook more than a pawn? Anyone who plays the game can tell you that the answer is obvious, but when the pieces have hearts and souls and bleed red blood, it’s not such an easy decision to make.
If there’s one thing that’s readily apparent, it’s that the first season was merely a prelude of what Jormungand has to offer. As this episode highlighted in particular, Perfect Order’s turning out to be the darker, more complex sister to the action-packed, but less serious original, and it’s been an immensely enjoyable experience to say the least.
Moving right in, there’s just a lot to love about this episode. For one, there’s the great insight into the pasts of practically every main player this arc Renato, Hexe, Bookman, and even Koko). You have to love how well they’ve managed to fit in these flashbacks without making it seem disjointed or out-of-place, as well as the fact that each of them not only give you insight into their past, their personalities, and the reasons they are who they are now, but the fact that all of them are quite realistic and things that can happen in reality.
Renato joining the CIA after proving his worth as an intelligence asset on the battlefield… Hexe becoming who she is after losing her husband on 9/11… Bookman’s ability to develop his assets and utilize the cards given to him to rise to the top… Koko’s growth following her encounter with Hexe in the past and the words of the man called “Echo”… It’s just amazing. Each character just oozes complexity and in ways, it’s not hard to actually sympathize with or at least understand where each character’s individual motivation comes from, regardless of who you’re rooting for. And really, words escape me in describing how well you’ve done something when you’re able to create a world with so many characters, yet have each of them get their own time in the spotlight — to the point where we’re actually able to see each of them as truly individual and complex characters like this. And to top it off, they even make it so the lines between “good” and “bad” aren’t exactly set in stone. Koko and her crew might be the “main characters” in the series, but she’s not the epitome of “good” and nor are the enemies particularly the definition of “bad” either. Everyone has their own secondary agenda and it’s just a remarkable feat to be able to blur such lines when you have such a charismatic group of main characters — characters who would normally outshine every other person in a given series.
Shifting back the first episode for a moment, one of the big things I said was how intriguing it would be to see the dynamic interplay between the Hexe, Bookman, R, and Koko. And if things continue on similarly to how this episode panned out, then gosh darn, we’re in for a treat. I mean, to say complex would be the understatement of the year. We see Bookman trying to utilize both Hexe and Renato in his scheme to manipulate Koko… we see Hexe breaking free of her confines and in ways, going about things under her own perview… and we also see Renato desperately trying to maintain the current state of affairs with Koko and her group too. There’s just so much going on between each of the main players, and it’s just going to be a wild ride seeing how it’ll all work out in the end. And this is not even mentioning the past link Koko and Hexe have from their previous encounter, which just tacks on another layer of intrigue, as if there’s one thing the original series demonstrated, is that unresolved past issues/encounters have a tendency of being resolved eventually… one way or another.
Ultimately, it might be a new season, but Jormungand continues to run me dry in terms of the words I can use to describe it. There just aren’t many shows quite like this series, and it’s just something I’m glad not only to be watching, but also to be covering here on RC. Sadly though, with the end of every episode and post, there’s just one negative… and that’s the wait until the next episode. But as they say, time flies, and I’ll be looking forward to some more “Dance with Undershaft”. Gonna be a darn awesome episode, as we got Hexe orderin’ 9000 rounds and Bookman saying that he’ll allow the sacrifice of Jonah if needed…