Jormungand: Perfect Order – 06

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I can’t imagine there were a whole lot of readers or viewers who anticipated the way this arc was going to end.

In many ways, I feel as if “Castle of Lies” is a throwback to the first season of Jormungand.  This is a story that never makes it too easy on the viewer, it’s true, but the first couple of arc in S2 were by Jormungand standards very linear.  They laid their cards on the table, pretty much – it was clear who the players were and why they were doing what they were doing.  The moral lines were still a little blurry, but comparatively speaking those arcs were pretty approachable.  “Castle”, like much of the first season, guards its secrets closely.  Pretty much nothing happens the way one might expect, and no effort is made to give the audience any sense of closure.  It’s daring stuff, and which mode of Jormungand you prefer is a matter of personal preference – I love the series in all its faces, but I don’t think this arc quite lives up to the impossibly high standard set by the first two of the season because there’s an emotional remove, a product of that distance the series keeps between itself and the viewer.

There are always multiple levels of impact from everything that happens in Jormungand, and the character aspect of the story of Hinoki and his SR squad revealed some interesting things about Team Koko.  But in terms of the story itself, it’s a pretty strange and even confusing one – we didn’t get a single live shot of Kasper and his team in the conclusion, and the promised battle royale between Team Koko and the SR Squad turned out to be nothing more than a glorified form of Hara-kiri by Col. Hinoki – and it was Seppuku by proxy, as he made sure he himself was nowhere to be found when the bullets hit the fan belt.

The obvious question on my mind is, why?   Why did Hinoki set the SR Squad up for a fight that they had no chance to win, and leave them to die while he whisked himself and his family off to The Bahamas to recline on the beach and wait for Tojo to find him?  If you want your answers spelled out for you you’re watching the wrong show, but the most obvious answer (and the one that feels right to me) is that he knew in his gut that Tojo was right – the SR Squad had become a sham, a mockery of what it once was.  He’d set it up to be the premiere intelligence agency working for the glory of Japan, and it’d become an arms dealer and glorified death squad, a tool of the CIA and organizations under its sway.  Whatever else you think of Hinoki’s motives and the ideals that the squad was created under, he was once a patriot – in his own mind, anyway – and the squad felt that what they were doing served a nobler purpose. 

I think the squad members felt that way right to the end, but Hinoki knew better.  They hated Tojo because he refused to hide from the truth, and Hinoki knew the “traitor” was the only one telling it like it really was.  Some might call Hinoki noble for giving his squad a chance to “die with their boots on”, but I call him a coward – his noble sacrifice wasn’t good enough for him, because in his mind he still has a destiny to fulfill, and believes Tojo will be at his side to fulfill it.  As for his squad, they were expendable – it was more important they die with honor than be tainted with the truth of what they’d become.  I find Hinoki rather sickening for what he did to them, to be honest, and I don’t see an ounce of honor or nobility in it.  Nor do I see the fact this his “cover” wife was actually a real wife, with whom he had a daughter as a mitigating factor – I’m sure some of his squad members had families, too.

I don’t think the irony is hard to see in the mechanics of the SR Squad’s demise.  Chiquita took out most of one half (though Hinoki lied to his doomed Japan team and told them their cohorts had succeeded in their mission against Team Kasper) with her close combat, and Lehm took out most of the other with his insane marksmanship.  You simply do not mess with HCLI – The Hekmatyar siblings are not people you want to piss off, and they have the weapons in their arsenal to kill you with extreme prejudice (and the balls to do it).  Brother and sister are very different, but in some ways not so much – and there’s a lot of the dragon in both of them..

What’s pretty clear from this whole scenario is that the loss of R has had a profound and lasting impact on Koko.  It’s only too obvious how worried she was for Tojo, and it seems clear she took out her anger on him for the dangerous situation he’d gotten into, through no fault of his own.  It’s also growing clearer and clearer that there are elements of the HCLI lifestyle whose charms are wearing thin for Jonah.  His smiles this time came from undersea tunnels (still of greater interest to him than girls), and the sight of other children at play – as Jonah matures, gains some distance from his Balkan childhood horrors and an increasing understanding of what life with Koko is like, he realizes more and more of just how steep a price Koko has to pay to live that life. 

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  1. e

    I prefer the previous two arcs for the personal connection factor, but in terms of variety and contrast this worked quite well. The outcome here was a bit anticlimatic, but that has its own charm as well – going against expectations to mention one – and leaving a few things unsaid and other ones looming.
    The few lighthearted moments had a few undercurrents, and those were probably my high points of the episode (because as much as I enjoy the action, it's the feelings and dynamics that make me care ): Tojo's 'serious' answer for staying with Koko's squad, Jonah charming Hinoki's daughter at the beach, and Koko beating on Tojo's shoulder.
    I do wonder what will become of them. The seemingly heavy implications and not-so-implications of this group of people going their separate ways sooner or later -. What to do out of that final shot of the castle in the sand .
    Will we get an open ending of sort, or something more definite. The 'no easy answers' aspect of the series can be declined in different ways after all, but I would expect for Jonah's arc to go somewhere, and for Koko's too – at least as long as Jonah is there to witness it -. And yet again, my expectations as a viewer could very well be defied. ack! my straight-hair anime MILF doppelgänger *covers and hides*

  2. N

    First Kasper tells Jonah to come work for him once he quits working for Koko and now Hinoki tells Tojo to come to him in future. I feel like Koko's little team will not last forever 🙁

  3. D

    Hey, what I find remarkable and/or unusual is that this show did the unthinkable and sacrilegious thing. That is, when was the last time you saw a visual project in fictional domain, be it TV, film, or anime, had a bunch of foreigner characters that don't look like you (of course none of these 2D character look like you anyway, but you get my point) portrayed as protagonists (not necessarily heroes) and killing your countrymen characters clean??? NEVER. This never happens. Forget that this was a Japanese anime/manga that had foreigners killing of Japanese in Japan and C'est la vie, tululu~~ and go their merry way! You can't even pull this stuff off in USA. Imagine angry mobs boycotting and all the backlashes??? And I'm not even talking about nationalist nuts with flag jeans. Or not just USA. Anywhere in the freaking earth!!! (whether I myself would share anger or not is for a topic of discussion for another day).

    So OK, general Japanese folks seem to be very into or at least in reverence towards this honor-suicide thing, although not as much as those with Muslim religion background these days (phew, that's a loaded statement, but excuse me for generalizing for the sake of this post since this is not about "this" and c'mon, if we're honest, the history informs us there are a plenty of evidence to back this up). The writers sort of give these dead Japanese characters that exit. But similar to Enzo, I don't REALLY buy this angle too much. The fact of the matter is that they were blown off like any of bit characters so far in Jormungand. And sure, the main protagonists DO have a Japanese guy in the mixed and he led the killing AND these "foreigners" do speak in "Japanese". That's a whole lotta world difference of foreign-speaking foreign-looking foreigners killing off the source material's origin countrymen and getting away. BUT. BUT. BUT! You got to hand it these guys for pulling this off and not causing a huge shit-storm in Japan!!!

    Name me ONE fictional commercial visual work that had done this. This just doesn't happen! Well maybe not until this nationalist fever dies off in this earth, so not for another 200-300 years maybe. For now, bravo~~. Jormungand. I could forgive any weak plot for delivering this taboo and getting away clean. A-CLEAN! Bravo.

  4. h

    Very interesting point.

    Considering the nationalist outcry that erupted over the comparatively more banal Sakurasou's substitution of Korean cuisine for Japanese in a certain scene, well, different demographics react differently to different things (TM). Writing off and writing out these Japanese characters with their massacre at the hands of the multinational leads… that kind of takes guts (no seppuku pun intended). Speaking of which…

    Note on suicides: Islamic tradition has historically banned suicide and self-mutilation while favoring "glory through fighting to the death against any odds." Japanese seppuku, in contrast, is in many ways the reverse — samurai would rather commit suicide in the face of defeat (often by slicing open their own bellies) than fall into the hands of their enemies. They often had to receive permission to do so, too.

    Suicide in Japan in modern times, like suicide elsewhere, serves as a way to end individual suffering, but also — perhaps due to the Bushido influence — to spare other people the "burden" of one's existence/presence/effects. While I think you'll find all kinds of "fighting to the death" somewhat common throughout history, the Japanese are unique in many ways!

  5. Indeed they are. But as respects the Sakurasou incident, I think that's a very specific cultural bias that afflicts this country. If the dish substituted had been, say, American cream-of-wheat I don't think you'd have seen any outcry.

  6. D

    What nationalist outcry on Sakurasou incident? Have I been living in a cave? I've never heard of any controversy over a stupid food item -although I think I can vaguely recall the food thing in Sakurasou in recent episode. Is that soupy thing in the most recent episode or the bread thing that main girl keeps eating? DO share where your source is, hoiut (and Enzo)!

  7. A

    I don't think you understand the issue here Enzo. The Korean government has been pouring quite amount of money to Japanese TV broadcasting companies to make up these cultural phenomenon that doesn't even exist in that country. And we're simply sick of that. You can analyze this however you like but that's the simple fact here. I don't have problem eating kimchi or whatever Korean anytime and I actually think they're quite good, but these past few years in Japanese TV shows there are just too many goddamn stealth marketings to sell whatever Korean because of the Korean governmental policy that I mentioned earlier. I really hope they stop that.

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