Judging by the amount of times I paused and rewound this week’s episode, and by the sheer volume of notes I took (for an average anime episode, only a couple of lines) lots of big stuff was happening on Jormungand this week. I can think of few series in recent memory that require such devoted attention as this one does – it’s not so much that things never stop happening (though that’s also true) but that very little happens – or is said – that isn’t significant in some way. That’s a tougher thing to make work in anime than manga, where the reader is in control of the pacing from their own perspective – but so far, White Fox has done an admirable job of managing a transition I thought would be close to impossible.
I’ve made this comparison before, but I’m more struck by it now than ever: in many ways Jormungand is like a Seinen version of Hunter X Hunter. A major H x H arc – like York Shin – runs about as long as the entirety of Jormungand, and there’s a sense of tectonics to it. Great and terrible forces are maneuvering into position for a grand finale, relying on deception and when necessary brutal physical violence, each trying to divine what the others are up to. It’s much more interesting when you have a multi-faceted chess match than a simple clash of titans, and when all the players involved are as charismatic and interesting as they are in these two series, you have the makings of one deliciously entertaining clusterfuck of an ending.
Even if you assume that those who claim to be working together share the same goals, you still have a very crowded board to sort through. Koko and her team, amongst which fault lines may just be showing for the first time, however faintly. Kasper, who loves his job and wants to protect the way of life he represents. Their still-unseen father Floyd, who neither of them seems to care for. Col. Hinoki, his team used up and tossed aside like a Kleenex, desperately trying to prove that he belongs on the biggest stage with the biggest players. Scarecrow, the ace field hand forever chafing at having to take orders, and Schockolade, his erratic wild-card of an assistant. And the man who sees everyone and everything as a potentially valuable weapon in his own arsenal, Bookman. Each of them is watching the others carefully, trying to maneuver into the strongest position, but right now it’s Koko’s tune they’re all dancing to.
As Bookman’s science advisor says, there are indications that Koko’s plan has moved last the point where secrecy is her primary concern. She’s been moving money around in extreme secrecy for years, funneling it to Marchen – the South African branch of Dr. Manami’s “toy” company – and even keeping it from HCLI. But now there are signs HCLI is starting to get nervous about what Floyd’s little girl might be up to, and Scarecrow has managed to piece together the outline of Koko’s financial dealings. Not only that, but she’s moving more boldly than ever, kidnapping those she sees as important, among them Dr. Elena Baburin, an expert in quantum optics who’s been held as a captive resource by an unnamed Caucasian republic. The change in tactics for Team Koko has certainly been noticed, and it’s Lutz – the former cop – who’s first to openly express his reserve (though Jonah has certainly been puzzling over it for quite a while). Koko’s answer can only be “Trust me” – and for now, she’s banked more than enough of that with her team to satisfy their concerns.
Bookman has been keeping close tabs on Koko, of course, and arranges a “chance” meeting at the airport in D.C. (inside a somewhat In-N-Out-ish burger restaurant that’s a pretty hilarious send-up of American eating habits – “Today’s potatoes are from…”) – and Hinoki has tracked Koko to the same place. Bookman warns her to “stay away from the Enclave”. The Enclave apparently refers to Guantanamo Bay, where he has a genius Egyptian quantum physicist and social revolutionary Leila Ibrahim Faisa – codename “Rabbitfoot” as she never leaves any traces – secreted away at Camp No (if you ask about it, the only answer you’ll get is “No, it doesn’t exist”) under the tightest possible security. After all, Bookman reasons, we don’t want another Julian Assange, do we?
I’m not going to delve deeply into it here, and I’m certainly no expert myself, but I encourage anyone interested to do a little research on quantum computing. “Science Fiction” this isn’t – it’s a very real field of intense research pioneered by Dr. Richard Fenyman, that the military and intelligence communities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars researching due to its potential to completely revolutionize computing and information management. Koko’s actions – the technology companies she’s purchasing, the scientists she’s cavorting with – lead her watchers to conclude that whatever she has in mind seems to fall under this broad technological umbrella, but again – she’s acting less and less as if she cares who knows what she’s up to.
It’s a measure of just how seriously the NSA takes this threat that their point-man on the case, “Plame” (how unsubtle can you get! Google “Joseph Charles Wilson IV” and “Plame, Valerie” for more details) decides to call on his big guns – The Night Nine, a Navy SEAL team based in Afghanistan – to make sure Koko doesn’t get her hands on their prize rabbit. If that prospect doesn’t get your heart racing at least a bit, sort of like the idea of a Hisoka vs. Chrollo battle, you might be watching the wrong series. The most interesting conflict for me though, as with H x H, is not the physical confrontation but the psychological one – in this case the ideological and intellectual clash of the titans between Koko and Bookman. There are two radically opposed world views at work here – with Bookman chastising Koko for crossing a line where her actions threaten “order”. For Koko, this simply means Bookman seeks to protect the world as it exists today – and the implication is that this is only important if you see the status quo as something worth protecting. They could hardly be more different both in terms of method and ideology, and the stakes are now so high that none of the other players has the luxury of pursuing their own agenda without choosing sides between them.