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A missed opportunity: Jormungand

I really wanted to like Jormungand. It’s a series about illegal arms dealers and child soldiers, which is not exactly typical fare for anime and sounds interesting. Comparisons to 2006’s fantastic Black Lagoon abound, then, but after 3 episodes, I’m giving up.

I realised I had to stop half-way through episode 3, when child soldier Jonah runs straight at a couple of renowned assassins without cover. Both sides fire at each other from point-blank range, yet manage to miss. Seconds later, the same assassins hit some generic snipers perched on the roof of a building. That’s the kind of thing I expect to see in a Bee Train anime; I could even take it in Black Lagoon, but for Jormungand, it was the final straw.

A post at Eye Sedso argues that it’s more like Bee Train’s 2009 series Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom than Black Lagoon. I actually really liked Phantom, which was written by a pre-Madoka Gen Urobuchi. Both it and Jormungand stray the line between serious and stupid, indeed, as does Black Lagoon, but where they are able to balance their respective madnesses with intriguing moral quandary, Jormungand has no such intention.

Jonah is no Rock or Zwei. The former has a mind of his own and falls willingly into the world of crime as a means of escaping his bored modern life, whilst the latter is brain-washed and forced to fight to survive. Unfortunately, Jonah has no personality to speak of and kills willingly and without question, nor is there any tension between him and female lead Koko, in the same way that the mere presence of Rock’s heart-of-gold could lay ruin Revy’s blood-lust. Phantom was always concerned with Zwei’s lack of emotion and rapid descent into apathy, but, if anything, Jormungand celebrates Jonah’s emptiness. The characters are a bunch of warmongering, abhorrent mercenaries. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they need to explore their cynicism and give us something to cling to.

All this is to say, I feel no empathy for anyone in the series, and if it’s going to be superficial, the action needs to be exciting. It isn’t: one knife fight between lesbians apart(!), it’s mostly just poorly choreographed shoot-outs.

It’s a shame because anime like Jormungand aren’t made very often and this feels like nothing more than a missed opportunity. I wish it were better.

Comments

youthnihil says:

i can definitely understand your sentiments, especially toward episode 3. while the first 2 did a great job in my eyes in establishing the setting and presenting an interesting cast, the third one was derailment par excellence. it also showed quite clearly why jormungand came close to but in the deciding moment failed to reach black lagoon heights: there were several instances in the episode where characters simply stood around between exchanging shots and gave preachy speeches. it felt static, the different factions basically waited for the other side to finish their conversations and then started moving around or shooting again. also, in terms of the action, the orchestra duo stood in the f*cking middle of a square and didn’t take cover. something like that never happened in black lagoon. at least it wasn’t that painstakingly obvious.

still, it got better in episode 4 and episode 5 introduced a quite generic but still somehow interesting piece of backstory for jonah that at least helped me understood his motivations a little better.

i would be interested to read if you’ve tried another time and watched episodes 4 & 5 and if so, did they make you change your opinion on the show?

bateszi says:

I’ll definitely consider coming back to it at some point, youthnihil. It feels like a series I should be watching, but probably best to wait for a rainy weekend when I’m less inundated with anime. Anyway, I really hope it gets better! It reminded me a little of Eden: It’s an Endless World, which can only be a good thing.

glothelegend says:

You know I feel the same exact way. I actually liked Phantom (that’s the only bee train show I didn’t drop), but Jormu is missing something. It could be some brighter colors in the animation, it could be some cohesive plot. Right now it seems all over the place, and the characters seem kind of flat, which is my real problem. Even Koko, who I’ll admit is pretty awesome at times, just doesn’t seem believable to me.

bateszi says:

Ultimately, the weaknesses lay perhaps at the feet of the director. Just something about its execution is sadly bland, no real sense of “soul”.

[…] There are those who like Jormungand. Bateszi is not one of them. […]

Marduk Hamaan says:

I bemoan new anime in this way. I think ever since graphics became epic people stopped working on their stories properly. I’ll check out eps 4 and 5, but 3 was really not that impressive at all. And the whole entourage of characters seems so flat! I wish they’d at least tie in to some definate real life events in present day. That would make things grittier and more down to earth.

Mike joseph says:

dude the characters are not flat at all. yes in the beginning few episodes they may appear like that but as you progress through the story by watching till episode 12 virtually all the characters get their background developed and you see what type of character they have and everything. Heck im impressed season 1 followed the manga so closely in accuracy. If you just watch all twelve episodes and then season two afterwords all your doubts will be cleared up. The villains get much better later on and are not generic. For example one of the villain groups lets just say is part of a government organization. Others have motives and are related to each charachter in some way or another. Plus You find out truly what Koko Hektamayer and the doctors brilliant plan is. Plus Jonah develops as a character throughout the series from some faceless child soldier to someone who has emotions and develops as a human being. The same thing happens to all the other characters. basically think of the first and most likely part of second season as the development of the back stories for all the characters in the crew and later on most likely mid season 2 you get to the real story aka Kokos plan unfolds. Till then though what you see is basically character development for 90 percent of the villains by the later episodes are connected to each of the characters in her crew in one way or another. SO check it out don’t drop it because it starts slow and faceless in the first few episodes but by the time it is finished provided second season sticks to the manga version than it could be a work comparable to black lagoon.

J. G. says:

After watching both, I found Jormungand to be both more entertaining and more insightful than Black Lagoon. It quickly became one of my favorite animes; I really wouldn’t want them to do anything different with the anime. Maybe one exception that I personally would of enjoyed would be if they were to find a way to make Chinatsu a reoccurring character that ultimately joins Koko’s team as I found her entertaining and full of instinctive talent.

Anyhow, I’m sorry that you weren’t able to stick through with it, I have to say though, it really is your loss. :/

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