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.