Jormungand Complete Season 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 296 minutes approx.
In a Monty Python sketch where a group of vox pops explained what they would do the sake of peace, Eric Idle, dressed as a hippy era John Lennon, said “I’m starting a war for peace”. I’m sure we all took that as another fine example of Python’s irreverent humour but it seems mangaka Keitaro Takahashi took it seriously as this twisted philosophy is the reason esoteric arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar exists.
A young woman with white hair and white skin – and often clad exclusively in white – Koko works for her rich global shipping magnate father’s company HCLI, heading the European and African division. However this is just a cover for her real job as an arms dealer, something she claims she is doing in search of global peace. As capricious and often childish as she is, Koko is no idiot and her acute business sense is match by her canny understanding of the dangerous world she inhabits, thus she has a loyal but very effective troupe of highly skilled bodyguards to accompany her on her deals.
The most interesting member of this eclectic elite squad is its newest recruit, former Arabic boy soldier Jonathan “Jonah” Ma. A dark skinned skilled with white hair, Jonah has lived a rough life during his short time on earth, losing his parents during warfare then being mistreated along with other orphans at a military base. When his best friend was killed while being used as bait to find landmines, Jonah finally snaps and wipes out the entire military base. Despite his prodigious shooting and combat skills, Jonah abhors fighting and arms dealers, yet he remains loyal to Koko for giving him a life away from the horrors of captivity.
Across the twelve episodes in this two disc set, plenty of bullets are fired, limbs are severed, blood is spilt and the body count piles up in alarming increments as Koko, Jonah and the crew blast their way through a number of dodgy deals, the violence often incited by the other party trying to pull a fast one. It is not just her unique looks that makes Koko such a well known figure in the arms dealing trade, her reputation as a savvy businesswoman precedes her by a great distance – even the CIA has operatives on her tail yet she manages to manipulate on of them to act as a secret informer.
But Jormungand – a sea serpent from Norse mythology – isn’t just about delivering high octane and bloody battles, there is a sombre subtext concerning the human cost of warfare, of which Koko is partially responsible through her job. Most of her crew are ex-military in one form or another and have suffered personal losses which shaped their trigger happy approach to their work, but underneath they yearn to live a normal life like everyone else. They’ve formed a protective bond towards each other and this pays dividends during combat.
One group member in particular, the muscular female Finnish operative Velmat, who lost an eye during a UN peace keeping mission in Africa, is an interesting case in that she is driven by an insatiable thirst for revenge against the man who slain her entire group and took her eye, making trips to Africa difficult for her. She is almost like a cyborg on the battlefield carrying within her the torment of her fallen comrades yet away from it, she is a real girly girl, desperately in love with Koko but unaware of the feeling is mutual. Other members include an ex-Mafia driver, a former SWAT team sniper and an FBI blacklisted American explosives expert.
The central relationship is the one between Koko and Jonah which is more of sibling bond than anything else. Jonah brings out the childish side of Koko, who is seldom without a smile during times of strife while Jonah hides any signs of joy from Koko, yet finds her the easiest one to talk to. The others try to give Jonah an education but he skips their classes to protect Koko instead, a loyalty that stems back from their first meeting through Koko’s less moral brother Kasper.
On the visual and indeed visceral front, this show will naturally draw comparisons with Black Lagoon although the production here was handled by White Fox who do a fantastic job. There is a certain similarity in the overall veneer of both shows, largely in the attention to detail of both the weapons and the locations. With the whole of Europe and Africa to play with, the various settings are replicated with a keen eye to create an authentic sense of globe trotting for our busy cast.
A slight but expected niggle is that everyone speaks Japanese and no real attempt has been made to localise the physical appearances of the cast either, leaving it to the flashbacks and exposition to reveal the various nationalities represented here. However violence is the same in any language and you can expect plenty of that in this series, depicting some very unpleasant acts of bloodletting which in turn are complemented by some skilful sniping set ups and tactical precision of Koko’s plans.
One technical heads up on the DVD version of this title is required – when skipping the opening credits, instead of jumping to the end of them it skips to the five minute mark of the episode, so you’ll need to use the fast forward button in this instance. I don’t know if the Blu-ray is the same.
With the final episode ending on a rather curious note to make way for the second series this first outing for Jormungand is the perfect antidote for all the clichéd harem comedies which have saturated the anime market of late. Action packed, violent, funny, intelligent and thought provoking this show provides a welcome shot of adrenaline to what has become a rather flaccid and safe playing field.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0
Episode 1 Commentary
Textless Opening Song – “Borderline”
Textless Closing Song– “Ambivalentidea”
Textless Closing Song– “Shiroku Yawaraka na Hana”
Episode 12 Commentary
US Trailer Part 1 & 2
Casting Koko’s Crew with American Director Christopher Bevins
Rating – ****
Man In Black