Taking a little break from Metroid this week (and possibly a few weeks, I’m a little burnt out). Plus those games take a while to beat. Back to anime for now, with Jormungand. Honestly, I was going to do a spring 2012 recap for all the spring shows I watched but I got way too far behind and have just recently finished the spring season… Haven’t even started summer yet. Anyway, back to Jormungand. It aired from April to June of this year, for a total of twelve episodes. While the show ended fairly cleanly (it’d be hard for a show like this not to, I guess), there IS a second season slated for I believe the fall anime season, so look forward to that if you like what you read (and consequently see) here. The studio behind this show is White Fox, whom I’ve honestly never heard of. They’ve done Katanagatari and Steins;Gate though, and those are some pretty big projects, so their pedigree is okay. So let’s get into the meat of this show.
If you’ve ever seen Black Lagoon or kind of understand what that’s about, you’ll find Jormungand quite similar. They’re both set up in mini-arcs instead of a long involved plot. Additionally, and more importantly, Jormungand and Black Lagoon use kind of similar characters, insofar as morals are concerned. To put it simply, they’re not good people. Jormungand is a show about an arms dealer, Koko Hekmatyar. She has a band of merry men (essentially a team of highly trained bodyguards) as she goes around the world selling weapons to the kind of bad folk that get good people like you and me up in arms at their horrible actions. But for Koko it’s just business.
In the very first episode, Koko recruits a young child soldier named Jonah into her crew, who becomes one of the main characters. Besides that little event early on, the structure of the show is fairly nonlinear. While the show does follow chronologically, the time in between each arc is more or less indeterminate. Essentially you take each arc as they come, and it’s pretty easy to do that in a show like this. The show is full of fun and cool action, and some truly crazy people. There’s some interesting gun and knife play, and more explosions than you can shake a stick at. I hesitate at calling it a Hollywood action flick, because it still feels solidly Japanese. Still, if you’re a fan of action and mayhem, this show delivers in spades.
Koko keeps a merry band of able-bodied mercenaries around her as she goes on these dangerous jobs delivering arms to various militant groups around the world. While there are a good 10 of them, most of them aren’t really explored fully as characters. I’ll chalk that up partly because this is part 1 in a 2 part show, but mostly because for this type of show an extensive background isn’t really needed for the characters. Koko definitely is a deeper character than has been shown so far, I believe. She comes across as a light-hearted but ruthlessly competent arms dealer, but there seems to be a hint of something else there that I think will be explored later. I think part of that has to do with her reasons for becoming and arms dealer.
Besides Koko, there’s her favorite little child soldier, Jonah. He’s more or less the second main character, and he’s a child soldier. Well, was a child soldier. Now he’s a bodyguard for Koko Hekmatyar… though essentially he still a child and does some form of soldiering. He’s a pretty stoic character, and seems quite mature for his age, but he has this childish streak to him that is very funny to see come out. For example, whenever Koko tries to have some of the other men of her crew teach Jonah (since he’s pretty uneducated), he finds inventive ways to skip lessons. It’s little things like that which add a bit of humor to the show, instead of just a stream of action.
In addition to Jonah, two of Koko’s other important bodyguards are Lehm and Valmet. Lehm is essentially the leader of the crew insofar as dangerous situations and tactics are concerned, and he’s probably the most skilled operative in the bunch. He’s a pretty laid-back guy, but incredibly competent. Valmet is the only woman on Koko’s crew, and she’s just as competent if not more than the other bodyguards. She’s particularly adept at knife-work, and has an interesting personality quirk of being totally in love with Koko. It doesn’t seem to be in any serious capacity though, it’s just used for humor. Valmet is one of the few characters who gets significant screen time dealing with her past and her issues, at the very last arc of this season. She’s an interesting character with an interesting past.
The art of Jormungand is okay. I have to say at first it looked really really weird to me. Koko in particular looked like some bizarre snake with a really long face or something. Still, it didn’t take long for me to get used to the art, and it seems okay to me. Some of the character designs are pretty good. I’m especially fond of Jonah and Lehm’s design. I think they fit their characters quite well. The animation is the similarly okay. Some of the action scenes look really awesome, though I think that has more to do with the choreography and how they’re set up, rather than pure animation quality. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s okay.
The music is pretty good. It has the kind of soundtrack where the music kind of keys you in on something exciting that’s going to happen soon. It does a good job of getting you pumped for some cool action. The opening theme is “Borderland” by Kawada Mami. I know her best from Shakugan no Shana openings, and the same style seems to come into play here. It’s a cool song, but it definitely sounds really similar to everything else I’ve heard out of her… Except for Aozora to Taiyou I guess, since that was a song for Hayate no Gotoku and as a show it’s quite different than Jormungand or Shakugan no Shana.
As far as the ending theme goes… Well, it’s by Yanagi Nagi. As a small aside, I really like Nagi. I’ve liked her music for a while now, it’s some of my favorite jpop out there. However, recently she’s left the group supercell and is doing her own stuff. Since then… Her music has kind of taken a nosedive. It’s not exactly bad, and in fact there are a few gems in her new works (Owari no Sekai kara or Flower Garden). However, on the whole the quality of her work has certainly gone down now that she doesn’t have ryo handling her music. It’s quite a shame, but that’s how it is. Anyway, the song is “Ambivalentidea” by Yanagi Nagi, and it’s a bizarre song. Something about it is just really mysterious. Honestly, I’m not a fan of the song, but I appreciate the idea behind it. It’s hard to put into words, but I think the song sounds cool, even though I don’t like it. I guess I appreciate what it was trying to do more than what it actually did.