Action anime akin to Jormungand are tough to come by, and very rarely any good. In fact, the only “thriller” type action experience I can name off-hand that is worthwhile is Phantom. Another example, Black Lagoon, while an action anime, was too long winded in its philosophy and light on excitement (thus proving my point). Jormungand seems to be the opposite of that, opting for lots of gratuitous violence in lieu of a decent story or any sort of exposition whatsoever. Based on a manga of the same name, this twelve episode adventure through mediocrity is not exactly going to appeal to action fans, nor fans of much else. Its' boring characters, lame action, and unexplained everything compound to become an anime that is very rarely entertaining, let alone exciting.
Jonah is a boy soldier whose friends were killed in some sort of warzone. He winds up killing those who killed his friends, consequently becoming a murder machine. He is picked up by Koko Hekmatyar, a very cunning young arms dealer. He becomes her bodyguard, one of many bodyguards as a matter of fact. He joins the ranks of nine shunned or fallen military heroes (and one Mafioso) who, as a unit, protect Koko from all kinds of baddies including assassins, mobsters, militiamen, and pirates.
The episodic nature of the show does provide for a wide array of stories, but none of them are particularly appealing. None of the episodes truly stand out in my mind as they were all fairly straight-forward in story. Jormungand continually uses flashbacks as a means to dole out plot but the flashbacks are very overused. The various members of Koko’s group don’t have particularly entertaining, nor inventive, pasts; one woman’s entire squadron was killed and she wants revenge on the man who did it, there’s a guy who was the lone survivor when Koko took on the mafia, and another was blamed for something he didn’t do. None of it is anything you haven’t watched or read before.
What really bothers me about the show more so than its lackluster plot is how, while we see a lot of minor character background, we never see any of Koko’s background. Questions are brought up during the show of why she became an arms dealer, but the answer she gives is never heard by the audience, instead we are treated to a well-timed rush of wind. That, to me, is not good story telling. I feel like the writer couldn’t actually come up with a reason so makes it a secret, hoping it makes the character look more mysterious. And while Koko is certainly mysterious, the lazy storytelling doesn’t particularly add to it, more so it detracts from the overall experience.
Another huge problem with the story is how Koko gets the arms she sells, where she gets all her money, and how she has military aircraft, among other things. While there is that small mention of her father, we are given no idea as to why she became an arms dealer and how she does it. Instead the story decides to skip what I assume the writer thought would be the boring details and get straight into the action.
This could be okay if the action wasn’t so gosh-darned dumb. Take for example the group’s battle against Orchestra. If you haven’t seen Jormungand allow me to set the scene:
Koko and Jonah hide behind a wall at the end of a plaza. Orchestra, a man and girl team, shoot at them wildly from the center of the plaza. Lehm, an older man and sniper, is to Orchestra’s side with a silenced pistol. Instead of surprise attacking them from the side as they shoot at Koko and Jonah, he waits until they have time to pick up a riot shield and can block the shots. On top of that, why isn’t the group’s sniper…sniping? Take a briefcase upstairs, put the weapon together in perhaps thirty or even twenty seconds if he’s as good as he’s made out to be, and kill Orchestra.
These lapses in logic truly destroy the action sequences for me.
And while we’re on the subject of Orchestra, I’d love to point out the demeaning view of women that seems to permeate Jormungand. I don’t know if anyone else felt the way I did, but I found the show to be…like it was written by a fifteen year old boy. The most disturbing instance of demeaning women comes in the form of the young girl who is part of Orchestra. Her story is that she had to go through a river to kill some men, and it was uncomfortable wearing wet panties, so she decided to take them off and found that she shot better without them on. So, apparently, she wears skirts and no panties much to the chagrin of the viewer. But nobody in the show seems to be embarrassed by this as it is played as a joke.
And if that’s not enough to make you feel embarrassed, then allow me to continue. Koko and Valmet are obvious lesbians and, while nothing explicit is shown, they sleep in the same room in their underwear much of the time. Sometimes it even feels like the same bed. While I’m not offended by lesbians in an anime I’m more so offended by how bipolar the characters are made out to be. In public they are demonic badasses but in private they are always shown either half naked or naked and in some form of lesbian context.
On top of that, the female counterpart to the CIA agent following Koko around is a ditzy, borderline idiotic, person. Also, don’t forget Karen. Completely subservient to her master, she will do anything for him and, despite being shunned from his graces, she comes back to him again and again. Also add the fact that the characters are typically depicted in some form of the nude, from going to the bathroom, to sleeping, to going to the beach, and the male characters even try to feel up one of the character’s breasts.
If those three paragraphs aren’t enough to convince you that this show has a demeaning view of women, even with a woman as the main character, then I don’t know what will. There is no particularly strong female character that isn’t without some sort of lesbian tendency or something silly like that. It just feels wrong.
Something else really embarrassing (one of a plethora of things it seems) is the fact that in a couple episodes, countries aren’t given names. Instead, they are called Country A or something generic like that; as if somebody was supposed to fill that in with an either real or fake name. It’s very bad storytelling and, truthfully, lame. Nothing detracts from a show attempting to showcase realistic action than a lackluster ability to portray that realness. We know they’re in Eastern Europe somewhere, but instead of play off of tensions in that area of the world currently, Jormungand creates a generic and easily dismissed story. It’s, as I’ve stated before, lazy storytelling.
And one last example of lazy storytelling while I’m on the subject. The random meetings of the arms dealers, coincidental meetings in different parts of the world, are really unneeded and I guess are meant to portray tension between two enemies. The problem with this being that while it is okay the first time, showing the characters again just to remind us they are there isn’t particularly appealing. There are a few characters with recurring roles but none of them are ever used to their full potential, nor are any of them exciting enough to care about.
Lazy writing is what Jormungand comes down to. I’m a big fan of Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, Alex Berenson, and Robert Ludlum; thriller books with plots kind of like Jormungand. The difference between Jormungand and the rest is that Jormungand is poorly researched, poorly written, and comes across less as realistic and violent and more so as a pointless, piece of crap anime. One of the only commendable things about it is the fact that Jonah’s child-like behavior in some parts is good characterization of an otherwise demonic child soldier. But the rest is unbelievably dense and stupid. I can’t help but think that a horny teenaged boy with a violence fetish wrote this, perhaps consulting the few news programs he’d seen in the past five years, Google Maps, and a few crappy books and movies as research material.
While I found the animation and sound to be good, I did take issue with the very idiotic tone shifts. What I mean by that is the whole episode will be serious, like an episode of Ghost in the Shell. Not a lot of comedy, more so a serious story being told. But sometimes Jormungand will inject these cartoony images, such as all of Koko’s killers having red eyes. Because telling us they are killers isn’t a good enough indication that they may be dark characters, I need them to suddenly become the vampires from Shiki. And then there are moments where all the characters say the same thing simultaneously or go into a silly little laugh like the end of a bad sitcom. And I’m not complaining that the anime is being a cartoon, because I understand that the 2D images on my screen are, in fact, cartoons. But such tone shifts are unpleasant and take away from how serious the anime is. I mean, I can’t take such stupidity seriously anyway, but the few people who are bound to take it seriously will at least be offset by these moments.
Jormungand isn’t particularly good in any way. It’s very poorly executed story compounded with the inherent sexism and sometimes God awful dialogue makes it a very dull show to watch. It innovates in no way, and it comes across as a young boys fantasy more so than an adventure for the ages.
If you do like Jormungand, there is good news for you. There will be a second season this fall.
And bad news for the rest of us, there will be a season two.