Jormungand is an attempt to create a new Black Lagoon but just from the pilot episode you get a more than lazy shot at it. The exposition is stupid, the dialogues are stupid, and the characters are… well, you know. Not that Black Lagoon was exactly an intelligent show (it was just throwing in a few poor monologues around the cruel way the world works) but at least it had great production values and slightly better dialogues to have more fun with. This on the other hand is making you think it was written by a very angry kid who likes to play cops and robbers. Not that it was their fault entirely if the source material, the manga, was dumb to begin with.
Animated by studio White Fox, which is very new to the field; only 4 titles so far. They don’t have a huge budget to do miracles but they always offer and above average result. Two of their anime received very positive feedback (Katanagatari, Steins;Gate) so it is definitely a studio that can offer quality material. Their latest work definitely looks nice but that is as far as it goes; it doesn’t pay much attention to secondary details and this tends to make it feel artificial if you see past the obvious. The direction is done by Motonaga Keitaro, whose roster is nothing but bellow average harems, and as an exception he also directed Katanagatari, one of the best troll comedies ever. Although even there it was mostly the original script that did the work and not so much his talent. He is clearly not someone to look forward to watching his work.
So, aside from being a Black Lagoon wannabe, is the show anything else? Well, sort of, its theme also gives of vibes close to The Lord of War (live action film with Nicolas Kage) and Gundam 00. The premise has to do with a group of arms dealers, who make bargains with several shady operations and their reason for that is not just profit but also to end wars faster, if they are offered to the right people. So they are constantly up against merciless warlords and war mongers, as well as fighting numerous military groups for a race to whom gets to make a deal with whom faster and better.
As cool and smart as the premise sounds though, its execution is completely retarded. Just like a typical show with shootouts, it is hardly realistic and you get the usual “Heroes beat a hundred elite soldiers without a single injury” type of theme. It is not a problem if it can make up for it with great production values or amazing battle choreographies, yet sadly it fails even there. Most things that happen in this show make you feel like they are useless, stupid, forced, or even done invisibly instead of being shown. Here is a list regarding the messy stuff I found.
1) Show; don’t tell. A lazy method of plot exposition is when the characters are using explanatory monologues to reveal new information. In a medium that uses both image and sound it is best to show them instead to simply tell them. A variation of this is when something is actually shown on screen and yet the character tells us about it anyhow, as if the scriptwriter is afraid we are too stupid to get it. Most fighting shounen anime are guilty of this, as there will always be spectators commenting on everything and even describing what just happened. So in this case the heroine is constantly making rhetorical questions of the sort “It’s the military? Are they chasing us? Is he laughing?” The answer is of course obviously yes to everything and it is plain stupid to even have them there. I mean, it’s an action show for crying out loud; there is nothing philosophical worth of talking about it. Instead of having a character saying “I am shooting at the bad guys” just showing us, him, shooting at them, is more than enough to get it. If not, it is the director’s fault for not investing enough time and proper camera angles into making it understood. Yet most of whatever they are doing in this show is nothing but a lame attempt at pointing their fingers at whatever is going on instead of just letting it happen.
2) Walk; don’t jump. The directing is messy to the point no scene seems to last as much as it needs. They either skip very important stuff or stick too much on useless info. An example is the no-pantsu girl, a minor villain who gets several flashbacks as means to explain why she became an assassin or why she doesn’t wear underwear. And guess what, nothing of what they show makes any sense. They dedicate almost a whole episode on her and we still have no idea why she became an assassin or why she didn’t get new underwear all this time. And you think all that were perhaps important to flesh her out and be likable thereafter? You would be mistaken since we never see her again after those episodes. SO WHAT’S THE POINT?
3) Explain; don’t imply. As if that wasn’t enough, they also chose to leave lots of important events taking place out of screen. There are multiple accounts where a warrior taking out several opponents without showing us how. There will be deals being resolved without ever showing us how they used diplomacy to make a contract. There will be escapes from certain doom without showing us the method they used to survive. This is not just about skipping things that may seem unimportant in the long run. It is making them feel unimportant exactly because they don’t show them. It is also making the whole show run on magic convenience if you can kill elite fighters and convince veterans to change their minds and not kill you, without even bothering to show how you do it. It is an action show for crying out loud (again) you make it interesting by showing such things.
I have heard by some that the above is not really a problem as it is supposed to offer plot twists and thus keeping you excited exactly by having lots of sneak actions taking place out of screen. We are supposed to think “Whoah, these guys use smart tactics”. That is not working very well though for two reasons. First, their tactics are taking place and are resolved way too fast to build up and matter, and secondly, this is a dumb action show with shallow ideology, where having such things is only making the whole show feeling stupid.
4) Make it exciting; not expected. Then it’s the whole importance of the missions. Aside from rushing through the whole thing and keeping lots of events unseen, they also don’t seem dangerous (and thus exciting) if the bad guys are not dangerous at all. You get these supposed elite gunners and snipers and they can’t do the slightest thing against the good guys before being slaughtered without inflicting the tiniest injury on them. Hell man, even god-level Kenshiro was getting a few scratches from nobodies in Hokuto no Ken. The first ringleader didn’t even try to have proper precautions while making that deal with the heroine. Sure, he had snipers in place but they wouldn’t save him in time if anyone pulled a gun against him, would they? He also didn’t even bother to have them searched for guns before accepting to talk to them. Instead we get five minutes of shallow macho talking that was completely useless plot-wise, since all the events that REALLY mattered in the mission happened out of screen (taking out the snipers and cancelling the deal). So what was this mission all about? Nothing for you to care about.
5) Make it cool; not stupid. Then it’s the whole heroine’s attitude that just pisses me off. While Revy in Black Lagoon would be full of cocky attitude and would act way too seriously and creepy during her missions, Koko in Jormungand on the other hand will act like a spoiled rich girl whose daddy didn’t buy her a dozen ponies. She feels completely out of sync with what is going around her and looks like a slapstick comedy character yelling, and laughing, and insulting her buyers, thrown in a serious war drama. She acts like they are playing hide and seek instead of someone who makes dealings with warlords that will cost the lives of millions of people. And her whole ideology of trying to bring peace by making both sides in the war to have equal strength and thus giving up is plain dumb. This can easily prolong a war indefinitely. Plus, how can we even believe that a person with such humanitarian ideals and aloof personality even managed to be such an important arms dealer in the first place? No warlord would trust this sort of people.
The same can be said for all the characters in this show. They all try to pass as cool but only act and feel like spoiled fat kids with plastic guns playing war. And then there are plain details I personally didn’t even like, such as the heroines name being… Koko! And the ending song is plain ridiculous with those lyrics (Her name is Koko and she is a loko, I say KO-KO!). And what’s with those wide white eyebrows they have? They are annoying. And those wide smirks they make when they try to gloat? Makes them look totally stupid.
6) Evolve; don’t rewrite. The second episode has a much different feeling than the first, to the point the characters feel like they are completely different people who happen to have the same bodies. While in the first episode they wouldn’t think twice to kill someone, in this one they will do their best not to hurt anyone. And no, the soldiers they are up against in this episode are not any better than the ones they fought in the first. In fact, they made a massacre out of the defenceless civilians and news reporters of the area, just so they can keep their oil pipeline without any witnesses around to tell what happened. And by the way, once more it is IMPLIED they did that since they never bothered to show us all that.
Furthermore, this episode introduces another group of arms dealers who are basically the evil counterparts of the heroes. They will be shown doing the exactly opposite things the heroes did and how that will automatically make them feel like assholes in the eyes of the viewer. But the good guys? No sir, these now are humanitarians, they never kill people… too bad this is a complete contradiction of what we see in the first episode. It was obviously done deliberately for us to see the killers of the pilot as some sort of paragons of goodness but the whole thing was done in a very childish and lazy way to matter.
The above turns to an anecdote in the middle of the episode, when the “good” Koko will be insulting and questioning the morals of the buyer while her antagonist will be kind enough not to do that and shut his mouth just so he will sell his merchandise without making the buyer to feel like executing them on the spot. And this is exactly what happens; the buyer gets so pissed with Koko’s accusations that he is one step away from ordering his men to kill them all. That is NOT good public relations in this sort of work. Yet a few minutes later Koko will be presented as a heroic figure for not executing her military escorts but instead capturing them alive, while the “evil” team will just have killed them for being annoying. See how this part makes a huge contradiction? The spastic heroes who don’t like the whole thing will magically be organized and go through a lot of risks to capture alive the enemy or escape the battlefield, while the amoral antagonists who care only about making money will suddenly feel like killing the escorts and ruining the deal because the escorts were a bit annoying in their remarks.
7) Make it flashy; not fake. The action scenes make absolutely no sense. You get all sorts of events that simply defy logic to the point you can’t even consider them cool. Here are a few examples from the third and fourth episodes:
- Some assassins are paid to kill Koko. They will not try to kill her from afar via snipping, nor will they stab her stealthy in the back without saying a word. They will introduce themselves to her, explain their motives, and then give her enough time to react and escape. Then they pull out a bazooka and instead of firing at her, they choose to hit a minor police vehicle passing by them.
- Then follows a shootout that makes no sense. One guy takes cover behind a few bushes that barely help in stopping bullets. Another guy stands up without taking any cover. They fire at each other at least a thousand times yet they don’t hit a thing. It’s as if the bullets bounce off them. Then the police arrive and although they are wearing protective gear, hold bullet proof shields, or hide well behind walls, they are all killed immediately with a few shots.
- Then they start a calm philosophical debate in the middle of the battle while shots are still fired. It’s like they are sitting calmly to have some coffee in the middle of a war zone.
- Then some guy tries to sneak and shoots at the assassins while FOR NO REASON using a silencer. But they magically “hear” the silencer and dodge in time. A few minutes later, a sniper manages to hit one of them without any reason of why they didn’t hear that coming.
- Then the assassins chase Koko in a car and apparently know where she is randomly running in the city all this time. And it’s not like she is trying to hide because she is running IN OPEN AREAS while laughing as if it’s all a game. The bad guys manage to find her but her allies arrive and shield her with their car, even though they began the chase with a delay of several minutes next to the bad guys. A thousand bullets are fired at each other with a few meters distance from each other and again all we get is three bullet holes, and no injury. All this time Koko is still running along with the car instead of taking cover or getting it in.
- We get yet another “out of screen” scene. The bad guys use some weird super rifle that trashes their car really bad. We don’t see what happens to the people in the car. Then Koko orders a retreat and everybody does so… without showing us how. Hell, they just disappear from a messed up car and we never see them again but we are left to assume such a devastating attack didn’t kill any of them.
- Then this CIA agent appears and starts to act like a complete asshole and even hits them for fun. They can outrun and deflect bullets but suddenly don't see a punch coming from an arrogant asshole right in front of them.
- Then Koko figures out how the second assassin will try to attack them again later on, date, hour, and method included. HOW DID SHE KNOW THAT? It’s not like she knew them for years to tell how they think.
In all, it is a very messy and passable show and there is no chance in hell it will please the fans of Black Lagoon or of action in general.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 1/2 (messy)
Complexity 0/2 (messy)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (cheesy)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to rewatch)
Memorability 1/4 (too badly done to bother remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 0/2 (sounds stupid)
Story 1/3 (feels generic)
Characters 0/4 (they are stupid)