Review: Jormungand – Perfect Order

Jormungand: Perfect Order

As I wrote in my review in this same blog, I enjoyed the first half (first season of Jormungand) quite a bit. It was entertaining, crazy, quirky and clever. It had most elements I love in a show, yet it was unfortunately lacking something…

A clear plot line which is followed throughout the show. The lack of that was my little complain about the first-season, yet Perfect Order got completely rid of that flaw, proving to be quite the great watch.

But on to the main subject. Jormungand: Perfect Order (from now on referred to as PO in this review) picked up where the first season left off and proceeded to continue with the arc divided stories do an excellent job in developing quite the big cast neatly introduced beforehand. The main difference this time lies in how the aforementioned “arc divided stories” are all but divided. With each arc, we get some more insight on the inter-organization relationships and the schemes and operations going on, and quickly see the situation escalate to quite dangerous heights, leading to quite the unconventional ending. Along with that, we also get some more insight on… Koko. The charismatic yet enigmatic anti-heroine or anti-villain (or however you’d prefer to categorize her) grabbed my attention an interest during the first season, but only now, bit by bit, did I come to understand her character.

Since most of the happenings are centered around her, her development grows along with the plot in quite the satisfying way, with the later “booom” in development matching the final revelations in the plot. However, that’s not to say the other characters are forgotten. Because they definitely aren’t, not in the slightest bit. Everyone in Koko’s team gets their fair share of development. Especially Johan, of course, as the story is, after all supposed to be told mainly through his point of view. It was interesting seeing him find out little by little the true nature of the world that had done so much wrongs to him, yet the world that he still loved. Although I’ve only talked about Koko and Johan so far, the supporting characters are also quite well explored themselves. We’re shown the background story for everyone and each member of the team as one moment in the limelight where the pasts we’re revealed impact their present choices.

The characters aside, there’s one other very important strength in this series. Its execution. More than the ideas from which the plot is built, the best part about it has to be how it’s built and exposed to us, the viewers. Jormungand never, ever spoon-feeds you with the meat of the story. The details are there, but they’re not made all that obvious. Or rather, the way the dialogues are dealt with does not make them seem obvious. In other words, you could say that Jormungand never takes the viewers as dumb people and presents itself accordingly. On the other hand, managing to follow the plot means you’re in for a treat. What first seemed like unrelated events were later understood as foreshadowing, the kind of good foreshadowing that’s not entirely unnoticed nor too obvious. The kind of foreshadowing you can undoubtedly affirm that was there after the fact. To sum it up, the good kind of foreshadowing, which makes up for a very interesting and satisfying watching experience.

As a little side note, I feel that Jormunagnd portrays a world very similar to ours (a.k.a. the real world) with a spice of pessimism and sarcasm, even ending with the notion that war is a concept ingrained in human nature and it will surface, no matter what. The characters’ worldviews are conveyed through the dialogues during the whole series in quite the thought-provoking way. Jormungand’s script is quite the well-crafted one, and for that, it certainly deserves to be praised.

In other thing I can’t help but mention is the OST. Both the opening and ending themes are great songs, with me loving the OP to bits. And the background music… well, it needs a mention because of how unusual it is. By unusual I mean a OST that contains mostly electro-rock tunes isn’t exactly common in anime. And it also isn’t exactly my favorite type of BGM. But it works wonders with this show’s atmosphere, while also being surprisingly good to listen to as simple stand-alone instrumental music. That makes it yet another point in this series’ favor.

And with all technicalities put of the way, I can certainly say that Jormungand is also… fun. Yes, because enjoyment does matter in anime. A lot. White Fox may not be the biggest studio, and one can certainly see how Jormungand didn’t have the biggest budget, yet the action scenes, while short, are intense and engaging. Something I never felt like taking my eyes off from. Besides that, the character dynamics can be both brilliantly interesting and a whole lot of fun to watch. The fact that we have plenty of characters with quite the crazy antics who still manage not to feel alien to the viewers does help a lot on that.

When all this is taken into account, Jormungand was one of the best series I’ve watched this last year. It was clever, it was funny, it was consistent, it had great dialogue, a pretty good conclusion, and an amazing female lead in Koko Hekmatyar. It’s a brilliant series unfortunately overlooked by many. I’m not aware of the reasons for not watching it, but if you didn’t, let me assure you that you missed quite the good show. It’s something I believe that deserves to be more appreciated, and at least be given a chance, because while it does have a lot more to offer, if nothing else, Jormungand is definitely entertaining.



Jormungand Episode 2

Dance with Undershaft phase.1

One more week late episode, which is something I’ll strive not to become a trend in the future. After all, we all prefer to read others’ impressions right after we’ve watched the episodes, am I wrong?

Anyhow, episode 2 was what we could call a flashback episode. There was so much of the characters’ past packed in it, I was quite impressed the developments and revelations didn’t feel rushed, forced or cheap. In this kind of things, I guess it all boils down to execution, and as expected, White Fox didn’t let me down on that regard.

The revelations of R’s, Bookman’s, Koko’s and Hex’s pasts not only were quite important for character development, but had a huge impact, as they tie in tightly with the current situation. When someone’s past s presented just for the sake of it, it feels often disjointed, especially if such is done with recursion to flashbacks. However, this episode is definitely not an example of that, as it showed the character’s reactions and personality traits we could actively relate to the past events that shaped them.

When talking about last episode, I questioned about R’s words about Koko, as he said she had change, hidden her true self, after he joined her personal squad. One of the possibilities I pondered was if it could have been the death of her comrade or some consequence of it that triggered such behavior. Well, it seems I wasn’t exactly right, but neither was I too far of the mark. It appears it was his words before death that changed her. And I believe that fascinating guise she puts up won’t wear off any time soon.

About R himself, we get to see how he became a CIA agent, and also how kind-natured he is. That made me really torn over the situation that’s presenting itself. He’s a mole, but he seems an honest guy who’d follow his beliefs anytime, so his reactions were interesting to watch. Especially to Bookman’s plans of using both him and Hex to achieve his goals. Hex might be a wildcard, but she’s a powerful one at that, nonetheless, and the fact that she’s not set on killing Koko right now makes her quite the useful resource for Bookman, to such an extent that he’s willing to sacrifice a less important piece of his game.

Speaking of Hex, her past is certainly not a pink one either. Having total faith in her country and being betrayed by it several times, not to mention her husband having died on the 9.11… Well, there are some batshit insane people in Jormungand, but at least they have good reasons for their mental instability. I can’t wait to see how things will play out next episode, now that she’s making her move to target Johan.

Which I’ll see in… a couple of hours, probably. Whenever the subs are available.

First Impressions: Jormungand – Perfect Order

The Snake That Admires the Heavens

The first season of Jormungand managed to bring a whole new charm to the mercenaries genre. Be it the well executed character development, the witty and thought provoking dialogs or the impressive amount of foreshadowing regarding some characters’ pasts, Jormungand managed to distinguish itself from other series in the genre in quite the positive way without foregoing the mandatory (not to mention quite entertaining) action scenes. However, even if noticeable in its subtlety, foreshadowing is useless in itself if its realization doesn’t come to light and a story without resolution is completely underwhelming. Due to that, this season better leave up to my expectations and keep up the quality of last one. Something that, judging by this first episode, it’s not going to have much difficulty in doing.

How much time passed between the events of the first season and this episode is unclear. Johan seems to have grown a little, but it could simply be an inconsistency in character designs. Either way, such information is barely any relevant, and the important thing is how the episode opened: with the HCLI launching 126 satellites with the purpose of establishing a communication monitoring network all over the world and the excuse of supporting the American GPS system. Seriously, who’d buy that? 126 satellites for support – that’s ridiculous. Of course everyone knows it’s an excuse, which makes me wonder exactly what powers are at work there. Not to mention how it ups even more my already great curiosity about Koko’s father, who seems like quite the powerful individual who never shows face. Kind of like a puppet master. I’d really like to know more about him. …and about Koko herself, whose personality is the recurrent theme of conversation throughout the episode. Be it Johan mentioning how dangerous she seems or R and Cheif Black from CIA talking about her past reaction to the hypothesis of being “a dragon”.

Speaking of which, the suspicions left in the air by one of the last scenes we’ve seen last season about R being an undercover CIA agent are now confirmed. However, it seems he hasn’t been finding out much of what he wanted to know, as Koko is a true master of deception. I find it interesting how he said she’d change, hidden her true self, after he joined her personal squad. Was she already suspicious of him? Had she always been like that? Was the death of her comrade or some consequence of it what triggered such behavior? I can’t help but speculate about her past, because of all the main cast, it’s the one that remains most shrouded in mystery.

Character speculation aside, we’re shown this episode a grand-scale operation is underway – Operation Undershaft. The CIA is certainly involved, as seen in the aforementioned conversation, but it’s not the only party involved. We’re introduced to a character, a clear antagonist, named Hex. A woman with no qualms about using her body to get what she wants, though without ever dropping a fear-inspiring attitude. We see her going to a certain place to extract information about Operation Undershaft from a mafia-looking guy. The interesting thing is… Koko Hekmatyer is the target of said operation. Other interesting information would be the mentioning of a “he” and the fear in the man’s words while asking if Hex would go “against him”. It really is strange that there is someone powerful enough to gather different influential parties for an operation centered around Koko, an arms dealer who doesn’t really seem all that threatening (she’s even working under her father too). In fact, the purpose of the operation in itself is a mystery, since its goal is not to murder Koko. That’s Hex’s goal, though, which will bring an interesting third faction to the table. She seems to hold a grudge about Koko, who actually also mentions her this episode. I’m looking forward to how things will develop in this arc.

Something else I’m surely really happy about seeing is that Karen Low is now working for Dr.Miami. (Seriously, Dr.Miami is one of the weirdest characters I’ve seen to date. And she’s freaking scary, too.) I sympathized with her a lot towards the end of last season, so I’m hoping to see more of her now that she’s back in the action. The showcase of her rivalry with Valmet in the ship was quite funny too, especially since they’re technically now on the same “side”. Even though there is no such thing as a clear “side” in this series.

From character interactions to intricate setting exposition and developments, this episode definitely nailed everything I liked in the first season. The only thing missing was certainly the action, but as a series that’s already established itself, that’s not mandatory in the first episode, not to mention that we’ll get plenty of it next episode, if the preview is anything to go by. For now, I couldn’t have enjoyed this build-up episode much more than I did, for I can say I’m satisfied with how we jumped back into this very good series.

As an end note, both the OP and ED were quite good songs, specially the OP, which is just as good as last season’s one and something I really enjoyed listening to. For now, I’m definitely looking forward to know more about Operation Undershaft.

Review: Jormungand

Her Name Is Koko She Is Loco I Said Oh No

I wasn’t exactly sure on which treatment to give Jormungand. Seeing as it is, like Fate/Zero, something which had already been announced as being split into two seasons with a 3 months break, and not having the slightest sense of closure in the first one, I think it’d better be treated as a whole. However, due to my intention of blogging the second season this fall (shout-out to the higher ups^^) and the fact that the first one has not been covered here, I shall review it as an introduction to my love for these series.

Before its airing, Jormungand was already target of comparisons with Black Lagoon, which is totally understandable given the similarity between the settings of both series, which focus in the life of underground groups in the modern world – mercenaries in Black Lagoon’s case, and arms dealers in Jormungand’s case. However, once you work your way past through those first similarities, both works couldn’t be more different. Jormungand never carries an overly serious mood and needs not recur to heavy swearing and excessive gore to make itself entertaining.

In fact, Jormungand has everything I look forward in this type of series: interesting characters, good action scenes, great dialogue, intelligent storytelling and a delicious little amount of craziness. The few comedy moments that prevent it from getting too serious are usually really well placed, making for lighthearted relaxing moments without ever ruining the mood of the scenes.

The narrative follows a rather episodic formula, being divided in different arcs, with each corresponding to a job of the starring arms dealing group lead by the “loco”, yet cunning and overflowing with leadership qualities, Koko Hekmatyer. This group works under the HCLI, a weapons corporation, and is composed by a rather heterogeneous collection on individuals, ranging from a former mafioso to one who used to be a police officer. Either way, each of its members excels in their task – being effective bodyguards to Koko. The latest addition to this previous eight-man bodyguard team is Jonah, a child solider orphan who claims to hate guns and is set on getting revenge.

Although, I’m not a huge fan of that type of storytelling means, each arc is highly entertaining and usually comes with huge amount of character development, usually changing its focus to one of the members of the group, which makes each and every one of them worth watching. That said, the lack of continuity is, indeed, the main weakness of these series, at least in my eyes. But Jormungand is not deprived of an overreaching plot. Despite being surely a character driven series, the events in each arc are not completely independent from each other, and their connection between them isn’t brought upon only by the characters. The interweaving plot points are rather subtle so far, but the final episode heavily hinted towards a greater relation between all events, with a connection being established between the previous assassination attempts the group was victim of and the solidifying of the CIA’s interest in the group, which unexpectedly seems to go way beyond a lone agent who’s hunting for money and has been nothing but a bait for comedic relief. When we add to that Johan’s seek for revenge, about which we still have a lot to see, and the background of the HCLI itself and Koko’s relation with its leader (her father), which has been hinted but not touched too much upon just yet, we have plenty of things to look forward too, and if the second half of Jormungand succeeds in tying up all of these points tide and nicely, it’ll definitely turn out to be a truly great series.

The characters, which I’ve already mentioned before, stroke me as interesting from their first appearance, giving me an impression of depth, even before I could foresee any type of development for either of them. Their interactions are truly entertaining, though of course the spotlight here goes to Koko and Johan. The later, despite everything he has gone through and his amazing aptitude with guns, still has this natural childish side about him, though he’s careful not to let it show in front of Koko, only letting his cold and ruthless mood transpire. On the other hand, Koko is always smile, and trying her best to make him smile, while hiding her darker side which one can mostly perceive in moments where Johan isn’t present. That’s exactly what makes her such an interesting and mysterious character. She rarely travels the road of indiscriminate violence, though one has to wonder if that is out of good nature or sheer manipulation, as she is one who is definitely skilled in using others as pawns.

The antagonists are usually rather well developed too, which could be perceived as a waste of time, since most of them end up being one-time characters, but ends up being a positive point for the series, showing us all the sides of equation by demonstrating different points of view.

Something I cannot forget to mention is the dialogue in this series. From intelligently comedic to social criticizing, it is appealing, engaging and well-written, to the point where the viewer has to wonder whether is that or the action to carry this series. And of course, the action can’t be forgotten either. While the sole reason I picked this up was the fact it was going to be produced by White Fox, the relatively new studio which has been so praised for his high-quality adaptations, namely Steins;Gate and Katagatari, I’ve never expected them to succeed in making exciting and fluid action scenes. They have fortunately proved me wrong, as the action scenes, while somewhat unrealistic as it wasn’t otherwise expected, are not only exciting but still manage some believability.

As for the sound, it is my opinion that the background music was definitely the weakest part of the series. It’s a good musical score and it does fit its purpose, not being misused as it never feels out of place. Nonetheless, there were no tracks that stand out as noticeable, let alone others that would make me put a reminder to “download the OST as soon as it’s out”. The OP and ED songs, on the other hand, are some of the best this Spring season had to offer, fitting the series rather well and being excellent songs on their own merits.

In the end, I highly recommend this series, for it will make a good watch for pretty much anyone. Its writing is great, and those who want to get something out of what they watch will definitely find enough comparisons with the real world and human nature, as well as great quotes to analyze. But those are usually not left in a noticeable manner, for the show rarely has many slow moments, so those who just want to watch something entertaining for the sake of it will also have their quota filled with the flashy action and good comedy. This is something I’ve enjoyed a lot and I’ll definitely be eagerly awaiting the second season, which is airing this Fall.