Jormungand – 12

While the story of Jormugnand documents the adventures of Koko and her select crew of proficient bodyguards, there are considerable flaws in the storytelling that otherwise inhibit the anime from thriving and fulfilling its vast potential.  Though the characters and content have been stimulating and effective thus far, considerable faults exist in how these affairs progress and ultimately how the characters react and change under these intense conditions.  Though there have been challenges and obstacles for the characters to overcome in these various events, there are hardly any challenges or obstacles in their stories.  That is, there are virtually no complications or resistance in Jormungand in regards to how the stories unfold and resolve themselves.

An example that illustrates this claim is in the story of how Valmet realized her revenge against the villain who slaughtered her company and tormented her soul.  Although Jormungand shows no reservations about promoting tremendous bloodshed and brutal carnage in every episode, the anime seems reluctant, hesitant, or merely timid about inflicting an equivalent counter on its established cast members, a trend that has been visible throughout every skirmish in this anime.  Regarding the ruthless killings, the anime has zero qualms about seeing reputable villains like Chang or previously with Chinatsu be murdered as a segment in the story but it is absolutely adamant against the same outcome happening to any of Koko’s underlings.  And even when positioned in an ideal situation for which a character to meet their end or capture them for questioning or providing some resistance or any negative outcome, a dependable and expert assassin fails despite firing her handgun at point-blank while landing most her bullets in the vulnerable torso of her target.  The end result is our heroine achieving her goals with the only set back of suddenly appearing in a hospital while well on the road to recovery.  Her story began this episode with her wanting to take revenge, her taking revenge, and her returning home all like it was a simple trip to the grocery store for some milk and sugar.  It’s moments like this that painfully reveal the lack of difficulties or challenges for the stories in Jormungand.

So, what is it that I’m looking for that would have satisfied my desire for a real story to be shown in Jormungand?  Well, a number of obstacles could have appeared to make this tale of revenge more gratifying.  The sight of Valmet being overpowered and losing to a mid-boss or the main-boss would have shown that Valmet is still too early to obtain her revenge.  The fact that she was able to waltz in, murder every living thing, and do this all without as much as a sweat leads me to wonder how worthless this story is considering how effortless her actions are.  Another possibility could be that she missed Chang and that her revenge would need to be placed on hold, thus causing the character more frustration at the prospect of her ditching Koko for a failure of a mission.  That or Valmet could be placed in a predicament where she is forced to choose between returning to Koko for her required assistance or to continue with her current mission and to murder Chang would have led to some interesting internal debate over whether her sights were placed on her troubled past or her bright future.  But no, the story seemed satisfied with merely going from point A to point B without as much as a bump, curve, or speed limit.  I can’t help but wonder how lethargically the writing was in this part, akin to a script saying “Valmet wants revenge >> Valmet gets revenge >> Valmet rejoins Koko” and never giving the sequence a second thought.

And this leads to a larger point in the anime that ties in with some previous examples regarding the action of the anime: the most noticeable flaw in Jormungand is the lack of challenges, problems, and impediments in its story.  Instead, Jormungand relies on episodic tales which feature the familiar cast being caught up in some dangerous and deadly situation but always finding a way out without any more damage than a bandaged butt.  It’s true that the characters face individual challenges, such as Valmet being targeted by the sniper, but the story itself always receives a free pass and vrooms down the easy street without the slightest hint of an obstacle.  The most the series has done in regards to this were trapping Koko in with the bankrupt rebels in episode 2, being trapped inside the hotel with assassins afoot in episode 4, and needing to avoid Dragon’s onslaught in episode 10.  Coincidently or not, those are also some of my favorite or most appreciate episodes in the series in regards to what they were able to do.  The rest of the stories were straightforward storylines that never really generated any excitement or energy.  And episodes like that have caused the series to suffer as a result, thus making this the biggest liability in Jormungand.  But thankfully, this error is correctable and can be performed quite readily.

With the second half of Jormungand scheduled for the crisp, cool evenings of our approaching autumn, we can hope to see improvements in the anime in terms of storytelling.  Though ultimately up to the manga this anime is based off of, logic would assume that the storytelling would develop along with the story as they approach its climax and the story begins to carry more weight and reveal itself.  What the story needs is not more tension, danger, and a loss of invincibility for the cast (though that would help considerably), Jormungand needs to show Koko and her team face adversity in their actions and for them to lose at something.  Show them get into a situation where it forces the characters to think and change as a result or for them to show some division and a crack in their camaraderie.  Maybe there’ll be a situation where characters betray each other or create mistakes that endanger each other in dire situations.  Whatever the reason, I want to see an outcome where it doesn’t work out for Koko and company or one where it requires them to accomplish some challenge or overcome some adversity or manage some difficulty in order to advance.  Then, everything else regarding the poor action and structureless story will begin to resolve themselves, too.  This all, however, ultimately depends on the manga and the story already established for this anime.  Should the anime reveal itself to be one of the more memorable and acclaimed anime of this year, then these recommendations will hopefully be incorporated in some manner to improve the anime in its second season this autumn.  Should it not be in the future of this anime, then unfortunately, Jormungand will continue to suffer as a result and we’ll be left wondering what could have been for an anime with such awesome and wasted potential as this one.

And while I’ve been highly critical of Jormungand all season, each of my blog posts pointing out some errant dissatisfaction and focusing on it with details and suggestions, Jormungand has become one of the more enjoyable anime of the season given what is has done.  Koko has been a fabulous lead given her charismatic nature, playful tone, and ability to think on her feet.  She’s the type of character that an anime builds itself around and there have really been no faults on who she is and what she’s done for this anime.  Moreover, the cast has grown up along with Koko and their allegiance to her has been clarified on an individual basis with each character getting their brief time in the spotlight at random occurrences.  Though the action is indeed mindless, unnecessary, and often unrealistic, it has made episodes more enjoyable given the fact that they’re elite soldiers trying to kill each other.  While it has not been perfect, it is nonetheless appreciated.  The comedy has been infrequent but always remains intact to provide smiles throughout and even a few laughs from time to time.  And there are no real faults on the art and music, especially given the gorgeous scenery the anime has displayed throughout.  Overall, Jormungand is an anime I spend time critiquing since I’ve been enjoying it so much.  Rather than go on and on about what I enjoy about the series every week, I feel the need to go on every fault I find and see what I would do differently in order to maintain the same level of enjoyment and excitement while addressing whatever issue I find.  I don’t mean to rant on the series constantly, but for me to identify each weakness and look for possible solutions for each.  I am excited to continue this anime again in the autumn and I almost wish the anime weren’t taking a break over what appears to be a rather bleak summer in terms of anime.  Until then!

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  1. #1 by DVkun on July 5, 2012 - 9:14 AM

    I personally think the Japanese anime industry have a hard time with these types of stories. Unlike american TV companies who have military experts, Former CIA FBI and other people to pull from. Japan (at the fault of the US) is pretty much on lock down in this area. Hell I don’t believe they have that many guns at all in japan. So it seems every-time there is a show like this they have these fanciful ideas of how military operations/skirmishes play out. They are usually pain or consiconces free usually and the main person comes up against little to no resistance…….there are exceptions: Ghost in the Shell is one…but even then if you notice they didn’t really lose too many of their own in that show. I think this is why the anime industry pretty much shy away from shows like this……there just doesn’t seem to be anybody in the business right now who can tell a compelling story with these types of mechanics. It’s all Fatansy and Moe. It’s even more frustrating that they tried to put a comedic spin on some of the killings in this show……it doesn’t work here at all. It’s sad but I doubt we’ll see another Ghost in the shell or Canaan for a long time.

    • #2 by avvesione on July 5, 2012 - 11:30 AM

      I agree with you that the anime industry has some challenges with these types of shows but I believe they are for different reasons. I don’t believe it is the lack of military influence or oversight since those could easily be fixed by having the authors or directors interview or request assistance from these people to help with their story. A current example of this is having JAXA and NASA help with Space Brothers. It probably has some effect on the anime and how it goes about telling its story, but I believe there’s another, larger factor at play here that inhibits the ability of these anime to be their fullest.

      The audience ultimately dictates what happens and how it happens in an anime. While it’s true the author has the final say, they’re essentially forced by what they believe their audience wants because that is what will sell their manga/anime. If the author were to ignore it and write the story to their wishes, then they’d be in danger of not having the manga/anime sell that well and have it turn out poorly. What the audience wants to see in this story, as well as what the author wants and writes, is for a an action story like Jormungand which doesn’t have as much compelling action as we’d like and tends to focus a bit more on characterization and comedy than intense action scenes and the likes. Actually, a few of these scenes are depicted realistically, but unfortunately, most are not and they’re done rather boringly. Similarly, I believe the whole superpowered/superhero-type lead is a popular storytelling technique in Japanese culture as it has been expressed in numerous styles and genres, so seeing Koko’s team as powerful as they are should be no surprise. I suppose we have that in the West, too, with our action heroes and the likes but they’re shown differently than what we see in anime. And because the audience is familiar with this style, understands it, and, perhaps most importantly, enjoys it, that explains why Jormungand is the way it is. Or, at least that’s how I think it is in regards to the points you laid out.

  2. #3 by Joojoobees on July 8, 2012 - 8:27 AM

    Jormungand has another problem that this episode made clear to me. I think you used the term “Lazy” very appropriately.

    After Velmat attacks the boss, there is a cut to another character waking up, and my thought was, “what? was this all a dream?” If I understood correctly, the two characters are supposed to be Finnish and Chinese, but I finally realized they were two different characters because the second character didn’t have an eyepatch.

    Also Ugo’s origin story at the beginning of this episode had the exact same plot as the trade that went bad in the previous episode. I was completely confused as to whether this episode’s event were an extension of the previous episode or not.

    I agree that the show is too timid in showing that bad things happen to the “good” guys, as well. My preference would have been for Valmet and her Chinese double to both have died. It didn’t bother me that she succeeded in taking down her nemesis, but after seeing her gunned down, she should have died.

    This episode also introduced a new character in the dumbest way I can imagine — making the ending very confusing. Who hired the trio of assassins? I was expecting them to show that. Does that mean the Bookman is the one who hired them?

    I don’t think the problems in storytelling that Jormungand exhibits are the fault of lack of experience with weapons. That is not where this show falls apart for me. The problems are from not taking the story-telling aspects seriously.

    • #4 by avvesione on July 8, 2012 - 1:09 PM

      Yeah, the more I reflect on Jormungand, the more I’m able to notice faults with the series. All the points you listed are areas where the series could’ve improved itself with just a bit more effort or care on its part (except for maybe Ugo’s story, I didn’t have a problem with that). And as you mention, these are all aspects of storytelling that produce these faults. It is perhaps the weakest aspect of the anime, but there are other issues as well. The weapons are perhaps the most glaring for me since Koko’s team pretty much posses God-given abilities to dodge bullets and kill everyone without any repercussions. It isn’t fun to watch something like that since the thrill is zero and the outcome already known. And in addition to that, there are a number of other areas where Jormungand can improve itself, so let’s pray they solve these issues between now and the next season coming up this Autumn.

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