If we are to believe that Jormungand presents an accurate illustration of the modern arms dealing industry, then we can conclude that the intricate relationship between wholesalers and clients involves frequent gunfights, blackmailing each other, ruthless treachery, and little to no customer appreciation. We all know an industry as awesome as that could not exist in the real world but there is some truth in how the industry works in Jormungand. Of course, to make the story exciting and entertaining, elements of action and adventure were introduced to make the anime more appealing. However, that story cannot be merely idealistic and action-packed nonsense, Jormungand needs to retain some of the real world as a means to tell its story the way it wants to. So how does Jormungand find its happy medium by being both realistic and entertaining?
Now I don’t claim to have any first-hand knowledge of how arms dealing works in the real world (and I imagine you don’t either), but we can use what we’ve seen in Jormungand to figure out how it all works. The first and probably the most important aspect is figuring out how an arms dealer operates. I assume arms dealing is hardly standardized across the industry and each operation runs their business in their own ways but there are probably specifics that each dealer follows to maintain clients and connections and receive goods and payments. This freedom in how arms dealers operate is crucial to Jormungand because it allows Koko to run her operation as a representative of HCLI in a seemingly legitimate way but also allow for the story to include action, comedy, and whatever else to effectively narrate its story. Without it, or if the audience had common knowledge of how the arms dealing industry operates (wouldn’t that be something, a show about arms dealers FOR arms dealers?), the anime would be limited in its capacity to tell its story with action, adventure, comedy and other engaging elements. The fact that we don’t understand the arms dealing industry nor how arms dealers operate is what allows the story to pursue its own paths and create a story that’s both entertaining and fascinating.
But even with that freedom, Jormungand could still be entirely realistic and adhere firmly to an accurate model of the arms industry, one discovered through actual research or be authenticated by a legitimate source. Likewise, it could also be all actiony and fantasy and be as unrealistic as it wanted to be, too, with everyone having superpowers and piloting a drug-fueled microbus through time. Instead, Jormungand chose to incorporate characteristics of both, which is what makes the anime as amusing and interesting as it currently is.
Balancing the two sides, however, and creating an anime that displays the qualities of both real world arms dealing and action/adventure/comedy is challenging, especially since these two parts don’t always fit well together. The first two episodes of Jormungand have done an impressive job describing how Koko runs her operation and how her sales and contracts function. We’ve seen her use tactics in gaining the upper hand in negotiations and how to avoid a disastrous situation with a client who lacks the funds for what they want. We’ve also seen Koko deal with another arms dealer, Mr. Currie, and witnessed the relationship and tension between competition entities. We’ve learned more about her philosophy on wars, weapons, and soliders (her line saying ‘they were neither enemy nor friend,’ I found powerful for Koko’s character) and can understand her perspective and actions better now as an arms dealer. All these details show the real world traits of Jormungand and give the anime its theme and perspective as well as provide structure for the story to grow and the characters to develop. These foundations are essential to the story and by seeing how Koko runs her business, we can understand the story, the characters, and the general mechanics of this anime.
But if the anime were just that, Koko talking to various clients, making sales, managing her supply chain, and dealing with various business politics, then Jormungand might as well be Business 382 the Anime. The elements which make Jormungnad watchable aren’t the arms dealing business but the action, adventure, comedy, and whatever else you’re into. That’s what makes anime enjoyable and that’s no different for Jormnugnad. The action sequences where the bodyguards are slaughtering the soldiers or the helicopters hunting infantry or the standoff at the beginning or anything else, that’s what makes Jormungand thrilling. Koko’s eccentric and humorous personality and behavior, not the mention the quirks and oddities of the rest of the cast are what make Jormungand amusing. And the journey that awaits with following Koko and her adventures as an arms dealer is what makes Jormungand exciting. The anime depends on these elements to make the anime watchable and they are all present and accounted for. But even if that’s what makes the anime enjoyable, it can’t be that entirely and needs to balance with the business-side of the anime. That’s where the issue of balance enters the equation.
Balancing both sides, like mentioned earlier, is challenging, especially for an anime like this, but Jormungand does an outstanding job by making sure one side is never outweighing the other. Perhaps the best example of this is having the weapons trade lead into action sequences, such as the breakdown of communications leading to that standoff or the fact that bad-mouthing the arms dealers caused the subsequent firefight that ended the episode. The sense of adventure in Jormungand comes with following Koko and her entering into these intense and deadly contracts and dealings with soldiers and competition allows the anime to fulfill its desire to be exciting. And the comedy is there to carry otherwise heavy or serious scenes from lasting too long or lightening the mood of the anime at appropriate times. By feeding off each other, Jormungand is able to balance both sides of itself. By managing both aspects in this manner and promoting their strengths in this anime, Jormungand is able to make an anime that is both entertaining and somewhat accurate of the weapons trade industry in the real world. It doesn’t matter that Jormugand is not an accurate representation of the weapons trade industry since that is what makes Jormungand a satisfying and phenomenal anime.
The original main topic for this post was about the use of facial expressions in Jormungand, specifically the frightening smiles of Koko and the use of darkening the eyes in various scenes, but it is a weak topic and has been reduced to my afterthoughts section. Some of Koko’s most intense smiles are unlike any I’ve seen in anime. If I were to describe it with words, I’d say it’s almost Grinch-like in how it shows ultimate pleasure and genuine malevolence. These smiles of hers almost paint her character as insane or demonic. It really is quite something because I never think of her character as that, though at times she does seem a bit crazy or hysterical. Still, I love that smile for its eerie nature and overwhelming presence.
The whole shadows-over-the-eyes is another expression I’ve grown to appreciate in this anime. Where other characters show dejections, disappointment, and tedium through sighs and complaints, the characters of Jormungand show these emotions in their face, specifically when their eyes turn black and the face grows tired or emotionless. At first I was confused at what it exactly meant since it is a unique art style for me but I comprehended its implications at the end of the first episode and was able to appreciate it in all its uses in this episode. While still somewhat strange to look at, those scenes lead me to a few smiles and a laugh or two during the episode, so the shadowy eyes is effective as a means to communicate emotions. These two new ways of expression facial expressions through art is something I’ve come to enjoy with Jormungand.