Jormungand – 4

With every passing episode, the remaining cast of Jormungand appears less like a band of elite bodyguards and more like a team of functioning units.  While there has been no significant decrease in talent or ability among these exceptional soldiers, they maintain to lose what little humanity they began the anime with.  Rather than acting, behaving, or flourishing like what is expected of humans, these characters feel almost inorganic in how they live, almost like each is a piece of some grand machine that Koko operates.  Whether it’s a lack of character development in general or opportunity for significant depth to emerge, the cast of Jormungand (excluding Koko) is easily this anime’s greatest weakness.

Surrounding Koko in every episode is her entourage of protection and power.  These nine characters are an essential asset to any productive weapons dealer and a necessity for our protagonist to wield imposing authority and command wherever she stands.  Indeed, one could argue that these bodyguards are the primary reason for Koko’s success as a weapons dealer due to how they are able to influence the negotiations in Koko’s favor and defend her from those who are aiming for her life.  These characters excel at their professions and accomplish every assignment without as much as a hint of worry from Koko.  Without these soldiers, Koko would only be a fraction of what we see.  The bodyguards are certainly not a superfluous component of Jormungand; they are required for the anime and story to function the way they are intended.  That, however, is not an acceptable excuse for the lack of characterization for these bodyguards.

Though there is no issue with Koko’s team completing missions and securing deals in hazardous environments, there is a problem with how they are portrayed as characters in this anime.  A simple exercise to emphasize this point would be to name the nine characters and add a description to each beyond a simple “he’s a bodyguard for Koko”.  Unless you’ve read the manga or somehow already cheated, I’d be surprised to see anyone get past Jonah, Lehm, Valmet, Lutz, and Tojo (the 5 that I can name before I cheated).  The fact that these characters are difficult to name is enough of a problem let alone attempting to differentiate each other in their roles and personalities.  Unless each character was conceived to be as simple as we’ve seen through four episodes, the problem lies not with their design but how they are represented and shown in the anime.

One of the reasons there has been poor characterization in Jormungand is because of the lack of time spent with each of the characters.  Every episode so far has focused on Koko, something which I don’t expect to hear any complaints about since Koko is engaging, charismatic, and never below a 10 on a scale of 1-to-awesome, so there are only slivers of time that can be devoted or at least develop the remaining characters.  Here, another issue emerges: the time spent with these characters does little to nothing to describe their characters.  Aside from Jonah and Lehm, we hardly know anything about their pasts, their roles as bodyguards, how they think, or even what they like.  These details might never be essential to the story or their interactions with other characters but they’d add a level of complexity or depth to the characters to give them personalities better than a cardboard cut-out and enrich the anime by generating interest or concern in these characters.  Regardless of the source or justification behind this missing characterization, it is a negative for Jormungand.

The rationale for why having a weak main cast is a harmful for Jormungand is it strengthens these characters as undesirable and that can undermine the interest or energy of the anime.  We know these characters will appear again and again throughout the anime because there is a role for them.  Without any development or personality, these characters will immediately sap the excitement and energy from the scenes as they do whatever only for the anime to then return to Koko at a weaker state.  We know this anime is capable and can create dynamic and interesting characters like Koko, so why not try to do the same, albeit limited, for the rest of the cast.  If we knew more about them or actually cared about them, then the whole gunfight between Koko’s team and Orchestra would have actually meant something beyond “I hope they don’t mess up and get Koko hurt”.  Honestly, watching their vehicle get demolished and ramming into a roadside barrier did nothing for me since I know nothing nor cared about these characters.  Keeping characters like this around is detrimental to the anime since the whole gunfight never really generated any substantial interest despite it being one of the memorable hallmarks of this episode.  This is a problem for Jormungand but there are solutions that this anime can take to improve this issue and improve the anime.

Given the minimal amount of exposure these characters receive on a per episode basis, the actions they take are critical to improve their characters.  As long as the attention can be drawn to them and create some lasting impression of them, either serious or comedy, then we can begin to connect more with these characters.  For example, we had a shot near the end of this episode with Renato drinking some brown liquor staring off into the brightly lit skyline.  This is an ideal opportunity to develop not only Renato but another character as well.  Suppose in this shot, we see Valmet walk up behind Renato and say something along the lines of “don’t drink too much R, I don’t want to have to look after you again for another night” or whatever she’d say.  What that would do is create an image of Renato to have a drinking issue (which could come into issue later if he’s doing a mission while intoxicated) as well as make Valmet feel more responsible, like an authoritative figure when Koko isn’t around.  Furthermore, these issues could be expanded in later episodes, such as Renato being one of the more carefree members of the team and wanting to get people to go out drinking with him or even turn it into more of an alcoholism problem.  For Valmet, it could create some tension between her and some of the other characters of the series or use this as a platform for her to get closer to Koko by helping her manage her team while she’s not around.  There are limitless possibilities to go from something as simple and minor as that and one of its effects is to enrich the characters beyond what we already see.  They’d still be able to perform the duties that are required of them for the story but there’d be a whole new angle to them that would allow us to connect with these characters.

Regardless of whether these lesser characters are developed or not, Jormungand is still impressive as an anime.  When one of the major issues with the anime is a weak cast and nothing more serious like plot holes, inconsistencies within characters or themes, or just being boring, then the anime is doing fine.  Rather than ranting on this problem, it feels more like nitpicking the issue in order to figure out what Jormungand could be doing better and then seeing if the anime will improve on it or stagnate and continue on as normal.  Really, if the issue doesn’t resolve itself sometime during the first season of this anime, I won’t be tearing this anime down for making its bodyguards feel robotic in nature.  I may not applaud this anime as much if the issue is ignored and continue to highlight this topic but it isn’t something that damns this anime and puts it among the mediocre anime or worse.  As long as Koko is still as sensational and enchanting as she has been all season, I don’t think Jormungand will ever go below being one of my favorites this season.

With Orchestra eliminated (or so it seems), so is our chance of learning who put the hit on Koko or the reason why Orchestra was attempting to assassinate our protagonist.  Unless Chinatsu somehow survives and returns with others or discloses information in some way, then the issue of who’s trying to kill Koko will be displaced until a latter episode when the issue resurfaces.  Still, it is curious to see someone attempting to assassinate her when the CIA is also after her but in a more direct and unorthodox way.  It must be incredibly difficult for Koko to fend off such annoyances and dangers but it is all a part of her profession and her life and something she must deal with on an uncomfortably frequent basis.  However, the idea of someone trying to hunt down and kill Koko is intriguing and durable enough to last as a story throughout the entire anime, so we may see this issue play out something sooner rather than never.

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  1. #1 by Anon on May 3, 2012 - 2:29 AM

    The anime will focus on character analysis starting from Jonah starting next week. Every characters will be explored.

    • #2 by avvesione on May 3, 2012 - 10:28 AM

      Wonderful, I’m glad to hear that. Thanks for letting me know.

      The question becomes now, how does the series manage to develop the nine characters (plus further Koko) while managing a consistent story across the remaining 20 episodes. I hope the series doesn’t remain episodic in its stories to optimize character development but I imagine it might be difficult otherwise given the diversity of their backgrounds. Guess I’ll find out.

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