Jormungand – 5

The presentation of academia in anime is often determined by its limitations.  An author begins to discover problems in their stories when they begin to toy with knowledge beyond their fields of expertise.  They can also equally jeopardize the interest of their audience with topics that are monotonous [oh look, irony!] or beyond the scope of their general understanding.  The apparent solution is to dismiss any focus on schooling altogether or simply force it into the background to the point where schools seem less like an institution for education and more like a sociable jail for teens.  Jormungand, however, has made it a point to educate Jonah with Tojo, Willie, and Mao wearing the hat of teacher when things aren’t exploding.  But Jormgunand, like a majority of anime, faces limitations in how it depicts education which is chiefly represented through its either intended or unintentional favoritism of language and literature over mathematics and science.

After Jonah accurately but imprecisely answered a trivial math question about airplane wheels, Koko sensibly mandated that Jonah receive an education to prevent anymore hilarious hijinks or suspicion to his character.  Since then, Jonah has had regular schooling from three learned scholars who happened to be following Koko as seasoned bodyguards.  The trifecta of wisdom has Tojo teaching math, Willie on language arts, and Mao coaching the sciences.  With this super-team of sages, Jonah is certain to attain their levels of education in minimal time and become an accomplished academic, just as Koko had envisioned.  But alas, the restrictions and boundaries set forth by storytelling and the medium of anime will see that this process faces some impairment and that the education in this anime behaves just like any other.

The first limitation for education in Jormungand is largely based on assumptions but backed with adequate logic.  I presume most of the people in the animation or manga industry excelled or, at a minimum, were interested in the arts, literature, language, and studies along those lines because the professions they have mirror more with those fields than mathematics and the sciences.  Additionally, a majority of anime tend focus on art, writing, storytelling, and their derivatives (analogies and parodies) than the other branches of education in their characters and stories.  Of course, there are no facts to back this up and this is all speculation but there is logic to suggest that the writers and animators were better at writing and art than they were in the sciences and that is reflected in their current professions.  If that is the case, however, then that leads into why we see a boundary on education in Jormungand.

Assuming the previous statement to be true for Jormungand, than we can extrapolate it further and apply it to Jonah’s interests in school as well as the character’s reactions to it.  To put it bluntly, Jonah is interested in language, literature and stories because the author imposed it and a likely reason he did so is because he is interested in it as well.  This obviously doesn’t hold true to everyone as Tojo and Mao are proficient in the other fields but they are also not lead characters like Jonah is.  Furthermore, Jonah has been resistant to most of the schooling he’s received and often ditches it like we all wish we could do in our younger years, but he studies diligently and remains interested in Willie’s teachings which is contradictory to his earlier behaviors.  Similarly, in the limited time we’ve seen Jonah actually studying, the bulk of it has been these language studies in this episode.  Considering all these variables, it’s clear that the language aspect of education is promoted while the fields of math and science are largely restricted or dismissed.

It’s even evident in how the teacher’s respond to Jonah’s behavior, too.  Tojo and Mao put a minimal effort into teaching Jonah his lessons.  If he gets up and leaves the room, they don’t put up much of a fight and searching for him consists of asking others with as little emotion as humanly possible.  Hell, they even joke about it that he only skips the math and science lessons like it’s not a serious issue.  Really, I see their behavior as more damning because they’re doing a disservice to Koko and Jonah.  Koko wants to see Jonah receive a proper and complete education so that he can have a normal, functional life when he becomes an adult.  This attitude by Tojo and Mao shows disrespect toward Koko because they’re not taking the issue as seriously as she is.  It probed about this though, Koko would merely laugh it off or do something whimsical but deep down she truly cares for Jonah and wants the best for him.

How this connects back to the subject of this post is that the author likely feels the same as Tojo and Mao do about mathematics and the sciences.  Again, this is another assumption, but it’s likely he doesn’t really care about them like he does the language arts.  And if he doesn’t care, then the education in Jormungand will be bound by what his interests are and how his characters behave around these subjects.  There were, of course, a number of assumptions in these points on why education is limited in anime but the idea is supported through both logic and trends in anime.  This isn’t true for every anime and there are quite a number that provide more an angle on math and science or others that present a more comprehensive angle of education but this largely holds true for Jormungand.

The second point on why education is restricted in Jormungand is because of a more general limitation dictated by storytelling.  Jormungand has thankfully included education as a minor subject in its story but it’s not the main storyline and thusly, only has specified incidences when it can be used and a rationed amount of time to convey its message.  This is true for most subjects and themes in anime.  Education just happens to be one of the subjects that never really is a main story in anime because it’s often boring or, for that tiny population that does hold some interest in the subject, it can quickly become tedious or droning.  Because of these reasons, education has an incredibly specific and defined perimeter in the story and can only be used when relevant or useful to it.  Watching Jonah learn math, read a book, or do anything related to leveling up his knowledge doesn’t really relate to the sale of weapons, intense firefights, or the excellent comedy in this anime.  Furthermore and pertaining to the whole angle of language arts over math and science in Jormungand is that it is easier to incorporate other stories and languages into a story to emphasize a point or theme than it is for math and science to be utilized.  In this episode, Willie told Jonah about the old Chinese legend about the spear and the shield and how it related to contradictions.  Moreover was the idea that stories and language carry multiple meanings which is more attractive to those who aren’t thrilled with the prospect of only one true answer that are required of the sciences and math.  Because of the nature of these fields of education, it’s easier to include examples from the realm of language and literature than it is for math and science (unless they are explanations to the natural world or likewise).  Considering these factors it is no surprise to see the education incomplete in Jormungand and for the language arts to be dominant in relation to math and science.

How the education changes, either in its scope, length, or presentation from this point forward will be interesting to see.  We’ve already had two different episodes incorporate this theme into the anime, so it will likely be a point of emphasis later on in the series or be used in Jonah’s character in some way or another.  It could also not change; Jonah could continue to stay interested in only the language arts and grow up to be a novelist or manga artist by the end of the anime.  And of course, there are no problems with Jormungand taking this approach to how it illustrates education.  The story and characters have not been affected by it in any considerable sense though I still am curious about how Koko feels about Jonah skipping classes and her true intentions of educating Jonah.  And given that this is a general trend seen in a mainstream of anime, this is not unusual for Jormungand to take this approach.  Though the education in Jormungand is incomplete, it is expected to be this way given the varying perimeters of anime.  We should be thankful that Jormungnad has taken such a dedicated approach to education, though, as we’ve seen use of education in this anime than a vast majority of all the school anime available.

Kasper’s negotiations with Jonah left me a bit dumbfounded and somewhat stumped.  From the perspective of Jonah, which is how the scene was staged, Jonah becomes a soldier in exchange for the lives of the three orphans.  That’s not a bad deal for Jonah, especially since we saw how valuable the lives of his cohorts were given his bloody rampage and subsequent massacre on the military base.  But what about the other end of the deal, what exactly did Kasper gain through this negotiation?  His end of the deal requires him to send the kids to Japan where we assume they’ll live normal lives, so that’s a loss for him.  What does he gain?  A new bodyguard?  Nope, Kasper sends Jonah to his sister Koko since she’s interested in him.  So through these negotiations, Kasper receives nothing.  I assume there must be something going on between Koko and Kasper that was held off-screen and that will become relevant or important later but until then, these negotiations are a gain for Koko, neutral for Jonah, and a loss for Kasper.  Maybe we’ll learn more about Kasper gaining something from Koko but given their familial and pleasant relationship with each other, I doesn’t seem serious.  But given that Kasper appears to be our antagonist to Jonah as our protagonist, I assume this issue is just the beginning and we have a long way until everything between these three characters is completely resolved.

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  1. #1 by Anon on May 10, 2012 - 12:26 AM

    I think the mangaka avoided math and science because it would be not as intestering. For example, Jonah learning simple addition and subtraction would bore the audience. Furthermore, it does not contribute to the story. On the other hand, the theme 矛盾 contradiction, is relevant to the overarching plot. One of the examples would be Koko. She claims that she sells weapon to achieve world peace, yet the very weapon she sells are instigating war. This contradictory behaviour would be increasingly apparent as the story moves on.

    • #2 by avvesione on May 10, 2012 - 1:26 AM

      True, the theme of contradiction will be important in the series, especially since Jonah was interested in it and it was immediately related to Koko. But the inclusion of the humanities in the story doesn’t justify the dismissal of the sciences, nor does it explain Jonah’s disinterest in those subjects.

      The series could include the idea of contradiction in addition to having Jonah learn math and science without really affecting the series at all. In fact, it could even augment some scenes. For example, Jonah could learn something about physics or chemistry or distance or angles and apply it to a fight much like how contradiction will be applied to Koko. Your other point about it being ignored since it’s boring could also be countered by simply having Jonah attend his lessons rather than skipping them. There doesn’t need to be any intricate level of detail of math or science to be explained for it to be included. The fact that Jonah is indifferent with math and science shows a favoritism toward language and literature in Jormungand whether intended or not.

      But those are just my thoughts on the issue. It sounds like you’ve completed the manga and are already aware of what will happen in the story so maybe there’s something that you know that I don’t. Anyway, thanks for comment!

  2. #3 by John Sato on May 25, 2012 - 4:56 PM

    I almost feel like we aren’t getting the whole story with Kasper and Jonah. Why would Jonah try to kill Kasper, when it would clearly jeopardize the safety of the three kids under his [Kasper’s] care? The kids who were, you know, pretty much the whole reason Jonah agreed to it? So then, why would he try to take out Kasper? This may just be a plot hole, but it does make me wonder if Kasper went back on his end of the deal and we haven’t been told about it. Not extremely likely, but not impossible either.

    • #4 by avvesione on May 26, 2012 - 12:18 AM

      I believe that since Jonah is still a child, he quickly became irrational when he lashed out at Kasper on the ship rather than thinking about the lives of the orphans he befriended. Either that or he believes the revenge of his family and village surpass that of the lives the children have. Or, as you mentioned in your comment, we might be missing some details and Kasper did off the children when Jonah was with Koko. There might be some missing pieces of information from this confrontation that we have yet to know but there are a few things we can guess given what we’ve received thus far. Since it hasn’t been explained yet (and probably never will be) we can assume it’s one of any number of possibilities. And if it isn’t explained, then the author didn’t intend for it to be important besides starting Jonah’s flashback and showing the current status of their relationship.

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