The diversity of settings, both physical and societal, has had a profound effect on Jormungand. Not only has the constant variation in setting provided dissimilar locations in which to stage the world and enhance our understanding of how weapons dealing affects these regions but these different backdrops all have special needs from weapons dealers and have presented Koko and her enterprise with unique challenges and obstacles for her to address or overcome. As each episode has taken us to a distinct area of the globe, every setting has allowed Jormungand to explore and expose various topics, ideas, and trials that would otherwise be unmanageable with only a single, defined location for which to base the anime off of.
The eighth episode of Jormungand saw Koko and her entourage return home to London, England, the location where generals from warring nations were seeking to invest their funds in modern recon technologies. For reference, we’ve seen Koko negotiate with military forces before but the second episode showed her wanting to avoid being hassled into a long-term commitment with a mismanaged rebel force that lacked proper funds. This episode, however, featured wealthy militaries that only required technologies that their nations urgently needed and possessed the greatest capabilities for gathering intelligence. And rather than in the second episode where the only competition readily backed down at inconvenient prospect of being lassoed in with the impoverished rebels, Koko needed to contest with an affluent yet cutthroat weapons dealer who already had a head-start. So while some aspects of the story are similar to previous episodes, the content of each are different enough to produce entirely distinctive episodes.
But how does the setting affect these episodes or stories? Wouldn’t it be possible to have the stories of episode 2 and 8 be in the same setting? Well, it’s true that it is possible to stage both episodes, or any episode for that matter, in the same setting. But what it does is that it restricts the story as well as keep the characters in the same environment. What settings are able to do are set different perimeters for the story for which they can set in. For example, the warring forces in the southern Russian boarder are prone to raids, bombings, and sabotage. That couldn’t happen in London without an international crisis starting which would probably end with all hell breaking free. Similarly, the people in these settings had different needs with the rebels needing weapons immediately and indefinitely while the generals of Country B (aptly named, I must say) could shop around and bargain for the best deals for their militaries. Not only that but the physical environments, probably what comes to mind first for most when discussing settings, are outrageously different, too. The barren, desolate landscape of the Caucasus Mountains gives a sense of isolation, desperation, and hardship compared to the comfortable urban jungle of London, renowned for its class, prestige, wealth, and safety. Additionally, it also shows how Koko moves throughout the world to promote her company rather than sitting behind a desk in a private office. We’re able to see her pursue more deals, persuade her clients more effectively, and ultimately increase her profits and overall influence. So while it is possible for the two stories to be set in the same location, the diversity of settings can allow for the stories to show many different things. But how exactly does this impact the story or influence the anime beyond these simple aesthetic or social changes?
Perhaps the best answer for such a question is to see how the setting affects the various challenges Koko and her team faces and how they respond and overcome these adversities. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the settings define the perimeters and circumstances for a story, so the diverse settings provide different foundations for each story. If an episode is selected to take place in some distinct location, it limits the possibilities for the story to be narrated over, but, if the selection is ideal, the setting will be able to improve or develop the story over a number of other options. Consider this episode and some of the examples used before. Here, we’re given a safe, controlled, and wealthy environment for which Koko to conduct her business and attack her rival through her own methods. Rural settings or those taking place in underdeveloped nations would slightly change the way the story would flow, perhaps requiring more security around Koko or allowing Koko to authorize more violence. That’s just one impact.
Another way the setting can shape the story is how the people act within the setting. This continues to draw off the preceding ideas, but it is distinct enough compared to the former one that is has its own influences. Consider the rival in this episode, Amalia Tolokhovsky, an actress-turned-weapons dealer whom conducted herself pleasantly and civilly when in the presence of others. This behavior mirrors that of a general impression of London, so her actions and demeanor would clash given the foreboding, desolate desertscape of the second episode or the isolation and hopelessness of sailing the oceans in the fifth episode. Moreover, the security, militaries, or representatives act accordingly, too, given their location and their objectives. However, it is possible for people to counter their assumed roles for either deceit or aggression, that can entirely fit within the setting but run opposite to the story or whatever our expectations were. There haven’t been very many prime examples of this happening but the second episode showed the general who was buying equipment and weapons from Koko order his men to aim their weapons at her and coax her into signing a long-term contract with them for the duration of their campaign. You couldn’t expect someone to threaten or blackmail their provider after agreeing to an initial deal yet those personalities and actions were fitting for the setting given their distressed nature and their inadequate funds.
Lastly, seeing how Koko overcomes the different challenges presented to her and her comrades is another method for how the setting impacts every episode. Though her primary goals are usually the same, her procedures and activities often require adjustments given the unique challenges presented to her. And more times than not, something pertaining to the setting is used for her to solve the matters and obtain the optimal outcome. In this episode, Koko was able to have Tojo and Chocolade negotiate with foreign militaries to buy her equipment and use that information to hinder Amalia’s sales by escalating the value in Koko’s goods compared to hers. Additionally, setting up snipers to ensure the safety of her and Amalia at the end of the episode is another effect, though only slightly, that the setting had on this episode. While true that either could be used in most of the previous episodes and have been detailed before in the series, there are ultimately decided by the setting and the location of these events. The talks conducted by Tojo and Chocolade were probably the most exclusive to this episode as a means of undermining her enemy but it is possible for it to happen again so long as Koko is competing with another weapons dealer. The point here is that the setting defines the perimeters for the story for which to evolve and it’s up to Koko and her team to use what’s provided to them to finish the story.
Jormungand is one of the better anime when it comes to utilizing its setting. The assortment of settings has been meaningful how the stories develop in every episode and is a major reason why we’ve seen such an abundant variety of subjects and themes in these episodes. Its impressive considering the amount of different locations the anime has taken place and the types of episodes and conflicts covered but Jormungand has handled this challenge quite impressively though it has been unrecognized and underappreciated among fans of this anime. Hopefully this delightful trait of Jormungand will no longer be overlooked and be better understood as a strength in the series and a reason for the disconnected, yet sequential overall storyline of the anime.
Koko’s quick discourse on her philosophy of the mask over the face and the armor over the heart immediately struck me as significant. We were well aware of her façade throughout the episode, both being detected by Amalia and disclosed by Koko, so the mask analogy made sense. Likewise, the armor over the heart was alluded to in this episode as well as Koko was defending herself, and her business no less, throughout the second half when her plans were in action. But does this idea extend to previous episodes and will it retain importance into the future? Certainly the idea of Koko wearing a mask makes sense given the change in her personalities around different people but what about the armor over the heart? The obvious application of this theme would be that Koko wants to protect everyone around her and that is the ‘armor’ around her ‘heart’ but could it also be a more personal issue than this? Could it also be implying that Koko has sealed her heart off from other people in order to protect her ideals and dreams? And with her engrossing and cherished relationship with Jonah, could he be creating a weakness in this armor? Regardless of whether this will be important or not for the rest of the series, it is interesting to notice that Koko is well aware of the mask she wears and the armor she bears and how she uses these to her advantages. But even more interesting will be to see how these change when either one of her defenses should fail her.