Jormungand. The World Snake. Encircler of the globe and a being who once saw the very rays of the sun blocked from view. If you believe the legend. But what place does such a mythical tale have in a world of gun runners and warmongering? Is it the terrifying nom de guerre of a sinister foe? A warning for those who choose to listen? Or something more?
Though the battlefield is where the world focuses most of its attention, there is an equally sinister domain lurking in the shadows. For those who stop to ponder the state of the world, one question arises; Where do the weapons come from? Arms dealers, gun runners, warmongers, proprietors of weaponry. Call them what you will, the end result is the same; instruments of war will find their way into the hands of those will use them…whether they’re willing to or not. An uncertainty explored by the main cast, though none moreso than Jonah. From a tragic past that thrust him on the path of war, this poor child has become yet another cog in the machine of carnage. With an unabashed hatred of the very weaponry he utilises, Jonah is a contradiction unto himself, living in a world that has brought him nothing but torment. With no end to this life in sight, he is forced to continue under the employ of one of the arms dealers who has no doubt inadvertently affected him; Koko Hekmatyar.
A youthful beauty who seems out of place in such a vile world, Koko has carved a place for herself as a go to gun runner for armies across the globe…though her family name/connection certainly didn’t hurt. Throughout her travels, this driven woman cultivated her own crew of highly trained, intensely loyal bodyguards from numerous countries and backgrounds. As the plot develops, our attention is forced throughout the main cast until we can approximate a knowledge of what makes them who they are and the choices that led them to fall under the employ of Koko. Luckily for the sake of story, a great deal of this exposition is directly relevant to the plot of an individual episode, though the degree to which it intertwines depends on the character. The overall reveal of this information also ties in with the overall viewpoint of Jonah, who is often the one who instigates these walks down memory lane, what with him being the new guy and all.
Given the nature of the world it encompasses, Jormungand carries a palpable sense of drama throughout. That being said, its existence as an anime also introduces a levity that casts a humour on a world that is not often seen, even if it is dark at times. The overall tone it creates prevents this from being a depressing affair and represents the glimmers of hope and goodness that exist within these soldiers, allowing us to find allies amidst the violence. However, the series is also not discreet about reminding us the work that these characters undertake, meting the pleasantry it creates. It’s realism meets expectation, though for the most part it’s left up to you to decide if the character’s actions are justified, or if they are beyond redemption.
In the earlier parts of the series, we are treated to a monster of the week format, though the monsters of Jormungand are a little less gnashing teeth and more juggernauts of business. We follow along with business as (mostly) usual and witness the anime-fied world of arms dealing. However, as the series moves onward and we come to learn more of the characters who inhabit it, the plot shifts into a more singular form. Though jobs are still undertaken that retain the variation of situation and location, there is undeniably a larger story at work in the background. This culminates in a ending that is quite different from where the story begins. It’s called escalation and it’s hard to miss. This is especially true in moments that, by all means, could continue into completely believable B-plots. With hitmen often targeting Koko and her crew, you’d be surprised how quickly these trained professionals go down. Not just beaten either, they’re killed swiftly and without mercy more often than not. One assassin even receives a slow burn introduction over a few episodes, only to die 10 seconds into their attack. Sure the main cast dole out more damage than is realistically possible and survive injuries that would kill a background character, but they never feel invincible. Just really, really, really, ridiculously strong…there’s a faint distinction between the two I assure you.
Owing to the subject matter, Jormungand features a diverse and incredibly realistic collection of weaponry. Sig Sauer SP2022s, Magpul Masadas, SAWs, Negevs, RPG-7s (thank you to the internet for the details) will make gun fanatics, and everyone else, very happy viewers. Not only does this showcase research on the part of the creators, it also provides a diverse visual range in an action element most take for granted. Not limited to the weaponry of the main cast, even background characters are given guns relevant to their status and current alignment or global position. It’s a facet of detail that sells the world as a whole, though it is often overshadowed by the violence with which these weapons deliver.
Jormungand features a very robust and varied soundtrack to bolster the explosive visuals that permeate it. Everything from guitar, to harmonica, to violin, to flute. If someone can play it, you can probably hear it. Overall, this prevents the audio from becoming tediously repetitious, whilst still maintaining enough consistency that each tune feels at home in the series. Silence is also used rather effectively during the more covert scenes, conveying the clandestine nature of certain missions, as well as the tension of locales in which they take place. In the forefront of audio, the English vocals do a great job of selling each character and the various emotions through which they shift. Due to their worldy travels, accents do make an appearance in the audio, though they are reserved for those outside of Koko’s main crew, the reason for which is explained in one of the releases extra features. On the topic, the audio commentaries also provide a little extra glimpse into the dub performances, though admittedly the conversation is more jocular than anything.
Jormungand is an interesting series. What begins as look into the world of arms dealing, albeit certainly stylised, continues to intensify until the ending positively dwarfs it in comparison. A conclusion that is somehow both resolute and yet remarkably open ended, it’s pretty impressive. We witness a dark side of society and learn of all the corruption, violence and scheming that dwells within, from the perspectives of a cast who cause us to falter in what should be a simple allocation of guilt. Whatever their reasons, or cast is by no means innocent. This is not a world where heroes live. Even those with the purest intentions merely skirt the borders of anti-hero, despite how much we may want to believe otherwise. We like them, we want them to win against they’re enemies, despite the fact that they deal arms. It is often who you ally yourself with that decides which path you will walk, and whether you decide to stop, or follow it to the bitter end.
Why not make a deal of your own and show how much of a Madman you really are?