「滅びの丘 phase.1」 (Horobi no Oka)
“Hills of Ruin phase.1”
Jormungand starts its last arc of the season and wastes no time going straight down to business. As a result, the comedy aspects are pretty much nonexistent this time around. There were the continuations of the running gags involving Lutz getting stabbed in the arse and Scarecrow getting owned in one way or another, but it’s just nothing like any of the previous episodes. And really, in the end, it’s just a testament to how great the writer and director are. Their ability to change the atmosphere and mood on a whim… it’s just amazing and it’s an aspect that gives each episode more impact than it normally would have. And to say the least, this is something that bodes especially true for this episode.
See, many of the other episodes were tempered a bit by the comedy and the surgical precision by which Koko’s team completed its missions. In a way, the past episodes had me feeling like there was no conceivable way Koko’s group could be defeated. And I mean, why would there be? They easily dispatched the Balkan Dragon and his militia, fought off Orchestra, fended off Karen Low and the Daxinghai Company, trashed Amalia Tolokhovsky handily in political maneuvering, and they even have an agent in the CIA helping them from time to time. Sure, there were some sticky situations and certain people got shot in the buttocks a few times, but it definitely didn’t feel like they were really challenged. But in this episode, everything changes, as Koko’s group actually feels and looks vulnerable for once.
I mean, with the comedy getting cut out from this episode, the sense of foreboding you get from what should have been simple mafia deal going sideways, the scenes of Koko’s group burying the mafia members’ corpses, Koko’s abnormal demeanor, Valmet and Jonah both being away from the group, Valmet having that nightmare to start off the episode, the sudden flashbacks to the past, Karen Low’s reappearance, Lehm getting knocked out… everything just oozes negativity in one way or another, and it just sets up a dark atmosphere that knocks out that aura of invincibility Koko’s group had up until now. As such, the farfetched idea that Ugo might actually die becomes much more believable than it would have otherwise. I mean, I would have never considered the possibility of someone on Koko’s team dying up until this point, but this episode, with the mood it sets and the events that happen… just puts that doubt into my head that it’s actually possible this time. Granted, I do have expectations that some of the group will die before the end, but I would’ve never believed it’d possibly come so soon. And it just emphasizes how great the writer and director are for being able to give us this mood change—to be able to manipulate how we feel during the episode and to effect the impact of events throughout.
And notably, this goes without even mentioning the other great parts of the episode. Influence of mood and atmosphere aside, there’s just some great character development, as well as deeper philosophical aspects inserted in the episode.
Like Koko’s recruitment of Valmet first hand for one. We see how Koko knew the things going through Valmet’s mind and how Koko was as a child. We also see why Valmet’s so dedicated to her after seeing the Matrix-isque (red pill or blue pill) options she was presented by Koko… and it just gives Valmet’s character that much more depth, while also making their relationship that much more complex. This is without mentioning how Koko opens up and says Valmet’s more than just the average soldier to her and that she’s spent more time with Valmet than her parents. It’s just quality character development.
Moving on, Jonah following Valmet shows some great character development as well. Sure, he was supposedly ordered to follow by Koko… but the things he says to persuade Valmet to let him stay with her just emphasize how he’s gradually developing as a person. He could’ve easily said that he was just following orders, but saying that he was there to protect Koko’s interests showed that he had deeper, personal motivations for coming—a big difference compared to when he first arrived and merely cared about orders and who to shoot. And it also goes to show how big of an influence Koko has been on him and how she’s so different from the typical arms dealer. Heck, one could go into a whole philosophical discussion about her and how she’s a walking representation of the “don’t judge a book by its cover” phase. Though, I do suppose virtually everyone in this show could fit into this category. In any case, Jonah totally deserved that shower with Valmet by the way.
And last but not least, there was the brief exchange between Lehm and Koko this episode where the latter mentions “It’s not always possible to hold one’s end of the bargain.” And well, it’s just a darn powerful quote to me, as it’s something that can be easily applied to life as a whole, rather than just in the context of the show itself. And it’s just something that further hammers in how deep the people in this series are and the quality of this show as a whole.
Sadly, next week marks the last episode of the season for Jormungand though. Like they say, all good things have to come to an end and that end (albeit temporary) is coming soon. At least we’ll have a second season to look forward to in the fall though, and I hope to be the one who ultimately continues coverage of this show then.