「Dance with Undershaft phase.1」
Note: This was quite the episode to talk about by itself, but combined with having two writers who typically write a lot in the first place, this post ended up quite long indeed. As such, I’ve separated my post and Guardian Enzo’s via a line and also put both posts under their own respective spoiler tags past the second paragraph for easier viewing.
If there’s one thing that’s readily apparent, it’s that the first season was merely a prelude of what Jormungand has to offer. As this episode highlighted in particular, Perfect Order’s turning out to be the darker, more complex sister to the action-packed, but less serious original, and it’s been an immensely enjoyable experience to say the least.
Moving right in, there’s just a lot to love about this episode. For one, there’s the great insight into the pasts of practically every main player this arc (Renato, Hex, Bookman, and even Koko). You have to love how well they’ve managed to fit in these flashbacks without making it seem disjointed or out-of-place, as well as the fact that each of them not only give you insight into their past, their personalities, and the reasons they are who they are now, but the fact that all of them are quite realistic and things that can happen in reality.
Renato joining the CIA after proving his worth as an intelligence asset on the battlefield… Hex becoming who she is after losing her husband on 9/11… Bookman’s ability to develop his assets and utilize the cards given to him to rise to the top… Koko’s growth following her encounter with Hex in the past and the words of the man called “Echo”… It’s just amazing. Each character just oozes complexity and in ways, it’s not hard to actually sympathize with or at least understand where each character’s individual motivation comes from, regardless of who you’re rooting for. And really, words escape me in describing how well you’ve done something when you’re able to create a world with so many characters, yet have each of them get their own time in the spotlight — to the point where we’re actually able to see each of them as truly individual and complex characters like this. And to top it off, they even make it so the lines between “good” and “bad” aren’t exactly set in stone. Koko and her crew might be the “main characters” in the series, but she’s not the epitome of “good” and nor are the enemies particularly the definition of “bad” either. Everyone has their own secondary agenda and it’s just a remarkable feat to be able to blur such lines when you have such a charismatic group of main characters — characters who would normally outshine every other person in a given series.
Continued after the spoiler tag…
I loved the first season of Jormungand, but there were times when it felt a bit disjointed. It’s not accidental – the manga is that way too, and in a series that makes very little effort to give the audience a firm footing there’s naturally going to be a lot more stuff that doesn’t quite click in the first half than the second. The first half of Jormungand is largely about the thrill ride – embracing the insanity and watching the larger-than-life cast go through their paces. The second half, by contrast, is free to take the storytelling to another level – and what a story it is.
Without giving too much away, it’s plain to see that the pieces are in place for a grand collision of titanic forces – sort of a seinen version of Hunter X Hunter. You have the crazy but charismatic heroine, burdened by a troubled past and clinging to her humanity by grasping the lifeline of the child soldier. You have the boy who loves the arms dealer and hates the guns she sells. You have the rogue CIA agent who loves and hates her country and has no qualms about using any methods to achieve her goals, the primary of which is to hurt the arms dealer – and you have the brilliant but arrogant intelligence genius who believes he can make anyone a tool for his own ends, no matter how formidable. And you have the mole, the double-agent whose loyalties are about to be tested with extreme prejudice. It’s a grand and terrible scenario waiting to play itself out.
As it so often does Jormungand is spending a lot of time switching back and forth between the past and present, recognizing as it does the fundamental truth that the past is a burden we’re doomed to always carry with us. For Koko, part of that burden is the memory of Echo (the criminally underappreciated Hamada Kenji), the Delta Force soldier who took a bullet protecting a young Koko during a firefight with Hex’s squad. He pledged to protect her on the condition that she never stop smiling (a moment Koko referenced earlier in the series in a conversation with Lehm). Echo’s spot in the group is now filled by Renato, who has his own past weighing him down.
Continued after the spoiler tag…