It’s a much-trumpeted ideal in this world that money is the root of all evil, and it can make otherwise good men do crazy things, which would explain Mitt Romney’s daily bath in a tub of hot children’s tears and dolphin blubber. Characters that not only acknowledge this fact but fully embrace it are a rarity, especially ones that are wholly enjoyable and not entirely corrupted. Thanks to this episode, I think we can all count on Koko’s business sense to not only seize the day, but to seize our hearts. Okay, maybe not, but it’s still a damn fine episode.
For all its gunplay and half-rapped Engrish insert songs, Jormungand is riddled with more problems than you can shake a particularly problematic stick at. The pacing’s all over the place, the characters that aren’t Koko exhibit minimal growth, and the scenery doesn’t leave much variation. But nobody watches Jormungand for bombed-out husks of Soviet architecture and engaging character drama. The show knows that we’re here for one reason and one reason only: To see Koko act in a less than sane manner while eliciting a negative reaction from those unfortunate enough to witness it. And to its credit, if there’s one character that’s given a decent amount of development in this circus of military fetish pandering, it’s definitely everyone’s favorite albino arms dealer.
Oddly enough, instead of Black Lagoon, the show that I drew the most parallels to from this episode was Spice and Wolf, and it’s not just because both Lawrence and Koko are merchants that get into trouble with the law. Both have a strong undercurrent of economics while using that as a jumping-off point for more interesting moments. The economics aren’t weak by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just hard to find the banter between two mercenary groups of dubious legality as thrilling as the ensuing firefight.
The plot of the episode concerns Koko and co. (I never get tired of using that line) selling arms to one of two forces fighting over an oil pipeline, while avoiding hot lead perforation. Joining them is apparently a rival group, headed by an Englishman and his cadre of similarly psychopathic cohorts. Usually in situations like this we get a good look at why both military forces are fighting beyond the fact that there’s an oil pipeline, and the audience is indirectly told which one to root for. Jormungand bucks this by completely sticking to the point of view of Koko and her band of mercs through her entire deal, only cutting to the buyer’s force when the plot demands it. There’s very little overarching narrative beyond Koko seeking to leave and sever her unproductive deal as soon as possible, and it contributes to a nearly seamless flow from one scene to the next.
Not only does Koko remain neutral throughout, but she’s decidedly passive aggressive about it. One of her first lines toward her buyer is that she’s not an enemy, but she follows it up by saying under her breath that she’s not a friend either. She knows that if she doesn’t cut off her buyer at some point, she’ll be irretrievably dragged into affairs that could end up costing her dearly in ways not just related to funding and weaponry, that could stretch her resources to the breaking point. Even before it’s shown that her buyer has no intention of paying her upfront, an attempt at keeping her around for future sales on credit, Koko knows this. No matter what, she keeps business in mind. The word that best sums up Koko would be opportunistic, and it’s surely no exaggeration to say that she’s willing to throw her own buyers away when she sees no more potential for profit.
If the episode had any flaw, it’d be the knife fight toward the end. While I understand that the story has a certain violence quota to meet, and I can certainly appreciate a good knife fight, there was hardly any context for it. If the rest of the episode were more overtly violent, it would have been used more effectively. As it stands though, it just seems to be a ploy at filling in what’s perceived to be a lack of significant action. Though to the show’s credit, it’s a fairly well animated fight sequence and at least serves as decent eye candy.
Still, that’s a relatively minor gripe when everything else in the episode is done pretty well. We’re given some insight into Koko’s lifestyle, her sharp business sense contrasting with her otherwise youthful and carefree personality. There’s no trace of sentimentality or generosity in Koko’s deals, the bottom line being nothing but cold hard cash upon delivery of her shipment. She remains true to her organization’s interests above all else, and her greyer-than-grey morality and continued shrewdness will likely be a near endless source of fascination for me.