Considering it’s a show about an arms dealer peddling her wares under the careful scrutiny of her entourage of psychotic bodyguards, who repeatedly waves a proverbial overcompensatory gun in the face of physics and economic theory while screaming obscenities in a hilariously failed pretention toward maturity, there’s a lot to learn from the way Jormungand handles every character but Koko. No matter how great a lead you have, no matter the intrigue embedded by the premise, action actually has to be taken in order for things to work out. And while there’s plenty of action to be had here, very little of it is meaningful.
I’ve used overcompensatory before, but it really is the word that best describes Jormungand thus far; it knows that Koko is its greatest asset, and though she is quite an asset, nothing else the show introduces can begin to match her level of infectious kookiness. Yes, a pair of crazed assassins known as Orchestra is shown to have a vendetta against her because she’s an arms dealer, but they’re two of the most insignificant characters introduced thus far, and that’s saying something when there are only two characters that get any sort of development. All they do is run around with a neon sign saying “HEY AREN’T WE CRAZY? WE COMPARE SHOOTING PEOPLE TO MAKING MUSIC. CRAZY RIGHT? FUCKING CRAZY, AHHHHHH!” in big bold font hovering right above them, shoot people, and swear gratuitously. It was refreshing for a few episodes that Jormungand was willing to eschew minor development in order to jump right into the action, but doing it for three episodes straight is treading over a thin line.
Maybe I was a little harsh on it in the previous paragraph. After all, this episode does make an effort to flesh Jonah out a bit with Koko and friends teaching him basic arithmetic. I use the word “try” liberally, because the extent of this development is Jonah struggling over multiplication, a flashback to him struggling over multiplication earlier, and everyone telling him that book learnin’s are just as important as knowing how to point a muzzle in the right direction and let off a few well-placed shots. Then a few minutes later, it’s put on the backburner so Koko can gallivant in town after triggering an obvious “Shit’s about to go down” flag. Then, in the middle of the fight, Lehm pulls Jonah aside to lecture him at the worst possible time.
It’s like Jormungand knows that we have to care about its characters in order to want to watch, but it can’t quite nail down how to make that work for anybody but the lead. Not that it’s a huge issue at only three episodes in, but it’s going to have to do better than this in the future in order to avoid falling into the trap of having me berate it. I want to learn more about Jonah’s mixed feelings toward Koko or how his past led him to be dragged along; I don’t want to see him struggle to do math with the same placid expression that he has when he’s just sitting around doing fuck all.
The biggest problem so far is most of the information relating to the characters, and the loosely strung together plot, is relayed to the audience secondhand. We’ve been rarely shown anything aside from Koko’s business practices, which doesn’t really do much good for a series with such a large and varied cast. Again, it’s not a glaring issue at only three episodes in, but continuing like this will make future developments seem token and hollow, regardless of how vital they are to the plot.
I may find a lot to gripe about with Jormungand, but there’s plenty to like too. The pacing continues to be a bit wonky and the gung-ho gallows humor of Koko and co. can wear a bit thin the more that we’re exposed to it, but nothing’s too much of a deal-breaker so far. Hell, the fights were even given proper context this time around, which is already an improvement over last episode’s impromptu knife scuffle, so it can’t be said that Jormungand hasn’t learned from its mistakes. If one can look past the (thus far) barebones characterization, the wonky pacing of each episode, and a slightly unhealthy fascination with seeing Koko act… not in her right mind, there’s a smartly-written story with potential for real development boiling under the surface, waiting to burst forth and wow us. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I can see this pulling its act together by the end of its first season, provided it avoids doing certain things that it’s done in the past.