Opera is like the cilantro of entertainment: When you’re in doubt about whether your show is pretentious enough, just add a heap of it and hope for the best, though it often happens with disastrously bitter results. Of course that’s not always the case, since some shows that implement opera actually do so competently and with finesse. The last episode of Lupin III was a great example, since it focused more on what went on behind the scenes than on the opera itself; while a woman with a valuable mask was trilling her heart out on stage, Fujiko was chasing a master thief while evading the ire of a totally non-derivative masked phantom. However, Lupin’s in the minority in this regard, with so many missing the mark by just using warbling sopranos to give off the illusion of depth, rather than putting in the effort to actually create it. Unfortunately, Jormungand belongs in the latter group.
It’s easy enough to tell when the opera is less an aesthetic meant to enhance the plot and more a colorful set of bobbles to attach to whatever the story thinks is the weakest element. In Jormungand, rather than use it to explain Orchestra’s pathos or anything meaningful, the opera is only used as a setting for Toothasaurus to meet up with Deer Hunter and take her onboard… after killing everybody that she knows and taking a bullet to the shoulder. Nothing past that is explained, and we move on to where the previous episode left off after learning hardly anything of worth, right before rushing Toothasaurus’ death.
You can tell how meaningless it is that Toothasaurus recruits Deer Hunter at the opera of all places, because it could be replaced with stockcar racing or a livestock auction and the mood wouldn’t be any different. It could have, and probably should have been used to at least provide motivation behind Toothasaurus’ psychotic actions, instead of merely providing the circumstances for meeting Deer Hunter. Several questions are left unanswered that could have really added investment to the plot. Why did Deer Hunter join up with him? What led to her being at the opera in the first place, and why was she so eager to join up after having everyone she knows and loves killed off? It’s not an incompetently pulled off scene, it just doesn’t serve much of a purpose aside from adding a heaping dose of “depth”. And when the two are finally killed off by Koko and co, there’s not enough investment in their stories for me to care.
The Orchestra arc in general was pretty sloppy, and I have many more problems with the way it was executed. There was too much crammed into two episodes, too much squandered that could have really made this arc stand out, instead of crash and burn in a forgettable blaze of un-glory. But if the navel-gazing pretentions toward insight shown in the past few episodes were bad, then the inconsequential nature of the opera scene was my breaking point and well worth complaining about.
I’m not trying to say that anything that involves an opera should use it to create a chilling masterpiece of modern cinema. I’m saying that it should be relevant to the plot, not anything half-baked to drum up false poignancy points, or lead into halfhearted development that’s only negated a few minutes later. There’s are bigger issues with the Orchestra arc than the origin story, but compared to how Lupin managed to create an interesting opera-based story last week, I’m more disappointed that it wasn’t used to its full effect when it very well could have been. To sum things up in a more pithy fashion, even half an episode with some actual development and effort put into making characters interesting would have been preferable to two minutes of shooting haphazardly and trying to sound badass.