For a series about arms dealers weaving a worldwide trail of destruction in their search for more customers, Jormungand avoids pulse-pounding violence and reckless gunfire with almost admirable dedication to uphold the standards of the anticlimax. I was almost ready to chalk it up as another episode that failed to hit the mark, throw in a few Black Lagoon comparisons and proceed to point and laugh at its perceived inferiority complex, but unfortunately I’m too well adjusted to ridicule the series for failing to deliver enough spilled blood to flood a small city.
To be perfectly fair, as boring as it is to be, when Jormungand decides to avoid mimicking the kinetic hyper-violence of its better-regarded peer, it actually manages to engage. Koko and co, now that they’ve been sufficiently established, no longer feel like a group of unlikable, bland strangers trying to reach heights of psychopathy only dreamt of by the likes of Ladd Russo and Alexander Anderson. As unhinged as most of them are, it no longer feels like everybody’s locked in an orgiastic attempt to dethrone Koko as the Crown Queen of Crazy. Though it’s only had two major arcs thus far, or at least as major as two episodes can be, African Golden Butterflies is probably the best thing that Jormungand has done so far.
Unlike the Opera arc, which was a barely connected series of action scenes based on some tenuous psychology and Hollywood physics that rattled and squealed like a train engine about to derail itself, the Golden Butterflies arc paces itself and divvies up its attention appropriately; half is centered on Koko’s negotiations with a Hong Kong-based organization, while Scarecrow the rogue agent and his companion observe, and half follows her group as they rescue an eccentric scientist from the very same organization’s clutches. Not only this, but some subtle psychological machinations are at play in both halves, used to great effect by Koko and her team both in the field and during Koko’s meeting. It’s a low-key episode when compared to some of the rest, but there’s more going on under the surface that makes up for a definite lack of action.
As far as Koko’s meeting with the rival organization in the Chinese restaurant goes, the show handled things well. Not a single moment is wasted between them, with Koko’s stubborn charm eventually, in a roundabout fashion, gaining her a temporary ally in Scarecrow as the two made their escape. Though no violence of note happened in these scenes, the tension was still high enough to keep things interesting, and Koko remains as fun to watch as always.
If there’s any weak link that holds the show back, it’s definitely Valmet. While everyone else was finding various ways to outsmart the enemy, she charged at the enemy in a blind revenge ploy, motivated by events several years prior. Just like when it happened in episode two, it felt clunky and shoehorned, an unnecessary reminder that Valmet is probably the most unstable member of the group. It’s unfortunate, because I only think it doesn’t work because nothing will come of it. Nobody will likely bring it up in a later conversation, and things will remain silent on that front until the next time she resumes her berserker-like tendencies. In a show that seemed to actually take its time in this episode to allow for some tension to build, it just felt wholly out of place.
However, on an entirely different front, the continued use of Scarecrow to give Koko an omnipresent enemy seems to finally be finding its footing. For awhile, the show needed some kind of straight man to contrast the increasingly wacky antics of every other character, and Scarecrow fits that role perfectly. As long as some kind of broad external conflict is raised thanks to him, I can see this panning out pretty well. If it uses him to his full potential, Scarecrow can likely become Jormungand’s greatest asset, both with plot and character.
Jormungand is still far from a great show, but this episode proved that it finally knows how to blend together its various elements, balancing carnage with diplomacy and grounded behavior with eccentricity. I wouldn’t exactly call it smart as a whole, but there are moments of brilliance that display some real talent behind the veneer of gunpowder and occasional angst.