Just as inevitable as the tide coming in and claiming another unfortunate beach-walking couple for the sea, everything eventually settles into a routine. The best shows, no matter how innovative or unorthodox, all play out a familiar formula episode to episode, with enough variation that the viewers don’t consciously think to themselves that it’s essentially retreading the same story time and time again. Pulling this off requires good writing and a varied cast that ensures that things never get stale, no matter how stale they actually are in an objective sense. This episode of Jormungand is the first I’ve felt that it’s come together into a cohesive, competent whole.
Really, almost all of my problems with Jormungand before were from a storytelling perspective, and they all fell into a dichotomy that I kept repeating with minor variation over the course of my coverage: Either the characteristics of the plot itself were obtuse to the point of inducing a state of boredom approaching rigor mortis, or any character not named Koko was ignored to the point of being of extremely questionable importance to the plot. It had a terrible habit of trying to make us give a damn about events that were barely paid attention to, or characters with so little presence that they could have been replaced with well-armed badgers or trilobites and everything would have been exactly the same.
Instead of playing with the formula of having Koko do something of vague relevance until her cronies save the day, Koko actually heads the show by outmaneuvering and outsmarting the competition using a variety of underhanded tricks and Chocolade—especially Chocolade. She’s in control this time, not relying on her staff to keep her safe until just the right moment; sure, they still do so because they have to, but it feels like she could’ve gotten away without a scratch if it didn’t.
If Jormungand missed any opportunity with this episode, it was giving Koko an appropriate foil for her impeccably shrewd business sense. Every good character, or at least every protagonist, needs some kind of foil. Sanetoshi had Momoka, my cat has the obese orange cat that occasionally tumbles into my backyard chasing after a bird, and our hero with an ethnic-sounding last name should have a Russian dealer in a rival group.
The first half had me hoping that foil could have been a retired actress gone arms dealer, one that seemingly convinced every one of Koko’s prospective clients that buying predator drones wasn’t in their best interests. The interweaving of dirty business practices and outright deception on both characters’ parts led to a narrative that was more engaging than any number of gunfights could possibly be, and there wasn’t even a single casualty to be had. That lack of a real foil for Koko might seem like a small thing, but with everybody else willingly licking her feet at every given opportunity, there just isn’t much of a conflict between her and anybody; even her potential rival gave in to her charms and surrendered after Koko successfully recovered her clients. I would have liked to see Koko actually risk losing something, rather than being setback ever so slightly by what should have been a career-killing move.
Jormungand is a show that’s constantly improving, attempting to strike a balance between intelligence and action with earnestness. It’s not exactly precise as it does so, and it missteps almost every time with something ham-handed or pointless that could be easily avoided, but it’s slowly ironing out its weaknesses. If Koko eventually moves past being a one dimensional loon with slightly out of place business acumen, the show will benefit greatly from it. And if not… well, at least the background music’s blisteringly awful in an oddly endearing way. That has to count for something, right?