Posted by psgels on 27 June 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

Sometimes, a show comes along that has the best of intentions… but just seems to miss the boat by a few inches. Jormungand is scheduled for 24 episodes, this first season covering 12 of them and this seems to be enough time to cover its entire story about weapon dealers who travel all over the world. This should have been an awesome series, but instead this season had more than a dozen better series. So what happened?

Well first of all this season is awesome, that’s definitely a matter of bad timing for Jormungand, but even then there is a reason why it failed to stand out. I’ve seen quite a few comparisons between this series and Black Lagoon, but that’s not quite right. Black Lagoon had a cast of widely varied and colourful characters. Jormungand wants to have a cast of colourful characters, but gets a few things wrong.

The series definitely knows its basics: every episode is dedicated to give background and a story to at least one member of the cast. These backstories and developments are definitely interesting. It also fleshes a bunch of them out quite well, most notably Jonah. The problem though, is that it doesn’t do this with every character.

Now, that on its own isn’t a bad thing: the trick with a series that has a huge cast is to make every character feel unique and part of the story. And that’s where Jormungand falls down, especially with its villains. There is no big villain in this series: every arc has its own antagonists, and they’re all pretty much carbon copies of each other. The creators keep recycling two or three archetypes over and over again: the loud-mouthed complaining boss, the ditzy and spunky female sidekick and the silent soldier. After seeing the protagonists easily beat these characters over and over again with seemingly no effort, things get a bit boring. This series also really likes snarky characters, up to the point at which just about every bloody characters is snarky to some extent.

And that is a shame because a series with this concept is destined for greatness. The places that the characters visit are unique and beyond any cliches, and it really toys with the themes of weapon dealing and morality in a fresh way. And there are definitely interesting characters, but they’re just overshadowed by the unremarkable ones. But here is the thing though: it still has plenty of potential for its second season. It laid out more than enough build-up for that. The second season will have to put in much more emphasis on getting better villains, but there are plenty of hints that it will. There is plenty of interesting stuff in this first season, it just gets held back a bit. Remove that and who knows what you’ll get?

Storytelling: 8/10 – Fun action scenes and good pacing. Battles are too easy sometimes.
Characters: 7/10 – There are way too many similar characters and archetypes throughout the series. The few good characters don’t manage to save this series from being dragged down by this.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Funky soundtrack, its own visual identity and nice animation.
Setting: 9/10 – The most interesting part of this series, with still a ton of potential left for the second season.

Suggestions:
Madlax
Black Lagoon
Mobile Police Patlabor

11 Responses

  1. commenter says:

    This show definitely had ups and downs, but was overall certainly enjoyable. The combat seems sometimes subpar due to the stormtrooper accuracy of the bad guys on occasion, but it’s still leagues ahead of the usual fare.

    I disagree about the little variation between the different characters. While they fall into only a couple of archetypes, the way they play out is often unique. Take the female characters. You have a knife lover psychopath that just wants to be the best at knives, the confused and hypercompetent assassin with traumatic past, the snarky ex-wife of Lehm, the butterfly girl, the two handed pistols assassin that just wants to be appreciated by the old chinese guy and so on and so on.
    They all fit the bill of the spunky action girl archetype, but they’re definitely different in various ways. I think this is just an impression and nothing more.

    All in all, this is not what this show is about in the end, so I personally didn’t really mind whether they were similar or not. I’m here for the plot Coco is up to and of course the intrigue that has been here and there since the beginning. I wonder what Coco is really up to.

  2. wicked says:

    The villain will kick it up a notch in the second season, though every one being snarky is probably not going to change. The original author convey that this is a story about bad guys in a bad world, so few character appears to be earnest.

    Although the characterization is somewhat of a weakness, because pretty much everyone is a psychopath deep down(with the exception of a few characters)

  3. Sei says:

    Totally agree. It is the reason I dropped the manga at the first place. At first it seems interesting, then after a few act things become very repetitive and the characters lost their charm very quickly. However, the saving grace is that they seem to try to build some big story later on, with whatever the hell Coco is doing. The manga is completed, so it might be a good news.

  4. tktym says:

    Now, that on its own isn’t a bad thing: the trick with a series that has a huge cast is to make every character feel unique and part of the story. And that’s where Jormungand falls down, especially with its villains. There is no big villain in this series: every arc has its own antagonists, and they’re all pretty much carbon copies of each other. The creators keep recycling two or three archetypes over and over again: the loud-mouthed complaining boss, the ditzy and spunky female sidekick and the silent soldier. After seeing the protagonists easily beat these characters over and over again with seemingly no effort, things get a bit boring.

    Yo Psgels;
    This is pretty much one of those “you have to read the manga” things to accurately get this one right. but they will cover that next season.

    Maybe you should wait to give your impressions on a series until its 100% finished?

  5. Hououin Kyouma says:

    I think too, that this could’ve been done on purpouse to build up a major villain for the second part. A bit risky for the overall 12 eps, but they handled it very well with the fortnightly cliffhangers, so it could be safe to say it was entertaining EVERY week, and no single episode was boring or useless. Maybe only the fights could be better by adding more drama or losses…My rate 8.5/10

  6. sato says:

    I’m usually one to complain about things, but in this case I think Jormungand was the best series of the season. The mix of snarky humor and action was pretty much just perfect. And as a comparison to Black Lagoon – that one had an annoying whiny lead (Rock), and took itself far too seriously some times (the arc with the submarine and the Roberta sequel are coming to mind). The badass cast in Jormungand is much more entertaining to watch. Can’t wait for the next season.

  7. commenter says:

    I thought to further add some details about the characters. This story is not about showing off all the different characters. Instead, it’s all about the two main characters. In other words, you’re comparing this to the wrong standard. This is not a show like shiki, but more like witch hunter robin or armed librarians: book of bantorra. They’ll dedicate episodes to show off a single character a little bit more, but it’s essentially about 1 or 2 characters and a big overarching plot.

  8. RABUJOI says:

    Jonah may be the series narrator and he’s not a bad character, but the main reason we watched Jormungand (and will keep watching next season) is Koko Hekmatyar. Aside from having a very cool design (something more suited to a villain in most series), she never lets you forget that she’s not only a born leader oozing with charisma, confidence, and skill someone in her position needs, but also a vulnerable young woman with a very strange upbringing. I’d say the series got the characters they needed to get right right.

    As for the ease of Team Koko’s victories, I like to think this season built up their invincibility intentionally, to make it that much more dramatic when they finally do suffer setbacks and/or take losses. Episode 11 was a nice example of this; it looked like Koko was in serious trouble, but she wriggled out of it, but more serious trouble awaits her.

  9. Nic says:

    I’d actually be harsher than you pgels because I think the problems go far deeper than this.

    Jormungand S1 has a kickass premise, the kind that makes every other series jealous. The problem is that it’s handled by an author that clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing.

    In war/combat settings like this, there are generally two good ways to develop the story. You can either go realistic & gritty or you can go with colourful, glamorized violence (Black Lagoon).

    What Jormungand tries to do is bound to fail in my eyes. It tries to go half-way realistic and then insert humor that detracts for the entire experience to try making them ‘colourful’. To pull off humor in a realistic war setting, you need to be one hell of an author or you’ll fail big time. And Jormungand’s author is a far cry from a great author so it completely failed so far.

    The result is that you have these incredible war settings that are completely wasted because the author tried to mix and match comedy with war. The characters just end up being totally bland and silly because the author is unable to rise up to the challenge of mixing humor in a war setting. Plus, his humor is boring as hell.

    Then, there are 2 more major problems with the series. First, as you pointed out, the lack of powerful villains. I mean, I feel insulted that people compared this to Black Lagoon because Jormungand’s villains are a joke. They never feel threatening, have little to no charisma and after seeing something like Black Lagoon, they’re flat out boring but supposedly ‘crazy’.

    The last major problem is the omnipotence of the main cast and the ‘lol physics’. It’s very hard to take seriously a series with normal-looking characters, that aren’t monsters like in Black Lagoon, but decides to just give the finger to physics and make the characters invincible.

    Episode 10 was the low point of the series in that aspect. They piss off a commander and kill like… 20-25 soldiers and suffer no injuries despite being outnumbered, having no cover and the soldiers have automatic weapons. And then, they make some maneuvers to evade being blown sky-high which basically consisted of ‘Hey, let’s pretend they’re good by making their enemies miss’ followed by launching some sort of powerful cannon mid-air, pretending recoil doesn’t exist and that magically kills all enemies with shrapnel.

    I rank the series 65/100. Episode 11 was the high point. They’re lucky that the Summer Season looks pretty bare because if it looked half as interesting as the Spring Season, I wouldn’t give this show a 2nd glance.

    • Nic says:

      Ah, quick correction. I thought S2 was airing this Summer. I just realized it starts airing in October. In that case, I seriously doubt it’ll be watching its 2nd season because summer seems the only spot where I’d want to watch a show of this quality. Barely any interesting TV shows since it’s the off-season for most shows and less anime shows air as well.

  10. Tanz says:

    Enjoyable is the way to describe this show. I find the humorous aspects of this show to be the most memorable rather than the life lesson it was trying to convey.

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  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:49 PM)
    @Emma I think Deen makes some really good looking anime. People tend to give them crap for some of their mid-2000 stuff and justifiably, but their recent stuff and early stuff is really quite visually arresting.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:43 PM)
    Now granted,deens adaptation of sankarea had some pretty neat visuals behind it.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:14 PM)
    Granted that none of those manga had the type of mass appeal that Sankarea has, but they’re some pof the best manga I’ve read within their specific genre (sentimental ecchi comedies/romances). I love his art style too. It just works so well for sappy romantic stuff. Inu Neko Jump will always be one of my favorite manga.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 11:12 PM)
    On the subject of Sankarea, I’m about as big of a Hattori Mitsuru fanboy as anyone could be and I have to say that Sankarea is my least favorite manga of his. His strengths and weaknesses just don’t lend themselves very well to that type of horror/drama plot. Umisho, Inu Neko Jump, and Otogi no Machi no Rena even were all better manga.
  • k-off
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 08:47 PM)
    To be fair to the series though, I thought that the owl was pretty cool.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:18 PM)
    But I’ve heard complaints about the fanservice of rea not making sense considering her past/background and I’m inclined to agree.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:16 PM)
    Ha, and once again another shounen ruined by not being a seinen manga.
    @Aidan: Sometimes..sometimes I feel its the fans that should be writing these things instead…well the good ones =P
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 06:05 PM)
    @K-Off, Potentail for Rea to go berserk and starting a zombie apocalypse? Or at least enough to have her slowly lose her mind and chiro having to resort to more and more desperate measures to protect her and stop her from hurting others. There was plently of potentail in the premise, just that the author didn’t have the balls to take it that far.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 05:51 PM)
    Wasn’t awful now by any means but I’d rather stop with it before any good memories of it get ruined =<
    I think I'm just fed up with these shounen comedies/dramas and pandora hearts is also the last time I take a chance on a shounen fantasy show.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Oct 22. 2014 05:48 PM)
    Although as a whole sankarea never really geled together for me, series of genre clashing and a master of none, there were little pockets of interest and the art was good and moments did feel like something more. Some of the fanservice, comedy also felt misplaced.

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