JORMUNGAND – finale

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There’s a huge caveat about Jormungand and it is that Koko is a child molester. Trigger warning!

(I can’t believe I just qualified that as a “caveat” and not “giant honking fucking dealbreaker,” but I do have some reasoning for it.)

Anyway, at the end of the twenty-second episode, there’s a REALLY CREEPY scene where Jonah–you know, the child soldier–is taking a bath, Koko enters naked, and after talking about her grand plans proceeds to kiss him on the mouth. It basically turns every prior interaction she had with him (in which it just looked like she wanted a cute, murdering, gun-toting kid brother) into sinister shit. Like sinister grooming shit. It’s never been made clear how old Koko really is, but I think we can all agree she’s an adult and an adult has no business kissing a naked prepubescent boy in the bath. Jesus.

But the extra creep factor is that this is one of those authorial wish-fulfillment shit. Pretty much all shotacon outside yaoi is about the heterosexual male wish to be “initiated” into sex by an older woman, for more on which see Patrick Rothfuss and the Felurian, so much like the comedy of women beating men up this isn’t about misandry or a matriarchal conspiracy to abuse little boys–it’s instead about, as per usual, the straight male gaze. The average male anime fan doesn’t think “holy fuck Koko is a child molester, what the fuck this is gross.” He thinks “wow that’s hot, if I was Jonah I’d totally tap that. Jonah is so dumb not to take Koko up on her offer of hot older-woman sex! She might even invite Valmet for a threesome! VALMET HAS, LIKE, HUGE BOOBS! XD XD”

So, yeah, it’s creepy as fuck but for more reasons than being abusive in-story.

Beyond the pedophilia shit–and my god what a lot of shit–Jormungand does something very, very rarely seen in media. It is that, from start to finish, its female protagonist is never undermined in any way.

Koko herself is already an anomaly in that she’s a female character who is exceptional for her intelligence, charisma, and ability to command absolute loyalty from her bodyguards without it ever being about sex or her femininity. (Yes, Valmet crushes on her and would love to sleep with Koko, but that’s not the reason behind her loyalty. Valmet developed her total loyalty to Koko long before she developed the crush.) She is young and conventionally attractive, but sexually and romantically unavailable even to the male gaze: watch as she goes from one business deal to the next in professional business attire and rarely anything but. See the beach fanservice episode where despite being in bikini Koko is not sexualized. Her manipulation of people is divorced entirely from sexuality or being a woman; it’s all about her being really fucking smart. She doesn’t play on level ground with the men–she’s out of their league intellectually, financially, and finally militarily. By the end she can break every fucking computer in the world if she feels like it. And she does feel like it.

There are parts where some men try to infantilize her, see R (who ends up dead) or psychoanalyze her, but nobody has a good idea of how she really thinks. The CIA chief, whose original goal was to puppet her, winds up subverted and working for Koko. The same goes for everyone in a position of authority in the show, most of them men. Koko out-plays them all and obtains the kind of power that makes it deadly for them to continue opposing her. She becomes an absolute dictator; this is presented (with some caveats) as a fairly decent alternative to a third world war. Better Koko, the series has worked to prove, than any one government–and certainly better Koko than the US, even if she’s possibly a sociopath who has no feelings and who is willing to let 70,000 people die. The only time she expresses desire for someone’s approval (and even then, very obliquely) it’s when she thinks of Valmet as “sister, teacher, friend, and something more.” Even Jonah, whom she’s invested in emotionally, comes around to her way of thinking: “I think both the world and you are crazy, but I’ll follow you, Koko.” The only ideology and ideals that prevail in Jormungand are Koko’s, no one else’s. Not Jonah’s wishy-washy blankness. Not Kasper’s cynicism. It’s Koko and her dictatorial super anti-weapon which, by the way, will go on running even if she’s assassinated or something.

Not only does Koko star in her very own series, where no one is allowed to eclipse her, she is essentially never proven wrong. This is where the average troglodyte leaps up to cry “but Mary Sue!” but even setting aside that’s a stupid criticism, when was the last time you encountered a female character like Koko?

Jormungand itself, the project, is made possible purely through female scientists.

Literally: no man. Even Dr Minami’s bodyguard, Karen Low, is a woman.



What’s good about this part is that Kasper presents these realistic caveats without coming across as superior; he’s interested only in making money, not stopping or impeding her (not that he’d be able to). Neither he nor the narrative ridicules her or her plans as being naive and stupid. It’s a megalomaniacal plan, obviously, and is hardly foolproof–as per Kasper’s pointing out that people will go on waging war and selling/buying weapons even if they’re down to clubbing each other with cudgels. But Koko goes ahead with her plans anyway. Because fuck you.

It’s interesting to me that two similar anime protagonists, Light of Death Note and Lelouch of Code Geassare failures. Lelouch is an idiot, of course, and his ideas (that people will stop warring if they’ve focused all their hatred on him and seen him dead) are frankly fucking stupid. Light becomes a genocidal megalomaniac and loses all his (supposed) intelligence, getting more testerical and shrieky by the panel.

Amateurs.

Koko does not lose her cool, and while Death Note makes Light the villain (with attendant supervillain-esque stupidity and honest-to-fuck screaming laughter), Jormungand refuses to dethrone Koko from her place as rightful and righteous protagonist. Her methods are questioned by moral cipher Jonah but not undermined, and his questioning doesn’t shake her confidence in the slightest: from the moment he pulls a gun on her Koko knows he’ll come to see her way is right, because little kids won’t convince charismatic geniuses give up their plans, thank you very much.

15 thoughts on “JORMUNGAND – finale

  1. Soooooo, you’re saying Koko has read the Evil Overlord’s List and taken it to heart? Including using a young child as an advisor so as to fix immediately any flaws he happens to see in the Great Master Plan (if even a child can see a problem with the Plan, then the Plan clearly has a problem and needs some reworking).

  2. Loved this. Though it was kind of dull that Koko’s plan was only right because, their similar but fictional, world had a third world war looming over it. Making her awesomeness situational, rather than universal. Not there was ever another option, seeing as grandiosely brilliant characters like Koko can only conceive what the author can, no matter how much smarter the character is supposedly is in story.

    On a different note, I loved how you’ve tackled criticizing (is that even the right word?) this anime. It was refreshing and invigorating compared to what most anime bloggers did with it, which is, admittedly, not much.

  3. I’ve finally begun watching and it has given me the power fantasy I want about a ruthless competent violent woman, in which ‘feminine wiles’ aren’t even a factor. So this is a disheartening thing to put in. My opinion of the show’s quality will have to go down, even though I will finish it because it gives me so much else I can’t find in other places. I need this kind of story in my life. Just not with gross and dangerous male gaze poisoning it.

  4. i have to admit, reading your initial review of Jormungand was the inspiration for an antagonist (sort of, it’s nothing personal, she’s just doing her job) I’m working on, so disappointing to see…well…this development.

  5. One big caveat in that the manga could be pretty different (generally, in the better sense) than the anime. PlanetES manga is pretty awesome. PlanetES anime caters to low brow japanese racism, and I never got far enough into the series to find other differences, but the other differences I did not like.

    This sense of Koko in the post reminds me very much of Wendy Doniger’s take on the Durga myth–contradictions of sex and propriety of violence and their resolution…

    And drifting to the OT…

    The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke (whose first novel was YA, btw) needs a proper fscking. Only made it 90 something pages before hate overwhelmed my compulsion to finish novels.

    • Are you referring to the rather … clownish … comic relief characters, or something else? It’s been a long time since I watched PlanetES, so it’s entirely likely there are some problematic elements I never noticed (I had to sort of force myself to ignore the more juvenile aspects to it). Never read the manga, I’m afraid, though now I’m a little curious to. I do remember the show having a more complex theme than I expected (considering that the antagonists are Arab space terrorists…)

      A thing that I recall really bothered me (spoiler) was the huge difference between the destinies of the protagonists; the female lead is increasingly sidelined in favor of the male lead … at the end, he gets to be an astronaut, and she gets to be a … housewife.

      The technical accuracy of that show is something to behold, though.

  6. It’s good to see somebody who realizes that Light was a walking supervillain stereotype who was played straight. Hopefully ACM also realizes that Death Note wasn’t a very good manga. Oh sure it, had some potential, but it goes speeding down the hill so yeah.

    And are you joking about what Lelouch did in Code Geass ACM? Please tell me you are.

    • She is not. In fact, it’s rather more dumb than she makes it sound. Basically, his idea is to become the most evil dictator in history, eclipsing even his genocidal father. He accomplishes this off-screen, and we’re told about it by Britannian passers-by going ‘oh, BTW, he’s totes evil now’. By doing this, he hopes both to shadow his brainwashed sister Euphemia’s massacre of the Japanese out of the historical narrative and unite the rest of the world against him, meaning that when he dies, the alliances they’ve formed will create world peace. Somehow, all of this works.

      Still not as dumb as Guilty Crown, though. Mother of Odin, that was a trainwreck.

        • Everything that is terrible. The plot is a hilarious ultranationalist rant against evil foreigners interfering with Glorious Nippon. The main character alternates between being a nebbish, socially awkward Nice Guy schoolboy, Hitler, and Jesus (that’s not an exaggeration – he consigns people with substandard superpowers to lethal slave labour, then later sacrifices himself for the sins of the world). One antagonist, a psychotic spoiled brat who guns down civilians for fun and tries to murder a schoolgirl because he doesn’t like the fact that he’s got a crush on her, gets away scot-free because a fellow officer decides that ‘he’s a good person’ and sacrifices himself for him. The primary love interest spends most of her time saying the hero’s name like some kind of mutant Pokemon. There is fridge-stuffing. There is rape. There is surprise incest. There is surprise incestuous rape. There is a villain named the Death Keeper of Daath.

          I could not make this shit up if I tried.

      • Man, if what you said about CG’s ending is true, then I’ll say without a doubt that Watchmen’s ending was not as bad, if only because Alan Moore was smart enough to realize that a plan like Adrian Veidt’s wouldn’t have stopped the fighting for all that long, let alone if it even worked.

    • The authors themselves admitted Death Note isn’t very deep, and that they refrained from exploring some aspects of the story because they were writing for a magazine with a young public.

      The glaring flaw with Death Note that really stuck in my head was that Light’s plan never had any chance of working since the beginning, Here’s the reasons I have off the top of my head:

      First, there are tons of people TODAY who do think there’s a vengeful god watching their every move, and that doesn’t stop them from being horrible people. I can’t see why Light’s threat would motivate crime to go down.

      Second, and worse, Light is not immune to privilege or prejudice. You have what amounts to a sheltered high-class Japanese student trying to impose his standards on the whole world. There HAD to be people benefitting from his blind spots.

      Third, he’s not omniscient, which only aggravates the second problem. You’re telling me nobody found a way to go under Kira’s radar, or blind it? Come on.

      Light was doomed to fail from the start. Part 2 is bullshit because there was no way it could ever happen.

      • Of course, exploring those problems could have made for a rather more fun and interesting story. “What if the world was held to ransom by a narcissistic teenager with a God-complex?” How would society adapt and try to create workarounds? Kind of like ‘It’s a Good Life’ on a global scale, mixed with the obligatory crime-thriller cat-and-mouse.

  7. Interesting. Ghost in the Shell had this weird child seduction plot as well. It’s very odd as I guess it’s “fan service”.

    I suppose having the character be with an actual adult male somehow ruins the fantasy? 0_0

  8. This post is kind of disappointing.
    It’s regrettable when characters with great potential fall victim to bad writing (child molesting, seriously?). It’s also understandable to gloss over the problematic aspects of something you really, really like, but on the other hand, you’re not one to give people a free pass on such grounds, right?

    As for the rest… It’s excellent finally having a female protagonist that’s not undermined by the narrative of her story. Which makes it all the more frustrating to me, since I dislike that type of character, and find those stories which glorify mass murderers to be disturbing. When a story justifies massacre with “World Peace” or some such lame excuse, it’s not only being hypocritical, it’s also incredibly unrealistic. I don’t want to put on my pseudo-historian hat, but the facts are that trying to force impossibly drastic changes on people with violent means will always cause a lot more suffering. (An aerial blockade? That’s the best they can come up with? Don’t they have any idea what would happen to world economy?) [/end rant]

    I don’t think the comparison to Death Note is apt, since in that case undermining the protagonist was kind of the point, even if they did fumble with unneeded melodrama and stupidity in Light’s portrayal. But I completely agree about Code Geass (god, I hate that show so much).

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