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 Geass, are 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.
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.