Jormungand: Perfect Order - Complete Season 2 Review
If Koko Hetmatyar and her associates in the HCLI have intentions of creating a better world, they have a funny way of going about it. Koko and her team are arms dealers, travelling to the four corners of the world, selling weapons to a lot of disreputable criminals, militia units and governments without asking too many questions. That's because, as was hinted in the first half of the series, it seems they have a bigger game in mind, creating a new Perfect Order that will eradicate the use of weapons altogether. It's a strange ambition for a gun runner and, in true twisted morality style, it's not going to come about without significant worldwide collateral damage, even if it is possible at all.
What Koko's ultimate aims are and how she expects to achieve them aren't entirely clear however at the start of the second series of Jormungand. In fact, the series just seems to get faster, more action-oriented, more violent and with added levels of nudity to earn it an 18 certificate. The series still appears to be episodic (or two-part double-episodic), as the HCLI continue to carry out their operations around the globe. Along the way they acquire plenty of new enemies, rivals and trouble in the world of international espionage and counter espionage. As with the first part of the series, we also find out more about the backgrounds of members of Koko's team, and in most cases, the personal grudges and enemies they have accumulated between them just add to the growing menace.
Initially, the biggest threat at the start of this season comes from those intelligence agencies, from the CIA, from breakaway paramilitary units, from the Japanese intelligence and perhaps most significantly in this part of the series, from a figure known as Bookman, who seems to be behind or have his finger on the pulse of every covert intelligence operation that is going on in the world. Koko has quite a challenge on her hands, not only because her actions are a threat to Bookman's power, but also because it is revealed that there is a CIA agent operating undercover within her own team. It all gets very confusing as all these rival agencies and operatives with uncertain allegiances come together with competing objectives that have ominous codenames attached to them - Undershaft, Jormungand - but whose aims have yet to become clear.
What is clear however is that there most definitely is a method to Koko's madness. And madness might not be too far from the mark in describing Koko's condition and her ambitions to establish a new world order. At the same time that the HCLI are running around fighting rivals in bloody violent shootouts, Koko is gathering significant figures in the world of science who will help her achieve her aim. Quite what she is doing with Jonah, a young child soldier who hates arms dealers, is... well, let's just say it's complicated in the way that Koko and Jormungand are complicated. A kind of twisted way that makes sense on some kind of warped level. Jonah is perhaps Koko's conscience in some way, or a moral barometer that keeps her from slipping over the edge. That fixed smile on her face might look like a crazed self-confidence, but it's clearly masking a more troubled nature. And that's not surprising, considering what she has in mind and as the lengths she is prepared to go to eventually become apparent.
I'm not going to pretend that it's possible to keep up with all the complex alliances, rivalries and agencies in the series, never mind comprehending the motivations of characters who have seen a lot of cruelty, suffering and death in their time. The pacing of Jormungand however gives plenty of breathing space to show that there's more going on than is obvious on the surface level of the gunfights and explosions. Flashbacks to earlier episodes might seem occasionally repetitive, but are used to remind you of the significance of certain scenes, and indicate that there is indeed an underlying purpose and direction that is coming together. It always finds a way however of balancing this downtime for character and plot development with pulse-pounding explosive action sequences. Jormungand can be brutal, violent and often unpleasant, but it unfortunately only reflects the nature of the real world where wars kill thousands of people every day, creating misery and poverty, and where arms dealers and where it's in our government's interest to for some people to kill other people in far off countries.
Despite looking relatively static, the animation employed by White Fox studio is actually well-storyboarded and purposefullly drawn for pace, thrilling action and tension. It probably won't get much credit for its use of locations and backgrounds, but they are also vital to the whole purpose of the story. Not only are the worldwide locations authentic, giving a firm indication of time and place, but they capture the feel of the place - whether that's a middle-European mountain range, the streets of Prague, London or Amsterdam, or a North African desert. That sense of location extends even to car-parks, tunnels or on board a ship - the use of lighting, mood, sound and space placing you right there. The use of clouds and skies in particular is impressive, and significant too in so many ways. Whether it's to give a sense of the kind of freedom that isn't there on earth, whether it reflects the openness of the eye of the world that weighs on the characters, or even if it reminds you of the proliferation of communication satellites above (which is to have significance in Koko's plans), it sets a tone that is calculated to create a specific impression, and Jormungand makes the impression it sets out to achieve very well indeed.
Jormungand - Season 2 is released by Manga Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray and contains twelve episodes. Although labelled Season 2, the episode numbers continue on from the previous release as episodes 13-24. The 2-disc Blu-ray set consists of one BD50 disc (eight episodes) and one BD25 disc (four episodes plus extra features). The transfer is 1080/24p with an AVC encode. Only checkdiscs were seen for review, but the set will presumably be region-locked to Region B.
When I reviewed the first part of the series on DVD I thought that the series looked pretty good and probably wouldn't be significantly better in High Definition unless you were making use of a large display. Having viewed Season 2 on Blu-ray however, it's clear that there is a quite noticeable improvement. I put some of the softness of the DVD transfer down to a hazy lighting effect and colour desaturation, but on BD it looks crystal clear and much more detailed. The image is stable and flows smoothly, and there are no noticeable issues of any kind. Colour banding can often still be a problem with many animation releases, but none are evident on either DVD or Blu-ray releases that I've seen for this series. As it's hard to imagine how this could be improved upon, I can see no reason not to score this as perfect video quality.
Both the original Japanese audio track and the English/American dub are straightforward Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo. Perhaps not so straightforward. The audio track is actually superbly mixed and highly dynamic. I listened to most of the episodes here through headphones and there's lots more going on than is obvious. Just as the animation puts you perfectly in a location, the audio mix envelops the listener with ambient background details popping in from all around. The music score is also excellent for Jormungand and this is likewise integrated well into the whole mix. I listened to the Japanese track and, as you would expect, there's good clarity in the dialogue, a punchiness to the action scenes and a zing to the bullet fire.
I sampled the English voice acting on the American dub in the previous DVD release and thought it was fine, although Jonah sounded much too old in the American version. The English dub I noted, also had much stronger language than the subtitles translation and can be unnecessarily crude. The subtitles aren't a perfect alternative as they're a bit stiff and literal and not as idiomatic as the spoken language track. The optional subtitles however are white rather than bright yellow, so that at least is a good point in their favour.
There's not a lot in the way of extras. In addition to the standard Textless Opening and Closings and Trailers there are Commentaries by the US Versioning team for episodes 15 and 24. The US director and cast also talk about the creation of the English-language dub in the Team Koko featurette.
If you've seen the first half of Jormungand, you probably know what to expect here, as Season 2 builds on the complex espionage and arms dealings of the first part and adds further complications. There's nothing simple about the shady activities of worldwide intelligence agencies as they come into contact with the complex motivations and personal dilemmas of Koko Hetmatyar's HCLI team, and the ethical questions don't get any easier to answer as the nature of Koko's plan develops towards the conclusion of the series. Jormungand however is bang up to date with real-world foreign policy matters, delivering a thrilling action anime adventure at the same time as it poses relevant moral questions about the state of the world we live in today.