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Hugh David calls Czechmate on the endgame

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Arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar, child soldier Jonah and the bodyguard team of global logistics corporation HCLI’s Europe/African Transport Division are back for more explosive action in this second 12-part series adapting the key final arcs of the manga series. This time it’s all-out war in the streets of Prague between the C.I.A. and HCLI, while loopy lepidopterist Dr. Minami Asada scoops up former PLA officer Karen Low after last series’ South African debacle and links up with Koko at yet another HCLI rocket launch, and we finally discover what those are about.  HCLI’s biggest commercial gamble yet is to get into global GPS, something currently run by U.S. elements.

Except this is Jormungand, and nothing is ever as it seems. One of the many things about this show that elevates it above the run-of-the-mill is that the words one hears out of the mouths of certain characters are rarely just exposition; whom they are talking to is crucial, as they’re often lying to them or telling them no more than they need to know. In other words, the audience has to pay attention to keep up with the machinations between the various factions, but it does mean that the suspense is sustained far better than most shows do in their second season.

The action scenes remain superlative, designed and executed in a way Western live-action directors would do well to study. The way character moments are woven within elevates them above mere technical exercises. The Prague shoot-out and Tokyo car chase are the sort of gems that prove that anime can still trump live-action in the same creative arenas when it wants to.

It is, however, the intelligence with which the manga and anime’s plot and characters are graced that allows the show to excel within its genre. The moral debates in the first series here bloom into full motivations, shaping crucial decisions made by individuals from Koko, her brother Kasper, and C.I.A. senior handler the Book Man, right down to the men and women of the bodyguard team, and Jonah most of all. It is rare to watch an anime in which current affairs and the morality of one’s involvement with them becomes a fundamental part of the show, and it’s a joy to experience.

As more and more is revealed about Project Jormungand, those discussions become the central point of the show. Like Utopia in the U.K., Jormungand asks bigger questions about the cost of progress in human lives lost; here, very specifically, it is about the price worth paying for real peace in a world owned and torn up by the military-industrial complex. Jonah’s vendetta and Koko’s ambitions may not be compatible after all; their actions and the speculative fiction of the finale lift the show up to a whole other level. Taken together, the two series of Jormungand are as important and thoughtful a show as Eden of the East, but maybe more internationally relevant, and deserves to be on end-of-year best-of lists.

Jormungand: Perfect Order is out on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.


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