by Carlo Santos,


GN 11

Jormungand GN 11
Koko Hekmatyar is a black-market arms dealer, profiting from international conflict as she travels the world with her band of operatives. Among them is Jonah, a child soldier whose aptitude with a gun is matched only by his hatred of war. Luckily for him, Koko has been putting together a master plan for world peace known as Jormungand—but it would also result in about 700,000 deaths along the way. Disgusted at the idea, Jonah turns against Koko, but still can't escape his mercenary lifestyle. Meanwhile, Koko continues to press forward, taking over worldwide logistics and communication and pulling the strings of global politics. Eventually, only one step remains: launching an Earth-orbiting computer that would shut down the skies and bring human civilization to its knees. Will Jonah rejoin Koko in this quest to create a new world, or has he lost all hope?

The eleventh and final volume of Jormungand proceeds more like actual politics than a series finale: just business as usual, with chaos breaking out all around the world. But what makes for an accurate portrayal of current affairs doesn't always make for good storytelling, and this ending is anticlimactic to say the least. It strings assorted plot points together instead of delivering a definitive, closing moment, and every time it explores a provocative idea, it leaves the thought half-finished. The ending of Jormungand has something important to say ... but never figures out the actual message.

At first, it looks as if Jonah and Koko's parting of ways could lead to an intense finale—especially as they get into a spirited debate about sacrificing a few for the sake of the many. But the drama peters out as Jonah simply runs off and switches to another faction, and suddenly the series is left looking for another angle that would bring everything to a powerful close. Thus we get one last dose of special-ops gunfighting action, where a clandestine government mission spirals into a heart-pounding escape, complete with ragtag insurgents and crack snipers opening fire on each other. The big twist is that all of it is orchestrated by Koko, and as a display of her power, it's impressive as well as violently entertaining. However, it fails to involve Koko and her team directly, and so doesn't really resolve the main storyline in any way.

Next comes another clumsy narrative move: the series skips a couple of years into the future for the last couple of chapters. Normally this would mean a neat little wrapup for all the major characters, but instead, the story keeps flailing about, trying to find out what its ending is supposed to be. Its only inspired moment is a shocking montage of future politics: unstable areas have descended into outright war, familiar nations and alliances are changed beyond recognition (guess what happens to the Eurozone!), and Koko is still sitting pretty, just waiting to zap the world's satellite networks out of commission. Meanwhile, Jonah has grown into that pubescent stage of "What am I going to do with my life?", and his answer—despite coming with a grand symbolic gesture—doesn't really change anything. It's still business as usual, even in the final scene where an unexpected reunion vainly tries to stir up some emotion. For all the attempts to create a convincing finale, the series still leaves too much hanging open.

It's not just the storyline that's lackluster in this volume, but the art as well. Although there are some eye-catching moments, especially in the one major action scene, most of Jormungand's endgame involves long stretches where the characters simply talk and make intense faces at each other. It's not like they even have that great a range of expression—somehow, the default look for every character is a narrow-eyed scowl. At least the character designs provide some variety, with suit-and-tie government types, grizzled soldiers and mercenaries, and Koko's own motley crew all getting into the mix. But it's hard to appreciate that variety when the characters are often limited to dialogue scenes as mentioned above—the same sitting or standing poses in every frame. Strictly rectangular layouts add another limitation, as even the most action-packed moments remain confined to the edges of each panel. Backgrounds, which are often blank or kept at a bare minimum, are also a disappointment. The only true artistic strength is in the weaponry and vehicles, which are as carefully researched as the series' political background; the careful detailing on these inanimate objects adds to the series' real-world vibe.

A touch of real-world awareness also comes out in the dialogue, as the characters allude to nations and organizations involved in today's conflicts. However, this is more window-dressing than real insight—just familiar names and acronyms attached to a fantastical "What if?" scenario. The rest of the script involves casual, sometimes cryptic back-and-forth chatter where Koko and her allies makes insidious plans, everyone else tries to outguess her, and Jonah continues to mope about the futility of warfare. The blandness of the writing makes the dialogue scenes even more tedious than they already are. If there were other outspoken personalities besides just Koko, then reading about her twisted path to world peace might actually be fun, and not feel like a droning news report.

So what is there to say about the end of Jormungand, when it doesn't even seem like it really ended? The nations of the world continue to rage furiously, government agencies and armed forces create more messes, and Koko Hekmatyar's world domination plan keeps rolling along. The one major battle in this volume provides some excitement, but it's just a sideshow, and the drama that should have resulted from Jonah changing allegiances never really comes to fruition. Not even the visuals are interesting enough to cover up this rudderless narrative. Jormungand puts forth some challenging ideas about war, peace, and world affairs—and throws in some whiz-bang military action for good measure—but when the time comes to deliver a dramatic closing statement, the series is reduced to waving its hands and mumbling incoherently.

Production Info:
Overall : C
Story : D+
Art : C+

+ Offers a provocative (if unlikely) view of where world politics is headed, and thrills readers one last time with an edge-of-your-seat military operation.
Strings various plot points together but never assembles them into a definitive moment that could be considered an ending. Lackluster art doesn't help either.

Story & Art: Keitarō Takahashi

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Jormungand (manga)

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