The life of a weapons dealer definitely has its challenges.
What They Say:
Jonah is a child soldier and the newest bodyguard for Koko, an international arms dealer with an entourage of hired guns. The cold-blooded kid hates Koko’s line of work, but following her into the darkest corners of the black market might be the only way he can find those responsible for his family’s slaughter.
Besides, his employer isn’t like most merchants of death. She uses guile and cutthroat tactics to keep her clients armed to the teeth – all while cultivating her own warped plan for the future of world peace. With the CIA desperate for her capture, assassins eager to collect her head, and the potential for every contract to end in ultra-violence, Koko and her comrades in arms bring the boom to every corner of the world.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty standard but works well as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the English adaptation in 5.1, both of which use the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that does do a lot of dialogue driven material as there’s plenty of banter to be had and some more intense moments as well, but it also has a good bit of action as well. This hits up some of the good material as we see the way that the bullets come across, the impact, the explosions and the driving action in order to utilize the forward soundstage well. These moments are fairly regular with the way the stories work and most every episode has some good action with plenty of attention to the smaller bits which fits in with the way the show tries to keep things serious and intense. Dialogue is definitely clean and clear throughout and the show has a solid presentation without any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes of this season are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by White Fox, the show has a really good look overall with a lot of detail and attention paid to the real world aspect of the machines, the equipment and all from that part of the arms dealer world. It looks good and definitely adds to the realism of the series. Similarly, the backgrounds are strong with some good designs to it that also works to really set the atmosphere of the show, which also translates into some good character designs that have a really good look with the detail to them and the flow of the animation of it all. The main issue with the show is that they made a stylistic choice with it in that there’s a persistent layer of grain, which gives it a bit of a theatrical feeling in some ways, but adds that layer of noise that can be distracting for some people. It didn’t bother me all that much and I felt for the most part it fit the show well in giving it a little more of an earthy feeling.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case which also has an O-card slipcover that replicates the case artwork itself, albeit with a little more pop and color to it. The front cover gives us a good look at Koko in her usual outfit while Jonah looks on behind her with a dead faced look. Framing it with some purple skies and clouds gives it a big open world kind of feeling that really does work well with the black and white nature of the characters and their designs. The back cover goes for a darker approach with an almost black design that has the logo along it and a decent if brief summary of the premise, which works best for this kind of show. The right side breaks down a few shots from the show to highlight the characters and we get a good breakdown of the extras as well. While there are no show related inserts to it, we do get material on the reverse side that’s pretty nice. The left side breaks down the episodes as a whole while the right gives us the dove imagery that shows up here and there where it’s designed with various weapons.
The menu design for this release goes with the simple and expected route where we get a navigation strip along the bottom which has all the standard selections, and doubles as the pop-up menu to good effect, while the rest of the screen plays clips from the show. They’re done with a bit of a filter on it which adds to the kind of darker feeling of the world that exists here and the overall look is decent, though fairly forgettable when you get down to it. The layout is easy to navigate and submenus load quickly during regular playback with ease. The release does come with locked language tracks so you can’t change anything on the fly, which cuts down on sampling the language tracks easily.
This release comes with a few extras above the basics which is nice to see, as well as a bit of a change from the norm. We get the solid usual pieces in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which are pretty good here. We also get a pair of audio commentaries which lets the cast talk at length about the characters and the production. We also get a pretty interesting extra on the second disc where there’s a twenty minute video piece as Christopher Bevins talks about the process of casting the group that surrounds Koko. It’s definitely an interesting change of pace to have the director talking for any amount of time as to why certain choices worked as they did.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Keitarō Takahashi, Jormungand is a twenty-four episode series spread across two seasons with the first season in this set. The original manga began in 2006 and ran for eleven volumes before completing a few months before the anime adaptation began. The show is one that takes us to a world we’ve seen before where it’s about a weapons dealer and her group as they partake in a variety of jobs which in turn brings us into a variety of individuals with all sorts of difficulty along the way. While it’s familiar, it’s populated with an interesting enough cast to make it worth sinking your teeth into. But it also works because of the structure where it’s largely done as two episode stories, with a mix of action and setup and then execution in the second episode that goes whole hog. It’s a familiar enough structure in a number of series but it definitely works well with this one.
The series revolves around a group lead by Koko Hekmatyar, a second generation arms dealer who runs the operating through an international shipping company called HCLI. Koko is distinctive enough just visually since she typically wears all white outfits, has striking white hair and is very, very pale overall. She also has that edge of crazy in her eyes that’s rather well restrained but is definitely interesting to watch because you want to see her snap. HCLI actually has a few people working as arms dealers that operate independently overall and she has her own group with her that serves to facilitate the deals that they engage in. She’s the kind of person that has a pretty good analytical mind to see the various ways to make a deal, the dangers that may come from it and new opportunities that can arise. But she’s also built a pretty good family around her over the last couple of years to make the whole process work since you need people you can trust absolutely since your life, and theirs, are on the line.
To make the show accessible to people, we get to see a lot of what’s going on through the eyes of a new member to the group named Jonah. Jonah’s an interesting angle to take as we get a dark skinned child soldier from what’s described as an Arabic region where he spent his time working in the mountains before things went south with a friend he had, which lead him to meeting Koko’s brother Kasper, who Jonah now intends to kill. Kasper is similar to Koko in a lot of ways but with a slightly darker bent to him that has him taking the route of just killing his way out or eliminating opposition through violence rather than other means. Not that Koko won’t do that as well, but it’s not always her first choice. Bringing Jonah in gives the group a different kind of soldier since it’s all he’s known and he has to adjust to working with this kind of group along the way. It helps the viewer in that we get the other adult members telling him how various people in the group interact, the way the missions run and how to deal with Koko as the person in charge. Jonah’s fairly quiet as he takes a lot of it in at the start, but gets a bit more talkative along the way, though there’s always some calculation to what he does. It’s also interesting to see that Koko assigns one of her men, Mao, to keep up on some of his education. It’s an important part of being a well rounded and useful member of the group as there’s more to this job than just being able to shoot and kill.
With the first few episodes going through some of these kinds of introductions, getting the cast out there for Jonah and the viewer, it’s easy to settle into the rhythm of the show. It has a good one as it moves into the two episode story structure and we get to explore the way the world works for Koko. She has the tight bonds with the group, which is what Jonah really sees since it’s not what he had before, but we also see the other players in the arms dealer world. From competing dealers, including a former actress that found a greater challenge here, to the military commanders that have their own agendas beyond getting the weapons and stupidly threaten Koko. When you have someone that goes into a hot spot to deliver weapons, they’re not people you want to mess with as they’re always having a way out of a situation, regardless of who it would take down. The stories as a whole aren’t hugely memorable since they’re focused on telling small tales. Part of it is that I marathoned the season and I think taking the stories individually will give them more power. But what’s presented is a pretty engaging world for those that want to see the slightly seedier side of this business, though acknowledging that it is a business as well, which is a different kind of seedy.
I hadn’t seen Jormungand or read the manga prior to this set, but it’s easy to get the gist of it from the various clips out there. The series plays in the real world to good effect and it tells a number of engaging stories that involves calculation both in terms of financial and in lives with what needs to be done in order to survive this particular lifestyle. White Fox presents a pretty good looking show here as I like the style of it, the detail that’s given to the mechanical side of it and especially the characters as it all fits to create a particularly engaging atmosphere. With several stories told across here, we aren’t getting a large, overarching storyline of great importance, but we get a few threads woven through most of the episodes that helps to tie things together. But it’s fully enjoyable in smaller doses – which may be for the best in some ways – and it provides for something that definitely works towards showing a part of the real world that anime likes to tackle once in awhile and does so well.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries for Episodes 1 and 12, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 18th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78;1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.