In Jormungand, Guns and People Both Kill People

It’s a pretty staple rhetoric for the whole US domestic firearm ownership/regulation debate about how guns don’t kill people, people do. I think that’s true for the most part, but the reality is much more difficult to describe than that. I think this is why I stuck with Jormungand so far–it takes a surprisingly nuanced approach to some of the grim and realistic problems at the core of the story, despite a fairly understandable story about a weapons runner and the deadly business she runs.

I think it kind of reminds me of Patlabor. In one way, just as a police squad in charge of piloting giant robots is kind of out of our realm of realistic association  it’s the same with an international arms dealer running with a heavily armed mercenary gang and fending off private and public threats in stings and assassination attempts. Of course, illegal buying and selling of weapons is a very real-life problem, no matter the scale. But how many of us are actually all that familiar with the type of high-expense, selling-to-rogue-government kind of weapons trafficking? Where half the stuff she sells is more about logistics, like UAVs and radar arrays? Or that what HCLI pawns in terms of a 3rd party logistical support via its own satellite network? That’s very MGS if you ask me–and maybe that’s the sort of place we gleam some kind of connection with Jormungand’s world.

I think in order to have at least a chip in the game, Jormungand gave us some genuine sob story, as expected–namely in the life of Jonathan. We saw how Koko recruited a wide variety of men from their local armed forces, namely both for their savvy and specialties, and the men (and I guess a few women) join her for their personal reasons. For that matter we saw the same with the profiles of Koko’s antagonists and allies. But Jonah is the odd one out. It’s in the same way that we also see Koko herself being the odd one out, even among other arms dealers, and it’s where the show pay some attention in the way the lives of these two tend to balance on the turning point of the debate about war and peace, regarding the role of weapons and the human condition.

Of course, all of that makes sense until we factor in Valmet. That is the “Black Lagoon” part of Jormungand. In a way, that is just the sort of action-fanservice, Hollywood-style (think Rambo) otaku material and I don’t really know how it fits besides as a way to round out the psychological profile of Koko’s gang. It’s like how a harem anime needs to have a tsundere.

I’m also kind of glad Jormungand didn’t quite take the Lord of War approach, which seems at best disingenuous. Maybe this is because fundamentally Jormungand is otaku anime, the sort that is pro-guns, and pro-conservative values, that guns don’t kill people, people do. But it obviously spends the rest of the time focusing on the horrible things people with guns do, while asking us (and the characters too) why these people do these things, and if the world would be better off without the likes of Koko and her wares. Season one even featured a couple arcs namely driven by local warlords’ delusion of power fueled by ownership of said weapons. In season two, it even asks us what people without guns do to kill people. So invariably, I answer that with a yes–both guns and people kill people.

And I think that is fundamentally one of the deep-seeded problem post-war Japan has. It’s pacifistic yet so aggressively conservative, and that drives people crazy. To counter that, Jormungand thus apply that manga brand of humor, a mix of irony and self-depreciation. Yes, the CIA director is buying us Five Guys. Hey you, you impoverished, pre-teen mercenary from a war-torn central-Asian wasteland, is this the first time you had a burger like that? Is it time to whip out the SD? It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it connects the audience with the problem all too succinctly, without making any big gestures that would set off our verbally-worn triggers.

Sure beats Setsuna F. Seiei.

He is Gundam

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