Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jormungand - 08

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Did you get all that?

That was about as inside the beltway an episode of Jormungand as we've seen so far, and that’s saying something.  In general I like the arcs from this series that are steeped in politics and the minutiae of the arms racket less than the ones that deal with the interpersonal dynamics of Koko’s team, and as a result this honestly isn't one of my favorites.  It’s adapted perfectly well for the most part – I felt the same way when I read it in the manga.  But there’s always bleed between those two halves of Jormungand’s nature and “Mondo Grosso” is certainly no exception.

There are definitely times that I miss Jonah’s first-person narrative – whose omission is the one major change from the manga to the anime – and this episode is one of them.  It serves to contextualize events a little, which I think is much-needed in a series so starved for explanations.  It also gives the reader a stronger sense of just how keen Jonah’s observational powers are, and how little he misses.  Jonah has a child’s curiosity paired with an adult’s perceptiveness, and while we’ve gotten a little sense of that, I don’t think it’s as clear as it was in the manga.  The next chapter – “Dragon Shooter” – is going to be the real acid test, because Jonah’s observations are a critical component of setting up that story, and framing some of the things we saw in this one.  If it’s once again left out, that will be the proof that White Fox really has jettisoned it completely after the premiere.

As for the meat of “Mondo Grosso”, we start more or less as we left off – with a humorous yet insightful short about the psychological underpinnings of Team Koko.  We get a little peak inside Lutz’ mind (he’s been the most developed team member apart from the Big Four) and we can see that he’s still marinating over having failed to pull the trigger with Chinatsu in his sights, and what it might have cost the team if things had worked out differently.  We also see that urban cop Lutz is no match for wild boy Jonah when it comes to mountain fighting, as witness the paintball challenge Valmet has set up somewhere in the South England countryside as a sort of punishment for Lutz for getting shot in the ass last time.  Jonah rather heartlessly toys with him by shooting him in the same place, then leading him into the paintball trap he’s set up.  Jonah shows us a rare glimpse of carefree childish glee here, though the implications are as much disturbing as heartwarming. 

After that it’s full-on Jormungand technical overload – a pitched battle between HCLI and the Euro Group for the drone concession in “Country A" and “Country B” – in reality Greece and Turkey, always dancing on the knife’s edge of open conflict.  The Euro Group has sent out their top gun, former actress Amelia Trohovski, to try and win the day – and what follows is the arms-dealer equivalent of all-out war, a pitched battle with the generals on the streets of London that plays out across Europe, though front and back channels. Meanwhile there are idyllic scenes of Koko and team in Hyde Park, Jonah feeding the ducks and lots of banter between Koko and Amelia as the gears churn beneath the surface.

The more interested you are in this sort of thing on its own merits the more likely you found the episode compelling, I suspect.  There was certainly a lot of insight into the weapons Koko uses on her kind of battlefield.  She’s still using Chocolade to her advantage, this time bribing her with a diamond.  She uses Italy as a cover to sell Predators to hide American involvement, which the media-savvy Amelia leaks to the press.  Koko replies by working to get big countries like Spain and Germany in on the Preds, putting pressure on little Greece and Turkey to fall in line.  She also uses HCLI funds to make a play on the stock for the Euro Group’s front company, causing its money people to panic, and eventually forces them to buy back the stock at a 5% premium.

What’s the point of all this?  To show that Koko is serious business, whether she’s smiling or not.  For all her antics she’s a master of this Byzantine world of underground business, and the meeting with Amelia is the culmination of this.  There’s a larger war here between Euro and HCLI for control of the European market that’s hinted at, but in this battle Koko has trumped Amelia at every turn.  Amelia has seen beneath the mask that Koko wears, and learned a valuable lesson from it – and as usual, Koko enters into their eventual meeting at the docks much better prepared, with the better snipers at her disposal (indeed, I suspect Amelia was not aware that she even had snipers on the scene).  Koko wasn’t kidding when she said she was letting Amelia off easy at a 5% premium on the stock – she’s given her foe a good education and let her walk away still in condition to use it later on.

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7 comments:

  1. In other news, I loved the episode. :)

    You knew they weren't even trying hard to cover the countries they were talking about when they were outright saying "Country A" and "Country B". As a technical note, Turkey does have a wing of Predators on lease from the USA.

    That diamond, depending on clarity (implied to be really high) was probably worth between 30k to 300k. (It's hard to guess carat size from that, but I'm assuming a good cut/clarity and 1.5 carats, minimum) And, Koko being the international woman of mystery she is, likely keeps several around. They're a great way to move money quietly and in a very, very small pocket.

    One really key bit to Koko's moves was the stock purchases via their bank. They likely were displaying what might be short-selling tactics on the stock. When that happens to a group that deals with military sales the day *before* an announcement, it's a sign news of a sale loss is about to hit. While Koko probably had enough cover that it couldn't be tracked back, she was probably committing a crime in most locations. (But it likely covered 5 countries and could never be traced)

    Still, exposing millions of dollars of risk to trap EAE on the sale was a gutsy move. But that's Koko for you. If she lost, it'd have cost a whole lot of money.

    It was also interesting how they showed Koko assumed her communications were all being intercepted, given she was in a first-world country. Which might seem strange, but it's much easier to do that type of work in secret in the first world than in the middle of no-man's land. Go figure.

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  2. What's the relation between Greek troops movement (mentioned by Lutz) with the UAV sales? I assume there's a relation somewhat, but I just don't get it...

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  3. The way I understood is that the snipers was from angry people at one of the companies that Koko bought the stocks from and therefore Amelia had no connection to them. Also I did read the manga for this part and surprisingly they only needed 1 episode to cover 4 chapters. So far they needed 2 part episodes for 5 chapters arch while 1 episode for 3 chapters one, so I guess it sort of makes sense.

    GE, how did you know if Country A and B are Greece and Turkey? Is it a hunch? A stab in the dark? A wild guess? (okay, I'll stop now haha) Surely there are other possible countries that are in conflicts at the moment. When I read the manga, it only said "Country A" and "Country B" and didn't really specified them, I think. Obviously they were somewhere in Europe, but... I'm just curious on your conclusion.

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    1. They're pretty much the only 2 European countries that have "advanced" militaries and near-open hostilities. The Balkans wars aren't with advanced militaries. Drones do little without air support, so you need a fully functioning Air Force to go with them.

      Other points are they're the only European countries with the India/Pakistan-style arms sales (though it's a bit less strict than those two countries), which was actually the biggest give away. Also, very specifically, there was a sale of Predators to Turkey just a few years ago (though it's currently as a "Lease"), while there was previously a sale to Italy. So there was only actually two options, if you know what's going on in international politics.

      Greece & Turkey have been at low-levels of warfare for ages. If they weren't both in NATO, they'd probably have gone into actual military combat in the last decade. With Greece's economy a mess, Turkey is also pressing its advantage out in the eastern Mediterranean, making the situation even more tense. So it fits with the author's "Law & Order" take of ripping out actual events and placing Koko & crew in them. Or at least rough approximations of them.

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    2. Basically, yeah - that covers it. There are also clues in the way the representatives are dressed at the press conference, the news reports about Kurds, etc. Again - they're really the only countries that fit.

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  4. I'm on my sumafo at the minute, but the way the situation was described on the news broadcast and given the time the manga was released, they're the only ones that really fit. I could go into more detail later...

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  5. Oh, and Koko as post-modernist art was pretty funny.

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