Wolves and Koko Puffs

When I was reading about people’s first reactions to Jormungand the animation, some compared it to Spice & Wolf. I didn’t really see the comparison being valid beyond the superficial similarity of having a strong personality of a woman in the context of the intrigue of bartering. But after 3 episodes, I see where the real similarity lies.

Koko is a wolf. In fact she is the wolf that Horo never seems to be, at least after 3 volumes of the novels. It’s how far I’ve read in Spicywolf before giving up.

By wolf I mean, perhaps, the best example of wolf that anime keeps on using: the fable of the Little Red Riding Hood. This is the human wolf–a wolf pretending to be a person in order to achieve the wolf’s wolf-y goals. Which is usually about being a wolf’s survival, or desire to eat somebody, or some such.

An example of the Little Red symbology in play is Jin-Roh. And Jin-Roh is, by all means, the best fictional depiction of what it means to be a wolf, in my humble opinion, in the context of Japanese pop culture. It’s a little more psychologically edgier than the simple “ronin” or lone wolf concept, which is more about the individualism that we Americans associate with our cultural heritage. Indeed, in order to appear wolf-like, these individuals have to exist alongside with normal human beings, and even work with them. It is very hard to act aloof and deceptive if there’s nobody close to you. It’s why the Big Bad Wolf gets to have a conversation with Little Red Riding Hood. The culture of fitting in, as it is in Japan, makes the wolf blend in to his or her environs easier. It’s the wolf’s disguise.

Koko is rather the exception in that regard. She stands out like a sore thumb at a glance. Her manic smile is clearly a sign of something is odd about this one. Some might even consider her moe, which is probably running against the grain in a Black Lagoon-like setting. Koko’s wider-than-usual mouth makes me asks why she has such a wide mouth. The childish and girly exterior betrays the calculating and pragmatic mind it carries. To that extent it is already less of a wolf-in-sheepskin as much as just a wolf (as opposed to Jin-Roh, where the “wolf” is actually a wolf pretending to be a sheep inside a wolf’s skin). She is clearly a wolf among wolves, except this wolf looks like a sheep.

Indeed, Koko, why do you have such a big mouth?

The setup is pretty nice given that we’re seeing the story developing as a relationship between Koko and Jonah. Jonah looks like a wolf, too, but I suppose we’ll get to see if Jonah only looks the look or not. For starters, he might not even rock the look that Koko does.

There’s a lot to like, for me, about Koko and Jormungand the anime. It’s great to see Iwasaki being fun to listen to again. It’s unfortunate that the radio drama cast didn’t carry over again but I’ll live. Koko’s shotacon ships also adds to that wolf-ness, don’t you think? Like, she’s gonna eat him whole? LOL. I think White Fox’s got a solid hit on their hands again.

PS. If you’ve never seen Oshii & Okiura’s masterpiece Jin-Roh, go knock yourself out on Hulu. Or import the re-release Blu-ray!


4 responses to “Wolves and Koko Puffs

  • Vendredi

    The wolf angle is certainly played up too by her habit of wearing white furs in any temperature whatsoever!

    I think another point of comparison to Spice and Wolf is that the economics actually tends to take a backseat compared to the characters themselves. I mean, the show could easily wax informative on guns and weapons, but it doesn’t really go into too much detail.

  • Stef

    I don’t quite see the comparison other than on a superficial level. The two characters are played differently, with a different set of “wolfy” traits. It’s wrong to say there’s only one way to portray a certain character type. Don’t tell me you went into Spice & Wolf expecting Koko.

  • Smithy

    Can see there might be some similarities between “Jormungand” and “Spice & Wolf” but Koko and Horo seem to be vastly different characters with an entirely different back story and motivations.

    While comparisons between “Jormungand” and “Black Lagoon” can be easily made, so far both shows also seem quite different though perhaps this is due to the fact “Jormungand” has just started, making it hard for me to understand at this point why it brings in several psycho/deranged characters. Once you have seen “Black Lagoon”, the various main characters that obviously have a screw loose compared to benign social standards actually make sense having seen their back story or actions throughout the show. Wonder if it’ll be the same for “Jormungand”.

    In some firefights “Black Lagoon” pulled the card of crazy wild wild west shootout where common sense doesn’t apply, but I felt a bit put off by the shootout in the third episode of “Jormungand” between Orchestra and Koko’s gang, several scenes just didn’t add up from a tactical/realism point of view.

  • omo

    @Venredi
    Yeah, I guess there’s a narrative similarity. One could even say the characterization even takes a back seat to the so-far “trade of the week” format, because it is originally a manga and it had to play the chapter-of-the-magazine game. Actually you do also raise the point that even the trade part is not very well-explained. I think that part I kind of like in that it is something they explained adequately but it would feel dumb if they spent nearly as much time explaining it as Spice & Wolf explains things like short selling and other textbook trades.

    @Stef
    All I’m saying is there are many different wolfy traits, and some characters are more wolfy than others. Maybe it is wrong, but maybe you are wrong. Who knows? I just think in the end Horo is not much of a wolf, or at least when compared to how wolves are treated in classical literature and even contemporary literature. She’s more god than wolf god, and more so just wears the outfit and not the pack-minded, inhumane instinct.

    @Smithy
    No Jin-Roh huh.
    Or even Okami-san.

    I didn’t really think the comparison with Black Lagoon works on a character/intercharacter level. But of course the mood and feel of the show are similar to that.

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