Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion ?
Well, so much for the epic swordfight between the hero and the traitor. Kuchii's duel with Shiraishi proves to be very short and very deadly, and Kuchii ends up presenting Teruhi with yet another severed head once all is said and done. While morale is high amongst the Toibarai, a couple of bad omens suggest that disaster is near. Nagamine tells his people that they're still on the path to victory, but he seems less certain in private. Onitakemaru and Chouminpuku attempt to escape the island by boat, though they may be just a little too late. A massive Mongol force is approaching Kanatanoki by land, and a fleet of enemy ships is headed in from the sea. These aren't the kind of reinforcements Kuchii and Teruhi were hoping for, and with the castle surrounded, the odds are starting to look pretty grim.
After the confrontation at the end of last week's episode, I had high hopes for the duel between Kuchii and Shiraishi. With two skilled fighters and plenty of heavy emotions in the mix, this fight had the potential to be one of the show's major highlights. Unfortunately, all those promising elements aren't given the screen time they need to really hit home. The fresh details about Shiraishi's backstory and motivation are rattled off in a swift, matter-of-fact fashion that reduces their emotional impact. As for the fight itself, it's over almost as soon as it begins, and from a visual standpoint it's not particularly impressive. Apart from the silhouetted image of Kuchii beheading Shiraishi, nothing really catches the eye. The writing does at least manage to work in a little nuance through Kuchii and Teruhi's conflicted emotional responses to Shiraishi's death, but I'd still call this an underwhelming end to an otherwise compelling story arc.
After that hasty opening, the episode's pacing starts to drag as we sort through all the narrative housekeeping that needs to be done before Angolmois can get another battle going. Teruhi's latest nighttime monologue feels like a rehash of the other times she's loomed over Kuchii while he sleeps, and the return of the vengeful boy from episode four doesn't make the scene any more compelling. The presentation of the boat escape also leaves something to be desired, as the dilemma presented to the exiles isn't so much whether or not they want to stay as it is whether or not they think the boat can make it back to the mainland in one piece. Since the debate ends up being more practical than moral, it lacks the intrigue of the meeting between Shiraishi and Obusuma a few weeks ago. The one genuine point of interest here is Onitakemaru's comment about Kuchii; it suggests that Kuchii might have changed significantly as a person since his past conflict with Onitakemaru, with the implication being that he used to be a more bloodthirsty warrior. I'm not sure how much weight that assessment will ultimately carry, but it is at least another case of Onitakemaru offering us a different perspective on Kuchii's actions.
Once these scenes are out of the way and Angolmois finishes dropping all of its bad omen hints, the episode delivers its most memorable moment with the arrival of the next Mongol army. Even though we know it's coming ahead of time, the visual of countless torches lighting up the hillside is still a very powerful one. It reminds me of the first appearances of the Mongol forces early in the season in the way it conveys the instinctive dread of being hopelessly outnumbered. It's encouraging to see that Angolmois can still evoke that feeling, especially since Kuchii was starting to look invincible after winning so many fights. If this episode had ended with that image and the lingering uncertainty over the identity of the approaching fleet, it would've been one heck of a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, the series pops back in after the ending credits to beat the audience over the head with the knowledge that yes, those are Mongol ships, and no, the Japanese reinforcements aren't coming. It's a move that places exposition ahead of emotion, and it doesn't help that the argument between Kagesuke and his father over whether or not to send the reinforcements lacks any pretense of subtlety. It's a clunky, unnecessary epilogue that distracts from what would have been a genuinely thrilling ending.
Honestly, this episode is all over the place in terms of storytelling. The duel with Shiraishi is serviceable, if not as impressive as it might have been. While most of the mid-episode plot points are potentially important to the structure of the narrative, they don't exactly make for thrilling viewing. The sight of the torches in the distance is awesome, and yet it ends up being upstaged by a less compelling final scene. I'm willing to cut Angolmois a little slack since it's busy cleaning up after one battle sequence and preparing for the next, but this still falls a bit short of the show's usual standard.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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