Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion ?
Well, we've officially reached the point in this story where everything goes horribly wrong for the heroes. With a fresh wave of Mongol troops attacking Kanatanoki and no Japanese reinforcements in sight, the castle's defenders finally reach their breaking point. The walls begin to fall one by one, and both the exiles and the Toibarai suffer some major losses. Kuchii does at least manage to create an opening for Teruhi to lead some survivors to safety, but just before the two of them can reunite, an explosion sends Kuchii plummeting off a cliff and into the water below. If things weren't looking bleak enough last week, that should be enough to push the fight for Tsushima into “lost cause” territory.
While this episode-long battle gets through all the necessary plot points, it does suffer from some issues that weaken its appeal. For starters, this scenario makes it difficult for Angolmois to capitalize on one of its most consistent strengths: its ability to present us with interesting fights between vastly mismatched armies. Much of the fun of previous battle scenes came from watching Kuchii and company come up with clever ways to counter the advanced technology and overwhelming numbers of their enemies, but there's very little of that to be found here. This episode essentially boils down to a numbers game, with the Mongol armies throwing so many troops at the Japanese from so many different directions that there's really nothing for the defenders to do but give up and retreat. Instead of a clever surprise or an unconventional strategy, we get a whole bunch of dudes throwing themselves at a much smaller number of dudes until they break through the line.
Of course, the main priority here isn't necessarily to deliver a thrilling battle of wits. Above all else, this episode's mission is to push the protagonists to the brink of certain defeat. Since Angolmois isn't about to introduce a villain who can outsmart Kuchii, the series has little choice but to hit him with more enemies than he can deal with. It may not be the most intriguing way to shift momentum in favor of the Mongols, but it certainly sets up a whole bunch of dramatic death scenes. Killing off named characters amps up the intensity of the conflict, though Angolmois is perhaps a bit too hasty as it moves from one heroic sacrifice to the next. Most of these final stands are all too brief in terms of screen time, which means that the emotional impact of each death is weaker than it might have otherwise been. We cut to someone doing their part in the battle, that character rattles off a few lines about their personal motivation for fighting, and then they're dead and it's time to rush along to the next scene. At least a few folks get some cool final words; Nagamine's command to not let the enemy past his corpse is appropriately inspiring for the Toibarai commander, and Hitari's monologue in praise of the bow is turned back around on him in reasonably clever fashion.
All that fighting also means we get plenty of action scenes, although I wish the deluge of swordplay came with a more consistent level of animation quality. This episode is all over the place in that regard, with some scenes standing out while others fail to impress. We get a lot of pans across still images with motion lines thrown in for good measure, along with close-ups of moving weapons that conveniently leave their wielders out of frame. On the other hand, there are a few places where Angolmois does manage to kick the quality up a notch, most notably during Kuchii and Onitakemaru's back-to-back battlefield buddy scene. Even this isn't exactly top-tier stuff, but at least the two of them actually get to move around on screen while they're mowing down expendable baddies. At this point, I'm just hoping that Angolmois is saving its best for last, and that next week will feature more fluid motion and fewer shortcuts.
As the kickoff to the season's final battle, this episode is neither exceptional nor disastrous. It's saddled with the unfortunate task of keeping things exciting without being able to take advantage of the show's penchant for unconventional tactics, which means it has to lean harder on the emotional appeals of drama and action. It banks heavily on numerous death scenes, which succeed in grabbing the viewer's attention but unfold too quickly to really tug at anyone's heartstrings. The fight scenes are uneven in their presentation, ranging from forgettable to engaging depending on the animation quality. Despite these issues, the narrative does at least remain neatly on track, and this week's high body count should free up more screen time for the characters who are still alive and kicking. I would've liked to see Angolmois start this portion of the story with more of a bang, but the good news is that the door is still wide open for a thrilling finale. Here's hoping the series can deliver on that potential.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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