Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion ?
If nothing else, I have to give Kuchii points for persistence. Sure, Teruhi's been stabbed in the shoulder and the Mongols are ready and waiting for his surprise attack, but he goes through with it anyway. It might not seem like the greatest idea at the time, but the night raid still works out in his favor thanks to some timely assistance from the shadowy Toibarai troops. Onitakemaru finally gets a chance to cut loose in a duel with an enemy officer, but the fight comes to an abrupt end when Kuchii calls for a retreat and the Mongol leader orders his soldiers not to give chase. The next day, Kuchii confronts the son of the man who tried to kill him and offers some blunt advice. The whole group is eager to get back to the capital, but their relief soon turns to horror when they find the city engulfed in flames.
While the night raid seemed poised to deliver a tense battle of wits and swords, the end result comes up short in a few areas. For starters, the pacing is slowed down by yet more character introductions, including a handful of Mongol officers and the leader of a friendly faction that conveniently happens to be based on Tsushima. The baddies do at least give a decent account of themselves; the named officers seem reasonably competent in their response to Kuchii's attack, and once again they appear to be on a level playing field with the protagonists when it comes to a one-on-one fight. Of course, it's difficult to tell how impressive their skills are when the whole sequence is so dimly lit. I realize this is supposed to be a night scene and the darkness is important in giving Kuchii's troops the element of surprise, but layering the show's signature filter over a color palette of black and dark grey is overkill. If Angolmois had made things a little brighter overall or at least thrown in a few more torches to create contrasting areas of light and darkness, this might have been a stylish, artful action scene. Instead, it's just kind of muddy.
This episode also has trouble figuring out what to do with Teruhi. After sending her up to the front line, the show sticks her on a stretcher and sends her back to the rear before the battle begins in earnest. If her wound had been life-threatening, this could've worked as a method of adding extra tension to the story, but it turns out to be more of a “walk it off” kind of injury. This means that the series is sidelining one of its main characters for no obvious benefit, like it's stuck in an awkward position where it needs to keep Teruhi close enough to the action to make her presence relevant but it can't actually let her fight anybody. If her purpose in the story is only to be a political leader, then that's fine, but in that case, it seems pointless to have her tag along for the night raid at all. Unless the script can settle on a clear role and character arc for Teruhi, she's at risk of becoming a perpetual observer while the rest of the cast runs around advancing the plot.
Angolmois takes a stab at delivering another emotional high point during Kuchii's conversation with the traitor's son, but it struggles to replicate the success it had with the return of Sukekuni's head last week. The writing may be at least partially to blame here, as Kuchii's “grow up and take revenge” speech is pretty generic. The matter is also resolved a little too quickly and cleanly; the kid immediately sucks it up and moves on, and Kuchii is a little too unfazed by the whole thing. The severed heads worked because they brought on a moment of personal uncertainty for most of the cast, whereas this just feels like a nuisance being dealt with. That sense of doubt and fear is evoked much more effectively by the burning of the capital at the end of the episode. It takes what should have been a safe moment for the heroes to regroup and turns it into a significant blow to their morale, once again driving home how thoroughly the odds are stacked against them.
While there are still good moments to be found here and there in this episode, it feels like Angolmois is starting to lose its way. The battle scenes are still sacrificing pacing and immersion in the name of character introductions, Teruhi's role is getting lost in the shuffle, and the series is having some trouble maintaining a sense of dramatic urgency. I'm hoping that the destruction of the capital will be significant enough to present Kuchii with a more daunting challenge, but I said the same thing about the night raid, and he was able to muddle through that without any real trouble. At some point, the Mongols need to pose a direct threat to the main characters, instead of just to the island in general.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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