Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion ?
As a general rule, watching your capital city burn to the ground doesn't really improve an army's morale. Kuchii and Teruhi reunite with Abiru Yajirou's group outside the burning capital, but it's not exactly a happy reunion. Even some of the veteran soldiers are demoralized by the destruction, and the appearance of a second enemy force is hardly encouraging. Teruhi's intense emotions lead her to attack a group of Mongol scouts, and this action helps to snap everyone out of their state of shock. The group heads to the next safe spot with more civilians in tow, but it soon becomes clear that they'll never make it unless they can delay their pursuers. As they prepare an ambush along a narrow road, Yajirou asks Kuchii why he's still willing to fight for a lost cause. The answer tells us a lot about Kuchii's motivations for trying to save Tsushima.
This episode is mostly a tale of three characters, with Teruhi being the most relevant early on. The script uses her dialogue to express what most of the Tsushima citizens are likely thinking and feeling in the aftermath of the capital's destruction. It's kind of an obvious role to play, but at least Angolmois is finally showing some consistency in how it uses Teruhi in the story. That “voice of the people” role carries through into Teruhi's decision to fire at the group of scouts; after expressing grief and despair earlier on, this action embodies a desire to fight back or take revenge. The downside of having Teruhi speak for her people is that it doesn't leave a lot of room for her to grow on a personal level; she's essentially just acting as a barometer for how other people are feeling. Still, her arrow attack does have the interesting effect of changing the way other characters look at their situation. As Kuchii observes, the fight with the scouts forces everyone to stop dwelling on the burning city and start planning their next moves.
That brings us into the march away from the capital and the eventual plan to buy time for the civilians by fighting the Mongols at a natural choke point. Kuchii inevitably ends up in charge here, but his most compelling moments actually come from a flashback scene in the middle of the battle. The connections are pretty clear; his attempt to save Tokiaki from an unjustified attack is reminiscent of his situation on Tsushima, with Kuchii fighting against the odds to protect someone else in both cases. This sets up an emotional moment right before Tokiaki's execution, and it also gives us some fresh insight into Kuchii's backstory and mindset. The whole incident likely explains why he was exiled in the first place, and Tokiaki's comment about Kuchii not being able to sacrifice pieces in shogi is a good summary of his personality: even when he would be better off leaving someone to their fate, Kuchii can't stop himself from getting involved. That pattern of behavior is what got him exiled to Tsushima, and it also led him to his current position of trying to rally the remaining defenders.
Finally, we have Yajirou, whose individual story unfolds across this episode. It's an intriguing little character arc, and one that plays out from beginning to end in the space of around twenty minutes. He's essentially a dead man walking in the opening scenes, staring off into nothingness and contemplating just how hopeless the situation has become. The encounter with the scouting party shakes him awake, if only to the point of reminding him that he's supposed to be leading his soldiers. His dialogue and facial expressions make it clear that he doesn't really want to go along with any plan that involves fighting the enemy again, and it seems like he only approves the ambush because he can't come up with a good reason to say no. The battle scene itself is heavy on tactics and a little light on action, but its effect on Yajirou is significant. Between the initial success of the ambush and his conversation with Kuchii, this scene brings Yajirou back to a point where he can act as a competent leader for his troops. If anything, he comes out of the episode more confident than he was earlier in the series. It's neat to see that character development play out in such a visible way, and it's a good sign for Angolmois in terms of its ability to have a minor character carry some of the narrative weight.
The prospect of a battle scene that's more interesting for its character development than its swordplay might not thrill viewers who are here for the samurai action, but overall Angolmois is moving in a more positive direction than it was a week ago. This episode does a decent, if not always subtle, job of using the events of the narrative to tell us more about the cast. The retreat from the capital also gives the characters a new objective to work towards, meaning that the next episode will have a natural path to follow. The lack of any perceived danger to the main characters still saps the series of some potential dramatic tension, but at least the plot has regained a good portion of its momentum. What Angolmois needs to do now is to build on this fresh start and get itself back up into genuinely thrilling territory.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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