Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion
by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion ?
Angolmois crams an entire siege battle into this week's episode, which means there's a lot for the show to get through in a short amount of time. Kuchii and Nagamine decide to concentrate on luring the Mongols into attacking a single gate, which means that the rest of the wall is left lightly defended. That gives Shiraishi an opportunity to create an opening from the inside at another point along the wall, and Mongol troops come streaming in. Smoke soon rises from the main Toibarai citadel, but not because of the Mongols; the Toibarai end up setting the building on fire themselves in order to trap and kill the invading soldiers. As chaos and confusion delays the Mongols at the main gate, Kuchii launches a surprise attack and forces Edei to retreat. Back inside the castle, Kuchii goes to confront Shiraishi after learning of his betrayal. As the two swordsmen stare each other down, it seems likely that one of them is about to lose his head.
I was curious to see how Shiraishi would factor into this battle, and the good news is that Angolmois continues to handle his betrayal quite well. Much like last week, his personal perspective on the action is more nuanced than one might expect in a simple genre show. The fact that he tries to talk the Toibarai soldiers into leaving before the Mongols arrive, coupled with his observation that betraying someone once forces you to betray them repeatedly, elevates Shiraishi a notch or two above the standard scheming traitor. Instead of simply being good or bad, he's a flawed person with some redeeming qualities. The effects of his actions also find a nice middle ground where they adversely affect the protagonists without dooming them to defeat. It seems reasonable that the Toibarai would have some kind of backup plan in case the wall was breached, and setting the area on fire allows them to turn the tide of the battle back in their favor while still requiring them to make a significant sacrifice. In terms of both character development and narrative structure, Angolmois deserves credit for doing a good job with Shiraishi's defection.
While that betrayal might be this episode's key plot point, there's also a whole siege battle to run through here. The show strikes a decent balance between explaining the big-picture strategies of the two sides and diving straight into the thick of the fighting. There are some satisfying shifts in momentum as the Mongols' sheer numbers and flanking strategies are pitted against the defenders' ambushes, siege weapons, and fire trap. The majority of the named characters get at least a little screen time to show off their skills, whether it's Teruhi commanding a group of archers or Onitakemaru talking trash and throwing heavy objects at the baddies. All of this action also produces some memorable moments, with the dying words of the burned Mongol officer and Edei's close call with one of Kuchii's arrows standing out in particular. This is the kind of stuff that draws people to historical action shows, so it's encouraging to see Angolmois deliver on that front after going light on action for the last couple of weeks.
In the midst of all the swords and arrows, we also get a battle of wits and personalities between Kuchii and Edei. Kuchii is clever but not infallible here; his ambush at the start of the siege and the cavalry charge near the end both show off his bold tactics, and yet we also see that he has a blind spot when it comes to Shiraishi. Without Nagamine's plan to set the citadel on fire, Kuchii's strategy could easily have fallen apart. On the other side of the battlefield, Edei continues to display enough competence to make him a worthwhile antagonist. Most of his decisions are pretty reasonable and he doesn't make any unbelievably stupid mistakes, and as a result it feels like the protagonists actually earn their victory instead of having it handed to them out of narrative necessity. There's even some mild variety amongst the other Mongol officers; their command styles display different levels of aggression and confidence, contributing to the impression that the invaders are more than just a faceless horde of expendable soldiers.
If anything, I would have liked to see this battle go on for more than just a single episode. There's enough going on here that Angolmois could have dialed the pace back a little to squeeze in a couple more sword fights or give us some more insight into the two armies' tactics. As it stands, this falls just a little short of what I'd expect after so much buildup in the previous episodes. On the other hand, pretty much everything here is enjoyable: there's some strong character writing at work in Shiraishi's betrayal and the contrasting strategies of Kuchii and Edei, and the action scenes themselves are both compelling and satisfying. The final scene also sets the stage nicely for the next episode by positioning Kuchii and Shiraishi for what should be a hard-fought and emotional duel. After holding steady in terms of pace and quality for several weeks, Angolmois has succeeded in stepping things up a notch with this episode.
Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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