Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Series Review: The Ugly Side of War

To be honest, I’m not super into realistic historical settings or period drama style anime so when I first started Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion, I wasn’t really expecting much. Still there’s definitely something about those first episodes that grab your attention and even though the show has its flaws, I’m still pretty happy with the watch through.

Review:

For people who watch a lot of seasonal anime there’s definitely a small problem of becoming a little fatigued with seeing similar set ups and plots play out over and over again. Particularly when you follow some genres more than others you definitely start to notice a saminess to your viewing so it isn’t surprising that when something comes along that gets your attention that isn’t something from your normal genre, there’s a novelty factor that comes from watching it that makes it pretty pleasant.

Angolmois Episode 10

And for me, that’s kind of how it was with Angolmois. Definitely not my usual kind of thing because I’m not a huge fan of period pieces, I don’t really like Samurai stories, and based on real events in history does little to really engage me. However, this anime was different enough and my watch list small enough this Summer that I decided to strap in and go for it. I don’t regret that choice but I’m kind of left on the fence about whether I really enjoyed it or whether it really was just the novelty of it that made it stand out (and for people who watch a lot of historical/samurai stories it is probably missing the novelty factor).

Ultimately, I think Angolmois is fine. There are some great moments along the way and some not so food moments. There’s some interesting characters that we learn little to nothing about. The plot is kept pretty straight forward with the Mongols invading the island and the local Japanese people trying to survive while not wanting to leave their land and the exiles who end up tasked with helping them (not that the exiles have all that much choice given leaving the island isn’t exactly an option for most of the anime).

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However, fine isn’t exactly a huge recommendation and to be honest, in a busier season I probably wouldn’t bother with this one. There are just too many strikes against it so that even those moments that were really fun and engaging end up mostly forgotten by the end.

Of course, the biggest hurdle with this one is the filter over every single scene. I’m thinking they are trying to make it look historical or something, but mostly it just serves as a distraction in the early episodes and more than that, it is hideous. Character faces end up blotchy, and when we get a panning shot and the filter doesn’t move it actually made me feel a little queasy during early episodes. Admittedly, by the time you get to the second half of the season, your eyes have finally just accepted it and mostly filter out the filter but occasionally a scene will bring it back into jarring focus reminding you just how ugly this anime really is.

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It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters are pretty ugly to look at as well even without the filter. Now I’m not saying that every anime character needs to be a pretty boy or whatever, but this cast is a motley collection of generally unattractive character designs and while it is likely a deliberate choice given the tone of the show, that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to look at.

Okay, I’m going to move away from the cosmetics and actually look at the characters now. Despite actually kind of enjoying the early episodes, other that Teruhi and Jinzaburou, and later Kano, none of the character names stuck. It took forever just to distinguish the different exiles as individual people and not just the ‘exiles’ and then we have the Japanese from the island and multiple Mongol armies all with characters that are thrown at us. It is overcrowded and impossible to learn anything of real note about anyone which is probably where the show stumbles hardest. It is really difficult to care about their amazing climactic battle where they linger on a death and you have to do a double take just to remind yourself whether you knew who that character was, and then you certainly don’t care.

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So realistically this show either needed more episodes so we could spend actual time with these characters and get to know them, or it just needed to narrow its focus right down onto the characters who mattered. Not choosing either option means we get a very superficial look at way too many characters, most of whom will die before the final credits roll.

Like most historical anime, the characters all have their honour and rules that they live by. They regularly spout platitudes about their honour or life or whatever before doing something either stupid or brave or whatever. But again, knowing so little about the character makes these moments feel very tagged on and given we know so little about them we can’t figure out how this particular choice feeds into a greater character because it just isn’t there.

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The Magistrate suffered horribly because he clearly had a code and clearly made some choices because of it, but we never had the time to learn enough about him to really understand what was driving him. By the time he died he just seemed like a silly man holding onto a handful of a sand as the wind tried to blow it away. The traitor from the exiles as well never had enough time for us to really understand why he made the choices he made and his character ended up feeling fairly shallow and inconsistent because of it and made his betrayal have very little impact emotionally even if it did drive the plot to its inevitable conclusion.

I really did look forward to this show most weeks and it isn’t as though it is a train wreck. It just comes up short in too many ways for me to really recommend it. Still, if you want a break from isekai, harem, high school, or the other standard anime types, this one might be a breath of fresh air… assuming of course slaughter and war work for you.

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Get Your Tomatoes Ready Because Here We Have the Worst Anime of the Summer 2018 Season

If you missed it, earlier today the best of the season came out so if you would rather celebrate the successes of the season than wallow in, or jeer at, the misfires I recommend you check it out. In the meantime, a reminder that worst anime of the season is still an anime good enough to be watched through. Voters are asked not to vote for shows they haven’t watched. So while the anime in the list below and as the voters choice are problematic, there are most definitely worse anime out there.

Without any further ado, let’s get into the list.

Worst Story – 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

I almost gave this to The Master of Ragnarok, but then I realised there was a show that did even worse with its premise. Despite the set up being that the Princess has to wake up the princes, other than the very first prince, none of the princes are actually sleeping. Couple this with the fact that I got to the end of this and still have no idea what the overall goal is given the characters just seem to wander around and react to stuff, and basically the story is all but missing in action. A thin excuse to encounter various ‘prince’ types so that fans of the game can get all excited to see their favourite character for the two seconds of screen time they get before the main characters move on.

Worst Visuals – Angolmois: Record of Mongol Invasion

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

The filter is hideous. There’s no way to sugar coat it. When you have ugly character designs, a bland colour palette and then over the top of the lot you put that filter that just makes everything look like we’re watching it through smudged glasses that keep moving, this anime well and truly deserves the label of worst visuals for the season. While there are some good moments in the story, you do have to accept it is just going to be truly disgusting to look at.

Worst Opening – 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams

100 Sleeping Princes Episode 4

Seriously, this one is a thin excuse to pan over the cast of various princes we’ll encounter. The music is dull and borderline put me to sleep and the slow pan with almost zero animation over various characters, most of which we’ll encounter once at best throughout the season and then never hear from again, and to be honest I skipped this opening more often than I watched it.

Worst Character – The Cast of the Master of Ragnarok tied with Mineta (My Hero Academia)

Mineta had to be here. Seriously, if someone could just go through every episode of My Hero Academia and erase the bug from existence, I’d be really, really happy. There isn’t one scene he is in that is actually necessary and he contributes nothing. However, he does eat screen time on what I’m guessing someone thought were comedic moments but mostly I’m just left disgusted with his presence and he’s becoming increasingly annoying as the franchise continues. That said, it would be a mistake not to mention the incredibly bland and undeveloped cast from The Master of Ragnarok. And yes, I know that is two seasons in a row where I’ve given the title of worst character to an entire cast, but trust me, they earned it.

And now…

Worst Anime of the Spring 2018 Season – The Master of Ragnarok

Ragnarok9d

Yep, there were plenty of shows I liked less than this one, however I dropped them and didn’t finish watching. That just left this one on my list to leave as the worst of the season. Angels of Death got an early drop, Holmes of Kyoto hung in a bit longer but bored me to tears and so I gave up. Other early drops include Island and Lord of Vermillion (which definitely deserves a mention). Still, Ragnarok set up what could have been an interesting enough story, did absolutely nothing with it, and then totally flubbed its ending. It really deserves this placement.

Finally, Reader’s Choice

With 103 votes, making it the most votes ever for a worst of the season, the competition was pretty much won early on, but a last minute rally behind a show that really stuffed its ending brought us to a tie (won’t they be so proud). Anyway, the results of the readers poll:

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And so we have a tie between Angels of Death and The Master of Ragnarok.

Angels of Death took a very early lead in the poll. I think the disappointment factor may have played a role given how hyped up the show was before it began airing. Then, after the final episode of Master of Ragnarok, its votes took off and it caught up. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that I’d held out hoping the show would get better only for the final episode to kick me in the teeth.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote.

Summer 2018 was definitely not the highlight of the anime year, but we still had some fun titles to watch. As we move into Autumn, let’s keep our fingers crossed for something amazing, and if not, we can always vote for it being the worst of the season.


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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 12: Expected Ending and Little Impact

Oh no, he’s dead. We’re all going to die. Get revenge. Argh!

Kind of close to how this final episode of Angolmois ends up going but I guess I’ll give it a proper episode review before thinking about wrapping up this series.

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We might be on the brink of death and all hope might be loss, but there’s always time for a decontextualised flash back about a character we hadn’t heard of before in order to re-inspire Jinzaburou to try to get back to the surface of the water (even though realistically he had already well and truly drowned by the time this played out). There was nothing actually wrong with the flash back and as another piece of Jinzaburo’s character is was kind of welcome, but episode 12 and mid-battle is not really the place for it. Not to mention, I don’t care about the kid or the tree so the whole thing just emotionally fell flat here.

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On the island itself we essentially watch anyone left that we’ve spent any time with (not that I remember any of their names) getting killed off by the overwhelmingly stronger Mongol forces. I’m guessing some of these deaths were supposed to be touching but with little development of these characters plus the whole of episode 11 kind of doing the same thing, there is almost no impact to be felt and you are kind of just watching things play out and waiting for the curtain to fall.

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And fall it eventually does with Jinzaburou back on land and fighting against that one Mongol guy who was a bit of a jerk before (yeah, I don’t know their names either). And apparently he did kill the pirate guy off screen last week so I guess we won’t be seeing him again. They duel, and then Jinzaburou does this badass walk through the middle of the Mongols and they all just give ground but it doesn’t matter. Almost everyone is already dead and this fight barely rescues a handful. The Mongols are leaving regardless as this was never their true target.

As to Teruhi, she’s nearly strangled to death by Kano who apparently just wanted to hide the Princess (though she’s very lucky she didn’t actually kill her). When Teruhi awakens she sees everyone dead and despairs but then she comes across Jinzaburou and we get some totally inappropriately triumphant music to see us through to the end where the other survivors regroup (no sign of Kano so I guess things didn’t end so well after the Mongols pinned her to the ground).

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The episode ends with a statement that there’s some writing about exiles fighting on the island but nothing more. I”m guessing they just wanted to remind us this is fictional though has some historical basis. Not that any of that matters. I don’t regret watching this one this season, but its kind of run its course and I’m also kind of glad it is done. Full review coming soonish.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 11: If Warriors Die To Learn Who They Are, These Guys Are Getting A Great Education This Week

I’m reminded once again how much my mood affects how I take in what I watch. I’ve had one of those weeks. You know the kind where you wonder why you continue to get out of bed and I’ve had to come up with a reason each and every day to get me moving out the door to work. So when I finished this episode and had a very ‘meh’ impression I had to think long and hard about whether the episode really failed to deliver or whether I’d just become a little bit numb after everything else. The answer I came to was probably a bit of both.

Angolmois Episode 11 Teruhi
You and me both.

The inevitable fall of the castle came during episode 11. The castle we knew was too large with too few defenders. The castle that last episode was surrounded by an overly large Mongol army. The only real question was how many would die when the castle would fall and somehow they managed to make the answer much bigger than anticipated because despite each exile saying they were just going to kill a few Mongols and then leave, the majority of them hung around long enough to face their death, as did the vast majority of the islanders.

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I mentioned this on Twitter but I definitely feel this episode would have had far more impact if any of these characters had really been properly developed. I struggled even as I watched them die to remember their names or to summon up even a shred of care about their demise. And that kind of is a problem with this series. The events have been interesting and the conflict reasonably compelling but the cast never have been and now with the dramatic final moments playing out I’m failing to really get the emotional impact that these scenes deserve.

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There’s also a little bit of eye-roll worthiness as characters stay overly long to make a hopeless last stand and then just as they decide its time to go they get cut down. There’s only so many times you can repeat this sequence of people lingering just that fraction too long before you realise everyone on the mountain is pretty much stuffed.

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Still, with an episode to go, I guess we’re at a good point to finish the series. Most of the cast are already dead, the Mongols are swarming, and they just blew a main character off a cliff (though I assume since he landed in the ocean, and because we haven’t seen the scene from episode one, that he’ll survive that), so I guess this is climactic. I’m curious as to what the end will be and whether anyone will live, but at the same time I feel I’m just not very emotionally invested either way. Whether they live or die, I’m curious but not caught up in it.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 10: Things Are Going About As Well As You Would Expect

Angolmois Episode 10

Jinzaburo wastes no time in dealing with the betrayal from last week, we get a weird kind of romantic maybe sequence from the Princess, and then we have yet more Mongols moving in. Angolmois isn’t slowing down and it was great that they reminded us that everything that has happened has taken place over 5 days so far.

Angolmois Episode 10 Teruhi

On the surface this episode felt very piecemeal and yet because of the short time frame and the fact that each event that happens is clearly linked to what has happened before, it never felt overly disjointed. The problem is mostly that this show remains an interesting walk through the events on the island (and I have no idea about the accuracy or credibility of this story nor do I have much desire to look it up) but it isn’t making me really care all that much about the characters themselves. The characters remain just a vehicle for moving events along and each one is pretty forgettable in their own way.

Angolmois Episode 10 - Jinzaburo

That doesn’t stop there being some very cool moments in this story. The fight between Shiraishi¬† and Jinzaburo is so short and yet there’s a fair brutal efficiency. I like that they don’t feel the need to drag out the duel just for the sake of spectacle. This fight is impressive not because of the ongoing trading of blows or any particularly flashy move. It’s impressive because both characters are experts at what they do and they put their best into it from the first blow (no pulling out a super secret move ten hours into the fight). And that kind of plays into what works about this show. For the most part is is relatively believable even if potentially some of the individual feats are a little exaggerated for entertainment’s sake (and I’m not huge on stories needing to be grounded in reality, but with the way this one has been set up as more of a historical kind of thing, it actually works in the show’s best interest not to get too crazy).

However, I do need to look at the omens in this episode as we realise that the Magistrate is perfectly happy to lie to his own people if need be. He was also perfectly happy to stay with no plan and die so I’m not sure if he’s really such a great leader after all unless his people are equally fatalistic and don’t much care about maximising survival. What makes this slightly more tragic is that this is perhaps the best display of characterisation we’ve had since Teruhi got really angry at the Mongols for killing her whole family.

Angolmois Episode 10 - The Exiles

Finally, the episode comes to a close with the Mongols approaching the castle from land and sea and the Japanese are surrounded. Just to be sure we realise that the situation is now officially hopeless we flash to the guy who promised reinforcements essentially being told by his father that, nope, we aren’t sending any. This is responded to by the guy with one of the worse voice performances this show has so far delivered and the animation didn’t do a much better job of making me feel his pain.

So episode 10 is a mixed bag of fairly interesting and competent moments and some moments that remind me why this show keeps just straddling the line between the anime I’m really interested in this season and the anime I’m just kind of watching.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 9: Battle at the Castle

Angolmois Episode 9

Battle of the Mountain Castle is an episode where the title explains exactly what you are going to get. And as Angolmois moves back into fighting with a clear battle objective and clear sides, some of the strengths of the series come into play making for a fairly enjoyable episode.

Angolmois Episode 9

While the overall characterisation has not gotten any better in this series, we’re at a point where at least the characters we’re supposed to at least recognise in some form have been established so there’s little to complain about as we see them prepare for and enter the battle. Jinzaborou’s ability to make accurate maps of areas once again comes into play which I thought was a nice touch and the other characters, including the Princess and the pirate guy had moments that at least reminded you of who they were.

Angolmois Episode 9

The battle itself was one where both sides were using strategies rather than just rush the wall and so there were some conversations and observations inbetween the rounds of running, flying arrows and dying screams. I did appreciate that they didn’t try to make the Mongols out to be too monstrous (though they weren’t sympathetic either) and in honesty the Japanese side igniting a squad of the Mongols could be seen as pretty horrific if they weren’t so incredibly outnumbered in this battle.

Angolmois Episode 9

All and all, this episode was a fun and engaging watch and it brought out mostly the best that this show has had on offer though at the same time it hasn’t done much to correct some of the issues in the mid-season that might make it overall difficult to recommend this to all but the most avid watcher of anime set in historical settings. Still, I had fun this week and I look forward to seeing what happens next week.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 8: The Price of Betrayal

Angolmois Episode 8

While this episode was an improvement on last week, and even thought to remind viewers that there are in fact reinforcements coming (I’d almost forgotten that they only had to hold out for a certain time assuming the reinforcements arrived), there’s still a definite feeling that things are just getting drawn out now.

Angolmois Episode 8

Jinzaburo spends a lot of this episode reminding us that despite his political savvy being somewhat lacking, he is a fairly good leader. After pointing out that the castle is essentially a death trap and seemingly resolving to leave, he takes on a challenge by some of the guards and in the process understands why they can’t or won’t leave. Even after beating them, he simply requests their names and then we get on with everyone sitting down to a campfire.

Angolmois Episode 8 - Jinzaburo

Where this falls a little short, is the fact that one of the exiles is betraying them. From the audience perspective, given we’re shown the moment he makes the choice, his dealing with the Mongols, and then returning, there is little room for doubt. And while Jinzaburo isn’t in on this knowledge, it seems like he should probably pay more attention to these exiles he is leading as they come and go particularly when they are in as fragile position as they are. Of course, placing all the blame on him would be foolish when you have to wonder why when they arrived the gate was guarded and yet this exile apparently left, had a meeting with the Mongol forces, and returned without anyone on the walls wondering just what he was up to.

Angolmois Episode 8

There was an attempt at injecting that time pressure that we felt so keenly in the first few episodes, but here is falls short. It has been too long since they reminded us the relief might be coming and too long since it has felt like there was any kind of end game for it to now be an affective plot device. If this had been featured more often as a constant gnawing pressure about whether they would survive long enough to be saved, then it would have significantly more impact.

Angolmois Episode 8 - The Mongols

While this show hasn’t ended yet, and I’m actually expecting something reasonably decent from the final confrontation, I really don’t think I’ll end up recommending this anime. As interesting as it ended up being, there’s just too many places where it has failed to hold itself up in the middle and the weight of them are starting to really drag on the overall experience.

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