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.

Mongol11e

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.

Mongol11c

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.

Mongol11d

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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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 7: Safety?

Angolmois remains perhaps one of the ugliest anime I’ve actually sat through, and the story really has come screeching to a halt in the mid-section, and yet there’s something about the story that continues to compel. Still, there’s plenty this week that makes me wonder why I’m still watching.

Angolmois Episode 7

This week we see our characters receive some gourd from the Emperor before running to an inlet where they find some Mongols chasing a boat load of women. Turns out its a trap and the third force we met before is hard at work luring in and killing Mongols. They aren’t thrilled to take in Teruhi and the refugees but the Emperor has ordered it and so on to the castle.

Angolmois Episode 7 - Teruhi

On arriving at the castle, Jinzaburo takes a quick look around, listens to the kid who has been playing on the walls, and determines that its pretty much a death trap. Of course the anime uses this opportunity to hit us over the head with the fact that he has no political tact once again (one of his few character traits outside of being awesome fighter/leader guy) and he royally annoys all the hot girls who are heavily armed. That might seem dismissive, but honestly this sequence is handled poorly and the characterisation is weak at best. With so little happening in this episode, and quite a bit of time devoted to the two kids bickering, the one development that seems meaningful needed quite a bit more thought in its execution.

It isn’t all bad news with them running into other refugees and clearly there are some foul plans afoot which are sure to help things get interesting again real soon.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 6: Division

Angolmois Episode 6

With the remainders of the army and the exiles momentarily unified in their desperation to survive, it is now the divisions in the Mongol army that are being exploited. That said, even with the infighting, the Japanese are really outnumbered here.

Mongol6a

I’m kind of annoyed at the way Teruhi is being presented so far in this series. She just keeps changing tone and reacting to situations and to be honest I don’t really get her as a character. We met her when she was playing the role of being haughty and cruel (which just seemed like a stupid approach with the exiles in the first place) and since then she’s been the stubborn tom-boy, the damsel in distress, the grieving family member, the tortured leader type, and so on. From one scene to the next you don’t know what face she’ll be wearing or how she’ll react and while fair enough her life is getting turned upside down, six episodes in her character remains fairly problematic in terms of actually saying whether or not I have a clue what her role in this story is.

Far easier to nail down is the role of the adopted son who last week joined forces Jinzaburou and the exiles as he tried to figure out a reason why he was even fighting and the writing was on the wall then for what his fate as a character would be. Points for the show not dragging it out and giving it enough weight as an event without belabouring the point. However, other than Teruhi and Jinaburou, none of the characters really have much, well, character. They are either stereotypes or more or less still blank slates with little to distinguish them from the other cast members. And that’s perhaps where Angolmois is starting to lose me now that the initial draw of the conflict is starting to wear a bit thin as we continue to see the Mongols chasing the Japanese across the island (there’s only so far you can pus htaht concept without liking the characters before it gets a bit old).

Mongol6c

Still, with developments towards the end of this episode bringing in some new characters, there’s some potential for a different direction. And despite m complaints about the cast, this is still a generally enjoyable show, outside of the ugly filter.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 5: A Reason To Fight

Angolmois Episode 5

This episode of Angolmois is working hard to establish the desperate situation the citizens of the island and Jinzaburou have found themselves in while also attempting to fill in some backstory that I guess was meant to make me like him more as a character.

Angolmois Episode 5 - Teruhi

I’ll get the comment about the ugliness of the filter out of the way nice and quick and then I can focus on what this episode does well, and some of the other things that aren’t so great. For example, I really enjoyed the way the conflict is going with the survivors of both the actual army and the exiles fleeing with the survivors from the capital, hiding from scouts, and working to slow down the army. The battle on the cliff was quite well handled (though we’ll discuss the animation in a second). It also gave us more of a chance to see Jinzaburou as a leader of not just the exiles but the islanders as they realise he’s pretty much the only one left who can take charge.

Teruhi, after her minor freak out and morale boosting arrow storm (slight exaggeration), pretty much fades into the background this week. Instead we get a flash back to Jinzaburou prior to being exiled and I guess we get a message about his character through his approach to playing shogi, but it is pretty heavy handed in the way it is dropped in there. Not to mention, this show kind of sets everyone who isn’t Jinzaburou to be a complete ass, and even Jinzaburou isn’t exactly coming out of this looking amazing given he has some pretty rough edge to him.

Angolmois Episode 5 -  Jinzaburou's past

But the real casualty this week was the animation. While in the first couple of episodes conflicts were nicely animated, we then had a few that moved the majority of the action off camera, and now we have some heavy reliance on panning over still images. It doesn’t bode well for the production over all and a story that is this caught up in these massive conflicts between armies probably needs to actually be able to handle some consistency in the delivery of those scenes.

Despite that complaint, overall Angolmois remains a fairly solid story this season and it is one of the few titles I’m genuinely enjoying rather than watching and hoping for improvement. There’s definitely room for improvement but even with the issues the anime has, it is still doing a pretty good job of delivering entertainment.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 4: War is Ugly

Part of me wonders if I will comment on how ugly this show is every episode, and the other part of me knows already I will. It is the one thing keeping me from full immersion in what has otherwise been a fairly gripping opening.

Mongol4e

Literally my only complaint this week is that filter. It is so distractingly hideous to look at. And the night time sequence only made it harder to actually look at and not see the filter. I kind of get the look they are going for but I really hate it. So it is probably a good sign for everything else in this show that despite how visually unappealing I’m finding it I have no intention of dropping it.

Mongol4a
In contrast to how ugly the show is, this opening shot from the OP is actually kind of gorgeous and I really would love this as a print.

Right, so let’s put aside complaints and praise for visuals (not something I usually spend a lot of time commenting on). This week we have the night raid on the Mongol camp, we introduce some new villains, we save some more villagers, and then our group of exiles and village recruits take a fast march back across the mountains to the capital (though that doesn’t go so well as the post-credit sequence will reveal, but I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself).

It isn’t particularly remarkable or different, and really characterisation isn’t deep here, and yet there was no point during this episode when I wasn’t interested. Individually these characters are pretty ordinary and so far undeveloped, but as a cast they are working, and the setting and story are compelling enough that they aren’t forcing in anything unnecessary and just letting events carry the plot forward. While this might not appeal to everyone, so far I’ve been surprised by how enjoyable this has been given I’m not much for historical settings.

Mongol4d

No doubt though that they aren’t pulling their punches when it comes to some of the atrocities that such a conflict will give rise to. Death is abundant amongst the unnamed cast and I’m not particularly convinced that all of our exiles have plot armour just yet. They also kind of go out of their way to show dead bodies, blood splatter, and all the general unpleasantness that a battlefield will give rise to. Again, this isn’t going to work for everyone, but it kind of adds to the overall feel of the piece given it isn’t a work of total fantasy and so you kind of have to consider these scenes where characters hack and slash their ways through the bodies of others in the context that these could have been real people.

Though the show isn’t above shattering its own illusions with a character catching an arrow in his teeth.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episode 3: Ugly Filter Aside, This Is Pretty Compelling

The characters are blunt and the conflict is real; so far Angolmois seems to be doing a decent job of distinguishing itself from the nice-guy harem-protagonist anime out this season.

Mongol3a

Wow, that filter is ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. In one sequence the characters looked like their flesh was made out of the cave rocks the texture on their skin was that prominent and weird. Throw in a knack for choosing colours that look like various versions of split-pea soup and this anime is just visually hideous. It is a good thing it isn’t resting on being pretty and with the gritty story unfolding here I have to admit despite being ugly the visuals are actually fairly suitable.

Mongol3e

It is difficult to get behind any of these characters though. The exiles are pretty rough characters and while they are good at their various trades (killing people) they haven’t given me any reason to really get on side. These aren’t freedom fighters or idealists. They are criminals and so far have come across as fairly self-centred in their view of the world. It seems they are mostly seeking a thrill in joining this fight rather than caring whether they are helping anyone.

Mongol3c

That said, you can’t get behind the actual army either because they are universally stupid. They flee and they buy into faulty logic from either their own leaders or the exiles. So far there is very little to really respect about any of these characters and the majority seem to exist simply to die.

Of course, the enemy is the Mongol army which we’ve seen exactly nothing of other than various grunts getting killed. They have no voice or personality.

While it might seem like I’m running this show down, I’m really not. I’m interested in this conflict and these characters, but there’s absolutely nothing pretty about this show and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how it likes it.

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Angolmois: Record Of Mongol Invasion Episodes 1 + 2: Okay, You Got My Attention

Full disclosure, I’m not big on real historical settings or situations. Fantasy ones with historical trapping are fine but mostly the warring states era, samurai and the like don’t make for overly compelling viewing (with some exceptions). So while I originally avoided this one, some heavy praise from fellow reviewers and a feeling of minor desperation for something actually good this season rather than just tolerable, had me trying the first episode of Angolmois. So what did I think?

Mongol1a

While this one isn’t to my usual tastes, and the weird visual filter over everything (particularly noticeable over moving images of the landscape) makes it look kind of ugly and murky (I’d also suggest leads to feeling slightly queasy when the background but not the foreground moves) there was something quite compelling about the first two episodes here. Possibly not being filled with characters trapped in another world, happy go lucky teenagers, characters whose entire lives seem to be defined by weather they can hit something over a net or sing really good, and an absence of gratuitous fan-service made this one stand out regardless of some of its lesser qualities. But that probably isn’t giving it credit for what it did well.

Mongol1b

However, before I get onto those positives, I’d also like to throw in that this one did start as in what looks like the end of a conflict before going back to show us how the protagonist got there and while the technique is a little more affective here than in something like Lord of Vermilion, it still isn’t the best way to get me interested in a story, particularly when the sequence on the boat would have been a perfectly fine introduction and a much better hook.

I don’t have enough familiarity with this particular historical era or conflict to comment on the accuracy or lack of it of anything going on here. My Mongolian history is limited strictly to their invasion of China and even then it lacks anything resembling depth. That said, while there might be something for history buffs, it isn’t a prerequisite as they aren’t expecting you to know what is going on and in just two episodes, without a massive exposition dump, this show has managed to establish where the island is, why the Mongols are invading it and what their overall objective would be, and why the character who seems to be the protagonist is there and is clearly going to end up fighting. That’s more or less enough to get into this story even without a larger context. Though I’m betting the protagonist wishes he hadn’t been asked to hold out for a set number of days.

Mongol2b

And while the characters are so far fairly standard characters for this kind of historical drama they aren’t too boring and there’s potential for them to become interesting as we learn more about the exiles and the inhabitants of the island (assuming they don’t all get killed).

I’m enjoying the pacing of this so far as it isn’t moving at breakneck speed but I don’t feel like it is lingering too long on any one moment. And so far the fights have been interesting enough to watch though I worry they might become a bit too similar as the story continues.

Mongol2a

Still, given I originally passed on this one from the premise, I ended up enjoying it a great deal more than I expected. I’ll see how this one goes.


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