OP: 「Straightener」 by Braver
「率土の最果て」 (Sotto no Saihate)
“The Far End of Japan”
Here’s the one thing you need to know: the action is awesome!
Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki is the story of the Mongol invasion of Japan. The first one, seeing as how several of the characters are initially dismissive of the Mongols invading Japan, something the Japanese of 1281 wouldn’t have scoffed at. But this is 1274, and though Kublai Khan did send that envoy a few years back, it was ignored.
That, it turns out, wasn’t a smart idea.
Our main character for this tale is Kuchii Jinzaburou (Ono Yuuki), a disgraced samurai exiled to Tsushima Island because the local princess, Teruhi (Lynn), asked the military government in Kamakura for some death row inmates to defend the island. The Battle of Tsushima Island in 1274 was, as you will recall—or likely not—a swift Mongol victory, which makes it an odd setting for what I’m sure will be a typical Japanese bout of historical revisionism. Which I don’t love—it’s a bad habit for anyone to get into, but especially countries like Japan, who have done some shit a time or two, and so should be very clear about when they were the villains of history. But this wasn’t one of those times, and if I have to stomach some historical revisionism to get some Mongol Empire Anime in my life, I will do that by gods! Besides, the intro seems to hint that the historical revisionism will all be in the realm of characters, scale, and tactics, rather than outcome—because, spoiler alert, the Japanese don’t fare well. I guess I already spoiled that when I said it was a Mongol victory? There it is. If Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki does things right, I wouldn’t expect most of these characters to get out alive.
Not that the main characters dying makes for a bad story. I’m Texan, and we still go on about the Alamo to this day, which didn’t end well for its defenders. Went well for their side in the end, though, just as with Japan and the Mongols. Let ’em all die! I’m here to see how it happens.
Speaking of the characters, they’re instant winners. Jinzaburou is a bit of a stick in the mud, but not too much, as befitting from a samurai-turned-criminal. Onitakemaru (Koyama Rikiya) is probably my favorite character initially, he’s a ton of fun in a straight-forward, hot-blooded way. But there are plenty of other instantly recognizable characters as well, from the merchant to the scout to the monk and all sorts. That’s good, because—do I really need to even say why instantly memorable and enjoyable characters are a good thing? Of course it’s good! Moving on.
But by far and away the most important thing is that the action is awesome. I don’t love the parchment filter over everything—or rather, I do like it, but I don’t like how it doesn’t mvoe with the scene, which means it becomes way too obvious on slow pans and yanks me out of immersion. That aside though, the action is fast-paced and delightfully physical, and it’s just a treat to watch. I’d be surprised if the anime shows the Mongol’s military tactics properly—in fact, they’ve likely already screwed it up, since I can’t imagine the Mongols sending six chaps to kidnap a girl when they can send 1,000 and slaughter everybody, though the Japanese-speaking chap puts an interesting wrinkle in that—but then again, there was that storm of arrows at the beginning. Maybe it will? I can’t imagine the anime|Mongols laughing at the Japanese’s silly tactics—something the historical Mongols allegedly did—tactics such as “Fight one dude at a time in single combat!” and “Aim each arrow at one person instead of blanketing the sky!”, all of which seem dumb to our modern sensibilities as well. Then again, they’ve already shown a samurai killing people in rapid succession, so if we’re going for historical revisionism to make the Japanese more effective? Once again, I’m on board. (Also they didn’t have katanas during the first war.)
In short, don’t go expecting a faithful adaptation of what really happened. But if you want some kickass historical action, this is a promising initial episode. And for that, I’m supremely glad.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Risk Tolerance in the Creative Life.
ED: 「Upside Down」 by SHE’S