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Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki – Playing Fast and Bloody


Fighting his own war.

If you’re expecting true history, turn back. But if you’re expecting lotsa blood, you’re in for a bloody good time.

I have complicated feelings about the setting of this Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki. Actually, it’s not so complicated: the first Battle of Tsushima is a footnote of the first Mongol invasion of Japan, itself warranting all of three sentences in its Wikipedia article. The first Mongol invasion of Japan is itself a footnote in world history, notable mostly (along with the second invasion) for defining the extent of the Mongol empire—which is to say, it’s of concern mainly for how it effects the Mongols. The Japanese aren’t the most important actors in the story, except to themselves. Also, I’m not sure how much I would want to glorify a couple of invasions where the only reason my country didn’t end up conquered is because of pure, bullshit good luck—not one, but two typhoons intervened—and even if I did, I’d probably opt for the second invasion, where the Japanese did a lot more to earn their good fortune. All of which is to say, the choice of this setting is puzzling to me. It seems like the least interesting part of any of these conflicts to delve into.

That said, I’ll say it again: anything that brings the Mongols into anime is good in my book. Or I’m cautiously elated, at any rate. And it’s not like this series ever had any plans to bow to historical accuracy. The players might have been plausible—featuring Goryeo and Jurchen troops, for example—but the rest is all fiction. Though maybe the manga actually goes on past the Tsushima invasion, since Jinzaburou and Teruhi survive? I don’t know. I still have concerns vis a vis typhoons, second invasion victory being more earned, etc. But we probably shouldn’t dwell on all that.

The truth of the matter is, as a playing-fast-and-loose-with-the-history action tragedy, Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki is pretty good. Of particular note: the death of Sou Sukekuni, all that business with the traitor (I liked its depiction of the guilt and frightful choices of the traitor), and any time Jinzaburou executed on some overly aggressive cockamamie scheme that befuddled (and slaughtered) the Mongols. This series was good at doing things big, even when the conflict was so very, very small. It was also buoyed by striking and varied characters, who, even though I don’t remember most of their names, nonetheless stood out as they lived, struggled, and invariably, died. (And loved, occasionally, though really only the kids Amushi and Sana had any real development and chemistry between them.)

I also really liked the action itself. While the filter over all the action was a bit kitschy, the actual movement of the animation was direct and brutal, and the fights never outstayed their welcome. Neither did they always compel, exactly—sometimes minor skirmishes are understood as such, and don’t engender interest beyond their modest stakes—but when the character beats clicked, like they did during the traitor saga, the action combined with them to make something compulsively watchable. That’s when I got into, “Isn’t the next episode here yet!?” mode, which extended until the end.

I also appreciate how good of a main character Kuchii Jinzaburou is, for this story. He’s not the type of man who learns and grows. He is who he is. (Or when he does grow, he does it inside, which is less dramatic to watch.) But he’s the sort of main character who exerts his presence on everyone and everything around him, and for a short time, that’s excellent. If this were a long-lived story, growth and change would be all but necessary. For a short campaign, though, having a fully formed man who thrashes about, changes the world, and then is done is more than enough. There’s not time for a great big character arc. There’s a war to fight, and deaths to meet. He’ll do.

I do sort of wish he had died, though. This was a story ripe for that glorious death, but he (and we) were denied it. Which, on one level, is good; if we go in knowing the main character is going to die, what’s the point of it all when the theme is, “If some of us survives, we win”? But on the other hand, they didn’t do enough to make the possibility of him (and Teruhi) surviving seem possible. With his crazy plans? No way. Plus your average Japanese person (or history nerd … hi!) would know the Battle of Tsushima was a Mongol victory. All of which means I was assuming Jinzaburou would die, so for him to live was just … dissatisfying, strangely. It felt like the payoff wasn’t delivered.

In the end, there were several odd choices in Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki, but none of them derail the overall package. Its action is good, its characters are varied, and while it plays fast and loose with history—and chooses a peculiar battle to focus on—it’s still mostly stirring to watch. I’m uncomfortably aware that it’s historically revisionist, it’s a Japanese’s attempt to put themselves at the center (and as some kind of victor) in a battle that was, in truth, comprised of the Mongols slaughtering some people and then swiftly moving on, but like I said, Mongols in my anime? I’ll sacrifice much to have that. I enjoyed Angolmois: Genkou Kassenki, and if you like action or historical(ish) action, I think you will too.

P.S. The Mongols never competed for spoils. That was one of their innovations—they pooled the spoils and shared everything, including to the widows and family of their slain comrades, so that their soldiers didn’t stop to squabble or loot mid-battle. Just one last history fact from Stilts-sensei, tehehe~ ;D

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 last two posts: An Author’s Review of: Freelance Heroics, & An Author’s Review of: Wage Slave Rebellion.

September 26, 2018 at 12:27 am
24 comments »
  • September 26, 2018 at 5:44 amMistic

    The first Mongol invasion of Japan is itself a footnote in world history, notable mostly (along with the second invasion) for defining the extent of the Mongol empire—which is to say, it’s of concern mainly for how it effects the Mongols. The Japanese aren’t the most important actors in the story, except to themselves. Also, I’m not sure how much I would want to glorify a couple of invasions where the only reason my country didn’t end up conquered is because of pure, bullshit good luck—not one, but two typhoons intervened—and even if I did, I’d probably opt for the second invasion, where the Japanese did a lot more to earn their good fortune.

    But Stilts, what do we do then with all the national myths out there, from Thermopylae to the Alamo? Can’t blame the Japanese for makign a national myth out of surviving a foreign invasion of a scale never imagined before (by the locals, that is) and doing it by seemingly miraculous means. That for the Mongols “it was Tuesday” is a different matter.

    I mean, in Western terms, the equivalent example would be the Invincible Armada. Another island nation surviving an invasion attempt by the mightiest superpower of their time and another convenient storm winning the day in the end. Heck, the Japanese did more in the first Mongol invasion than the English ever did against the Armada. Still, everyone remembers the name (an English invention, although the Spanish name was equally ironic), Elizabeth’s Tilbury speech (to troops that in the end never saw battle) and even the claims that it marked the twilight of Spain’s might and the rise of England as a naval power (actually, the English would squander their advantage the very next year in the equally disastrous but conveniently forgotten 1589 Counter Armada).

    Still, yeah, all things considered, Tsushima is a bit weird. I think it might have been chosen precisely because it’s a footnote. There’s little information about it, so the author can be more “imaginative” without feeling constrained by history.

    • September 26, 2018 at 9:49 amStilts

      The Spanish Armada had way bigger geopolitical ramifications. That was between two players on the world stage, this is between THE player and some frontier people. That was my point. The Alamo is perhaps a better example, which is a small conflict in an ill-natured rebellion that played out strangely and became a rallying cry that stuck around because Texans have high opinions of themselves … and I say that as a Texan! But it’s different in that the defeat meant something, whereas Tsushima didn’t, not really. You can tell because this story is about the people of Tsushima, while the story of the Alamo is always as much about how they inspired others as it was about them themselves.

      Like I said, I’d understand more if it were the invasions proper, but those got taken over by the typhoons pretty quickly, so maybe not as much room for drama there. Still, it’s odd.

      • September 27, 2018 at 3:07 amMistic

        Sorry, I realize I explained myself very badly. I agree with you: Tsushima is a very weird choice for an “epic last stand” plot, and later stages of the invasion would have been much better.

        My comment was more about your general line that “the first Mongol invasion of Japan is itself a footnote in world history”, because that’s heavily dependent on perspective. And my example of the Invincible Armada was to illustrate that it’s not just the Japanese who glorify an invasion attempt “where the only reason my country didn’t end up conquered is because of pure, bullshit good luck” (coughElizabethTheGoldenAgecough).

        The difference in historical perspectives can be full of irony. I remember witnessing an exchange between a Dutch and a Spaniard. For the Dutch, the most important event in their history is the Eighty Years’ War for independence against Spain. The Spaniard was aware of it, but in Spain’s case it was called “the Flanders War”, and it was all very vague. He could only name two battles: the siege of Breda (because it appears in a famous painting) and Rocroi (which wasn’t even against the Dutch, but the French). The Dutchman insisted. Surely the Spanish must know at least of Piet Heyn, the famous Dutch admiral who was the only person in history to ever capture one of Spain’s Treasure Fleets? Nope, he hadn’t heard of him. Ironically, I had, but only because I had read about him in a Dutch comic book.

        Contrary to poor Piet Heyn, at least the two Mongol invasions of Japan did appear in my world history books and encyclopaedias (before you ask, no, Alamo and Republic of Texas didn’t), so I’m not surprised it’s a big deal for the Japanese.

      • September 28, 2018 at 12:36 amStilts

        I was picking up what you were putting down, I just objected because the Spanish Armada was a legitimately bigger deal than the Mongol invasions of Japan (or the Alamo … it shouldn’t really be in any history textbook aside from Texas history, and maybe American history, though only to know what us Texans are going on about).

        Love that anecdote btw. I guess the other thing I object is to people’s (like the Dutch man) not realizing that their shit ain’t important. I’m Texan, but I know the Alamo ain’t that big a deal. Any Texan who thinks it is, is a fool. Ditto to Japanese and their Mongol invasions, or the Dutch and their Eighty Years’ War … though, of course, it depends on the definition of “important”. I was blowing it out to important in the context of world history, though, which is where that bit of humility comes into play. Nations can have their myths, I just don’t like letting them think their shit don’t stink, haha

        Basically, we mostly agree, we’re just focusing on different things.

      • September 28, 2018 at 3:20 amMistic

        I guess the other thing I object is to people’s (like the Dutch man) not realizing that their shit ain’t important. I’m Texan, but I know the Alamo ain’t that big a deal. Any Texan who thinks it is, is a fool. Ditto to Japanese and their Mongol invasions, or the Dutch and their Eighty Years’ War … though, of course, it depends on the definition of “important”. I was blowing it out to important in the context of world history, though, which is where that bit of humility comes into play.

        Agreed. The issue comes, I think, when trying to define what is “important” for the world at large. Even when going beyond national boundaries, it’s too easy to fall in other biases, such as Eurocentrism. Or Anglocentrism (another funny irony: English-speaking accounts believing themselves to be “merely” Eurocentric and not blatantly Anglocentric).

        Heck, my own example is doubly ironic in that regard. The Dutch was right: globally speaking, the Eighty Years’ War was far, far, far more important than the 1585-1604 Anglo-Spanish War ever was. And the event that broke Spain’s naval hegemony wasn’t the Invincible Armada, but the Battle of the Downs, several decades later. His shit was important.

        Except Piet Heyn. Poor Piet Heyn wasn’t important. Now that I check, it seems the admiral himself was so aware of it he gave us the perfect quote for this: “Now they praise me because I gained riches without the least danger; but earlier when I risked my life in full combat they didn’t even know I existed.”

      • September 30, 2018 at 6:54 amGuardian Enzo

        I was picking up what you were putting down, I just objected because the Spanish Armada was a legitimately bigger deal than the Mongol invasions of Japan (or the Alamo … it shouldn’t really be in any history textbook aside from Texas history, and maybe American history, though only to know what us Texans are going on about).

        Well, therein lies the rub though, no? I mean, “important” is a very subjective term. For the Japanese I think it could be argued that the Mongol invasions were among the 2-3 most important events in their history. I mean, if the country had been conquered things would no doubt look pretty different now, wouldn’t they? If anything, I’m surprised anime and manga hasn’t tackled this subject more given how important it is to the country’s history.

        As for The Alamo, I’m no Texan but I’ve certainly always heard it pretty much as you describe it. In fact I’d heard that towards the end wiser heads had recommended it be abandoned altogether rather than defended.

  • September 26, 2018 at 6:01 amPrivate

    RIP Ninja Girl.

    • September 26, 2018 at 8:11 amKling Klang

      I don’t recall seeing Kano die, just get captured and presumably raped. After that she would most likely be kept as a spoil of war.

      • September 26, 2018 at 9:49 amStilts

        Yay?

      • September 26, 2018 at 9:54 amjustin

        h**tai?

  • September 26, 2018 at 10:58 amRej

    For those who want to know, the manga ends where the anime does so that’s that for the story.

  • September 26, 2018 at 2:58 pmJerry

    We dropped this the moment it became an “action” genre, with overly dramatic “deaths” and sequences that belonged more in Gurren Laggen than a respectable treatment of the subject.

    Gurren Laggen worked because it was thematically over-the-top, and consistent in that vein. You could suspend your disbelief in the sense that the creators themselves didn’t take themselves seriously; such is the case when your entire art-form and product is parody.

    Just have fun and don’t take it seriously.

    But Anglomois?

    Putting aside my distaste for Japanese popular history, Anglomois was completely inconsistent – manic, really – gyrating between wanting to be taken seriously/believable (a historic drama) and being outrageous and contrived where it was impossible to suspend disbelief (Gurren Laggn).

    The first episode showed a lot of promise simply because Jinzaburou wasn’t Kamina; he was just a regular person with a little more talent in a predicament fostered by events larger than himself.

    That was a GREAT start with tons of potential, especially for a historic fiction. You don’t need John Blackthorne’s (William Adams) stature to tell a compelling story. You just need relatable characters in interesting situations.

    My wife nailed it when she said that Anglomois fell flat the moment the protagonist became “the Hero” in that strategy meeting (complete with oversized-ego monologuing). We wanted to see how Jinzaburou was going to figure out how to get as many people (not to mention himself) out alive with distant bureaucrats baying him to die for them on one hand, merciless samurai on the other, the local denizens having their own concerns and interests, with the Mongols looming and probing…

    ….and then he went full Kamina.

    We slapped our foreheads and rolled our eyes in dismay.

    • September 26, 2018 at 6:17 pmStilts

      To be fair, you wanted a completely different type of story than the one the author of Angolmois was intending to tell. It sounds like you wanted a historical drama, when this was a fictional reinterpretation of a historical setting. It was never intended to be the former. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it wasn’t what you were looking for.

      It reminds me of some of the reviews I’ve gotten on my own novels. “I thought it was going to be X thing, and it wasn’t, so it sucks!”, when I’m off to the side screaming to myself, “It was never supposed to be X thing! It was supposed to be Y thing! Judge me based on that, not this other book I never had any intention of writing!!” It sucks to get 1-stars for that reason, lemme tell ya.

      Jinzaburou was never a regular person. He was always going to be the central hero. We gotta try to judge it (and him) based on that, rather than the story we wished they’d told.

  • September 26, 2018 at 4:51 pmhwighting

    What the hell happened to that guy from the first episode who was suppose to bring reinforcements? Not even one mention of him or that help would be coming.

    • September 26, 2018 at 6:18 pmStilts

      There was a scene with him, I think it was episode 11? His father overruled him and ordered the boats unloaded just before he was set to sail off to Tsushima.

      • September 26, 2018 at 6:21 pmRej

        Post end credits ep10 to be exact.

  • September 26, 2018 at 7:08 pmBROOKLYN otaku

    Not a history buff, so i could give a damn about that aspect.

    I DROPPED the show Early on when it became clear to me that this was NOT a true ACTION GENRE show..

    Basically it got Boring fast….like real fast. And i kinda liked the main character.

    • September 27, 2018 at 11:38 amtheirs

      Could you elaborate a little? The reason I didn’t continue watching was the exact opposite of yours.

      Did the action get stale? Or was there something else? Reading Stilt’s review, it seemed like the show focused a lot on action. I was under the impression it didn’t delve too much on the history and setting. Which were my primary interests for this show.

  • September 26, 2018 at 10:37 pmGinobi47

    This show is similar to the 300 at the Hot Gates. An over glorification of a catastrophic military failure.

    The main difference was that the 300 showed how highly trained and well equipped soldiers, effective use of terrain and effective military tactics can be used as force multipliers against a superior foe.

    While I did enjoy Angolmois and I do enjoy a nationalistic story, I could help but facepalm on a couple of things.

    Surviving means Winning?

    Sorry, that’s bullshit. Unless this is some fantasy based anime, the idea of losing most of your population in 10 days and still think that you can ‘fight’ is horseshit.

    That is Losing. Pure and simple.

    And of course, there is my permanent gripe with anything anime….. KATANAS ARE SHITTY WEAPONS THAT SAMURAIS WONT EVEN USE UNLESS THEY HAVE NO CHOICE!

    Swords in general do NOT cut through a man! It just cant!

    Swords will get caught in the middle of the body by stuff such as muscles, fats and bones.

    Even if, by some miracle, the swordsman was able to go through the entire body in one swing, the blade would certainly be either be badly damaged from smashing through bones, or too caked in blood and gore to be useful as a cutting weapon.

    And with the Katana, this problem is magnified 10 folds.

    Given the time period of this anime, I am fairly sure that the Katanas they used were made of Tamahagane, a highly impure raw material that often resulted in fragile steel.

    Cutting through people, hitting other weapons, parrying, locking blades will most certainly damage the edge of the Katana, hence making it useless after a slicing through 2-3 people.

    And this was ignoring the fact that their enemy had armor!

    If you add the leather armor into the mix, the Katana wont survive after the first victim!

    … sigh… unnecessarily long rant ^.^

    • September 27, 2018 at 6:19 pmSMinstrel

      Given the period the samurai would be using tachi, which is longer than katana and wore differently. Since samurai still primary fought as horse archer, sword was indeed their primary weapon for close combat.

      Also, tamagahane is a steel, not “raw material”. It also has remarkably few impurities and makes a very good sword steel. Modern testing actually found more sulfur content in imported “Namban” steel compared to Japanese steel.

  • September 29, 2018 at 11:30 pmDanny

    I enjoyed this odd show but I’ll admit I didn’t pay full attention to many of the fight scenes. However, if I analyze what I think I might have liked about it, I can’t pinpoint anything.
    I almost liked Hime, except I hated her blatant tsundere crush and how badly she acted at times because of it. It was cringy.
    I liked Jinza except I hated his shift into “every decision I make is right and I need less and less input from others to make the sole correct decision.”
    I found the art style charming and liked the music. I could deal with the overdone overlay.
    Some of the side characters were interesting but most of them ranged from meh to “please die now.”
    I was hooked on the “who will survive and how?” drama.
    I can’t consider this revisionist; I would say that if they had turned a crushing loss into a miracle of a win. But they didn’t. I don’t think it’s revisionist to give the POV of the defeated in a minor historical footnote. Sure, from a global/historical perspective, the battle isn’t worth anything but this is about the experience of the people who didn’t care what the rest of the world or history thought. These were the only lives they had.
    The whole “just one survive and it’s a win” is fake, pathetic cheerleading which is amazingly lame. The emperor was right there and pretty much said “hey, we’re not doing anything for you so at least most of you will die.”
    It’s hardly a pro-japanese-awesomeness story. It’s actually pretty critical and shows a lot of brutal suffering and death. It also shows how the island was left to fend for itself, not exactly an example of japanese honor.
    I suppose I sum this up as a worthy watch if you want a show in which almost everybody dies.

    • September 30, 2018 at 1:01 amStilts

      It was revisionist because it featured a lot of battles that didn’t happen (which the Japanese mostly won), it featured factions that didn’t exist (the Toibarai), it featured settings that were never there (the Toibarai fort), and it featured an emperor that died a hundred years before the events took place (Emperor Antoku wasn’t the current emperor, and the kid definitely died when he was six). That the main character are fictional is fine, and that it didn’t change the outcome is natural; it changed the complexion of the events from “some island gets pillaged with ease” to “a heroic struggle of the Japanese spirit where they were only screwed because of the politics of craven lords”, which, ya know. Not true again.

      That’s why it’s revisionist. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it is what it is.

      • September 30, 2018 at 1:58 amGuardian Enzo

        If I may quibble a hair…

        Antoku did die at the Battle of Dan-no-ura in the historical record, but it’s true that there are legends that he survived. Given the dates, if he had he’s have been around 90 when the Battle of Bun’ei took place. It’s a flight of fancy, obviously, but within the context of the story his age and the idea that the Toibirai (if they existed) would consider him the true emperor does make sense.

        Also, Kanatanoki is a real place – there are 7th century castle ruins on Tsushima that are shrouded in mystery, but thought to have been built as a bulwark against foreign invasion. Kanatanoki is even the actual name.

      • September 30, 2018 at 2:16 amStilts

        Ahh, did not know that about Kanatanoki. That’s cool at least!

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