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
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