Wow, I’ll be honest, I did not think I was going to like and/or enjoy this series, and there were some fits and starts to it, but once it got on track, it became rather compelling. We are talking about “Saga of Tanya the Evil”, (known in Japan as “Yōujo Senki”, “The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl”) and it is not as straight-forward as you might think.
We open up in the midst of war in an alternate universe, as it is the year 1923. In this world, magic is real and wars are fought not only with conventional troops, but with battle mages. These folks can fly about on specialized equipment, powered by a special jewel at their neck. This battle is taking place in the Rhine Theater and the Empire (you can read that as Germany) is losing. Into this volatile mix comes Second Lieutenant Tanya Degurechaff (her to the right), who is unencumbered by any feelings of guilt or remorse and proceeds to destroy everything in sight. This earns her the title “Devil of the Rhine”.
Here’s where it gets weird. The second episode tells us everything. I really do not wish to say too much about it, but this is THE key episode and you should let it unfold for you, as this explains absolutely everything that Tanya does in her life and her encounters with God (or Being X, as she calls him).
On the one hand, it does turn into a discussion about faith and belief and acknowledgement of a Higher Being; on the other hand, it also shows a caliber of ruthlessness that could even shock the most hardened of military people. Tanya is a very rectilinear person: it’s all cut and dried, black or white, live or die, and she expects from other that which she expects from herself. She brooks no contrary position and can exact her revenge in such a way, only she knows it to be so.
The series covers the two or three years of this war and the problems Tanya has being taken seriously in matters. I mean, she hasn’t even gone through menstruation and she is commanding a company of mages that are as relentless and remorseless as she is.
But does Tanya learn any faith? I say not, as her approach to it seems more out of superstition or luck than a concrete belief. The only disappointment I had is that there is to be a second season. I had hoped they could wrap it up in one, but that’s not the case, as, in the story, fears of a global war are eminent. OK, it’s a war anime and there are a lot of battle sequences. Since they do not explain the equipment all that well, I am uncertain as to the specifications as to what it can and cannot do and how well it stacks up against whatever the enemy throws at them. I would have to assume the key edge is the complete dedication to the task by the soldiers. They are already dead, so there is nothing to worry about, so they go all out.
This advantage allows them to exact a lot of punishment to their foes, but the funny thing is that Tanya doesn’t want to be at the front lines. She wants a cushy desk job well at the rear. Alas, her motivation keeps her in the thick of the warring and her ability to extract the best from her soldiers makes her a superb battlefield commander.
Do keep in mind the ‘talks’ with God. They are both enlightening and definitive in how things unfold, especially since He decides when they will talk. But they are all rather pointless, as God will have His way and Tanya gets no say in things that happen to her, kind of what she experiences with the Brass. I also wonder if she is a type of psychopath and that a lot of these flaws are covered up by the war, when you need a degree of lunacy to go out there and fight like a demon. It might also be nice to see what happens when peace breaks out, which we could see in the second season, as the stakes have been dramatically upped and it is time to shove in all the chips.
I found it odd rooting for this child executioner, as you forget who she really is. I suppose you want her to succeed as it would prove that she was totally right all the way, all the time, but that is a problem with divergent thinkers; you can’t get people to go along with all of your plans (which is what landed you here in the first place).
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (It’s those eyes!)
Plot 9 (A most daring idea and approach)
Pacing 8 (Like the Army, hurry up and wait)
Effectiveness 8 (Especially the talks with God)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 9 (Solid story, great characters)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Deus lo vult!