The Saga Of Tanya The Evil: The Complete Series (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 285 minutes approx.
When one thinks of great military/war heroes, every country will have their own yet it is practically guaranteed any name proffered will be male. You can almost picture them – rugged features, thick moustache, square jaw, chest puffed out – a cliché but a justified one. Bearing this in mind, why would nobody ever envision a war hero as a tiny girl?
Set in alternate version of Europe during the Great War between the Empire and its rival ores the Francois Republic and the Legadonia Entente Alliance, the Imperial Military Command employs a combination of firepower and magic to fight its battles. By being out numbered the implemented strategy is to base a squad of mages at the borders then dispatch them to counter immediate attacks to buy time for reinforcements to arrive.
The Third Platoon of the 205th Assault Mage Company is led by second lieutenant Tanya Degurechaff, a diminutive nine-year old blonde girl with a superlative mind for strategy and an equally ferocious personality. Her success in leading her platoon in preventing many attacks has earned her the nickname “Devil Of The Rhine” by the enemy, making her a prime target during their numerous battles.
I think we may be getting to the point where the aphorism “Only in Japan” tells us all we need to know about something for better or worse. The basic premise of The Saga Of Tanya The Evil reads as such a creation where normal logic need not apply and we take it with the usual pinch of salt we take most Japanese entertainment endeavours. If we’re being fair, there have been far wackier concepts for an anime series than this one.
However, we need to look a bit deeper beyond the core premise to find the real driving force of the story, found in the truth behind Tanya’s presence, which might have been better conveyed in the original light novel series by Carlo Zen than in this adaptation. Because it is unlikely any nine-year old could have a high military rank regardless of their unusual advanced intelligence, Tanya is not just a whimsical idea for the sake of a one-note joke.
No, Tanya is no ordinary nine-year old girl for a reason – she is in fact the reincarnation of a ruthless 40-something Tokyo businessman, murdered by an unhappy subordinate he coldly fired earlier in the day who pushed him in front of an incoming train. But before the body could be squished to bits by the speeding train, time was frozen at the very last second by a God like presence, referred to as Being X.
You see, this soon to be ex-businessman was not just an unpleasant man but also an atheist which didn’t sit well with Being X, who felt disrespected and gave this future corpse a chance to believe in him in his final moments. Stubborn to the end, there was no changing this heathen attitude, so Being X decided to instil some faith into this non-believer the hard way.
So, Being X has the atheist reborn as orphan Tanya but with a heavy stipulation – either he finds faith in Being X or Tanya dies a natural death, otherwise his soul will go to hell for every sin he committed in his lifetime. Amazingly, this didn’t cause a change of heart – if nothing it made the man/Tanya hate Being X even more – instead it encouraged a little out of the box thinking.
Combining the man’s consciousness and intelligence with her own potent magic abilities, Tanya enters the imperial Army to fight the war, impressing the right people to rise up through the ranks swiftly and as far away from the front line as possible to avoid being killed. Drawing parallels to Blackadder Goes Forth, Tanya comes up with great ideas to avoid fighting but is sent out to battle as he only one to execute them!
Unlike Blackadder, there is not much in the way of comic misadventures to enjoy here, despite Tanya herself looking like a blonde haired mushroom headed doll with huge eyes and a petulant voice. The battles are bloody, fast paced, and quite exhilarating from being fought in the sky, the mages of Tanya’s squad flying about like the cast of Strike Witches with their magical devices.
In between battles, there is a lot of behind the scenes chat in discussing strategies and game plans, with Tanya recalling classic war stratagems from the history books of our timeline and applying them to the situations in this alternate world. One thing we can say about this series is that has been well researched and the writing isn’t contrived in how this implemented into this story.
But this is where the show reveals its biggest weakness – there is no clear definition of the direction it wants to take. The reincarnation angle makes this an Isekai show, though this isn’t explained until episode two, the opener being a standalone intro to the main story. It’s a drama about religious faith but nothing is followed up sufficiently enough to clarify if it is pro-God or pro-atheism, leaving this aspect to look like a cheap gimmick to get from A to B.
Finally, it’s a straight up war story covering all aspects of the conflict, from the political and the strategic, to the senseless loss of life, and the personal costs for the frontline fighters. This features most prominently, edging out the other facts of the story but with glaring caveat – we don’t know if the Empire are the antagonists or protagonists of this war, so do we applaud Tanya’s efforts or should we condemn them?
The Saga Of Tanya The Evil is a well-animated show, with some strong storylines, engaging action, and interesting points to make but suffers from juggling too many ideas at once then regular dropping them. Good fun, but I feel like I am missing something to really love it, I just don’t know what it is.
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Disc 2 Only:
Textless Opening Song “JINGO JUNGLE”
Textless Closing Song “Los! Los! Los!”
Rating – *** ½
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