In deciding which of last season’s anime to speed through next, I narrowed it down to two options.
Option A: a NoitaminA block romance drama that becomes uncomfortably forward with its sexual presentation, sets up an intense drama for the series to build on, and has the potential to push the boundaries of the romance genre in anime as we know them.
Option B: Psycho German loli with destructive magical powers who wants to kill God…
…What can I say? Sometimes you just gotta go for the weird stuff, so here’s Saga of Tanya the Evil.
[This article contains moderate spoilers from episode 2 of Saga of Tanya the Evil]
Our story is set in yet another fictional recreation of World War I, this time with deadly mages supplementing the main military forces. On the front lines of the Empire’s (Germany’s) forces, a young girl named Tanya Degurechaff, no older than 10 yet gifted with extraordinary magical talent, flies about the battlefield decimating the Empire’s enemies. But Tanya has a dark secret surrounding her very being, as well a hostile relationship with an ethereal being who claims to be God, all as her calculated, borderline heartless military tactics lead her to victory.
To say that Tanya has one of the most eye-grabbing premises I’ve seen all season is a massive understatement, and it manages to follow up that premise with a solid presentation. It still blows my mind how far they go in portraying Tanya’s ruthless, cutthroat, often savage methods of obtaining results on the battlefield. Episode 2 reveals the reasoning behind this, as well as the true premise of the show: Tanya is actually a successful Japanese businessman who died horrifically in his former life. Because he refuses to acknowledge God’s existence when He appears at the moment of his death, God forcefully reincarnates him into this new world to teach him the value of faith.
So, if you were wondering why a merciless soldier with no qualms about killing as many people as she needs to in as brutal a fashion as possible to get the job done is the protagonist of the series, there’s your answer. Despite a terrible personality, there’s so much sympathy set up for Tanya in the initial episodes that it’s easy to understand her decisions, even the really uncomfortable ones. Tanya’s main goal is to get promoted fast enough so that she can live peacefully away from the front line. Unfortunately, her talent for strategy and skill with a rifle keep her glued to the highest concentration of action, much to her dismay. From there, she tries her hardest to get the war over with as quickly as possible, even if it means killing unarmed civilians. In the end, it seems that only God himself is capable of stopping her campaign.
Which, unfortunately, leads to a problem typical of light novel adaptations: Tanya is insanely overpowered in Saga of Tanya the Evil
Granted, it’s always fun watching her fight her way out of a situation, but seeing her come out unscathed through even the biggest explosions is a bit of a letdown. Despite my hatred from this kind of trope, I’m not too bothered by it with this series since Tanya is such a fascinating character, a situation similar to that of No Game No Life. Additionally, the supporting cast is surprisingly strong, from the vibrant personalities within Tanya’s battalion to the differing strategic mindsets of the Command officers. Even the enemy soldiers provide unique perspectives on the war, and seeing Tanya tear through those who we’ve gotten to know without even flinching is uncomfortable in a good way.
The animation by Studio NUT is, unfortunately, extremely inconsistent. On the one hand, it excels at making battle sequences as intense and chaotic as possible, and its character designs and background art are fairly solid. On the other hand, this series has some Heroic Legend of Arslan-level CG; i.e. really not good. I do commend them, however, for trying to hide that CG as much as possible, and the transition from 3D to 2D character models in a given scene is shockingly convincing. That being said, CG soldiers and still CG soldiers, and it takes away a lot of the intensity when the CG is this noticeable.
The soundtrack, while a bit lacking in unique themes, is so bombastic and intense that it’s hard not to get into its groove of choir harmonies. Normally I don’t bring up audio effects since they either work or they don’t, but I can see the audio work in Tanya being a bit divisive with some people. The explosion and magic sound effects are often ear-ringingly extreme, but I personally enjoy the catharsis they bring with them.
Saga of Tanya the Evil is a strange series to describe to people, but still one that I can easily recommend.
Despite quite a few bumps along the way, it knows exactly what it wants to do and executes its ideas in a manner that’s both exciting and disquieting at the same time. Tanya can slaughter an entire city and have you cheering along, only to realize the gravity of what’s happened, and you’ll still be on her side in the end. The only thing keeping it slightly lower in score for me is that nasty CG, which still isn’t that bad compared to other shows I’ve seen, so grab your guns, snap your crucifixes, and get ready for a wild ride across the Rhine with anime’s newest adorable little psycho.
Saga of Tanya the Evil is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
My Rating: 7.5/10