First Look: Saga of Tanya the Evil

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Alternative titles: Tanya the Evil, Youjo Senki
Light Novel adaptation by NUT
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

In 1920’s not-Germany, not-Nazis battle the despicably evil invading forces of the not-French with magic guns and flying mages. Defending the glorious Fatherland is the titular Tanya, a blonde haired blue eyed girl who looks about ten years old and is a real piece of work let me tell you.

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Zigg’s verdict: Putting on the Reich

Granted, we’re not dealing with actual Sieg Heiling Nazis here, but any show that glorifies German imperialism and fetishises the imagery on display here to such an extent is very clearly not playing for the good guys. Highly highly dubious political stance aside, the main problem with Tanya the Evil that it”s so relentless nihilistic that it’s difficult to find any joy at all in watching it. Indeed, it wallows in its despicability, taking every chance it can to remind us how horrifyingly evil and heartless our protagonist is. I expect some people think that’s the coolest thing ever, but I personally prefer my heroes with just a smidge of humanity and decency to them, so it’s not working out for me.

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Aside from that we have several of the usual light novel sins – an incredibly overpowered protagonist who everyone is in awe of, several scenes of clunky exposition-laden dialogue, and a climactic battle which is marred by narration constantly telling us the minutae of what’s happening and why it’s so awesome. One thing I will say is that the show generally looks nice and stays on model, and the muted colour palette is effective at conveying the grim bleakness of WWI style combat. However, the character design is awful, with Tanya herself looking like a deranged gremlin and her female companion unable to keep her face from melting into interesting new orientations every time she’s on screen. Even if you’re not offended by the subject matter or the show’s questionable treatment of it, the entire thing is just so damn boring it’s impossible to recommend. In conclusion…

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Aqua’s verdict: Raus, raus!

Seriously, anime? Are we seriously doing this again? At least the actual nazis actually threatening our democracies do some actual effort to not look the part, but anyone cosplaying Tanya or one of her cohorts would get kicked out of any con for blatant display of poor taste. I don’t care if it’s “The Empire” in stead of Germany and the 1920s in stead of World War II, if it dresses like a Nazi, decorates its Reichstag like a Nazi and spews disturbing propaganda about “patriots” defending the “fatherland” like a Nazi, it’s a fucking Nazi. You’d think anyone with half a brain would realise that, but then again, these are strange times we’re living in. So yeah, nazi expies, big fucking whoop. Not exactly the most original idea you have there, Saga of Tanya the Evil – yet things get more than a bit worrying when it turns out said nazis are supposed to be the good guys. The poor imperial, hyper-militarized superpower who keeps getting heckled by those pesky allies. Because it’s not like this show was made in a country where some people still believe they once found themselves in a similar situati–– Oh dear.

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Granted, writing Saga of Tanya the Evil off as candid history-revising, nazi-glorifying nationalist propaganda might be giving it a bit too much credit. The show, and by extent, its protagonist doesn’t seem to really believe in anything, except maybe in the idea that war is cool. Tanya’s brutal assault on enemy troops is little more than a puerile fever dream, an orgy of murder, mayhem and painstakingly detailed technobabble cater-made for that specific type of sadistic twelve-year old whose entire interest in military history can be summed up as ‘which gun could kill the most people’. With all the subtlety and nuance of a howitzer it sings its pint-sized protagonist’s praises as she slaughter her way through Orwell’s ultimate nightmare: a perpetual war that ditches any and all humanity and purpose in favour of pompous, meaningless posturing and glamorous carnage. It’s a hagiography that fails to engage on every conceivable level, likely because a level on which a smirking, machiavellian girl scout leading a four-man platoon of ersatz Nazis somehow isn’t irrefutably silly, doesn’t exist. I expected to be filled with contempt for Saga of Tanya the Evil. Instead, I feel nothing but pity.

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