I picked up Saga of Tanya the Evil (Youjo Senki) at the beginning of the year based on recommendations by a friend and once I got going, I fell in love with it. It is about a salaryman from japan reborn as a little girl into a world that is now at war. The opening of the anime begins with the war under way.
Before I talk about why I like this anime, there is something that I need to address: it isn’t trying to conceal what the source material is. It falls squarely into a weird fantasy alternate history and takes place somewhere around the first world war and the second. The land it takes place is clearly Europe and the countries involved are either Not-Countries or groups of real countries under Not-Factions.
While this blatant reliance on history without calling it as such could have worked out terribly, the anime instead relies on the viewer being familiar with the events and thus it can get away with not explaining as much. Furthermore, it is very aware of what is doing, taking a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone at times as we see Tanya suffer the consequences of knowing too much. At times, it feels like what Hearts of Iron player would do if they had to take the role of a single person, which both means trying to escape from the course of history, and trying to take advantage of it.
Overall, though, the anime is good. I am bothered by what I assume are the eye-lashes of Tanya (I seriously cannot understand what the thing around her eyes is supposed to be), but that is a minor nitpick on a character that both inspires terror and a certain in-uniform cuteness. The anime also maintains a certain pace that, while it could dwell a bit more in certain scenes, is just right when considering the content of each episode. Each episode advances the story in some way and by the end we are somewhere new. Part of this pace might be due to there only being twelve episodes, but it does not hurt the anime.
I also particularly liked how Being X is presented in the anime, even more so when I compare it to the manga. In particular, I found the use of frozen-time scenes and people or objects in the scene by Being X to communicate with Tanya to be quite good, avoiding any possible pitfalls of showing any kinds of after-life plane, or even what Being X might look like. Of course, given the setting, the religious influences are rather clear, but that restraint and earth-bound perspective result in a great presentation.
But, more than the military setting, or the use of military history as a template and tool by Tanya, or the inclusion of magic… I watch it for the characters. I watch to know what ludicrous yet completely in-character Tanya will do next, and how will she make her own life worse. For example, and spoilers ahead, during the training episode in the mountains when Tanya explains that, yes, the troops are going to be shelled for the next 48 hours, Viktoriya starts digging as soon as her intent becomes clear as she is all too familiar with what Tanya is capable of. Of course, shelling your own troops during training is something completely normal. As for why Tanya was training that battalion? Well, perhaps suggesting that you’d like to lead a unit of mages capable of striking anywhere in the front is not such a bright idea if you want a quiet life.
That said, I wonder if perhaps, as part of Tanya’s character development, we’ll see some form of care surging for others. There is a clearlack of empathy, or, at least, a lack of care, and the traits Tanya exhibits border on psychological I will not attempt to diagnose.
In conclusion, it is a fun anime that knows exactly what it is doing that makes me want to know just in what mess will Tanya get into next along with a twisted, odd reflection of our own history. Will Tanya survive after the war? Or will Tanya succumb to war? And whose fault will it truly be?