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Saga of Tanya the Evil, The

Entry updated 26 July 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2017). Original title Yōjo Senki. Based on the Light Novel and Manga written by Carlo Zen, illustrated by Shinobu Shinotsuk and Chika Tōjō respectively. NUT studio. Directed by Yutaka Uemura. Written by Kenta Ihara. Voice cast includes Hideaki Tezuka, Nobuo Tobita, Kôsuke Toriumi and Aoi Yûki. Twelve 24-minute episodes (plus a recap episode and twelve online "chibi" shorts). Colour.

In 2013, at a moment frozen before his death when pushed in front of a train, a Japanese salaryman (Toriumi) is addressed by a being claiming to be God (Tezuka) and in charge of Reincarnation: they complain of being "completely overworked" and of the world's lack of faith. The salaryman responds he believes in science and reason, not God, so names the speaker "Being X", adding that overwork is a "sign of a flawed business model" and explaining that when people's core needs are met (see Economics), there is no need for faith. Being X ponders that if the Salaryman was put in dire straits, perhaps his faith would be reawakened.

In 1913 the salaryman is reborn, memories intact, as the orphan Tanya Degurechaff (Yûki) in an Alternate History Germany (called The Empire). At nine, seeing the Empire's growing strength makes War inevitable, she volunteers for the military, intending to be in a safe desk job before conscription (her rare aptitude for magic means youth is not a barrier). Initially Tanya tests Inventions devised by Scientist Doktor von Schugel (Tobita): one, a powerful Weapon using "computational jewels", can only be used safely (through Being X's intervention) after prayer: Tanya must now pray to God repeatedly, with Being X hoping that repetition will instil faith. Her talents mean she is put in charge of a rapid-response mage battalion.

In 1925 the Republic (France) is overrun, its surviving troops fleeing to Tunis: Tanya tries to persuade the Empire's top brass to stop them – but, heady with victory, they do not grasp that the other great powers will support the vengeful Free Republic forces, starting a World War as Being X plans. Tanya learns despairingly that, whatever peoples' pretence at civilization, they are swayed by animal instincts – pride, revenge, fear – blinding them to opportunities for peace. The series ends with her declaring she will put God out of a job.

As an ex-salaryman Tanya identifies the army as her employer, to which she owes loyalty and obedience (but not Being X, vowing to "pound free-market principles into that piece of shit"). Though wanting peace, Tanya spreads destruction with a wanton glee, earning her the nickname "Devil of the Rhine"; later battles become darker and she accepts (through legal sophistry) the murder of civilians. The series has no heroes: for Tanya obeying her superiors' orders is a duty, not an excuse; whilst Being X seems a petty bureaucrat prepared to warp and kill people to defeat Tanya.

Magic is usually illustrated with geometric imagery and cogs. It is scientifically understood: we see magic-based technology – Computers, personal Flying Machines, and Weapons including V-1 bombs – far in advance of that in non-military society, which is at an early/mid-twentieth century level.

This is an impressive Anime, violent but concerned with Religion and Metaphysics; unusually for a war story it does not build up to a final battle: the last episode is more concerned with human nature. A film continuing the story was released as Saga of Tanya the Evil Movie (2019). [SP]


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