Anime Review: Saga of Tanya the Evil

written by Laurie Tom


Saga of Tanya the Evil is one of the best military-oriented anime series I’ve watched. While a lot of shows feature characters who are part of a military unit and involve war-related storylines, Tanya the Evil is particularly well suited to military enthusiasts, the kind willing to argue whether the Schlieffen Plan actually could have worked.

That’s not to say that lay people can’t enjoy Saga of Tanya the Evil on it’s own, it’s fantastic watching our jerk protagonist scrabble out of situations that progressively get from bad to worse, but military history buffs will get an extra kick out of the show from its pseudo-historical setting and frequent basis in historical tactics and battles.

Though it’s not billed as such, Saga of Tanya the Evil can be considered an exercise of what would happen if someone with the knowledge of historical wars went back to the time they were actually fought.

This is where Tanya comes in.

Tanya was originally a male middle manager of a presumably large corporation in our world, but being a ruthlessly pragmatic sort of person, he lays off a mentally unstable employee (for understandable reasons) without displaying an ounce of sympathy. That former employee repays him by pushing him into the path of an oncoming train.

Right before the moment death, a higher power freezes time to speak to him about faith. The soon-to-be Tanya however is unrepentant about his worldview and rejects the possibility of this entity being God, settling on calling it Being X. He even calls out Being X on being a poor deity if it can’t properly manage seven billion people the way it wants them to behave.

Being X decides to teach him a lesson and reincarnates him as an orphaned girl in another world on the brink of war, stripping him of his access to advanced science, his social position, and putting him into the worst straits possible on the chance that his faith might awaken when he has nothing else to rely on. But this time, if he dies, he will not have another chance at reincarnation.

Now Tanya Degruechaff, the former salaryman discovers that he has magical powers and will eventually conscripted into the army because of them. Given the inevitable war, he decides the best course of action is to voluntarily enlist, thus getting into an officer track, and eventually working his way up the career ladder to a comfortable rear echelon position. It’s not so much different from the corporate ladder, but a hell of a lot more dangerous.

This world is an alternate World War I with thinly renamed countries standing in for Germany, France, Scandinavia (they get amalgamated into one), etc. The world map is the same and the Republic (France) is currently locked into trench warfare with the Empire (Germany) along the Rhine, and making matters worse for the Empire, they are being hemmed in from the southeast by Dakia (which seems to be Bulgaria, which oddly was Germany’s ally in WWI) and from the north by the Northern Entente (Scandinavia).

The reason for the war starting is not disclosed, but the Empire is clearly on the back foot. And did I mention that Tanya is an Empire citizen?

Apparently age is no restriction for warfare in this world as only token protest is given to Tanya’s enlistment while she is clearly still a child, and after she proves herself a capable and outwardly fanatical commander she’s deployed and ordered about as any other officer.

The funny thing about watching Tanya is that she (and I’ll use she from now on since other characters don’t know her history) comes across as this incredibly patriotic and devout officer to her fellow soldiers, when she actually doesn’t give a crap. One of the few higher echelon officers aware of Tanya’s true disposition describes her as a monster in the body of a little girl, and that is fitting.

Tanya is not nice. Tanya primarily cares about ending the war for her own personal security and isn’t afraid to manipulate rules and laws to get things done. In the very first episode when she tries to send misbehaving soldiers away from the front lines because she can’t count on them to follow orders, they protest in order to remain. Annoyed, Tanya decides to grant their wish, by leaving them in the position where they’re most likely to get killed. (Which they do.)

Being X never lets Tanya get too comfortable though. Whenever it becomes apparent that Tanya is overcoming her limitations, Being X likes to throw a monkey wrench into things and takes her down a peg.

What makes the whole thing bearable, since Tanya herself is an awful person, is the cast around her. Lieutenant Serebryakov, the only other female soldier in her unit, is incredibly good-hearted, and once Tanya forms her own air mage battalion, Weiss and Grantz form similarly sympathetic faces. Despite Tanya’s disregard for most people, she does seem to genuinely care about her unit and earns their respect in return.

I really appreciate this more nuanced approach to an admittedly fantastical version of World War I. It would have been easy to paint one side as the “bad guys” but the series never goes there and that’s what allows us to see how ridiculous all the speeches about patriotism and honor are. I highly recommend this series.

Number of Episodes: 12

Pluses: lots of nods to real world history, funny watching Tanya get what’s coming to her, Tanya and her battalion have good chemistry together

Minuses: Tanya is a jerk and that will be a dealbreaker for some viewers, Being X is incredibly petty for a higher power, Being X oddly disappears in later episodes

Saga of Tanya the Evil is currently streaming at Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed). Funimation has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.

Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie’s short fiction has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Winter 2017 Anime First Impressions

written by Laurie Tom

Winter is a slim season this year, though there are a couple gems. Because of the partnership between Funimation and Crunchyroll, most new anime brought to the US now is streaming on the former (if dubbed) or the latter (if subtitled) and I’m watching entirely on Crunchyroll again. Though there are other players in the licensing market now, like Amazon and Netflix, the former does not regularly simulcast and the latter never does.

Amazon has started it’s own Anime Strike streaming channel for an additional $5/month on top of Amazon Prime membership (US members-only), but with only a handful of exclusives and two winter simulcasts it’s hard to justify at this point. The dollar goes so much farther with their competitors.

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.


Why I Watched It: This is one of the season’s more mature offerings, featuring an adult cast containing bureaucracy members of a fictional country divided into thirteen states. The art style is distinctive, following the designs of its manga origin, which gives the cast a unique look compared to other series.

What I Thought: We follow the POV of Jean, a sleepy-lidded deputy chief of the Inspection Department, a sort of auditing bureau that ensures the thirteen districts are compliant with the national government. It’s a political job in a department that is beginning to look unnecessary given the long years of peace since its establishment, but there is something brewing and Jean is canny enough to sense it. It’s clear that he’s intentionally projecting a false image of himself that is a lot wealthier and disinterested than he actually is. This first episode is clearly setup and the storm is still to come.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. I like that Jean is a canny and observant protagonist. We don’t get inside his head in this first episode, so we don’t know his reasoning for anything, but his actions are curious enough that I want to know more.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)



Why I Watched It: I admittedly didn’t have high hopes for this one, because it looks like the anime version of manic pixie girl upending a normal guy’s life, but the hype going in was good so I figured it was worth looking at.

What I Thought: Fuuka relies on a well worn anime convention to get started, the meet cute that goes wrong due to an unexpected panty flashing, which results in the titular Fuuka spiking protagonist Yuu’s phone into the ground. He wasn’t taking a picture, but her behavior is so outrageous that the memory of her is burned into Yuu’s brain. Fuuka’s a free spirit without a cell phone who still listens to music on CDs and she horns her way into Yuu’s life, leaving him wondering how he ended up with a girlfriend by the end of the first episode. It’s not my fantasy, but I do like how Yuu is a complete Twitter addict as I’ve never seen the medium depicted in anime before.

Verdict: I’ll probably pass, though I might come back to it at some point, because I know of a development later in the manga that takes this beyond the standard romantic comedy and I’m curious how the event will be handled.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Interviews with Monster Girls


Why I Watched It: I wasn’t originally, since I feel like anime’s fascination with cute monster girls who look mostly human except for ears/tail/horns/etc has been done to death in the wake of Monster Musume, but early word of mouth is good, so I decided to check it out.

What I Thought: This is not my kind of show, but it’s surprisingly light on fan service and the first episode is what it says on the tin. Demi-humans have always existed in low numbers in this reality, and high school teacher Takahashi finally gets a chance to meet one who happens to be a student at his school. From there he inquires about the myth versus reality of being a demi-human by interviewing students, the first of which is a vampire. The interesting thing is that the demi-humans aren’t treated that strangely by the rest of the student body. They’re different, but not something to be feared. The myth vs. reality angle doesn’t tread much new ground though, especially starting with a vampire, which has already been reinvented to death.

Verdict: I’ll pass, but it’s a new angle for people who aren’t tired of the monster girl phenomenon.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Ms. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid


Why I Watched It: This is the one monster girl show I was going to check out, because of the unusual gender flip in that it’s Ms. Kobayashi, a woman, who gets stuck with a unusual houseguest in the form of a western dragon who can turn into a cute young lady.

What I Thought: The gender flip does add something to the monster girl genre, as the things that concern Kobayashi are different from that of a heterosexual male protagonist. She’s more concerned that Tohru doesn’t burn down her apartment than cohabitation with a stranger. Watching Tohru try to disrupt Kobayashi going out for drinks with a coworker (under the mistaken impression it’s a date) was entertaining as Tohru makes it clear that she harbors romantic feelings for her. I think the idea of having a dragon maid would be funnier if Tohru was in her full dragon form more often, but that would take away from the cute monster girl look that appeal to fans of the subgenre.

Verdict: I’ll pass. It’s cute, but I don’t think there’s enough here to sustain my interest.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Saga of Tanya the Evil


Why I Watched It: Reason one was the wacky premise of a Japanese salaryman reborn as a little girl where he becomes a super-powered child soldier. Reason two was that World War I is seldom visited in anime but it’s my favorite historical conflict and the series takes place in an alternate WWI.

What I Thought: I was expecting to be more put off by Tanya, and to be sure, Tanya is “a monster in the body of a little girl” but she (he?) is interesting in watch in the way that some villainous protagonists are. It’s not that we like her, but we want to see what she does next and what her game is. The world building is more interesting than I expected. Air mages replace the airplanes of the real World War I, and the story takes place from the Empire (German) viewpoint, but there are several noticeable differences between real world history and the alternate one in how the war started, early grand strategy execution, and the progress being made.

Verdict: I’ll be watching. This show is definitely not going to be for everyone, but the other Empire characters are more relatable human beings (no cardboard Nazis transported to the wrong time period) and having a sympathetic cast around Tanya could balance things out.

Where to find stream: Crunchyroll (subtitled) and Funimation (dubbed, subscription required)

Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction.