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GENRE: Anime ORIGINAL AIR DATES: January 6 - March 31, 2017
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

I'm getting real tired of your crap, Being X!

Youjo Senki (or The Saga of Tanya the Evil) had very humble beginnings. It started as nothing more than a user-written novel on an amateur writing website, but was picked up for a series of light novels pretty quickly, then adapted into a manga, anime, and more recently even a feature film. Is it deserving of this much attention?

Youjo Senki is a fantastic example of Isekai, which is Japanese for "another world". In Isekai works a character will find themselves transported to a world that is like theirs only different somehow - usually via death or teleportation. The earliest example of an Isekai anime I can think of would be CLAMP's Tsubasa Chronicle, though I'm sure there are countless earlier examples. In Isekai it will sometimes be a world where magic exists or a world where a major event in history has been altered or it might even be a world where The Beatles were never formed.

Tanya mixes two of the common threads of Isekai - it's an alternate history story like our own, and also a world where the existence of magic is documented, understood, and studied like a science. Picture the early 1900s and the brink of the First World War, but throw in a dash of magical powers and you've got the setting. At first I was fairly disappointed, with an opening episode that did little to impress me. Had I been mislead on the quality of this series? I had been hearing about Youjo Senki regularly since the anime first aired in 2017, but home media options were nonexistent without importing from another region (plus the added cost of shipping and risk of not being able to play the discs). When Manga Entertainment tweeted that this series would be receiving a home media release within my country I was so overjoyed I even pre-ordered the blu-ray to make sure I wouldn't miss out on the initial release. Did I fall for the hype?

The first episode hits us up with the general feel, location, time-frame, and setting of the show. Our protagonist is a young blonde girl named Tanya Degurechaff, she's in the military, she's got magical powers and she's something of a celebrity among the Empire - the Devil of the Rhine. If she says, "It's my turn on the Xbox", you'd hand the controller over straight away. She instills fear in her enemies and her allies. Quite frankly, she's a monster. But what made her this way, and why does the army allow a girl of merely ten years old to fight on the frontlines? The first episode made me wonder if this show was the right one for me... the second episode left me no doubt I had made the correct decision.

At the beginning of the second episode, we quickly discover that Tanya wasn't always a little girl. She actually had a life before the one she has now. Previously, in another lifetime, Tanya was once a Japanese salaryman who had worked his way up the corporate ladder, only to have met his end due to a former employee who held a grudge. At the moment of his death, Tanya's former existence heard a voice call out to him, a voice claiming itself to be God. But Tanya had never believed in God, as a business-minded man of rationality the idea of a God was simply laughable. Even in the face of this disembodied voice, our protagonist refused to accept the voice as belonging to God, instead choosing to call the voice "Being X". So steadfast in his belief, Tanya's former existence insisted that he believed in reason rather than blind faith. Naturally, this angered "Being X", who decided to make an exception and allow our protagonist to be reincarnated despite his sins. Our protagonist would be reborn into a cruel world where he would have no choice but to call on the help of God, and therefore accept that he exists - a challenge Tanya wholly accepts.

Youjo Senki, therefore, has two stories running at the same time that are intertwined. The first is the story of the war between the Empire and its surrounding opposing powers: the Francois Republic and the Legadonia Entente Alliance. So our enemies are the alternate world versions of France and Norway, and the protagonists are the Germans complete with all the 'regalia' and imagery that goes with it - I never thought anime could make me root for the Nazis but Youjo Senki manages it somehow.

The second story is Tanya's struggles to survive while refusing to give in to the demands of "Being X", confronted several times by the so-called God as it becomes further annoyed by Tanya's blatant dismissal of its existence. Both stories are finely weaved together as Tanya works without rest to bring an end to the war (and get herself out of harm's way) while "Being X" does everything he can to prolong it. In other words, our protagonist is trying to end the bloodshed but "Being X" is forcing it to continue. Checkmate, believers!

Damn right it isn't, do you see any pews?

After proving herself useful to the Empire, Tanya ensembles a rapid response unit to take out key targets in the hopes of ending the war. This is the beginning of the 203rd Batallion of the Empire, but this attracts the attention of other political powers, therefore, causing the war to continue. The damage left in Tanya's wake, the enemies she has created for herself, and the ensuing chaos of war threatens to bring her end but Tanya refuses to give in. To need the help of "Being X", to believe in the existence of God, would be a fate worse than death as far as Tanya is concerned.

The English dub of The Saga of Tanya the Evil features Monica Rial in the starring role - an excellent choice for a character who fits the very definition of a psychotic bitch. Monica has plenty of method acting experience judging by her Twitter output. Otherwise, the cast is made up of lesser-known and lesser utilized voice talent, but all of them are excellent choices. J. Michael Tatum as Rerugen is particularly good casting pick, playing well off the madness of Monica's Tanya Degurechaff. I did switch over to the Japanese dub occasionally to compare, and it seems the majority of the essence of the voice roles has been maintained in the translation. I intend to give the show a thorough re-watching in the Japanese in the near future, as it really is a fantastic show through and through.

I wonder how much better the show would be in a German dub.

Stylistically Youjo Senki is dull and drab during the war scenes, yet colourful during peaceful times. It perfectly emulates the duality of wartime. Muddy and soggy trenches, rain-drenched countryside, and military maneuvers in the dead of night sell an extremely convincing war scenario. The tranquil and harmonious capital city, the particulate matter floating in the musty libraries of the Empire's college campus and the rowdy celebration of a military exercise well-done drives home the reasons why such a war is being fought. With an emphatic score that drives key scenes home and excellent sound design with gunshots and explosions putting my TV's speakers through the wringer, Youjo Senki really nails the art of war.

Take out the mages flying 600ft in the air with magical jetpacks and you'd have a nuanced look at war not out of place in a show like Band of Brothers. Youjo Senki made me care about war stories and convinced me how gripping they can be. This series also opened my eyes to the Isekai genre which I had also formerly dismissed as something I would not be interested in. I would also like to note that both the opening and ending themes for this show are powerful, chaotic songs that match up with the insane genius of Tanya Degurechaff. The Japanese voice actress for Tanya sings on the ending theme, with a rallying cry for her troops screaming at them to kill every last enemy and tear them limb from limb.

And I found myself rooting for the cute little murderer the whole damn time. Who knew the devil could be so cute?

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