Though not rare, it is not very often that I find myself watching a show where the main protagonist is a villain. It is even rarer that I find myself completely rooting for this villain to succeed in her endeavors.
Youjo Senki or The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a show that I picked up randomly while browsing through my Crunchyroll queue. I can’t tell you what made me start watching the show, but man, I am so glad that I did. Since I finished the show and started doing research on it, I have seen a lot of comparisons to Overlord, which will probably be another show that I look into, but I digress. Onward to my review!
Youjo Senki is about a childlike soldier, Tanya, who ascends the ranks of the Empire with her ruthless aggression and uncanny tactical aptitude on the battlefield, thus earning her the moniker “Devil of the Rhine.” (Small Spoiler Warning!) However, we later find out that there is a bigger battle at play between our protagonist, who is more than just a young girl with magical abilities, and the one whom she refers to as “Being X” in a battle of will and wits.
What truly makes this show worth every single episode is the exploration of Tanya as a character in relation to the world and the story itself. Tanya is a member of the Imperial army, which is akin to the army of Nazi Germany. It’s viewed as the tyrant strutting its military might to all those in its wake. Tanya has no goals of world domination and no aims for military fame or power. Her goal throughout his show is to work until she doesn’t have to, by any means necessary. She wants to work, retire, and live a comfortable life within the rules given. What person do you know who doesn’t desire this life?
As a ten-year-old, Tanya is usually equipped to handle all the situations that she finds herself in. Without going into heavy spoilers that I feel you, as the viewer, should discover on your own, she is equipped with advanced tactical strategies, an overabundance of magical power, and a cold workman-like efficiency when it comes the mission. This isn’t your typical Loli. Tanya doesn’t break the immersion with typical anime tropes. She is more likely to scare the living hell out of you before you ever think of her as cute, and this stark contrast translates well in the world. Her enemies often underestimate her—and justifiably so—because of her size and voice, only to realize that her nickname is something that was rightfully earned.
However, despite her gifts, she is still grounded. Though highly intelligent, she isn’t always the smartest person in the room, and her naivety of the situation or over-confidence is sometimes the very thing that leads her further away from her comfortable-life goal. Those with higher ranks are still able to manipulate her to a degree and exploit her talents, which makes the story itself more realistic and believable. And with the overarching plot of our protagonist versus Being X, you never really know how things are ultimately going to play out for Tanya.
This is why I love her as a character. She is a villain, and she doesn’t hide it. She doesn’t cut corners. Ruthless by nature, she overwhelms nearly everyone, whether it be on the battlefield with clever stratagems and sheer power or off the battlefield with her fear-instilled charisma that ultimately allows those underneath her to follow her loyally and those above her to respect her.
Even though Tanya is the main attraction, the supporting cast isn’t anything to shake off either. Viktoriya Serebryakova, Tanya’s right-hand lady, is the complete contrast to our villainous protagonist. She acts as the balance, in my opinion, because she fits more of the typical heroine role. Whereas Tanya is cold, Viktoriya is warm and has more of a kind heart, often helping and tending to her comrades in arms. Her concern for those around her, especially for Tanya, shines a bit of humanity into our otherwise bleak setting. Another standout for me was Erich von Rerugen, who is the only person on the show to instantly realize that something is seriously off about our ten-year-old protagonist. He serves as the voice of logic, and even though he is not able to pinpoint the reason behind Tanya’s mind and demeanor, I was glad to know that someone noticed that Tanya isn’t right in the head.
The world of Youjo Senki is one that really fascinates me, but I wish they had done just a little bit more. In a world where magic exists, it seemed pretty limited to military use. Perhaps this is because of the perspective the writers are telling the story from, but I really wish they would have shown some other ways that magic influences the world. In the brief glimpses you get of civilian life and even on the base, there no signs of real magic use, and I wish they had explained that further. Magic users basically take the place of planes even though planes still exist. Anti-aircraft weapons still exist, but they seem a bit out of place hitting such a small target—especially when those aerial combatants can manifest magical barriers to protect themselves.
The animation and art style was done by a new studio called NUT, which was created by Death Parade’s Takuya Tsunoki. (Death Parade is on my list of top anime of all time.) The studio itself features a lot of talent linked to Madhouse, and it clearly shows. The animation is smooth and really showcases what this studio is capable of. The combat scenes are vivid and beautiful. The animators have a strong grasp on the scope and horrors of war, and they display their skills brilliantly when Tanya is slaughtering her opponents while effortlessly soaring through the air.
The landscapes are how any war zone would be imagined—dark and bleak—and they set the tone for what is happening on screen. Although it didn’t bother me too much, it should be noted that they do have some work to do when it comes to blending 3D animation with 2D. Some scenes can break the immersion when they implement this technique, but outside of that, Studio Nut deserves nothing but praise. I can’t wait to see what they do when they work with Production I.G. on the third season of FLCL.
I should mention that I love the contrasting art style choice for Tanya and Viktoriya, which was done by Yuji Hosogoe, who worked on Shinegki no Bahamut and Gate. I read somewhere that they look different from their light novel counterparts, but I completely welcome the change after looking into it. Tanya is the most interesting on screen. The choice to draw her with a fully animated face and expressions allows her face to twist in ways that highlight the nature of character while also scaring the living daylights out of you. Like seriously, some of the faces that Tanya makes are downright demonic, and it suits her so well. This also trickles down to Viktoriya; her design displays her innocence and good nature despite working under Tanya and also participating in the war.
The sound in this anime is superb. Gunshots sound effects are visceral, and you can feel their weight. Explosions are impactful and a treat to hear if you are into that type of thing like I am. Bullets ripping through flesh sounds gruesome, lifeless bodies hitting ground land with a certain satisfying thud, and everything comes together to give a realistic war-like experience.
The composer is Kenta Ihara, who also demonstrated his talents on Death Parade and Zankyou no Terror. The original score of this anime is really good. I mean, REALLY GOOD. I am the type of person who likes to listen to the soundtrack of a show or movie after I finish it if it was good, and I have constantly been listening to “Young Girl’s War,” which is the first track on the soundtrack and the song that is played whenever Tanya gets serious. The piece is inseparable from Tanya; it fits her personality on the battlefield perfectly. Some honorable mentions are “Trial of Fire” and “Let’s Go Ahead and Do Our Best!”
This wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t talk about the opening and closing credits. “Myth & Roid by Jingo Jungle” instantly tells you what you are getting into. The upbeat jingle with faint chants in the background embodies of military nature of the show. I love the singer’s voice as the edginess, once again, fits Tanya’s personality, and the lyrics are spot on. Also, I should add that the animation for the opening sequence is exactly how one should do an anime opening. There is so much personality and style packed into the minute-and-a-half opening. The same applies to the ending, which I love because it features some of the original art design from the light novel. Not to mention, once again, the lyrics fit this anime so well!
Before I wrap up, I will mention the English dub. Although I watched the series in Japanese with subtitles, I have seen up to episode four in the English dub, and it seems like Funimation put a bit of effort into picking the voice actors—at least for the main two characters. Our beloved Tanya is voiced by Monica Rial, who I am a big fan of due to her large catalog of work but most notably her work as Stocking from Panty and Stocking. Although it was different, I feel like the snarky attitude that she adds to Tanya fits the character well.
In closing, Youjo Senki (The Saga of Tanya the Evil) is one of those rare cases where adoption of the source material was done exceptionally well. If you are a fan of militarily-themed anime and want something more on the serious side that deals with wartime strategies, doctrine, and political discord without the cuteness that is often found in similar anime, this is the show for you. Superb animation and art design, a noteworthy soundtrack, and a ten-year-old Loli who should not be trifled with are all the necessary ingredients to create the perfect brew for a good show.
And damn was it good.
Thanks for reading!.
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