“Saga of Tanya the Evil” Review: Visually Devastating

It is not very often that an animated show (anime) comes out with a villain for a main character—and it’s executed well. “Saga of Tanya the Evil” fulfills its promise of a beautifully-created unorthodox villain and all of the heartlessness, analytical planning, original storyline, and intense action scenes that accompany it.

This anime, follows Tanya Degurechaff, a child-soldier infamous for predatory-like brutality and an unmatched, tactical aptitude, earning her the nickname “The Devil of the Rhine.” Underneath her cute, childlike appearance however, lies the soul of a man named Being X, a self-proclaimed God, to be nothing more than fantasy—which resulted in him being reincarnated as a little girl into an alternative world of warfare, sin, and magic.

Determined to remain faithless and logical, Tanya resolves to ascend the ranks of her country’s military as it slowly plunges into world war, with only Being X proving to be the strongest obstacle in recreating the peaceful life she once knew. However, her actions have an unintended side effect: driving the mighty Imperial Empire into becoming the most powerful nations in history.

“Saga of Tanya the Evil” follows him-now-her as she rises through the ranks, unleashing her strict principles, monster-like qualities, and unmatched magical abilities on those she deems the enemies of the Fatherland. Other than Tanya, what also makes the show so likeable is its interesting perspectives on human nature during war and the analytical strategies that accompany it.

The anime’s pacing was commendable, matching the “every second matters” rule of war. Away from the battle and at the drawing board, conversations about the next operations were just as interesting as the battles themselves, because that is where we get a peek of what our characters’ motives are and their mental stability.

Studio NUT is a newly-founded studio created by “Death Parade’s” animation producer Takuya Tsunoki, and as a result, features distinct talents originating from popular animation studios: Madhouse (Death Note, One Punch Man, and Hunter x Hunter) and MAPPA (Terror in Resonance and Ushio and Tora).

“Saga of Tanya the Evil” obviously has skill behind its production. Combined with Tsunoki, ex-Gainax talents (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann), and Madhouse veterans, this anime’s action sequences are always a delight to look at. On and off the front lines, the animation always seems to convey a sense of predatory verociousness from Tanya, whether it is through a sinister smile, dilated eyes, or ruthless explosions of magic.

Tanya’s magical “massacre” scopes are depicted in high detail, comprised of screens that lock onto its target, coordinates, and other interesting “technologies” that assist her in going for the kill. Despite not being able to comprehend most of the scopes’ functions, I appreciate the lack of mediocrity to further immerse me into this cruel, magical world.

The settings are also given great detail. From the grandeur of the Imperial Strategic Headquarters to the miserable, grim colors belonging to the dirty trenches housing dead foot soldiers, this anime dedicated a generous amount of its time interpreting the desecration of war.

“Saga of Tanya the Evil” is wholeheartedly defined by its main character as she ascends the ranks of the Imperial Army, maneuvering within its bureaucracy and leaving a sickening trail of bodies—enemies and comrades—behind.

What makes Tanya’s character and her quest so intriguing is that we are given such a fascinating villain to study. Far from the typical, villainous ambitions of world domination, glory, and fortune, Tanya’s ultimate goal is to live out a comfortable life by following the rules to an obsessive, dogmatic degree and being a competent human being. Despite the numerous atrocities she nonchalantly—and logically—afflicts on her enemies, her ambition is surprisingly mundane, which makes her character unsuspectedly relatable to a degree. In a disturbing way, this one goal grounds The Devil of the Rhine, justifying the atrocities she commits with an analytical fist. To live in peace is “such a tempting thing,” especially in the midst of war. To take out those who compromise that dream of peace is logically—and emotionally—understandable.

Being X, the god-like entity responsible for Tanya’s plight, is far more sinister than its name. Dropping Tanya in the middle of a war-infested society and forcing her to praise his name in order to survive, Being X is not the forgiving deity from the Bible. He has no problem destroying Tanya’s plans for peace to achieve his ambiguous goal of evoking faith within the self-proclaimed blasphemer. His sudden manifestations are unsettling at times, his goals vague, and his actions just as ruthless. Those who watch cannot help but assume that Being X can be just as unforgiving and evil as the nonbelieving Tanya.

I would have liked to see more character development from the Imperial Army 203rd Air Mage Battalion commanded by Tanya herself. The anime only briefly built personalities for characters that surround Tanya. A few characters stood out— Viktoriya and Vice-Captain Matheus Johan Weiss —but most lacked enough layers to remember their names.

High ranking officers like Erich von Rerugen and Kurt von Rudersdorf are developed nicely. You feel the history between Tanya and Erich, the uneasiness the latter oozes whenever anyone mentions the “monster in a little girl’s form.” Kurt’s character is interesting because you get the sense that he possesses a hidden sinister personality beneath those closed eyes. You only get a glimpse of his true nature at his own leisure.

One noticeable aspect of this anime is its uniquely intense—and catchy—play on sounds. The opening, “JINGO JUNGLE” by Myth & Roid, is a fierce monster of a j-rock (Japanese rock) piece, blending catchy lyrics and deliriously enticing music with some grim imagery. The ending,”Los! Los! Los!” by Aoi Yūki, however, throws us into a pit of insanity and death, blasting our speakers with a piece that embodies the madness that lies within our main character.

Tanya’s voice played by Aoi Yuuki perfectly fit the role of a seemly adorable little girl with a no-nonsense predatory personality. Yuuki’s child-like voice and Tanya’s animation together creates a perfect masquerade of wolf in sheep’s clothing. Pity anyone ignorant of Tanya’s true nature, for those are the ones who die first.

I’ll sum it up. “Saga of Tanya the Evil” promises its title: a cold-hearted, faithless little girl following the rules of war to a T for the sake of her own peaceful existence, amidst the intervening nature of a sinister-esque deity. Tanya’s ruthless nature and skills on the battlefield will satisfy those already enraptured by the unique storyline and awesome music. Those who were looking for more well-rounded secondary characters will be disappointed, but will find fun in dissecting Tanya’s complexities as an unorthodox villain. Those who were looking for originality will find it in this bloodthirsty anime, and those who were hoping to satisfy their hunger for violence will be extremely pleased. I will give “Saga of Tanya the Evil” a 9 out of 10.

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