Saga of Tanya the Evil
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Saga of Tanya the Evil ?
Community score: 4.2
There's a lot to talk about in this episode, which returns Tanya to the Western front for the first time since early in the series, but what people will probably want to discuss most is its final scene, so let's look at that first. Yes, Anton Sioux isn't dead after all; he was recovered, critically wounded, and has been out for months. Does that yellow gleam in his eye mean he's become Being X's new tool for countering Tanya? Seems like it.
Something like this was to be expected, I suppose, since the story has no other effective way to counter Tanya at this point. The only other method would be for Being X to deny Tanya her super-charged power, and that's not a realistic option since it would have to change the rules of the game it's already established; she is making the prayers that it required for activating the special jewel, after all. Given that Anton has now had two run-ins with her, he also makes the ideal candidate to combat her. Even so, I can't help but feel that this gimmick is cheap enough to disrupt my full appreciation of what is otherwise a strong episode with some biting wartime commentary.
This series specifically seems to be veering toward exercises in war commentary after only casually indulging such elements through the first few episodes. In retrospect, episode 7 was all about putting a face on the enemy, and now episode 8 focuses on the ruthless practicalities that go hand-in-hand with warfare. Over the past few centuries, there have been attempts to make war more civilized by establishing sets of rules and standards by which they should be fought, but as episode 5 showed and this episode much more emphatically reinforces, those are often see as mere inconveniences to be worked around to win. As someone who lived much later in the 20th century than anyone else in her time, the man who became Tanya knows that warfare was headed back in the direction of greater civilian casualties (some estimates claim that close to half of the casualties in World War II were civilians, compared to only 5% in WWI), so she's using that knowledge to be on the cutting edge of the trend. In other words, if you couch what you really want to do in creative justifications and put the onus on those in command, you can get away with the slaughter of your fellow human beings without having to worry too much.
The hardest-hitting aspect of the episode is that these mental gymnastics don't work equally well for the trained soldiers. Tanya clearly has no problem with her tactics, as her early statements when the plan is revealed suggest that she was just making sure that her butt would be covered than actually being concerned with objections to the strategy. The later revelation that she wrote the paper that informed her orders indicate that part of her reaction was perhaps a test to see if they were really going to follow the principles she suggested. This again raises the question of whether her harsh tactics have simply been her reveling in getting to do things with a ruthlessness that she always embraced as a salaryman but was held back by the constraints of society. After all, now she can beat an insubordinate underling into submission and get away with it, or just kill off uncooperative parties or potential threats. There's an irony in the smallest soldier on the battlefield becoming its biggest bully, and I'm glad that the director restrained himself from having Tanya take on one of her signature evil expressions throughout all this. That would have been overkill, as her actions are inherently where the “evil” in the series' title comes from. After all, practicality and evil are not mutually exclusive.
Equally clear is the fact that not all of Tanya's subordinates are so hardcore. This shows most strongly in the struggles of 2nd Lt. Grantz trying to come to terms with what he's being required to do. I seriously thought for a moment that he was going to turn his gun on Tanya, but either her words made just enough sense to him to overcome his moral objections, or he's been too deeply indoctrinated into a military mindset to resist orders that he finds reprehensible. (And boy, the musical score really plays up the tension of this moment.) Either way, he represents the conscientious soldier who doesn't buy into “it's okay because we've been ordered to do it” logic, the kind who's going to be haunted until the end of his days by his deeds. That's a valuable inclusion, as it tempers the aggrandizement of warfare that series like this tend to have without clumsily beating viewers over the head with “war is wrong” verbiage. It's much more effective to make the point like this.
The technical merits also seem to be back on par with the first few episodes, as everything about the episode looks and sounds sharp. Also watch for a dramatically different new ending theme, which has me very curious about how the lyrics translate. Most importantly, the series has returned to a distinct plot path after veering away on a partially-relevant side jaunt last episode.
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