Saga of Tanya the Evil
Episodes 5-6

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Saga of Tanya the Evil ?

How would you rate episode 6 of
Saga of Tanya the Evil ?

These episodes reinforce another thing that I love about this series: its writers actually understand how to put humor into otherwise serious content without it being disruptive. The ill-timed comic aside has long been a pet peeve of mine in anime; it works okay in manga form but doesn't commonly transition well into animated form. (Hellsing Ultimate and Drifters are the worst offenders, though there are definitely others.) It's especially frustrating when the solution is often very simple: just put the comic bits in places where they don't get in the way – like after the credits of an episode that hasn't ended on a cliffhanger, for example. Episode 6, with its great ending joke about how secondhand smoke was an unknown thing back in the 1920s, is the second episode in this series to do that, but the series has routinely had fun with Tanya's perturbed reactions to the irony that her seemingly fortunate upward trajectory in the military is the opposite of what she really wants. No super-deformed caricatures needed; just a twitch of the eyebrow or an irritated expression and then move on.

This irony is one of the big entertainment draws to Tanya for anyone who isn't a military otaku or history buff, seeing as this series seems targeted more directly at military otaku than even GATE was. Despite its prominent use of magic and metaphysics, I would consider this to be an upper-tier military and history buff title. To be sure, some of the equipment verges on the fanciful side; I could not identify the bombers used in episode 6 as any real-world design, for instance. (If someone can name any actual plane they are modeled off, please post that in the response thread.) But in other places, the series shows great attention to detail, with the wizards' flight outfits being very reminiscent of pilot's outfits from that same era. (The one concession to anime standards is that the wizards aren't wearing hats, which would be probably be essential at the altitudes they sometimes reach.) Just as importantly, it delves heavily into tactical considerations, which is very evident in these two episodes. While Izetta: The Last Witch postulated how the presence of magic might change the battlefield, Tanya the Evil focuses more on using magic as a stand-in for ahead-of-its-time aerial support and air strikes.

This is most evident in the scenes of episode 5 involving Dakia. In our world, World War I forced a complete transformation of how ground battles were fought (in large part because European military commanders ignored the lessons taught by the Russo-Japanese War a decade earlier), but not until the onset of World War II did the full strategic value of air power make its impact. Tanya knows this from being decades down the timeline, but the Dakians do not, giving her the massive tactical advantage that she exploits in the battle against them. While those scenes may otherwise seem like typical anime power-mongering, they're actually a reasonable depiction of what happened on the battlefields of World War I when commanders were unprepared to deal with enemy innovations in technology and tactics. As heinous as the factory attack may be, these kinds of bombings were common practice in World War II, and the Dakians' lack of defense is just a further reminder about how quickly countries get chewed up when they are behind the times in warfare. Dakia is practically serving as a stand-in for Poland at the onset of World War II, even though the circumstances are entirely different.

Essentially, what the formation of the 203rd Battalion in episode 5 gives us is a relative rarity even for anime: a fully-militarized, fully-integrated, tactical magical strike force. Watching them in action is a treat, as is watching Tanya's efforts in episode 5 to screen suitable candidates and then “train” her recruits ruthlessly with the specific intent of driving out as many as possible – thus delaying her own eventual deployment, of course. Delicious irony ensues as always when those soldiers misinterpret her deliberately cruel tactics as a challenge to their patriotism, thus not dropping out like she had planned.

On another front, Being X's third appearance in episode 6 leaves me wondering about its motives. After all, the philosophical viewpoint about God that the man who became Tanya held is hardly rare these days, so beyond the obvious story necessity, why is it so determined to mess with this particular guy? Its previous appearances were more understandable, but what it's doing in episode 6 to specifically make life difficult for Tanya, even taunting her in the process, implies that Being X is either taking Tanya's case personally or else has some greater scheme at play. The latter possibility bears watching for as the series progresses, as is what might happen now that other powers are becoming more aware of the “Devil of the Rhine.”

With production values in artistry, animation, music, and direction remaining strong, these two episodes can be enjoyed equally well for both their visceral thrills and for the overall military and philosophical schemes they depict. Since it's also firmly avoided the loli angle outside of vague implications in the credits illustrations, I can find nothing of consequence to fault the series for at this time.

Rating: A

Saga of Tanya the Evil is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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