Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In Saga of Tanya the Evil episode 8, Trial by Fire, Tanya Degurechaff receives orders to retake a city that had been under imperial occupation. Given how thin their resources are spread, she’s ordered to be creative with the international laws of war. The empire will order an evacuation of the city, which means that anyone who remains can be considered enemy combatants. Some of Tanya’s own mages question the tactic, and during the fighting, many have to make wrenching decisions. Guess who had come up with the creative interpretation of international laws in her war college thesis? Plus, an old enemy sees the light.
What’s In This Post
- Tanya Degurechaff and her battalion are in the middle of a pitched battle on the Rhine front. Enemy resistance has stiffened, but Tanya’s attitude hasn’t changed. She urges her mages on with the same loving sarcasm she’s always used. After the battle, news that Arene City, which is to their rear, has fallen to local militia. Tanya muses that it will be difficult to fight without the supplies that flow through that city. The Republic quickly sends mage reinforcements to help the local militia, forcing the empire to respond.
- The Imperial Army Western Theater Command summons Tanya for a briefing. Commander Mortiz Paul von Han delivers her orders: recapture the city after destroying the mages and militia. But there’s more to it than that: the empire will issue an evacuation order, so that whoever remains will be considered a hostile combatant. Tanya presses for clarity: she tries to be sure that she understand what she’s reading between the lines: namely, that she’s to slaughter anyone who remains after the evacuation order. The commander makes it clear she understands. Tanya briefs her troops and prepare for departure. Some of them express doubts about the scope of their orders. In particular, Second Lieutenant Warren Grantz seemed disturbed.
- The militia in Arene City throw the surviving imperial soldiers into a church. The Republican mages receive word that the Devil of the Rhine is approaching, and they ready their ambush. When they open fire, Tanya and her mages begin an immediate counter attack. Tanya’s incredible speed and maneuverability mean she’s easily able to avoid attacks while dealing a lethal response; but some of her mages, even her second in command, are wounded. Tanya, disappointed, orders him to retreat with the other wounded. She tells him to prepare for severe discipline when she gets back. Humiliated, he retreats. Grantz watches in growing concern.
- Tanya’s tactics force the enemy mages to retreat to a church. Tanya’s willing to let them go; if they’re in the church, they can’t threaten the imperial artillery. The empire uses the lull in fighting to send their message asking for the release of prisoners and immediate discussions with their commanding officer, and they make it clear that failure to comply will declare all of them combatants. One of the imperial prisoners tries to escape, and Viktoriya uses her magic crystal to record the militia gunning him down. Thus armed with documentation of war crimes, having fulfilled her responsibility to demand their enemy’s surrender, the empire begins its artillery bombardment. Horrified at the slaughter, the Republican mages attempt to guard the evacuation of the civilians.
- After the bombardment, Tanya’s mages help rescue the imperial soldiers who had been taken prisoner. Grantz tries to keep his wits about him despite seeing charred bodies all around. Soon, they receive word that the Republican mages are not only covering the civilian retreat; they’re interfering with the imperial spotters. The 203rd is ordered to destroy them — and anyone with them. Grantz can’t accept the order. He protests to Tanya as she’s about to launch her attack. She clarifies the issue for him: if he lets any of them escape, they will eventually take up arms against the empire. The glare of a furious boy in the crowd emphasizes her point. In tears, he takes up the weapon that Tanya threw to him — the machine gun she had taken from Colonel Anson Sioux — and opens fire on the mages and civilians.
- Erich von Rerugen confronts Hans von Zettour with a paper from the war college. That thesis provided a conceptual framework for the assault they had just waged on Arlene City. Hans confirms that the paper was influential. The paper’s author? Tanya.
- In the Allied Kingdom Humanitarian Aid Group “Peace World Hospital,” Anson Sioux wakes up after months of being in a coma. He recalls the last things he remembers before falling unconscious: a light that gave him a divine mission: kill the Devil of the Rhine. His eyes glow yellow.
What I Liked
The animation seems to have returned to its normal exemplary level. I don’t have any complaints at all about how this episode looked.
Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov seemed very disappointed when First Lieutenant Matheus Johan Weiss said he couldn’t take her place at Tanya’s side. It seems that though she’s lived through many battles because she’s stayed close to the Major, Viktoriya would prefer a little more emotionally safe location.
Let’s get this out of the way: war is terrible. Humans die; humans kill. This episode did as good a job driving that point home as any show I’ve seen. The “partisans” who rose up in Arlene City killed the imperial soldiers, even beating one to death with a shovel. So they’re not innocent. The imperial mages under Tanya’s command slaughtered hundreds. They’re not innocent, either.
The core truth, though is this: the world in which they lived forced the decision: kill or to allow themselves to be killed. Yes, they have individual responsibility, but how can we expect any human to be entirely rational when their survival’s at state? What are we to make of a world that forces such a decision on its inhabitants?
Isn’t raising such a question by portraying the conditions of the world and the actions of its inhabitants a sign of literature? I like that about series.
Tanya’s entire 203rd mage battalion has distinguished itself in combat several times before, so there’s no doubt that its members are exceptional soldiers. That’s what makes Grantz’s doubts so effective. He’s dedicated to the empire’s victory. He’s loyal to his battalion commander. But when given orders that he understands will mean he has to kill civilians cast artificially as combatants? He’s torn. In other words, he’s human.
As usual, Tanya’s mages fly with almost mechanical precision in their formation. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’m almost embarrassed to admit how impressive that is!
Viktoriya used her computational magic crystal to save images of the imperial soldier being shot as he tried to escape. Given that motion pictures hadn’t been invented yet, and given that even the top of the line cameras of the age wouldn’t’ve been able to capture that shot, I thought this was a creative way to dramatize the event.
Horrifying quote of the episode: Tanya saying, “…the enemy you let go will take up his gun again.” I can’t argue with that logic; yet its implications are horrifying. Grantz understood those implications. When faced with the decision to follow his conscience and let future enemies of the empire escape or to protect himself and the empire, he made a terrible decision — a decision that the world in which he lived demanded he make. That’s dramatic.
Tanya tells Grantz that she’ll forget his words, which could have been interpreted as treason. Instead, she gives him a chance to make the “right” decision, where right here means the decision demanded by their superior officers. Is that the action of a truly evil person? Of course not. A truly evil person would have either delighted in killing Grantz, or in ruining his career and the lives of his family.
The moment of Grantz’s decision — will he take up the machine gun and kill Tanya? Kill the fleeing civilians and their protecting mages? Kill himself? — was brutally effective.
What I Liked Less
Arg! They changed the ED! I loved the old ED! Sigh…
This world forces its inhabitants to make a terrible decision: kill others or be killed yourself.
Kind of like our world, huh? But in our world, we don’t have a Being X setting up these conflicts for the sole purpose of teaching Tanya a lesson in faith. Because of that, the responsibility for this war — a conflict that’s rapidly growing into a global conflagration — rests solely on the shoulders of Being X.
That being said, Tanya this week illustrated a problem that some utilitarians can run into: knowing when utility should take a back seat to other factors like morality. This week we learned that Tanya’s dissertation from her war college days had given strategic command’s Hans von Zettour the idea of what to do about the militia and Republican mages in Arene City. Knowing that the militia had a very loose command structure, the empire ordered an evacuation of the city so they could say that anyone who remained was an enemy combatant, to borrow the modern concept. After that order, even civilians — men, women, or children — who remained could be considered hostile and dealt with accordingly. Which is to say, killed.
Ordinarily, I’d say such a position is flat-out, objectively evil. Killing civilians is just not a good thing! However, isn’t taking that position humorous given that we’re discussing the finer points of who can be killed in a war? And isn’t killing, even in war, a morally questionable thing to start with? It’s also humorous — darkly so — that I’m discussing the morality of killing civilians in a parallel world’s pre-World War I, when in our world, World War II saw the death of 50 to 55 million civilians. And what about the death toll in the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In two events alone, up to a combined 226,000 humans died.
What argument did we use to justify those attacks? We said that the entire country would have resisted the United States and her allies and the resulting casualty count would have been in the hundreds of thousands. In other words, we argued that the entire country — every man, woman, and child — would have constituted a danger to the Allied Soldiers.
Does that argument sound familiar? It should. Tanya used it in this episode. I wonder if the Salaryman relied on his knowledge of World War II history in our world to come up with his argument? That has the potential for all kinds of irony!
Can I honestly condemn Tanya’s argument, when the world still considers the Allies to have been the “good guys” in World War II — and they used the exact same argument? Can we really say that Tanya’s evil, when most of us have endorsed the decisions made by the “good guys” in World War II?
This is what I love about this show. It raises these questions in a dramatic way that’s divorced from the usual assumptions and considerations of our history. In this case, the different perspective allows someone who holds the majority view about World War II to revisit the decisions made in the context of that war. We get a different perspective than we had before. Isn’t that the point of literature?
Is Tanya really evil? If I’m honest with myself, I really can’t say without condemning myself! But is Being X evil? I’m very comfortable with my answer to that question.
Yes. Being X is evil. Very, very evil.
What do you think? Can you make the case for Tanya’s evilness? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts of Interest
- The 2016 Holidays Are Gone – Must Be the Winter 2017 Anime Season! Preview Part I
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 1: The Devil of the Rhine
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: Prologue
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 3: Deus Vult
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 4: Campus Life
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 5: My First Battalion
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 6: The Beginning of Madness
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 6.5: War Report
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 7: The Battle of the Fjord
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 9: Preparations for Advance
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 10: The Path to Victory
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 11: Resistance
- Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 12: How to Use a Victory