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Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8 – Tanya Clarifies Her Outlook

Quick Summary of Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8

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.

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!

What’s In This Post

Quick Episode Summary
What Happened in this Episode
What I Liked in this Episode
What I Liked Not so Much in this Episode
Thoughts about the Episode
Related Posts

What Happened in Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8

Tanya Understands Logistics

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8: Tanya understands logistics.
Tanya isn’t thrilled at the idea of having to fight without the food or shells that had flowed through Arene City. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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 her typical loving sarcasm. 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.

Murdering civilians is never a good thing. Is it?
2nd Lt. Grantz is so shaken up by the possibility of shooting a civilian that 1st Lt. Weiss has to explain things to him. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Tanya Plays Her Role

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.

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8: Decisions have consequences.
The Republican mages, horrified at the slaughter they seen unfolding, try to fall back and protect a civilian retreat. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

War Begets War

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.

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8: War begets war.
Circumstance conspired to give Grantz a clear example of Tanya’s argument for obeying orders. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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 about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8

Viktoriya Would Prefer Another Assignment

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 would like a new assignment.
Viktoriya would be more than happy to trade her place at Tanya’s side with the 1st or 2nd Lieutenants. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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.

Survival Is Its Own Imperative

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?

Military command must deal with moral ambiguity.
Commander Mortiz Paul von Han wasn’t entirely comfortable with the orders he gave to Tanya. Yet, he delivered them anyway. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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 Does What She Has To

Viktoriya does her duty.
Viktoriya recorded the militia gunning down the bound and wounded prisoner as he tried to escape. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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.

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8: This episode constructed with moment of Grantz's decision was cool precision.
The show almost perfectly built up the moment of Grantz’s decision. The show’s gone well beyond any expectation I had for it at the beginning of the season. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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 about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8

Arg! They changed the ED! I loved the old ED! Sigh…

Thoughts about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8

Being X’s Culpability

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.

Legal loopholes thrive in times of war.
Such a powerful piece of paper: before receiving it, the inhabitants were militia or civilians. Afterwards, they were simply targets. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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.

Parsing Which Deaths Are Permissible

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.

War is slaughter.
Saying war is terrible is one thing. Seeing war through the eyes of characters you understand and care about brings that terrible fact home in a way only literature can. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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!

Tanya’s Arguments Echo That of the Allies

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?

Tanya knows human nature.
Part of me wonders how Tanya knew that Grantz wouldn’t use the machine gun on her. She was certain, wasn’t she? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

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!

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8 thoughts on “Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 8 – Tanya Clarifies Her Outlook

  1. Maybe Being X is really Satan?

    I’m still not convinced that this world was created for Tanya. Being X probably had a lot of worlds at its disposal and it picked the one that worked. And maybe Being X just nudges things along.

    Forget WWII. Just look at Ukraine. The reason there aren’t lots of Ukrainian war crimes is probably because its being fought on their soil. Civilian war crimes are usually attempts to crush a defenders morale. Defenders have no reason or desire to bomb their own people. Though they might not be in the mood or have the resources to take prisoners.

    To my knowledge only western countries make a point of trying to avoid civilian casualties. (They still aren’t particularly good at it but at least it is doctrine.) We’d be more likely to send a laser guided PGM through the third window from the left on the south facing side of the seventh floor. But sometimes you don’t have a PGM or the enemy can’t be pinpointed and you have to clear the building manually. Even in the Iraq war we didn’t go through and level entire cities.

    OTOH the Russian doctrine is to level the building. If you are a civilian you shouldn’t be in a war zone. You had your chance to leave.

    When I went through basic we got a lot of training on the Law of War and the Geneva convention. Lt. Calley featured prominently. So did Hugh Thompson and Ron Ridenhour.

    http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/myl_hero.html

    1. I considered that Being X might be more demon that god. That would make some actions more sensible.

      I think you’re likely right this world wasn’t created exclusively for Tanya. I’m curious about how the world system works, but that’s not what the story is about. I think it’s a good sign the story has me curious about that!

      I’ve seen material like the last link you left. What bothers me is that I know it’s not isolated to Viet Nam. Place enough stress on someone, and rules go out the window. Our goal, as civilized people, is to keep the stress below the flash point. Which is why I keep hoping we can become a diplomatic super power. We’re on better footing that the previous president, but we’re nowhere near good enough.

      Though using the SWIFT network as a weapon is a good step in the right direction.

      1. I suspect most of the war crimes in the Ukraine are a few genuinely bad actors, encouraged by a Russian policy of brutality and a whole bunch of scared newbies stressed out beyond their ability to cope. Doesn’t excuse but it does explain.

        1. “Doesn’t excuse but it does explain.”

          The explanation can help us prevent it from happening again…

          …which is what I’d like to say, but I don’t have a lot of faith it’ll happen. I’ve been reading articles explaining how the US missed chances to bring Russia into the modern era. Well, to the extent that it exists. But we blew it. We encouraged precisely the wrong behaviors. I’m not saying the blame’s on us, but we could have done more.

          I remember reading a couple of Clancy’s novels, where the FBI cooperated with their Russian counterparts. I remember thinking how optimistic and hopeful that was.

          Well, President Biden is using sanctions with greater effectiveness than I’ve seen before. Isolating Russia from SWIFT, for example, was a solid tactical move. Putin might not back down. But if we inconvenience enough of the Russian oligarchs, maybe they’ll take matters into their own hands.

          1. This is going to be another frozen conflict. Even if Putin is driven back to the preinvasion borders he’ll, declare victory. By launching a a preemptive attack he prevented “yada yada yada.” And people will believe it.

            Had a discussion of this with a friend the other day. He believed that the Russian attack on Kiev really was a feint. It was all America’s fault because we launched a coup that displaced the legal government of Ukraine with an American puppet state. In fact every instance where a government chose to look west rather than east for its future was from American pressure and every time a west leaning government was replaced by an east leaning one it was the will of the people.

            It is a POV where America is inherently evil and everything that happens in the world in interpreted in that light. It is an underlying belief system. A set of axioms that cannot be dislodged by logic. Almost a religion. I have some thoughts as how otherwise rational people get to that place but I’ll need to contemplate and digest and itr won’t be a short essay.

            1. I’d love to see a writeup about it. Maybe on your blog?

              That kind of thing has been on my mind a lot. I grew up with people I thought were reasonable, and seeing how they reacted to a pandemic — which is, as far as I’m concerned, a medical event and not a political one — has been painful.

              Sure, there are political dimensions to everything. But turning mask wearing into a sign tribal betrayal? That’s flat out irrational.

  2. So, the modern law of warfare considers anyone who takes up arms in a conflict to be an enemy combatant, at best. If they take up arms as a resistance movement, they could be considered terrorists — it’s a grey area and you have to consider if they have distinctive uniforms (an armband will do), if they conduct attacks on civilians (and what would they do to an Arene civilian who helps the Empire?), and so forth. In truth, by our standards the Empire didn’t need an excuse to bombard Arene — actual enemy combatants were in the city, so it’s a valid military target (however, one is expected to work to minimize civilian casualties). But Tanyaworld has somewhat different rules (announcing the attack on the arms factory). This reminds me of our modern wars, where the US has unilaterally imposed more restrictive Rules of Engagement.

    WRT Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not only were we expecting horrific Allied casualties in the event of an invasion, we were expecting several million Japanese civilian casualties, as well. To get some idea of expected troop casualties, you should know that we pre-ordered tens of thousands of Purple Heart medals to be given to the wounded. Japan’s surrender meant we didn’t have to award them, and even with all our wars since then — Korea, VietNam, Iraq, Afghanistan — we still haven’t used up all the medals ordered for the invasion of Japan. You could wiki it.

    What I find interesting is how reflections of the current RU/UA war keep cropping up. RU troops are advancing by using artillery to pulverize cities and trench lines in front of them. They are also deliberately targeting civilians who are nowhere near a valid military target.

    1. I remember reading about the rationale leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s surreal to think about, but it _seems_ that the strikes reduced casualties — on both sides.

      I’m still amazed there are Americans who support Russia’s aggression. Seeing the situation you described, I can’t imagine how anyone could support Russia’s acts.

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