Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In episode 1, The Devil of the Rhine, we meet Tanya Degurechaff, a nine year old blonde girl who’s a flying mage ace who has no patience for incompetence or compassion. One of the newly graduated recruits in her company, Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov, tries to keep up with her superior officer, with mixed results. Two undisciplined recruits try Tanya’s patience by disobeying orders — with unfortunate consequences. Tanya demonstrates to her platoon what a real aerial conflict looks like.
What’s In This Post
The empire’s soldiers tried to break through their enemy’s lines, but the resistance was too fierce. Viktoriya barely managed to pull a wounded soldier back to their own lines before a shell shattered the magic shield she projected. The other two mages with her wavered and would have fled had not a small voice above them said, “Believers, have faith in the Lord’s blessings. For the Lord will not abandon us.” Hanging above them, Tanya took careful aim and obliterated the enemy emplacements in front of them. However, she could not alone change how outnumbered they were.
From the Imperial capital in Berun, the military high command had attempted a strategy whereby they pushed back against their enemies on all sides to give themselves time to build a highly mobile force. Unfortunately, they didn’t anticipate all of their enemies mobilizing. In particular, the Rhine valley was in danger of falling into the hands of the Republic. They knew they had to adjust their strategy.
Tanya and her platoon are charged with delaying the enemy while the Empire’s troops fall back. Two her her corporals could not contain themselves and attack the Republic’s artillery. Back in camp, she informs the two that she’s going to send them home because they can’t follow orders. They object, saying that they volunteered to come to the front lines and fight but she’s holding them back. Tanya nearly draws her sword on them before Viktoriya interjects. The next day, Viktoriya learns that Tanya has stationed them in a pillbox at the rear. Viktoriya interprets it as an act of mercy.
Their next mission was to rescue a Mage Company who had been pinned down by the enemy. The enemy has a strong aerial contingent of at least 15 mages — against Tanya’s four (a single company). Viktoriya voices concern about the odds, and Tanya muses that losing more new recruits might damage her chances for promotion. She assigns the other three in her company to provide support to their main force, and she goes ahead alone to meet the enemy. Out loud, she says it’s hard being a salaryman, and Viktoriya has no idea what she’s talking about.
Approaching at high speeds, Tanya first avoids their initial attacks. Then she shoots down several of the mages before closing close enough to use her bayonet to decapitate another. Several of them try to fly above her ceiling, but she blows past them and pauses to announce, over the radio, a chance to retreat. In answer, they fire on her, which was among the last mistakes they made. Blocking their shots, she invokes her God’s protection for the Fatherland, warns her allies to brace for impact, and fires. The single shot destroys the remaining airborne enemy mages. She demands the surrender of the enemy’s remaining ground forces.
Word of Tanya’s performance reached their enemy’s headquarters. They call her The Devil of the Rhine. The empire’s military commands learn that Tanya was instrumental in the battle. One of them, Erich von Rerugen, remembers her from training. He calls her a “monster in the form of a little girl.” Viktoriya learns that her two fellow graduates that had been sent to a pillbox were dead. When she reports it to Tanya,Viktoriya learns that’s what Tanya had planned all along. “A pillbox doesn’t move,” Tanya said. “It’s an ideal target for artillery.”
What I Liked
Given what we learn of Tanya’s future “predecessor” and his philosophical leanings (see my upcoming review of episode 2), it’s clear that Tanya’s invocation of the Lord is either wildly cynical or her attempt to fire up her platoon. Or, I suppose it could be both!
The show did a credible job of capturing the grinding horror of the front lines without becoming too graphic. The soldiers’ initial attempt to break through their enemies’ lines; the soldiers rushing through trenches; and the desolation left by artillery painted an effective picture.
I wonder if I’m in the minority thinking that Tanya was completely justified for being furious with the two corporals who disobeyed her orders? Her platoon’s orders were to delay the enemy so that the empire’s troops could withdraw. The corporals’ act of mutiny could have easily endangered their own troops. So, when Tanya was about to draw her sword, I couldn’t think of her as being anything but justified. I mean, if she were really evil, would she have let Viktoriya stop her? Or later, would Tanya have reacted so well to Viktoriya insisting she was ready for another mission, even though Tanya said she wasn’t?
When Tanya fired her final shot at the enemy, the animation was fantastic. It looked like a tactical nuclear explosion, both in its inception and its effects. I’m glad this is an alternate history. Witnessing something like that would have been terrifying.
Should I think Tanya’s evil for sending the two corporals to the pillbox, knowing that it would likely be killed? On one hand, I could say something like, “Well, the pillbox had to be manned. Why not those two corporals?” Or, I could point out that disobeying the orders of a superior officer in the middle of combat is a grave offense. On the other hand, Tanya made her decision knowing full well what would probably happen. Maybe it says something more about me, but I’d have to classify what she decided as expedient or utilitarian instead of flat-out evil.
Hmmm. I wonder if the show’s trying to tell me I’m actually evil? That would certainly be a surprise!
What I Liked Less
I worry when the protagonist of a series is a country like the Empire. Seeing the red banners draped in front of Berun’s buildings of state looked too much like another incarnation of the empire, this time in our own world, in the years running up to World War II. I’m uncomfortable giving that kind of entity any sympathetic portrayals, because too many people nowadays seem to embrace philosophies that we learned not only didn’t work. They left too many humans dead.
We live in really difficult times. I’m not saying it’s harder now than ever before. I’m not saying we face the most grave evils we’ve ever faced. I’m just saying today’s politics are no walk in the park. If you’ve read a lot of my posts here, like my review of Concrete Revolutio episode 9, you know the dim view I take of demagoguery in any of its forms.
Like I said in What I Liked Not so Much in this Episode, this show portrays a version of pre-World War I Germany in a positive light. Tanya’s attitudes about those with weaknesses, especially how they’re a waste of imperial resources, echo a similar concept of the Master Race. Weakness isn’t a sign of deficiency. It’s an indication that additional training is needed, or a given individual is in the wrong role. In other words, a soldier like Viktoriya showing exhaustion after heavy combat isn’t a sign that she needs to be replaced. Maybe she does, but it might also be a sign that the leadership isn’t managing the field of battle, or maybe she’s in the wrong position.
As I watch the show, I’ve reflected that Tanya’s individual decisions don’t seem evil. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong. Maybe the “evil” isn’t in individual actions, but in her approach to life. Maybe it’s her attitude that invokes evil.
What do you think? Do you think Tanya’s really evil? Let me know in the comments!
Saga of Tanya the Evil Other Posts of Interest
Other Anime Sites
- Reddit: [Spoilers] Youjo Senki – Episode 1 Discussion
- The Backloggers: Youjo Senki Episode 1 – Distributing Information to an Audience
- Random Curiosity: Youjo Senki – 01
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 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: 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 8: Trial by Fire
- 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