Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2 – The Salaryman Reference Revealed!

Quick Summary of Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2

In Saga of Tanya the Evil episode 2, “Prologue,” we learn Tanya’s true identity. Hint: Tanya is not a 10 year old girl. She did, however, decide to go head to head with the planet’s controlling deity. It also has something to do with the “salaryman” reference Tanya made in the previous episode. Tanya learns about magic in the orphanage. Our hero learns the finer points of training soldiers. Terrifying first mission is terrifying! But there’s something even more terrifying awaiting Tanya after the battle…

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
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What Happened in Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2

Tanya: The Salaryman

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: The Salaryman talking theology with Being X felt surreal
Watching the salaryman, suspended in time and hanging in front of an oncoming train, having a conversation with “Being X”, was surreal to say the least. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

In 2013, a salaryman in Japan tries his best to stay on the fast-track to advancement. He hates that his job is to lay off other employees, but he recognizes that he needs to follow the rules. While waiting for the train, the man he most recently laid off pushes him off the platform into the path of the oncoming train. And time stops. Hanging in midair, the salaryman tries to understand what’s happening. To make things worse, the people on the platform, while staying motionless, begin to say things “I’m tired of this,” “Humans these days have no sense of right and wrong,” and “they’ve strayed too far from the laws of the universe.”

The salaryman rejects the notion that God has stopped time just before his death, opting instead to suggest it’s more likely the devil. He settles for calling the entity “Being X.” Whoever the being really is, it loses patience with him, and says that his because of his lack of faith, his next reincarnation will be hist last. Further, Being X will place Salaryman into a dire situation to help him understand the meaning of faith. The next face he sees is of a Catholic sister calling him Tanya and trying to push a spoonful of food into his mouth.

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: Tanya was short.
To be honest, I’m wondering where they found a uniform her size. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Orphanages Seem Destitute in All Worlds

The orphanage is destitute. Even though he’s in the body of a baby, Tanya has all the memories of her previous life. She discovers that this world has magic and that she has an aptitude for it. Seeing it as an opportunity to improve her chances of living, she enlists in the military in the hopes of becoming an officer. Because of her magical aptitude, she’s accepted into the military, and she excels at all of her studies and becomes an instructor, where she thought she’d be safe.

Erich von Rerugen is confiding his career plans to a colleague when he hears an explosion. Investigating, he finds that some of the new recruits disrespected Tanya, and she took exception to their insubordination. One of them even tries to physically attack her, but she quickly puts him on his back and the point of her bayonet at his throat. When Erich asks what she’s doing, she just says her job, adding that “It’s an officer’s duty to discipline her troops.” As the last step in her training, she flies north to perform reconnaissance classes. She expects to complete the test, get good marks, and be assigned to a comfortable training position. The empire’s enemy had different plans. In the middle of her training, the class was suspended, she was moved to active duty, promoted to second lieutenant, and sent on her first mission.

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: Tanya is terrible at retreating
Tanya had to decide between flight and fight. Based on her expression, can you guess which she chose? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Tanya’s First Mission

The mission begins well enough. Her task is to guide her side’s artillery to strike the enemy infantry, and it starts off scattering the troops from the Entente Alliance. Then the Alliance’s mages attack the artillery observer — Tanya. Realizing that her enemy is the size of a company, she asks for permission to retreat. She’s ordered to delay the enemy until reinforcements arrive. Knowing she can’t retreat, her hands shaking, she closes her eyes. Then she begins to laugh uncontrollably and flings herself into battle.

Her speed helps compensate for her lack of combat experience — until she settles down and remembers her training, and she is able to put her speed to real advantage. When she runs out of ammunition, she resorts first to hand-to-hand combat, then to what appears to be a suicide attack: she detonates her magic stone to beat back the enemy. She had hoped to escape with minimal injuries in a way that let her commanders know she fought well. What she wasn’t expecting was to be awarded one of the highest military honors and recognized as an ace.

After she recovers from her wounds, she’s ordered to take assume a role in a propaganda campaign where she dresses up in a pretty dress, is plastered with makeup, and has to make a movie that tries to recruit new soldiers.

What I Liked about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2

The Salaryman: Brave or Stupid?

He’s hanging there in midair, experiencing an event that is clearly beyond his experience, and he suggests that the deity is unfamiliar with the idea of “duty of disclosure?” And that it has a bad business model? Even after having his reincarnation cycle revoked? I’m not sure if this man is wildly stupid, insanely brave, or both!

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: References to real life added zest
This has to be a high quality series if it holds Overlord in such high esteem! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Did you notice that one of the train station billboards in the background was for Overlord? I think it might have been that moment that convinced me this was going to be the second of two shows I review this season!

Interestingly, Tanya observes that the world into which she was reincarnated (for the last time?) has magic. There was no sign of magic in the world of 2013, so perhaps her original world was “our own,” and the 1923 world is the parallel world? That’s kinda cool.

Tanya betrays a bit of her philosophy when she says to herself, “Of course, war is an unproductive and therefore wicked act.” Sounds like Utilitarianism. Not sure I can fully endorse that perspective, but I’ve certainly seen worse. I like the themes this show’s developing. I think I’d like to see shows wrestle with philosophical issues more often in interesting and entertaining ways.

Tanya’s Fight or Fight Response

When Tanya receives the order to delay the enemy despite her being a single (recent) trainee against a full-sized company, her hands begin shaking and she closes her eyes. A few seconds later, she bursts out in maniacal laughter. I thought this was a great portrayal of the moment Tanya resolved her”flight or fight” response. I remember reading about character embracing the “fight” before, like Eomer in The Return of the King: “These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young…” I’m pretty sure Tanya has him beat on the list for battle part and the “young” part!

Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2: Tanya's aerial combat looked fantastic
The animation in this episode, in particular the scenes of aerial combat, look fantastic. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

The animation in this episode continued to be strong. I especially liked the aerial combat scenes. They really captured the danger and urgency. Dogfights in planes are amazing enough. Dogfights between Mages are even more intense.

Tanya was trying to rationalize being awarded the Silver Wings Assault Badge by telling herself that it’s nice to have one’s work appreciated. Even as she wishes the recognition won’t be enough to send her to the front lines, she knows it will. I have to feel sorry for her! She’s trying to be just proficient enough to be be assured of a predictable military career, but not enough to be a huge asset that’s recognized as critical to the war effort. Looks like she failed in that respect!

What I Liked Less about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2

Aside from my lingering concerns about casting the Empire (pre World War II Germany) as the protagonists, nothing negative jumped out at me this episode.

Thoughts about Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2

Being X: Why Won’t You Respect Me For Acting Disrespectable?

Tanya did not approve of staring in the propaganda film
I think the word “understatement” was coined just for this use: it’s an understatement to say Tanya was not enthusiastic about her role in the propaganda film. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If I may paraphrase the salaryman’s argument to Being X, “Look, we don’t need God anymore, because we’re not in crisis and we’re taking care of ourselves.” Being X doesn’t like this because it’s disrespectful to the Creator, and since the salaryman doesn’t have any faith, Being X decides to punish him by sending him to a parallel world’s version of World War I without the hope of a reincarnation.

Having a background in theology, I can understand the appeal of faith. I even understand the demands faith makes of an individual. Here, though, I’m uneasy about Being X basically saying to the salaryman, “You disrespected me, and I’m powerful enough to make you regret it. So no more reincarnations for you. Nah!”

I’m reminded of David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,* where we can find the quote, “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?”

Being X didn't seem terribly responsible
Being X really didn’t like the salaryman’s observation that overwork was a sign of a failed business model. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Responsibility Requires Culpability

Responsibility goes both ways, doesn’t it? How can Being X hold the salaryman responsible for a faith that completely contradicts his life? Shouldn’t Being X provide some kind of support/proof/indication of its existence and intent? If Being X wants people like the salaryman to acknowledge it, doesn’t it have a responsibility to reach out in a discernible way? Doesn’t it seem like an omniscient Being X is setting the salaryman up for failure? At the very least, a Being X who would show compassion (at least in a way we’d understand compassion) wouldn’t condemn someone for speaking his mind, based on his honest convictions, would it?

Or does Being X not care about honest convictions? Was the salaryman right? Is Being X really the devil?

As an aside: When Being X said that administering seven billion souls was beyond its capacity, Being X disqualified itself from being God (from the perspective of traditional Western Christian theology, at least). By definition (ontology, again, from a Western Christian perspective), God is infinite. So, the number of souls in space/time isn’t relevant. Infinite capability can process any finite number. That’s one reason I tend to think that Being X isn’t God.

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

* I know that a lot of sources like this one attribute the quote to Epicurus. Which source is right? I’m afraid I don’t have access to the original documents to decide. But I figured throwing a contrarian attribution might be interesting!

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6 thoughts on “Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 2 – The Salaryman Reference Revealed!

  1. When I heard Tanya say “unproductive,” I didn’t interpret it as primarily economic.

    I talked a lot about the economic realm, because that’s where the principle expresses itself most clearly, but I don’t see the basic difference as economic at all. If I had to summarise the point concisely, maybe like this: to an ideology of well-being, a human-being’s well-being is always good (even if, under the utilitarian variant, you may have to sacrifice an individual’s well-being to maximise the overall amount); to an ideology of productivity well-being is wasted on the unproductive. (“Those who do not work, shall not eat.” – you hear that a lot in anime.) See the difference?

    Since we’re ultimately living in the same world, the principles often lead to the same conflusions via different meandering roads. But not always.

    As for Being X: I probably won’t be able to say much, since I haven’t seen the show (from here on out) and have little knowledge about theology (I know some basics to the extent that they seeped into the wider philosophyical enviroment). I tend to take fictional characters in any way I can. Tanya and Being X are fictional antagonists and foils, and I don’t think either of them is the bearer of the show’s message: rather it would evolve from their conflict. Not sure, though, since I never watched far enough.

    And don’t worry about the screenshots; they just accurately represent what the show looks like.

  2. “Being X” is more understandable if you think of him as one of the myriad of specialized Shinto gods. Very powerful (but not all-powerful) in his area of responsibility. OTOH, I’m not sure that Shinto has the concept of reincarnation, so it might be Buddhist, of which I know even less than I do of Shinto, which is not much.

    As for Tanya being a monster, that’s mostly due to one officer’s opinion. If we think of ‘her’ as a twenty-something male officer, then her actions make sense. It’s the same thing with the Empire. If you notice, the Empire never invades any country that doesn’t invade them first.

    Which brings us back to the bunker incident in Ep 1. No commander wants a ‘hero’ in their unit. They get people killed. In a fixed-front WWI style conflict, bunkers exist, and people have to man them. Tanya put the hero wannabes there because that was where they’d do the least harm. I suspect her ‘knowledge’ of them being killed is based on the assumption that people wouldn’t be telling her about them unless that had happened.

    1. I have to admit that given my background in western theology, I tend to view theological concepts through that lens. So your point is well-taken!

      Even through that lens, though, the show’s a lot of fun to think about!

      Interesting point about how a command would see having a hero in that situation. I like how this show plays with those expectations: Viewers (including me!) tend to like heroes; but in “real life,” their actions can do more harm than good. I think the show plays with theological concepts in the same way.

      1. One way of looking at the difference is that it’s between ordinary soldiers who step up to a situation requiring a hero and soldiers who are looking for ways to be heroes. Those who go in “fangs out and brains in the helmet bag” rarely come out the other side.

  3. Seems I’ve still seen part of this episode. I definitely remember the train scene, but the propaganda movie is entirely new to me. That means I dropped this show sometime through episode 2. I always thought I dropped it during episode one.

    In any case:

    “Of course, war is an unproductive and therefore wicked act.” Sounds like Utilitarianism. Not sure I can fully endorse that perspective, but I’ve certainly seen worse.

    Doesn’t sound like utilitarianism to me. Utilitarianism isn’t about productivity; it’s about well-being. What we have here instead is some kind of capitalist philosophy: “productivity” as grounding value. I’m reminded of Max Webers The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, though I’ve never read it. I just read the wikipedia article on it to refresh my memory (I have a degree in sociology, and that’s one of the most important classic texts). The basic thesis therein is:

    In pre-protestant Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox etc.), you’d spend your time frugally: praying, fasting, etc. You produce what you need; the demands of religion were spiritual, not bodily. Certain protestant denominations (Calvinism) introduced a more worldly work-ethic: you don’t praise god by turning your back on the world; you do it by, say, making the best shoes you can. Now, if you live in the world, you’ll make money that way. But you’re not supposed to spend the money on yourself, since that’s sinful (greedy, vain, etc.). So what do you do with it? You re-invest it so you can make more shoes for the glory of God. If you then take God out of the equation, you pretty much have a capitalist ethics of productivity. (And you get things like “The poor are idle,” and so on.)

    That’s what it reminds me of. The measure of your time spent isn’t your well-being (that would be utilitarianism), it’s what you produce. And that’s definitely what informs this corporate beaurocrats self-image. You’re working not for God, but for society. Society needs your products. And the more you produce, the more valuable you are to society. And that’s why you put up with the work conditions. Being productive is the measure of your value.

    That scene was what I was thinking of when I said, last week, that I didn’t think the show was on Tanya’s side. But neither did I think the show was on “God’s” side. (I just thought that this scene was in episode 1.)

    You probably know that I’m an atheist; I think I also might have mentioned that my background is Roman Catholic (as in that’s what both my parents are, and most people around me, but what I never really grew into, because it never quite made sense to me). That Hume quote is familiar to me, but I’ve never been that impressed with it. I have no coherent concept of God, but one of the aspects of God is that He’s “greater” than any of us (whatever that might mean). So any “God” we can comprehend is by necessity something reduced. God would know that and interact with us accordingly. Secondguessing God is pointless, because we don’t have the capacity. (I run into trouble here when trying to figure out how such a God can be a “personal” God, but – oh well…). The typical Catholic metaphor is that of a caring father. A bitter medicine is good for the child, etc. That’s the sort of rhetoric I’m used to, and this at least makes sense to me. The “evil” in the world might serve a purpose. This material life we know so far is only fraction, after all, of life everlasting, so who knows what we’re being prepared for?

    All proofs for or against God try to make the concept managable for limited human minds, and thus all of them must fail.

    So, from a believers perspective, why would God reveal Himself to this corporate shill and talk to him the way He does? That’s sort of the question, here. I have no answer, since I haven’t seen the show and don’t know where it goes with its material. But we have, here, three takes on authority: capitalist (subjugate yourself so we be productive), military (discipline – so as few as possible die), and divine (subjugate yourself because I know best). I’m not sure what stance the show takes. It might be anti-authoritarian, for example. I haven’t seen enough. I have a hunch that it’s important in the show who we are asked to trust.

    I insinuated last week that I thought, from what I’ve seen of the show, that God had something to learn, too (not only Tanya). That’s born of a narrative pattern: they’re both being portrayed as stubbornly antagonistic to each other. It’s also that it’s anime, and I’ve seen many takes on capital G gods, and they’re usually not portrayed as perfect. (Maria the Virgin Witch is probably the closest I’ve seen to the Christian God – an entity both distant and personable, represented mostly but not exclusively by His angels. Personable also to the pagan Gods and spirits, who pretty much accept that their time has come to make way.)

    Were I a believer, though, and intent on liking the show, I might assume that God has to act that way to push through to Tanya: talk a language s/he’d understand, even if only through opposition. Because calling God “Being X” is engaging with Him via engaging with your own, mortal-born conception of Him. I mean, God’s personally revealed himself to our protagonist. Notice that, were I a believer, I probably would not have said (after what little I’ve seen) that God, too, has something to learn. I doubt that would even occur to me. I’d probably see Him revealing Himself as a sign of love, and the manner of communication as speaking a language he’d understand. If you’re going to be antagonised, play along – in the long run it’s going to be all right. Not sure how long I could keep up that interpretation. (I’m often willfully “ignorant” of aspects of a show that I don’t like, but there usually comes a time when critical mass [or critical comments] makes it hard to remain so.)

    As it is, I don’t really know where the show’s going with any of it. (Also, two of the show’s stills you’ve posted hurt my eyes even though they’re not moving – it was worse in the show. My photosensitivity is way harder to trigger than my motionsickness; but it tends to have worse effects when it does trigger.)

    1. “Utilitarianism isn’t about productivity; it’s about well-being. ” When I heard Tanya say “unproductive,” I didn’t interpret it as primarily economic. I thought it meant something more broad. But I’m glad it came across that way, because it gave you an opportunity for a very interesting comment.

      I’m sorry some of the screen caps are troublesome!

      I’ll have some more comments about Being X as over the next reviews. I’ll say that from my perspective, having a degree in theology, the show gave me a lot of opportunities for discussion! It’s like Being X embodies all of the worst traits of a deity, without having any of the traits we’d recognize as positive.

Please let me know what you think!

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