Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In How to Use a Victory, the twelfth and final episode of the first season of Saga of Tanya the Evil, Tanya Degurechaff struggles to convince Kurt von Rudersdorf, her old nemesis, of the danger facing the Empire. The Republican forces regroup on the Southern Continent in a grim affirmation of Tanya’s warnings. Colonel Anson Sioux’s daughter Mary makes a monumental decision. Tanya finally throws the gauntlet at Being X’s proverbial feet.
What’s In This Post
- Tanya tries to visit Hans von Zettour, but he’s busy celebrating the Empire’s victory at the Beer House. Erich von Rerugen, a lieutenant colonel, was still at headquarters, and he and Tanya sit down for a chat. He asks for her candid opinion, and she gives it to him. She explains how their victory is only preliminary, and treating it otherwise is dangerous and unpatriotic. Rerugen doesn’t understand because he sees the world through too rational a lens. Why should the Republic continue to fight without its capital? Tanya explains the role hatred and revenge play in the decisions of nations. She calls for the flames of hatred to be extinguished. She’s able to shock Rerugen into silence as a messenger arrives. The Republic has setup a base of operations in “the southern continent.”
General Du Lugo, the Republican general who escaped the Republic with his army, gives his troops an impassioned speech, saying that they will not pause and will not relent until they are victorious. Tanya’s battalion prepares for deployment. von Zettour and Kurt von Rudersdorf discuss their options, and they recognize that if they send troops south, other countries may become involved. Tanya prepares to deploy.
- As their enemies prepare, amassing great numbers of troops and materiel, the Imperial generals struggle to devise a plan that’ll keep the Empire safe as it extends it military might to the Southern Continent. The United States becomes involved and sends great numbers of mages to bolster the exiled Republican army. In an American recruiting office, Mary Sioux, Colonel Anson Sioux’s daughter, is driven by rage and a desire for revenge to enlist.
- At their desert camp, Tanya, flanked by Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov and Matheus Johan Weiss, addresses her troops. She describes how the entire world is now their enemy, and for a moment, she almost seems to call out to God for help. Then, she begins to lament the cruel rules of this world before launching into a tirade against Being X as the god driving them into battle. She declares her intention for her and her soldiers to put “the arrogant ass, God, out of a job!” Her troops pledge their support.
What I Liked
I’ve noticed how often the Imperial officers drink tea. It’s such a civilized gesture amid such chaos and strife. It’s also a comment on the value Tanya and those around her place on civilization.
Tanya’s expressions during her conversation with Rerugen really showed how devastated and emotionally exhausted she felt.
That conversation with Rerugen may have been a little slow, as action anime goes. But I loved it because it touched on the universal themes I think get too little attention. The role of the intellect in human affairs versus the role of emotion, even animal emotion is as relevant today as it ever has been. I’d argue it’s even more relevant given recent events in the United States and across the world. So I welcome a conversation like this in anime.
“All flames of hatred must be extinguished.” This is a brilliantly ambiguous statement. Does it means she wants to crush all hatred using military might? That would be debatably evil. Or does she mean by any methods possible? That’s a more benign approach. I’m still not willing to call Tanya evil, though her intention to destroy the flames of hatred and her declaration of war on the world at the end are the closest to evil she’s come. If she is evil now, I submit that her evil-ness is a completely rational reaction to Being X’s arbitrary cruelty.
Tanya restrained herself from opening fire on the church statue, but I could feel her anger and frustration. She knew what was coming; she knew the target Being X had painted on her back; she even knew she could have prevented the continuation of the war if she’d been allowed to act. But she didn’t fire; she values reason over emotion. Yet her anger and frustrated remained.
I enjoyed the last scene probably as much as I’ve ever enjoyed a work of fiction. Tanya flat out declares war against an unjust god. She declares war against hatred, fear, revenge, and the other negative emotions that too often conflict with reason. She declares war against the god who leverages those emotions to drive devotion to itself. A little human, dedicated to understanding and following the rules, declares war against the rule-maker of that world.
You have to admit, that’s pretty cool.
The ironic part? Being X drove her to that decision, step by step, injustice by injustice.
In modern times, this are exactly the kind of ideas that anime does a much better job of examining than most other forms of literature.
What I Liked Less
In a series with more subtle images, the moth flying into the gas light was a little too obvious a reference to Icarus.
Speaking of “a little too obvious,” I thought Tanya’s discussion with Rerugen well-established the philosophical basis of the show. I didn’t think Tanya stating it outright within sight of the southern continent added anything.
Tanya stands for intellect and reason against hatred, anger, fear, and revenge. She’s survived despite many irrational attacks, so her dedication to reason is understandable — and, I’d argue, laudable. On the other side of the equation? Mary Sioux, saying, with an expression of hatred, that she wants to make a world where no one feels the sadness of loosing someone to the empire “…and to enact God’s justice!” She goes on to say, “I swear by my good heart, which believes in the Lord! May the Lord’s grace be with me.”
Then her eyes glow yellow.
Sounds stirring, doesn’t it? Appeals to the base instincts of humans, right? But notice what she’s really saying. She’s saying is that she’s perfectly willing to inflict on the empire the feeling of having their loved ones killed by her hands. She’s willing to inflict on them that which she objects to herself.
And she’s the one who claims the Lord’s grace?
It’s this inherent irrationality of country A claiming to be god’s chosen and therefore able to unleash that which they’ve condemned country B for doing that’s at the heart of this series. Being X is perfectly willing to accept Mary Sioux or her father’s adulation in return for power to kill enemies. Tanya resists adoring Being X, and that and incurs Being X’s wrath. Through the whole series, Being X pushes her harder and harder, tempting her with opportunities to murder retreating soldiers or to massacre civilians. Yet, she resisted until the end, when she finally snaps and involves others in her war against Being X. Instead of bowing in worship, she rejects Being X’s irrational demands.
You may have noticed that I’ve not come out and condemned religion in general as I lambast Being X. Faith by itself does not necessarily yield arbitrary cruelty. How some people or religions express that faith can be sometimes cruel or hurtful, but many large, world-wide religions (religion here being used as a systematic communal expression of faith) have their own declarations in favor of the importance of human reason.
For example, Thomas Aquinas maintained that there was no inherent conflict between faith and reason (I know that link is from course material; you can read some of the source material from the Summa Theologiae here). To show that I’m not favoring one religion over another, do you know why we still have access to the materials from many ancient Greek philosophers, many of whom contributed to the rise of human reason? Because Islamic scholars preserved the writings. I’m not even sure Aquinas could have written the Summa Theologiae without access to the writings of Aristotle.
The conflict core to Saga of Tanya the Evil isn’t faith versus reason, religion versus secularism, or this country versus that country. It’s irrationality versus reason, destructive chaos against order. Animal against intellect.
More than that, it’s a warning that as a race, we haven’t come very far. We are no different from the humans who perpetuated the horrors of our World War I or II. It’s hard for me to imagine as I sit on a comfortable chair typing at a computer connected to the internet, but my country’s side of World War II — the side I’ve always been taught were the “good guys” — firebombed entire cities as a routine tactic. The utterly reprehensible wide-scale actions of the Nazis overshadowed that unfortunate fact that all sides in that conflict inflicted horrors not only on soldiers, but on civilians.
Not convinced? Look at a list of massacres from a more recent conflict, Vietnam, and notice how many countries perpetrated them. I’m sure you could look at the news today, right now, and have a good chance of seeing more recent examples, inflicted by a variety of actors.
Saga of Tanya the Evil railed against the irrationality that prompted humans to destroy one another’s peace. Tanya herself, as a Salaryman, just wanted a comfortable life and aimed to accomplish that by following the rules. Should he have been more compassionate to those he fired? Sure. But those fired weren’t innocent. At least, the man we saw fired wasn’t doing his job. Reincarnated as a 10-year girl soldier, Tanya just wanted to get through to the end of the war so she could live in peace. She tried to follow the rules* and in many cases didn’t pursue an enemy or extend the conflict past her orders. Yet, Being X made sure she would have no peace. If those are the rules of that world, isn’t it only reasonable to rebel?
If those are the rules of our world, shouldn’t we rebel, too?
What do you think of my interpretation? Let me know in the comments!
* Okay, I’ll grant you that the way Tanya declared their intent to attack before blowing up the munitions depot in episode 5 could be interpreted as her misleading the population, thus increasing the civilian casualties. That was against the spirit of the laws of the time.
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 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