Recent years have seen a trend in reincarnation-themed anime wherein the stories revolve around a main character who inexplicably dies and ends up being transported to another world, whether fantastical or, in the case of Youjo Senki (the light novel series by Carlo Zen on which this series is based) a world closer to ours, set against a sadly familiar backdrop of war.
Saga of Tanya the Evil sees a Japanese salaryman being reborn as an orphaned child known as Tanya Degurechaff, a young girl who becomes their unlikely vessel as they end up enlisting as a soldier, quickly working their way up the ranks to major, thanks to a ruthless yet strategic approach to warfare.
Their reincarnation is overseen by an entity known as “Being X” who gives Tanya an ultimatum to either die a natural death or find faith in their new life or else end up in hell for their sins committed when living as an everyday salaryman. Being X occasionally makes appearances to verbally spar with Tanya and force their hand. It makes for the rare occasions that Tanya cannot intimidate or manipulate their way out of a situation.
The concept is fascinating in that it gives way to the bleak imagery of war. There are often scenes of frantic boardroom meetings where military minds formulate plans and worry about the future stability of their nation set against the backdrop of a building draped in red, evoking an aura of World War I, with some elements of World War II also.
A key difference in this world is the inclusion of futuristic elements found in the technological capabilities of the soldiers. For instance, instead of dogfighting in the air in planes, soldiers take to the skies and spar in hover boots or motorbike-esque vehicles.
Character-wise, the supporting cast feels a bit underdeveloped, aside from Viktoriya who is given a tragic backstory with her father and an unlikely friendship with Tanya. Some of the characters are literal cannon fodder in the story, though the main appeal of the series is Tanya themselves. Their personality and overall aura is darkly humorous, especially in their desire to complete their work as a soldier as effectively and efficiently as possible, killing whoever stands in their way without much of a second thought, all whilst possessing the doll-like body of a seemingly innocent child.
It’s with this facade that Tanya is able to deceive those around her when necessary, whether it’s playing coy and acting sweet or distilling fear into any who defy her with just a glance, catching them off-guard in the process. It’s a multi-faceted approach to survival that makes Tanya an engaging lead to watch and witness their highs and lows. On a side note, all of this just makes their chibi appearance in Isekai Quartet even more humorous.
Looking at the animation Studio NUT did a solid job with the various battles and Tanya’s variety of devilish facial expressions throughout. On occasion characters are off-model but otherwise it’s solid visually. The actual overall character designs aren’t especially memorable, apart from Tanya and Viktoriya, mainly due to their big expressive eyes and pronounced lips.
Saga of Tanya the Evil is brought to us by Manga Entertainment with a standard UK Blu-ray case and a nice slipcover. Observing the picture quality, I didn’t spot any issues and the series’ battles had a nice visual flare. On-disc special features include Promo Videos, Commercials, Textless Opening & Closing Songs and Trailers.
From an audio perspective the discs offer both dub and sub audio options. I’m not much of a fan of the Funimation dub and the Japanese cast feels like a better fit and was my preferred choice whilst reviewing these discs.
Highlights of the Japanese cast included Aoi Yūki (Tanya), who has the difficult task of embodying a cold-blooded killer through the voice of a young girl, whilst Saori Hayami does a good job as the supportive Viktoriya, who often overlooks Tanya’s maniacal feeds as acts to ensure their survival.
The series was scored by Kenta Ihara whose music fits the more hectic battles quite well. Sadly neither the OP “JINGO JUNGLE” by Myth & Roid or the ED, “Los! Los! Los!” by Aoi Yūki (in character as Tanya), did much for me personally.
Overall, Saga of Tanya the Evil takes its core concepts and utilises them fairly well, making for a violent yet fascinating insight into an alternative world where war reigns supreme and a young girl is the unlikely soldier leading on the front line. It also gives way to the film which was released last year and will hopefully be getting a home media release in the near future.