Alternate history war stories are always interesting, but add a little bit of magic and truly wonderful animation and you’ve got the ingredients for a great season contender.
Saga of Tanya the Evil is a show about a lieutenant, Tanya, who is only nine-years-old. She is a prodigy of her time and leads a formidable small air cavalry for a nation very similar to World War One-ish era Germany. In this world, magic exists and for the purposes of war it can be shot through guns as high-powered blasts or used to properly yourself through the air.
Most of this episode is a focus on introducing the setting, the idea of air cavalry mages, and obviously Tanya’s demeanor. The introduction of story is secondary and likely takes place in the following episode, but like all great shows, Tanya doesn’t need to weave intense plot threads immediately.
When Saga of Tanya opens we get a look at some great coloring and background decisions. The battlefield is muted and dreary, and the only bright colors are blue and red. Blue from the mage propulsion gear and red from fire and sometimes blood. The horrible vibrancy of the reds and blues is shocking. These simple color choices make you uneasy – just like how you should feel while watching a battle.
Another shocking aspect in the show is Tanya’s and her second, Viktoriya’s, character design. Everyone else is relatively realistic and with little stylization, but both Tanya and Viktoriya have very large, blue eyes to exemplify their youth. While this is initially surprising and takes you out of the kayfabe of the show, after a few minutes of watching the masterful way Tanya fights, the huge eyes start to meld perfectly with the characters. These eyes also really lend themselves to all the mean, angry expressions from Tanya, and all the horrified, innocent expressions from Viktoriya.
In the beginning of the episode we see Tanya, Viktoriya, and two nameless pieces of male cannon fodder observing the battlefield as air cavalry. In this world, the air cavalry consists in part of mages using magic powered propulsion systems to act as recon and attack from the air. Against Tanya’s order, the two guys rush the front lines from their mid-sky recon in a fit of passion. They charge the attacking force in an effort protect their brethren.
Tanya is rightly upset at the boys for not following her orders and later almost kills them until Viktoriya stops her. Instead of corporal punishment, Tanya sends them to pillbox toward the rear of the army. We later learn that the pillbox was bombed and the team inside killed. Tanya knew that the pillbox was a perfect target for two blowhards who wouldn’t listen to orders. It’s really quite genius.
However, before we learn about the boy’s’ death, Tanya and Viktoriya go on a mission to fight a group of Republicans (possibly the French allegory? I’m not really sure-). It’s here that we see Viktoriya’s need to win Tanya’s praise and respect. Viktoriya wants to prove herself to her senior, and if it’s pushing her body to its limits- then by God, she’ll do it.
Tanya and her adopted company go to meet the opposing country’s air cav. She decides to meet and take care of those soldiers herself using her immense power. Seriously, Tanya is not only a flying ace, but she’s also an insanely powerful mage. She shoots what almost amounts to an atom bomb at the soldiers, and her company’s feels the blowback from the blast. If you call annihilating an enemy force as successful- then this operation was very much a success.
Throughout the episode other characters are alluding to Tanya’s temper and ruthlessness, but we don’t quite get the full taste of the “evil” the show title promises. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see anything Tanya has done as evil- but maybe that says more about me as a person. I’m sure more terribleness is come -and if this episode is a testament- this is going to be marvelous. Tanya is a true patriot of her fatherland, and I can’t wait to see her shine over the course of the season.