This angelic doll-face conceals a heartless, cunning, vengeful maniac.
There’s no other way to describe Tanya von Degurechaff, the protagonist of Youjo Senki (幼女戦記, “Saga of Tanya the Evil”).
Originally an arrogant Japanese salaryman from the 21st Century who cursed God (“Being X”) just before dying in an accident, (s)he is reincarnated as a 10-year-old (ish) blonde girl with blue eyes in an alternative Universe in the early 20th Century when Europe is in the thick of World War One. Conveniently enough, magic is used in warfare, and (s)he (unfortunately) possesses these magic abilities to fight to her advantage in aerial battle.
As a viewer, I am conflicted between pinching the cheeks of this cutesy, cherubic sweetheart and performing an exorcism. Despite her “reincarnation” status, she is certainly not afraid to put others in harm’s way to get what she wants, and she will weave her way into winning favours with the upper echelons of the military (who probably want her dead too).
I wonder about the motive behind selecting such a character as the protagonist. I haven’t read the manga, nor do I intend to, but perhaps there’s redemption at the end of her story, since we’re still barely halfway through the series. It’s a journey of faith and repentance – albeit forced – for Tanya to believe that “Being X” is a God of miracles who is to be worshipped and praised, so that she may finally rest when her time comes.
Furthermore, while Tanya is the personification of hell, we still have her second-in-command, whose character development has a lot of potential to grow.
Second Lieutenant Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov (Visha) has been working with Tanya since the latter was a Lieutenant herself. She is familiar with Tanya’s behaviour and true motives, and despite her fear, continues to work with her. Tanya also doesn’t seem put off by her long-serving subordinate, so I personally hope some good comes out of this unlikely partnership.
I think what has made this my favourite series of the season (besides Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen) is that despite her cruel intentions, Tanya genuinely carries a lot of charisma. She’s very dedicated, is an excellent fighter, highly inept in military strategy, and pulls her own weight in an army full of grown adults. The juxtaposition of a blonde girl with eyes full of ambition and hate was a potent combination, and the voice talent from Yuuki Aoi (“Erased”, “One Punch Man”) added the weight and authority I’ve not heard in other child characters.
The show’s secondary themes of politics, faith and religion and morality further add to its complexity. It’s not a straightforward evil-to-good story. After all, as with human nature in real life, wolves still dwell among sheep despite professing otherwise.
It’s not clear if Tanya will find the redemption she needs since it’s not what she wants, but let’s see where her insatiable hunger for power brings for her in this series.