The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Deus lo Vult

By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri and Kevin Steinbach.

The first thing I noticed when I saw the first volume of Tanya the Evil on my phone is that it is long. Really very long indeed. You could fit four volumes of Kagerou Daze into one volume of Tanya the Evil. I noticed that this volume has two translators, and I wonder if the main reason for it is that each volume is so long. (I double checked – the second volume is actually longer.) The second thing that I noticed about Tanya the Evil is that it is, at heart, a military novel with a dash of magic and “reincarnated into another world” as its gimmick. If you’re reading it for the reincarnation or the magic, you may be disappointed – if you’re reading it for the military maneuvers, you’re in luck, this is absolutely the book for you. This is the story of not-Germany, its new war hero who has the appearance of a small girl but the mind of a cynical, calculating HR director, and the evil God who sets things in motion.

OK, “evil God” may be stretching the point, as it’s more petulant hissy fit God, but once again we have a book I’d ask the hardcore religious to stay away from. Our hero is a ruthless HR director who is pushed in front of a train after laying off someone with a grudge. He meets God, who is upset at the lack of faith in him these days, which our hero can’t help but snark back at him for. In response, God reincarnates him in a world that is on the brink of war, as a young orphan girl. He keeps all his memories, though, and apparently in addition to being an HR director he was a bit of a military nut. As now we have Tanya von Degurechaff, a 9-year-old child prodigy sent to the front line to battle as a mage because, well, the Empire is mostly OK with this. The problem is that Tanya is just a bit too brilliant, and also somewhat disturbing…

One of the more interesting aspects of this book is also one of its most aggravating: the narration, which is mostly first person from Tanya’s perspective with a few exceptions, alternates between “I” and “Tanya” constantly, as the HR director still tends to think of himself as being slightly separate from the little girl’s body he now inhabits. This really shows off the disconnect that should normally be there for most people who go through the standard reincarnation schtick, but it’s also very disorienting, and by the end of the volume I was wishing the author had chosen a different way to achieve this. The gimmick that works much better in the book is Tanya constantly doing things as a way to ither a) stay alive or b) get herself assigned away from combat, and having her actions misinterpreted as insane gung-ho soldiering by the generals and powers that be. It doesn’t help that her main weapon that makes her even more powerful literally runs on the power of prayer, much to her bitter chagrin.

The author says at the end of the book that those who like happy endings should stay away from this series, and indeed I’m not sure I can read this on a regular basis. For this one volume, though, it was fascinating, even with all the military jargon. Yes, we have yet another Japanese author fascinated with World War I/II Europe, and our heroes are yet again essentially Germany with the fascism toned down (you’ll likely think of Legend of Galactic Heroes as you read it). But I just liked the back and forth between Tanya and the rest of the cast, and also liked the occasional glimpses we saw of her judging humans as something other than meat shields. Well, OK, one human. Pretty much just Visha. But you have to start somewhere. The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a rich and rewarding read, provided you spend the time to plough through it, and don’t mind Tanya’s constant first/third person perspective switches.

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