The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Alea Iacta Est

By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan as “Youjo Senki” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

For most of this light novel series, there has bee one character pushing back against its main premise: Colonel Lergen. He’s been the one to boggle at the fact that a child is behind most of their major battles, and he also is able to see the terrifying soullessness that Tanya’s combination of military training and past-life management memories can do. We sympathize with him as the lone voice of reason. As such, the scene near the start of this book where he tries to “negotiate” peace with Ildoa is absolutely jaw-dropping. No one in the Empire (except Zettour and Tanya) is really aware of exactly how badly they’re losing the war, and nobody (including Tanya) is quite aware of exactly what the rest of the world thinks of the Empire as a nation. Actually, Rudersdorf may realize this as well. But his solution to the problem is not one that even the Empire can tolerate, and thus Zettour and Tanya are forced to once again make the title of the light novel be as accurate as possible.

For a series with the title The Saga of Tanya the Evil (or, for that matter, The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl), Tanya is not in this book as much as previous volumes. Huge chunks of the volume are dedicated to Lergen’s negotiation with the Ildoans,. and later with his leading the attack on those same Ildoans. We get lots of Zettour here, as he attempts to persuade his friend that he’s being stupid, and then, persuasion having failed, is reduced to assassination. But even this goes pear-shaped, because the Empire’s foreign office is so bad at everything that the Commonwealth use this opportunity to put in their own assassination attempt. As for Tanya, she’s still trying to think of ways that she and her unit can defect (and kudos to her for actually thinking of the unit here at all), but that’s getting more and more difficult.

I want to take some time to talk about the artwork of Shinobu Shinotsuki, which tends to run to two different kinds. There’s the overdramatic gorgeous pictures, such as the ones we see in the color pages. And there’s the ones that look like a total cartoon. Sometimes literally, as one shot of Lergen and Calandro screaming at each other shows drops of snot coming from one nose as if they’re Crayon Shin-chan, while the background has cute l’il caricatures of Tanya and Visha. (Visha also gets a picture of the volume’s funniest moments, trying to eat as much as possible as quickly as possible because they finally have good food and will never get more of it.) The most telling moment, though, is when we read, in Tanya’s matter-of-fact narration, about her idea for an initiative, along with her misgivings about it, and the illustration shows her laughing maniacally as if she’s just shot a dog. One wonders how much of this chronicle can be trusted.

Good news, we get the 12th volume in a few months. Bad news, that’s the latest from Japan, and it came out three years ago. That said, we have a long ways to go before the Empire finally falls, so strap in.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Viribus Unitis

By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan as “Youjo Senki” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.

Credit to the author for knowing his key strengths. He is very good at having our heroes assume something about the enemy, and then cutting to the enemies’ viewpoint and seeing that this is 100% incorrect. Missing the real point and assuming the worst are The Saga of Tanya the Evil’s bread and butter, and we get a ton of that in this volume. Tanya is seriously thinking about defecting now, but worries that she doesn’t bring anything to the table and other countries don’t know who she is… despite her being the most infamous soldier of them all. She and the rest of the battalion assume that the Commonwealth are sending their new recruits to be meat shields as part of some sinister plan… but it’s just the fact that the battalion catches them completely flat-footed. And everyone on the Empire’s side is trying to see how to end the war in a way that will not destroy the country or inspire a revolt among the populace… but this war is no longer winnable.

Tanya is all over the place this volume with her battalion. First she travels back to the Federation side where she has to help with a very clever and convoluted plan of Zettour’s that requires her to essentially be a decoy. Then she has to go all the 3way back to the West, as Romel has a master plan to hit the Commonwealth where it hurts, in their Navy… a plan which also requires Tanya and her group to essentially be a tasty distraction. Both times things work a bit too well simply because Tanya and her fellow soldiers have gotten inhumanly good at what they do. Sadly, this book is no longer about military victories but about political victories. And those are in short supply. The military can’t help there. The foreign office, with all the diplomats, is trying to do something about three years too late. And Rudersdorf still seems very hung up on a plan that is 100% treason.

Fans of Visha will be happy to see she gets some time here, mostly hanging by Tanya’s side during the battles, though we also get Tanya trying to lecture Visha on how to end the war, something that does not go very well – Visha, like the rest of Tanya’s soldiers, is a bit of a meathead when it’s not about battle. There’s also a lot of focus here on Drake, the Commonwealth soldier who’s currently allying with the Federation… at the request of the Commonwealth, which makes it all the more irritating they think he might be turning communist by simply being near them. One character is interesting merely by her almost total absence. Mary Sue is here, but we don’t see her except as a sheer force – literally. Once again she sees Tanya and goes for the kill, and no one can stop her. She doesn’t need a face, or even a name anymore. She’s pure magical vengeance, here to smite Tanya down. I don’t know when the final confrontation between them comes, but it won’t go well.

There’s a new translator here as well, and the book still reads pretty well, though it’s a bit more… staid, I guess. It can be hard to make the dry military chronicle parts of this book sing on the page. Still, definitely looking forward to the next volume, as we see if we really will go down the dangerous route we’re headed.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Omnes una Manet Nox

By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan as “Youjo Senki” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.

The start of this volume makes it seem like it’s going to be a breather after all the battles from last time, and to be fair there are fewer battles here, but breather is absolutely the wrong word. After nine books, it appears that Tanya and Colonel Lergen are finally on the same page. That’s not a good thing. Especially when they’re saying things like “hey, would you be OK with strafing the government and making it look like an accident?”. Then we get Tanya meeting with first Uger and then von Rudersdorf try to get Tanya to have actual, real human reactions to things and she simply… can’t. She is unable to see why people might be wanting to cry at the fact that the Empire is on the verge of ruin. She gets the danger, and in fact is already thinking of fleeing the Empire for another country, but… the combination of her previous life’s Eliezer Yudkowsky approach to everything and her current self’s being brought up in the Army literally most of her life have led to a broken person.

Now to be fair, after looking at the cover of this volume (whose Latin roughly means “the same night awaits us all”) you might be wondering what the hell I am talking about. But there is a very big difference between Tanya screaming and ranting in her head and how Tanya actually interacts with other people. The cover picture is probably meant to be her reacting to having to deal with Doctor Schugel, who has found a much better way to make mages into guided missiles than he did the last time. While most of the brigade has actual shore leave, Tanya’s core group has to go provide escort over the seas so that General Romel and his men and retreat form the South. Which means taking on a British fleet. Easy peasy. Of course, the ones left behind on shore leave are not having an easy time of it either, as the Commonwealth has decided to do a sneak attack, and the Navy is too incompetent to see through it.

Because I always talk about Visha, let me just say that I find it interesting that, while Uger and von Rudersdorf cannot seem to fathom the way Tanya thinks, Tanya feels the exact same way about Visha, wondering how she is able to blithely take care of things with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Especially when our little team passes through “neutral” Ildoa, and has it ground into their faces how far the Empire has fallen in terms of offering even the basic staples. Just eating a delicious fish dinner is enough to nearly destroy Tanya, because she understands the message it’s sending. And this also leads back to the cliffhanger, where the Empire is being told to invade Ildoa – a seemingly impossible task. Just how many more seemingly impossible things will they be forced to do? After all, they’re soldiers, not politicians.

As always, this is the opposite of a light read, and as lengthy as ever, but if you can put up with Tanya sounding like she’s posting to “AITA?” on Reddit sometimes, it remains a rewarding series.