The Saga of Tanya the Evil: Mundus Vult Decipi, Ergo Decipiatur

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.

As we get to the beginning of the end of this series, it’s worth looking at something we’ve discussed before: which world war is this? Tanya states clearly in this book she thinks she’s still in “the first war”, but is also very much fighting communism of a Stalinist rather than Leninist vein. We also have a clear Churchill analogue, as well as Lavrentiy Beria, who remains easily the most disturbing of all of Tanya the Evil’s disturbing villain characters. That said, given that this is a war fought with magic, I perhaps should not worry about it too much. In this particular war, the Unified States have finally entered the fray – at the behest of Ildoa, which the Empire is currently toying with. Given that the Empire is on its last legs, and the Unified States are a juggernaut of money and endless weaponry, you’d expect this to be bad news. You’d reckon without Zettour, though, who has decided to drag this entire war down into the gutter, to the point that even Tanya is aghast.

We pick up where we left off, with the Empire’s forces, including Tanya and company, in Northern Ildoa. Ildoa is not particularly worried about this – after all, they have far more manpower than the Empire, and the US is also now there. In addition, Colonel Drake’s international forces are told to leave the Federation and head there as well, which is incredibly aggravating for him, but that’s politics for you. That said, Ildoa and the US are not prepared for the Empire’s definition of war, which has changed tremendously over the course of the last few years. They still believe in things like honor and reason. The Empire has forgotten all that. Of course, given that Tanya keeps getting directed by Zettour into situations where she’s lucky to survive, she’s not worrying that much about this yet – and honestly would agree anyway.

I always enjoy seeing our heroes actually have to try a bit in the “military” part of this book. For all that Tanya’s attempts to escape this war have always failed on a political scale, there’s no denying her and her mage company are almost impossible to beat. Note the almost – Colonel Drake is in town, and not only are he and the Unified States using shotguns (which are supposedly banned, and Tanya gets so angry about this she literally writes a letter to the enemy in protest), but they also have Lieutenant Mary Sue, whose name may or may not be intentional, but if it is it would not surprise me. Tanya calls her a “bull” several times, and it fits – none of her company can even put a scratch on her, whereas Mary Sue nearly kills Tanya. The end of this series is going to have to have a final battle between these two, mano a mano.

The next books in the series are a two-parter, with the second due out in Japan in a few days. Given how long each Tanya book is to begin with, that’s sobering news. Still, I’ll always be hear to watch Tanya desperately try to figure out how to defect before everyone in the Empire is killed or executed. Also, kudos to the artist for that Mary Sue picture, which is hilarious and not remotely patriotic.

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.