Our first impression of World War I warrior mage Tanya Degurechaff is mainly constructed through the eyes of those around and above her in battle. The upper ranks under threat of being unseated by the fiercely determined nine-year-old girl call her vicious, cruel, even monstrous. Her closest right-hand woman in the field, Viktoriya Serebryakov, would have you believe her hard-line orders stem from truly caring about her soldiers and their victory. The swirl of scandal around Tanya’s standing seem to intentionally set us up for the deeper truth in episode two, and boy what a switch it pulls.
The saga of Tanya is rather the saga of a soulless office worker who’s deemed evil by a being he outright refuses to see as God. He was thus reincarnated as an orphan girl in a vaguely European country and pre-destined to become a soldier, in order to repent and find some good Christian faith. Most of the empowerment or drama from Tanya’s development is always scratched by the fact that there’s a power-hungry man driving her actions. But on the other hand, its politics are somewhat redeemed in displaying how powerful women and driven girls are consistently regarded as monsters.
All the above is easily forgotten as you slide into the thrills of the action and Aoi Yuki’s performance as Tanya. It’s a joy to watch the magical tech of this alternate Fatherland being developed and then deployed in the field. In these situations, Tanya is a battle fairy, beset by omens of certain death but fighting her way out by her own ingenuity and fearless grit every time. Despite her magical powers though, you can’t stop genuinely worrying for her safety. This story toys with the meta perception of the character as a little girl, even when shown through her internal monologues how monstrous she can be to get ahead.
In the end, Tanya wants her life to be a smooth run. She’s willing to put the legwork in to catch the easy train through to flipping the bird at God via death at a ripe old age. It’s yet another on-the-nose metaphor for modern life, but even so it’s a great escape to see her sailing through where many of us would stress and struggle.
That’s why it’s such fun to watch Tanya be a tyrant. She shows humanity at its worst and makes it totally cartoonish, just to hit home how far her evil is from most of our lives. If nothing else this is escapism at its finest, letting us have fun at an anti-hero’s expense while putting our own lives in perspective. Sure, you may have work today, but at least you aren’t forced to wear an enchanted suicide jetpack strapped to your abdomen while you’re doing it.
Format: DVD, Blu-ray
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
Extras: English dub; clean opening & closing animation; promos