(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for Saga of Tanya the Evil. Read at your own responsibility)

Man is Saga of Tanya the Evil lucky it came out this season. In a more overwhelming season, like say the kind the Spring 2017 season is shaping up to be, I probably would have stowed this show away for consumption in that annoying dead zone gap between seasons. The reason for this is while the first episode certainly entertained me, it left me with a mountain of questions and struggling to suspend disbelief.

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However, thanks to the lighter load of shows I am watching this season I decided to give the show at least one more episode before deciding whether or not to shelve it for later. I am damn glad I decided to give the show a second chance, because Tanya the Evil is a prime example of why the whole judging a show based on its first episode thing is a flawed, albeit rather necessary, process.

Make no mistake, Tanya Degurechaff, the eponymous Tanya the Evil, is indeed an evil and vile creature without a soul. However, they are far worse than the first episode would make you believe, for you see in truth Tanya is actually...a cruelly efficient and logical Japanese man who worked in the HR department of a Japanese company who had the role of firing people who weren’t pulling their weight.

That’s right, in truth this little blonde loli is in fact a man, man. So how did he get from point A to point B? Simple, he pissed off God, or at least a god, at the time of his death. Through his line of work, he made a lot of enemies with the people he fired, and one day one of them finally decided to lash back in their anger. They accomplished this by stalking the man to the train station (at least I personally think they stalked him, because no way in hell they just randomly ran into each other) and then pushing him onto the tracks as a train was coming in.

You ever have one of those days?

Before he could be turned into ground meat by the train, time freezes in place. All of a sudden this voice starts talking to him, using the people at the scene as its vessels. This being is, surprise, a god, but not any specific known god we can pin down. This god at first seems like the Abrahamic big g God, but then it starts talking about reincarnation making it sound more like a god from a religion like Hinduism or Buddhism.

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Unfortunately for them our main character doesn’t believe in gods, magic, the supernatural, or anything he deems illogical. This makes this god, whom our main character names Being X, rather cross, and as punishment our main character is reincarnated into another world that is similar to our own, except magic is not only real, but works in tandem with the science of this world, to learn humility and to gain religious faith. Said world is also in the midst of its own version of World War I, albeit a few years off from when it happened in our world (it is the 1920s in this world vs. the 1910s in our world).

To add insult to injury, Being X gifted our MC, now known as Tanya, with great magical powers, making her(him? I gotta be honest guys I am insanely confused by which one to use now, because Tanya has the physical body of a girl but still has the mind and personality they had when a man) an asset for the military in the Not-Germany country they find themselves living in. This is all pretty entertaining stuff, there is just one teeny, tiny problem. We don’t learn any of this until episode 2 at the earliest.

The first episode of the show basically begins in medias res, with Tanya already an experienced soldier. In all actuality the first episode is a rather poor way to sell this show because it is rather unlike the episodes that follow it. Episode 1 was mostly a rather serious affair, with the point of view coming from Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov, a mage soldier under Tanya’s command.

You know, generally speaking when a creature has giant eyes like that, they tend to have amazing night vision

This is in sharp contrast with the other episodes which have so far all been with Tanya as the point of view character. Not only that, but the show actually has a surprising amount of humor, mostly at the expense of Tanya herself, because of the situations Tanya keeps getting into. You see Tanya is actually trying to get promoted to a cushy desk job in the rear ranks as far away from combat as possible because Being X made it to where if Tanya doesn’t find faith in them, they won’t reincarnate her should she die again.

However, Tanya is behaving so much like an ideal soldier and becoming such an asset on the battlefield that they have no choice but to throw her into increasingly dangerous roles, such as testing out experimental new gear for the mages that has the tendency to blow up while she’s wearing it.

To make things even worse, Being X, in a surprisingly human act for a god, becomes impatient. Tanya has been in this world for about 10 years by this point and is still the cold, calculating atheist they were at the point of their death. So Being X is having none of that and is now trying to force belief onto Tanya by locking away Tanya’s access to her strongest magic that can only be unlocked temporarily if Tanya says a prayer. Being X’s line of thought here is if Tanya recites prayers often enough over time to access her magic (and realistically she only uses her magic while in combat/grave danger) she will eventually actually start believing what she is saying.

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I find this to be a rather fascinating look at the topic of faith and religion, made even more interesting when you realize that essentially this whole realm and the people in it are being used as tools by a god to get a single atheist to believe. However, that is not the only recurring theme in this show that I find interesting. There is also the topic of child soldiers at play. Yes Tanya has the mind of a grown man, but no one in this world knows that. All they see is a little 9-10 year old girl, fighting on the front lines.

Just look at her! How could anyone shoot something that precious?

The higher ups in the military seem to either not care or at the very least begrudgingly look the other way, because they make it quite clear that they have a manpower issue, and need bodies to throw into the trenches. This lack of able bodied soldiers is even worse when it comes to the mages, so they will gladly accept any mage, especially strong ones, who want to fight. For the rank and file members of the military though, they look at Tanya and can only see their little sisters or daughters, and become disgusted at the thought that their loved ones might have to join the fray as well.

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There is one last topic I would like to cover before wrapping this up, and that is the sound in this show. Tanya the Evil has legitimately some of the best foley work I’ve heard in quite some time. I find that people tend to underappreciate just how much of an impact good sound design and sound effects can have on a work. For example the explosions in Tanya the Evil sound like they have some real impact to them and if nothing else don’t sound like your typical stock explosion audio.

On top of the sound effects, the voice acting is surprisingly pretty great, especially Aoi Yuki, who has the unenviable task of playing Tanya. Yet she somehow does manage to get the sense of a grown man’s mind in a little girl’s body across. I can absolutely see and understand people getting annoyed by her voice, but I personally love it.

I haven’t even touched upon the music in this show yet. The soundtrack itself is at the very least solid, though it does have some amazing pieces in it. However the crown jewels in this show, musically, are without a doubt the opening and ending. The ending itself is pretty great with Aoi Yuki singing the song as Tanya and showing images from the light novels, which are gorgeous by the way. But the opening by MYTH&ROID is another thing entirely.

MYTH&ROID is quickly becoming one of my favorite Japanese musical acts at an insane rate. I’ve loved every single opening and ending they’ve did starting with Overlord’s ending. This song, “JINGO JUNGLE”, however, is probably their most raw, guttural-sounding song yet, and I just freaking love it. It’s not my favorite song they did, but it is certainly up there.

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So yes, Saga of Tanya the Evil is ultimately another one of those “trapped in another realm” type series, but with its own twist on things. It brings to the table an interesting assortment of things from a style of dark humor that may or may not remind you of the series Blackadder, to intriguing themes about religion and child soldiers that all just meld together into one entertaining and captivating show. Now of course whether or not the show manages to keep this up is still to be seen, but for now, I will gladly follow the military misadventures of this ludicrously loathsome little loli.

Saga of Tanya the Evil can be watched subbed on the Crunchyroll streaming service and dubbed on the FUNimation streaming service. Saga of Tanya the Evil is based on a series of light novels written by Carlo Zen and illustrated by Shinobu Shinotsuki.