The Gist: in an alternate World War I, where a certain Empire has been surrounded, Mages are deployed to hold the enemy back in an infinite delay game of mobilized defense.
Second Lieutenant Tanya Degrechaff is one such mage…except she isn’t. She’s a walking death dealer, easily able to rip apart enemies of the Empire with her magic bolt action rifle and…flying boot? She demonstrates this by defeating an entire company of enemy mages on her own (with a sort of nuke-bullet) after they easily kill off an Imperial mage company.
However, her platoon of mages is not so powerful, nor subordinate to follow her instructions and, during this week’s missions, either they are killed or accomplish nothing. Likewise, central command (and enemy central command, which we see during the closing credits) are also inept and terrified of this child murder-machine.
Youjo Senki is a mixed bag, visually. When it wants to, it animates explosions and gesture reasonably well, and the moody clouds are top notch. It even risks drawing characters from quirky low or high angles. Unfortunately, all the characters look a bit weird, style wise, with exaggerate lip and eye shapes and positions.
The plot is problematic too, where individual battles are coherent but the flow between them, or the over all purpose is not clearly defined. Rather, there’s no build up for the characters, nor mystery about them, and everyone’s motivations seemed to be limited to ‘war.’ (edit: I’ve seen learned that Degrechaff has a mystery behind her but that’s not indicated in this episode at all)
Combined with the mostly mud-color pallete and a eye-rollingly juvenile ‘evil chant’ sound track, Youjo Senki feels like it’s trying harder for a mood than a coherent story or resonant characters.
The Verdict: Youjo Senki doesn’t feel like it’s making a statement by using a child-soldier, which is something that has no real World War I context. It also doesn’t feel like it’s making a statement about World War I style combat either, nor about people, nor does it show any real relationships in the first episode.
If you are into loli murder-machines who are spelled out evil incarnate, or into alternate World War I aesthetics mixed with magic, you may like this.
If you find the anime tendency to misconstrue World War I and World War II Germany annoying, don’t ‘get anything’ out of evil little magic girls, or are looking for a cohesive plot with interesting characters, probably not?