The Gist: A Salaryman hangs suspended in the air, locked in conversation with God, spanning the eternal instant before his death. Before this moment, he was s successful rules follower without faith nor compassion. Shortly afterward, he is a newborn girl in an alternate world, where God hopes hardship will reignite the man’s faith or kill him, never to be reincarnated again.
Thus, Tanya Degrechaff begins her journey in a world she recognizes as being similar to pre-World War I era Germany, but with enough differences (like Magic) that she considers it possible for the War to turn out differently. With her adult mind intact, she quickly enlists in the military upon being identified as a magic user, as this will give her better training (chances of survival) than being drafted at the regular age.
The remainder of the episode reveals Tanya’s training, time as a training instructor, and first deployment to the north, which she alluded to last week. The combat towards the end is crisp, tense, and the military world around it more coherent than last week. However, the most important improvement is using Tanya as the point of view character, complete with thick internal monolog that lends context to her deceptively generic evil exterior.
Tanya’s battle with enemy anti-observer mages sums this up. Alone and told to delay an entire company for 600 seconds (more than enough time to cook and eat an instant ramen), Tanya can only laugh hysterically at the absurdity of her situation. Even still, she reveals a simple logic to her choice to attack in the aftermath.
Where every other ‘crazy evil face‘ anime villain is ‘just so crazy it shows on his or her face,’ Tanya’s logic, awareness of irony, and dismay when events play out unexpectedly succeed in making her relatable — maybe even likable.
The Verdict: Well that was surprising. To a degree, I understand the choice to show us Tanya how everyone else sees her (evil) first, and then upend our expectations on the second pass. However, changing the narrator and tone — and point — of the narrative makes these first two episodes feel like they are from two different shows. More importantly, it risked losing viewers before the reveal because Tanya and the setting aren’t that interesting without context.
There was a lot to like here. The greater variety of settings elevated this week’s visuals far above last week. The conversation with god, which featured a tension with static figures with moving eyes and mouths and a depth of field blurring was downright beautiful.
Ultimately, the real treasure is Tanya herself. S/he isn’t a nice person, nor is she above ruthless violence, but her plan is just a career track and her plan is to do well enough in that career to get out of harm’s way and live comfortably. It’s a great satire on the littleness of evil — that thinking of life in terms of a career path to pleasure may, in and of itself, be one of God’s grievances with man.
Regardless, Tanya may have performed too well for her initial plan to work. As we saw last week, after her recovery, it was right back to the front lines…