SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL - THE MOVIE Review
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
Though having a slow start, the SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL - THE MOVIE is enjoyable and a valuable addition to the franchise's universe. Tanya's a ruthless strategist with a bone to pick with God. (Don't we all?)
87 %
Compelling protagonist and new antagonist save a slow start
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Originally a light novel then adapted to a comic and anime, SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE directly picks up where the anime series leaves off. Our main character, a current-day Japanese salary man reborn in the body of a young girl named Tanya von Degurechaff, continues her journey as the Major of the Imperial 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion.

The anime series begins with the death of the modern day Japanese man. An unhappy employee pushes him in front of a train after being fired by our salary man. However, he opens his eyes to the presence of an entity he calls Being X. Being X claims he is God, much to the skepticism of our main character. The God, insulted yet intrigued, decides the salary man should reincarnate the man. However, it is in the body of a young orphan girl at the turn of the 20th century… in an alternate universe.

Being X decrees that if Tanya either doesn’t have faith in him or doesn’t die a natural death, her soul will be destroyed. In trying to avoid that fate, Tanya (counterintuitively) ends up joining the Empire’s army. Her hope is to reach a high enough position in the military to where she is out of the reach of warfare. Tanya ascends the ranks and ends up with her own Battalion by the end of season one.

SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL -THE MOVIE- IMAGE
Image courtesy of Studio Nut

Slow Beginning: Tanya Playing By the Rules

SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE does add something significant to the SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL universe. Certain events and characters deepen our understanding of Tanya, her worldview, and even offer a contrast. But all that comes rather late in the movie. Tanya continues her quest of finding a way to selfishly live her life in luxury. Part of her plan is playing the role of a perfect military commander.

And that’s all very good and well, but there’s a lack of a certain tension. Tanya is calmly playing by the rules in seemingly harmonious agreement with the universe. But she’s too calm. It’s all working out a little bit too well, and that’s boring. We know Tanya working her hardest for the Empire is a facade that covers up her true intentions. But it’s really the least interesting part of her relationship to this new universe and it’s rules. We want to see either the rules screw over her or Tanya using the rules to her advantage.

Tanya’s Universe: World War I but with Mages

Though infused with magical elements, Tanya’s world borrows heavily from World War I and World War II history. She’s part of a country known as the Empire (read: Germany, circa World War I). The Empire is engaged in an all-out war with the rest of psuedo-Europe, including countries such as the Commonwealth (United Kingdom), Francois Republic (France), and Russy Federation (Russia, but with the Soviet Union controlled by Stalin elements). Images of mage war units zooming around the sky with prayer-activated guns are paired with jarring anachronistic grim scenes of trench warfare. It’s all simultaneously preposterous but familiar enough for the watcher to quickly grasp the larger picture.

Not having viewed the original source material, I was incredibly apprehensive about this fantasy world with complex historical political elements. I was worried that SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL was either going to be extremely sympathetic to the Empire or romanticize imperialism and warfare. Thankfully, the movie avoids these giant landmines. It side steps sympathizing with any side of the war at all. The movie never comments positively on either Germany-encoded imperialists or the “commies.”

tanya the evil flying battalion
Image courtesy of Studio Nut

Tanya at Her Best (or Worst)

Tanya’s at her best (and excitingly, her worst) when she’s making entirely mind-boggling sociopathic calls that dictate fates of nations and lives all for her own gain. And the world is at it’s best when it unnerves her and forces her to be more creative in getting what she wants.

The movie, then, is also at it’s best when Tanya is either scheming and/or responding outrageously to life-or-death situations. How will Tanya tangle with circumstances to reach her goals, and what obstacles will be in her way? That question is a lot more interesting then, “How will Tanya accomplish mission objectives given by HQ?”

Luckily, a much-needed jolt revives the latter half of SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE. A character we’ve been waiting for, Warrant Officer Mary Sue, provides that much-needed dose of energy. The movie juxtaposes her against Tanya in exactly the right ways. Without giving away too much, I will say that Mary Sue’s existence makes perfect sense in a world that also has a Tanya Von Degurechaff.

Tanya The Scammer

Tanya’s a scammer, and gloriously so. If you’re American, then you know what a tender spot we culturally have for scammers. Starting from Mark Twain and his sketches of crafty, potentially morally bankrupt yet still lovable grifters to the current fame of Joanne the Scammer, we love scammers. We want to know how people like Anna Delvey literally scam their way into New York’s elite circle, or why Elizabeth Holmes did what she did with Theranos.

Arguably, the universe Tanya is in is a giant scam itself: nations run by old dudes who use the guise of “higher ideals” are just making power grabs through warfare. Tanya using the giant war for her own gain is both at once an oddly respectable and a terrible scam. She doesn’t buy into the philosophical crap spouted by either nations used to justify warfare. Tanya knows what the gig is. Only thing is, she basically decides to not be a better person than these old dudes. Rather, she is scamming her own way out of warfare. And she will do whatever she needs to do to escape.

Warrant Officer Mary Sue
Warrant Officer Mary Sue. Image Courtesy of Studio Nut

But that’s why seeing Tanya placed in difficult and dire situations is amusing. The movie does a great job of keeping us invested in the characters while keeping our investment “conditional.” Sure, we’d like to see Tanya stick it to Being X, but if she dies, she definitely had it coming. We’re rooting for her in some aspects, but know that she’s deeply flawed. Honestly, I was rooting more for the “antagonist” in SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL -THE MOVIE!

Watch SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE!

Sure, Tanya is the protagonist of a Japanese movie, but hey, we can appreciate a scammer when we see one. She’s constantly figuring out how to get what she wants. She works in the confines of what leeway the rules will give or cleverly finds ways to turn her new universe’s rules against themselves. Tanya’s got a set of dealt cards in her hands. And we love her because she plays the game so damn well. She’s playing against God and doesn’t appear to be losing.

Overall, SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE is worth watching despite its slow start. The latter half of the movie is quite exciting, and Tanya is a fun character to root for or against. If you love the series or are new to it, we definitely recommend checking it out!

SAGA OF TANYA THE EVIL – THE MOVIE will have a limited release in certain theaters across the United States on May 16th. It is part of Crunchyroll Movie Night with Fathom Events. Pick up your ticktets HERE before they sell out!

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