Youjo Senki: The Saga of Tanya the Evil

Spoiler Alert!

“Please…please don’t do this!”

You firmly say, “You’ve missed work several times without permission and you have not improved your performance as the company requested.”

“What am I going to do about my daughter’s tuition? What about the loan on my house?!”

“What reason does the company have to keep you here?”

The good-for-nothing in front of you is close to tears. Pathetic.

“Wait…don’t…please…”

“Good day.”

Once again, you’re waiting for the train to take you home.

Ah, here it comes.

What you do for the company isn’t easy or pleasant, but you’ll do the job as required. Prosperity and order for the company come first after all. At this rate, you’ll make department chief in no ti…!

You feel a sudden force from behind, making you fall forward and down…onto the tracks…

Thinking back, perhaps it’s not such a surprise. People with poor work performances tend to put their feelings before reason after all…

“Humanity has truly lost its way.”

Hmm?

“You have no faith.”

Ah, the supposed Creator, God or whatever…

“Sorry, but I reject your existence.”

“What?”

“If you really are the Creator, you would never have allowed this absurdity to happen in the first place. From a rational viewpoint, only beings such as “God” or “The Devil” can exist beyond human reason. Until I have further proof, you shall be known to me as Being X.”

“Do you not desire salvation? Seven billion people on the planet, yet so few want it.”

Was that a twinge of anger?

“We now live in a world where science has advanced to the point where it provides humanity’s needs quite nicely. An orderly society provides us peace so we may prosper. Faith in the obscure is just the last resort for the desperate.”

“Then if you were to live a life without science and peace, perhaps your faith will awaken?”

Uh…

“So be it! I grant you a new life where you will have neither science nor peace! Should you be killed once more, you will be condemned for eternity unless you pledge yourself to me!”

You slowly open your eyes.

In front of you, you see a pair of baby hands.

Are those YOUR hands?!

Looking left, you see the face of an old woman wearing a nun’s habit.

Why is she so close?

“Okay, now open up, little Tanya.”

Tanya? Is that…you?

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, known in Japan as Youjo Senki (幼女戦記, lit. “The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl”), is a web novel, light novel series, manga and anime (including one movie) written by Carlo Zen (カルロ・ゼン). Each version of the story is slightly different.

While waiting for a train after work, an unnamed Japanese salaryman is pushed onto the tracks by a disgruntled subordinate he had fired earlier that day. At the moment of his death, he is confronted by an entity claiming to be “God”, who denounces his, and humanity’s, modern-day lack of faith. An atheist and a ruthless rationalist at heart, the salaryman refuses to acknowledge the entity, dubbing it Being X, and argues that science and social order have provided humanity’s needs, making faith the last resort of the desperate. Enraged, the entity decides to reincarnate the salaryman in a world of constant danger to coerce him into embracing Being X as his savior. It also promises eternal condemnation for the salaryman’s soul after his second life should he be killed while rejecting faith.

The national flag of the Empire

In the Unified Year 1914, the salaryman is reborn as an orphaned baby girl, Tanya Degurechaff, in another world’s equivalent of Imperial Germany known simply as the Empire. Several years later, Tanya learns two things: the Empire will soon engage in all-out war with its neighbors and all Imperial citizens with the potential for magic, including herself, face conscription in the Imperial Army. Determined to escape the fate promised to her by Being X, she decides to join the Army as an aerial mage officer in order to eventually receive a posting far from the war’s front lines, thereby avoiding the risk of getting killed.

At age 9, Tanya commences a military career on the fast track. During her first assignment, she fights off a company of enemy aerial mages alone and earns the Silver Wings Assault Medal, the highest honor an Imperial soldier could earn. After this, she tests out, and acquires, the experimental Elenium Type-95 operation orb. Later, she becomes a platoon leader assigned to the Rhine Front (French-German border equivalent), where she is eventually nicknamed “The Devil of the Rhine” by her enemies.

After six months of exemplary study at the Charloburg War College, Tanya earns non-hereditary, minor noble status and becomes a “von”. At the direction of the Imperial General Staff, she forms the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, a rapid deployment force that quickly becomes the vanguard of the Empire’s most important war operations. Throughout all this, Tanya remains certain that Being X is trying to break her will, even if it has to turn the entire world against her.

Youjo Senki Restaurant (幼女戦記食堂, Yōjo Senki Shokudō), a short manga drawn by Kyoichi (京一), features Tanya and others eating Imperial (German) cuisine on their off-duty time.

Members of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, left to right: Neumann, Koenig, Weiss, Visha, Tanya, Grantz

Main Characters

Tanya von Degurechaff, a 12-year old Imperial Army Major, commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, commander of its 1st company and former Japanese human resources manager. A truly complex person, Tanya is a calculating, pragmatic and ruthless sociopath who nonetheless constantly assesses how her actions would affect her career. While she believes in an orderly society, she also believes strongly in self-determination and hates war as a waste of lives and resources. For this reason, she is frustrated with superiors who disregard the risk to soldiers’ lives and resents Being X deeply for its persistent attempts to either kill her (through empowered proxies) or bend her to its will (through exacerbating the war).

Using the Elenium Type-95, Tanya prepares a magic spell to destroy a target with one shot.

A highly experienced aerial mage, Tanya can use the Elenium Type-95 operation orb to gain power far greater than what most mages can use. She must pray to “God” in order to use the orb’s full capabilities, so she only uses it sparingly. In addition to this, Tanya retains the memories of her first life, allowing her to use her management skills to become a highly competent officer. She also uses her modern-day experiences and historical knowledge to propose ideas never considered before in the Empire, such the concept of total war and legal circumvention of laws that prohibit soldiers from attacking civilians. While she doesn’t have much of a private life, Tanya enjoys drinking coffee and eating sweets when off-duty.

A rare moment of rest.

Viktoriya “Visha” Ivanovna Serebryakov, an Imperial Army First Lieutenant, Tanya’s adjutant and second-in-command of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s 1st company. Friendly and optimistic, she is rarely troubled by daily hardships she faces, having experienced the horrors of the front lines firsthand. Born to an aristocratic family in Rus (Russia equivalent), Visha fled to the Empire with her family during the Rus Revolution. She was later conscripted into the Imperial Army as an aerial mage soldier and assigned to the Rhine Front, where she was placed under then-Second Lieutenant Degurechaff’s command. Visha understands Tanya better than anyone else and is utterly devoted to her commander. She enjoys eating almost anything, even low-quality wartime rations.

Glory to the Empire!

Matheus Johann Weiss, an Imperial Army Captain, vice-commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion and commander of its 2nd company. Prudent, disciplined and responsible, Weiss is a competent, reliable officer. He had a by-the-book approach for war that he gradually grew out of with experience and his commander’s guidance. Tanya comes to rely on Weiss to help manage the battalion while he, in turn, develops profound respect for his commander. He has a sweet tooth and a low alcohol tolerance which often results in him hitting on women in a crass manner while drunk.

Warren Grantz, an Imperial Army First Lieutenant and second-in-command of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s 2nd company. Capable and principled, he once questioned Tanya over the prospect of shooting defenseless enemy civilians. Grantz has a slight, unreciprocated crush on Visha.

Even with magical defensive shields, no aerial mage is invulnerable

Wilibald Koenig, an Imperial Army First Lieutenant and commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s 3rd company. He is a taciturn man who trusts his comrades completely in battle and vice versa.

Rhiner Neumann, an Imperial Army First Lieutenant and commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s 4th company. He is a fun-loving man who sometimes picks on his comrades’ flaws.

Personal Thoughts

This story gives several examples of how the world of war is far more complex than the peaceful times many of us now live in.

In an example of wartime bias, Tanya is known as a brave, self-sacrificing, national hero within the Empire while the opposing armies know her as “The Devil of the Rhine”, an evil monster that has almost single-handedly killed countless noble soldiers. In truth, she would rather not be a soldier in the first place. Like many of us, Tanya is neither a hero nor a villain, but a person who does whatever she can to prosper and survive in the situation she was thrown in.

The last sight of many who cross paths with the Devil of the Rhine

At the city of Arene, local partisans rose against the Imperial occupation. Although hindered by international laws forbidding harm against non-combatants, the Empire refused to give up the city, which was an important railway hub that supplied many soldiers on the Rhine Front. Tanya proposes the idea of giving the city a day’s warning about an imminent attack, after which anyone staying in the city would be considered enemy combatants. In response to the warning, the partisans executed several captive Imperial soldiers in an indignant show of self-righteous fury. After this, the Imperial Army launched a devastating attack that killed half of the city’s population, ensuring the Empire’s continued occupation. In war, there are very few clear-cut decisions in which no one suffers or dies. The moralities of war are entirely dependent on who you fight for.

Knowing humanity’s history and having gained firsthand experience, Tanya realized that humans are ultimately emotional creatures who can reject logic if it works against them. Even if they have literally nothing to gain through fighting, humans can keep fighting and struggling if they are driven by hatred and vengeance. For this reason, the Empire’s enemies will not quit until the Empire is destroyed or they are. This was also the reason why her first life ended.

Moral

We tend to follow our selfish emotions more often than not. It is best to balance our emotions and our logic.

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