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Saga of Tanya the Evil Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

One young woman will see the shape of war to come but nobody will listen.

What They Say:
A little girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and porcelain skin fights on the front lines of a brutal war set in a fantasy world. What others don’t know is that she’s a reincarnated Japanese office worker who, in his former life, had a ruthless desire to climb the corporate ladder in hopes of retiring to a cushy corner office.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works a good mix of action and dialogue with what it does as there’s a good range of dialogue material focusing on meetings, battle planning, and the action itself with its ups and downs. The action side works really well since it handles magic, the planes in the air, and all the weaponry that comes with war. The stereo mix gives us a solid presentation with how it moves across the soundstage but the 5.1 mix definitely gives us a bit more impact with the bass and overall directionality. It’s a solid mix for both of them and it delivers an engaging experience that doesn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with a standard nine/three split with the extras on the second disc. Animated by studio NUT, the show has a really great look to it. It’s a very dark and grimy piece in a lot of ways as it focuses on the war and even in the air it maintains that proper tone and atmosphere. It’s rich in detail with the buildings in the Empire and the ornate aspects of it all while the character designs are great with a lot of individuality and detail to be had there. Color definitely is fantastic with lots of dark and grimy colors holding up well while the more vibrant pieces with the magic are fantastic in how they stand out. It’s a great looking encoding all around and will please fans.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for both formats across two hinges. The set comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork but shifts the blue stripe at the top for a red one that fits better. It’s also just a bit better in color definition thanks to the cardstock as it shows off our lead in her uniform looking all serious. It’s an unusual key visual piece to me since the hat dominates and the angle is not used often but it does work to really set the tone right in an oppressive way with its seriousness. The back cover is a bit brighter as it has some Empire elements along the top and a simple tagline while also showing off six images from the series that are a bit bigger than the norm. They’re all mostly dark as they represent the show but it fits well. The summary of the premise is clean and clear and we get a solid technical grid along the bottom that covers the two formats accurately in how they’re put together. While there are no show related inserts included we do get a reversible cover where the same image is used on the right but the left reworks the back cover where it expands it to focus on the episode list by number and titles.

Menu:
The menu design for this release may be simple with a static image but it works well with its design. Using the key visual artwork from the front cover, it puts Tanya to the right while the left has the logo along the top and the navigation along the bottom. Using the pavers behind her as the main background, it has the right kind of tone while also zooming in on Tanya so that the hat doesn’t dominate. The navigation is nicely done as it uses the Empire elements from the back cover as well which provides some nice reds and yellows into it so that there’s a bit more pop to it overall. It’s all easy to use and everything loads quickly and easily both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release are the basics as we get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of the Japanese promos and commercials. Sadly, there are no commentaries with this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Yōjo Senki by Carlo Zen, the Saga of Tanya the Evil is a twelve episode anime series that aired during the winter 2017 season. Animated by studio NUT, the project was successful enough that a feature film continuation was put into production that’s landing in 2019. The light novels have been pretty well-received in Japan and a manga adaptation was commissioned in 2016 that has ten volumes out so far. The light novels began in 2013 and have ten volumes as well, both projects of which are licensed and being released by Yen Press. For fans of the anime there’s ample opportunity to dig into the original source material. And I suspect a lot of those that gravitate toward the series here will definitely want to explore more as it’s pretty captivating.

Taking place in an alternate timeline we get introduced to a war taking place in 1925 that’s essentially the first world war with a few elements of the second in it. The focus is on the Empire as it spreads out in dealing with its neighbors that are both envious and distrusting of the advances that the Empire has made through technology as well as its grooming and use of various mages. The mages here seem to have a range of abilities as shown through the combat side where they do a lot of flying, some shielding, and perhaps a couple of other little tricks. This gives them an advantage but there are mages in a number of other nations but not all of them, which makes for some really interesting strategy and action sequences to play out. The use of the familiar time period but with tweaks and changes is definitely engaging, especially since most of the time works like this tend to focus just on the second war, so giving us older planes and an older approach to ground fighting, especially the trench side, makes this a pretty grim series.

Within this setting, our primary focus is on Tanya von Degurechaff, a young woman in what looks like her early teenage years. With her father’s death and her mother leaving, she’s found herself in the military where the goal is to do well enough in the training side in order to get a rear position and ride the whole thing out. The problem is that Tanya is actually a pretty gifted mage in a lot of ways and a seriously gifted strategist in this time and place. While she intends to just coast by while the training goes on, an early flying training mission ends up turning into a combat mission and she ends up really saving the day and capturing the attention of certain senior officials. Enough so that because of her age they realize they can’t send her to the front lines but instead set her up at the academy in order to teach others and explore new methodologies through technology to enhance the mages of the Empire. It’s actually a pretty good idea but she ends up in test pilot mode initially and then caught up in the larger politics of the Empire as the war expands.

But, there’s a gimmick to this. One that really does color the series in an interesting way and is quite the spoiler that I hate to give away because it needs to be seen with no foreknowledge. With that in mind, the show works exceptionally well by opening as it does and then giving us the second episode focusing on the present day in our timeline where we’re introduced to a Japanese salaryman that I don’t think is named. Here’s a pretty cutthroat style businessman looking at corporate strategy and dealing with bad employees that ends up leading to him firing a problem person. That problem person develops into an even greater problem for him though when later on he gets pushed in front of an oncoming train. It’s here that we get it made clearer about the atheistic aspect of the guy as he struggles with the way the voice of god(s) filters through others on the platform in a time freeze, lamenting how humanity treats itself. This guy is definitely stubborn and argumentative and that gets him dealing with the designated Being X in a way that’s adversarial. Enough so that Being X opts to reincarnate him in the other world with memories of who he was and that if he as Tanya can’t die a natural death, or dies without faith, he’ll lose out in reincarnation and end up in hell. It’s a little complicated and highly unexpected after the first episode, though there are hints there, and it radically alters your view of the series going forward.

What the series does is work the war going forward with Tanya’s position growing because of what she’s able to do, training and leading what becomes a mobile rapid response group that’s sent around the Empire dealing with problem areas, and trying to figure out how to eliminate Being X when the chance arises. With Tanya’s knowledge of how the world wars unfolded in his world that colors a lot of his options and opinions here because he wants to end things quickly and decisively and trie to influence that as best as she can. Which isn’t easy against the power structure in place in the Empire, though some start to see things here as time goes on. It’s definitely engaging to see it unfold since it’s not exactly the same but with enough similarities that you can see how the fundamentals still apply. It’s also just engaging because it’s so well animated and with such intense sequences of action with the world design that it’s very easy to get drawn into it. For those that are into watching or studying events related to the World Wars, this alternate take is very much worth getting into as it focuses on the events of a single year and how some mistakes seem to be common across timelines.

In Summary:
I had little idea what to expect going into this series since I haven’t followed the source works or saw it during its simulcast. I ended up binging this series pretty hard because once it got going and revealed its particular trick I wanted to see more. I really like the characters involved, the concept behind all of it, and that it plays the war side pretty seriously with a really great atmosphere and grittiness that’s very appropriate. There’s a whole lot to like here and the production quality is great with a strong home video release here with a fun dub and a great encode. This release has left me very excited for more of it and is likely to get me to dip into the light novels as well.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promo Videos, Commercials, Textless Opening & Closing Songs

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 18th, 2018
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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