Story/Interior Illustration: Carlo Zen/Shinobu Shinotsuki
Translation/Adaptation: Emily Balistrieri
What They Say
Barely two months remain until winter, and opinion is split over whether the Empire should launch a full-scale offensive or rest until spring. Time is running out, and the General Staff can’t make up their minds. While everyone else is frozen with inaction, the Salamander Kampfgruppe under Tanya’s command is singled out for a mission that will ultimately decide the army’s course. As they face attacks from a seemingly relentless enemy that leave them without even time to sleep, will Tanya’s troops be able to hold out?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I’m not certain if Zen-sensei’s writing has improved or if I’ve just gotten used to his style, but Volume 5 is a much easier read than previous volumes. While Zen-sensei still has a propensity to be too light on backdrop details, he’s reined in his tendency to overexplain to the point of tedium. On top of that, the war narrative takes on intriguing twists and turns which exposes hitherto unseen aspects of Tanya’s character.
The volume begins with Tanya’s newly formed Salamander Kampfgruppe defending a salient on the Eastern Front. We’ve seen her personally leading her battalion before; now she’s commanding multiple units from base headquarters. Although she’s giving orders from a completely different vantage, those who enjoy the tactical aspect of this series will continue to see Tanya leveraging the scant resources at her disposal to attain victory. In addition to countering guerrilla attacks, Tanya must also deal with the Federation soldiers they’re captured. What starts as a kind of dilemma leads to a massive perspective shift on the Eastern Front. Whereas the Empire’s other conflicts are purely military in character, Tanya makes the realization that the war against the Commies will also involve fighting propaganda with propaganda.
No sooner has the Salamander Kampfgruppe jelled as a cohesive fighting force than it gets disbanded. (As Tanya complains, “The higher-ups really just do whatever they want.”) Not only that, Tanya and the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion get yanked from the Eastern Front and sent to take on the monster ship, RMS Queen of the Anjou. This arc has a lot of similarities to the previous northern ocean battles in that it involves submarines, ships, and the Commonwealth. However, it differs in that the Commonwealth’s collaborator is not the Entente Alliance (although Mary Sue is present to go berserk against her father’s killer), but the Federation. The Commonwealth-Federation alliance is one between two mutually distrustful parties, and the lead up to their collaboration is an indicator of how desperate everyone’s become.
The other major difference is that the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion suffers casualties. Tanya hasn’t lost anyone since the shovel training on the Rhine, which is astounding considering they’ve been in the thick of fighting on every front since. However, it’s because of this astounding record that the loss of nearly a quarter of the battalion hits so hard. von Lerghen’s accused Tanya of being an unfeeling monster before, but even though she doesn’t turn into a weepy mess, you can’t say she’s unaffected by her men’s deaths (which is probably why von Lerghen’s not spouting his usual von Degurechaff-is-abnormal criticism in this volume).
Then it’s back to the Eastern Front and a new Salamander Kampfgruppe. While the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion stays with Tanya, the mages sent to replace her fallen men are all raw recruits. In fact, the majority of her new troops are green. Thus, Tanya’s not only with faced with the problem of repelling enemies but also the challenge of managing difficult-to-work-with personnel. As a former HR professional, she ultimately finds a way, but she can’t do a thing to stop her next enemy: winter.
Extras include map and fold-out illustration in color; appendixes of the history timeline and rough sketches; author afterword; and six black-and-white illustrations.
A really wonderful installment here. In addition to a decent narrative pace compared to the bogginess in previous volumes, we get to see Tanya command multiple units and figure how to turn political differences into a weapon. But probably the most striking part of this volume is when the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion encounters more than it can handle. She’s been accused of being an unfeeling monster before, but she’s strikingly human as she and her men mourn their fallen comrades.
Content Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B-
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: March 26th, 2019