By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.
I’ve talked before about how Tanya the Evil is at many times written like you’re reading a history book. It’s actually a bit weirder than that, as you’re reading several competing history books, each with its own agenda. This is made obvious in the sections involving the Federation, aka not-USSR, whose style of Communism under “Josef” is mocked mercilessly, even to the point of having one section written as a children’s history book. The Federation in general comes in for a bashing this volume, partly because, well, Communism under Stalin, please look at real history, but also because Tanya is virulently, rabidly anti-Communist and says so most of the time. The book starts with her taking her team to “put a scare” into the Federation capital. She proceeds to overdo it. One of the more interesting bits is when she tells Visha, who escaped the Federation as a child, not to hold back her hatre3d and to go all out. Visha, who honestly doesn’t recall much of her childhood and isn’t really driven by hatred, is rather nonplussed.
It can be difficult at times to remember that Tanya is not the heroine, merely the protagonist. We’re meant to be a bit horrified by her. Quite a bit. The trouble is that most of the book is in her semi-1st person monologue, so sympathy naturally falls with her, especially when the war is not going her war, which is constantly. There’s a glorious bit when she’s on trial for some of her actions when they realize that this little girl is, in fact… acting like a petulant child. Even when she finally gets her wish of a transfer to a non-combat position, it doesn’t even last two weeks. But we’re not really meant to like ANYONE in this “war is hell” series. Not the Empire’s generals. Not the government, who are invisible but making poor decisions behind them. Not the Federation, who I would call a parody of Stalin’s Russia were it not already hard to parody. And not even the Commonwealth or the Unified States, who we see training up their own crack mage unit, complete with blonde Kansas girl Mary Sue, who unfortunately runs into Tanya in her first combat and realizes that Tanya was the one who killed her father. She doesn’t take it well.
These books continue to be bricks, far longer than almost all light novels that aren’t DanMachi. A lot of that is tactics and military discussion, and I say it again: don’t read this unless you’re fascinated by such things, because it will drive you mad. One other downside: we’re introduced in this book to “Josef” and his number two, who is named Loria. Loria is based on Lavrentiy Beria, who was a sexual predator, and it’s this aspect that Carlo Zen mines for “humor” (and also horror, to be fair), as he spots the 12-year-old Tanya (she must be twelve by now, right?) stomping all over Moscow burning everything in sight and decides that he needs to make her his. It’s as disturbing as it sounds, and it gets a color illustration that makes it much worse. Sadly, I expect to see more of him. As well as Mary Sue, who’s a talented newbie this time around but is now driven by hatred and fury, so I expect her next run-in with Tanya will be very different.
Tanya fans who only watched the anime will be happy to know this is where the new stuff begins (well, technically the end of the last book). It’s still a very interesting series to read, but remember that the author is actually a left-wing socialist. Tanya is not here to be admired. No one is, really.