By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.
Sometimes war can be filled with pitched battles, back and forth action and excitement, and sometimes war can be filled with not a heck of a lot happening except people talking about tactics. The same holds true for Tanya the Evil, especially in this sixth volume, where action scenes are kept to an absolute minimum in favor of dialogue, inner monologue, and a lot of grumbling about the futility of war. Which, it has to be said, makes for a book that’s a bit of a struggle to get through at times. Most of the time Carlo Zen balances his dry military tactics prose with other scenes that pick up the pace, but we don’t have that here, so some of this book is simply boring. But not all of it. There is, once again, the threat of peace on the horizon, and Tanya is all for it, though she’s not the one in charge, and you get the sense that von Zettour is not simply going to agree to anything that isn’t “we win, and then discuss terms”. Winning, of course, is not happening right now.
The title is Latin once more, and means “Nothing Will Surprise Me”. That’s put to the test in this book, which sees the nation of Ildoa getting involved – seemingly to be a neutral broker for peace, but in reality looking to get the best deal for themselves by playing both sides. As the Empire is not-Germany, Ildoa is not-Italy, though their political leader seems to be nothing like Mussolini so far – Carlo Zen is avoiding the main Axis villains in this series. The Empire is understandably rather wary of Ildoa, who put on a show of strength that actually shows off that they don’t have much strength to back it up. Still, an overture for peace is a start. Certainly it’s what Tanya wants, to the surprise of everyone – possibly the funniest scene in the book is when she talks with Visha, Weiss and the others in her unit and realizes how they’re all warmongers, not realizing who trained this into them.
On the other side, we have the Commonwealth and the Federation still making very awkward allies, as they come to the realization that the Empire is far stronger than they had expected. (The Empire, of course, is coming to the same realization about their enemy.) Colonel Drake appears to be the Lergen of the Allied side, and he has his own Tanya analogue in Lieutenant Mary Sue, still bright and idealistic and shiny and driven by sweet, sweet revenge. “The Saga of Tanya the Evil” is a Western title, albeit one approved by the author, I believe – the Japanese title, Youjo Senki, translates as “The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl”. Tanya is evil in the sense that she’s working for the Empire, and she can be morally reprehensible at times, but she knows about war and why things happen. Mary Sue, though, can’t believe everyone doesn’t think the way that she does, and she’s a headache to everyone around her. I really want to see her and Tanya fight again – perhaps I should watch the movie.
So there’s a lot of talking but little forward movement in a book which sees Tanya’s unit going from the Federation to the Empire Homeland and then up towards the Entente Alliance in an effort to win the war. Which Tanya knows isn’t happening, but she can’t convince anyone else. A necessary read for fans of the series, but it’s really dry and dull at times, I admit.