By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Emily Balistrieri.
The subtitle of this volume is translated as “Hell Follows Hell”, or more colloquially, one mistake leads to more. Tanya learns that here in a book that shows off how imperfect all the sides are. Tanya herself, due to her rabid anti-communist mindset (and the salaryman inside her, who I honestly tend to forget about most of the time) is slow to realize that the not-Russians fighting them are actually fighting for their homes and native land… not for communism. This is huge because it changes the entire way they have to fight the enemy. She also runs into Mary Sue for the first time, and while there’s clearly a much larger fight still to come, it’s a difficult battle that depletes her elite unit of a quarter of its entire force. (That said, rest assured all the characters whose names we can remember survive.) And of course Britain and Russia are having their own issues with lack of manpower, lack of supplies, lack of materials… we’ve reached the attrition stage of the war.
The cover art has Tanya standing at the gravesite of the soldiers who fell in that battle, and it reminds us that just because the title is “Tanya the Evil”, and Tanya frequently does morally reprehensible things, does not means she is 100% black of heart. She cares about her subordinates, mourns them, and has long passed the Tanya of the first book who was merely looking for “meat shields”. Likewise, General Zettour, at the end of the book, as he attempts to coerce/cajole the separatist parts of the Federation to join them, thi8nks that as a good person, he’s appalled, but as a soldier fighting for the Empire, he’s willing to be evil. A person who commits mass murders but feels really bad about the whole thing is still a mass murderer. And, on the other side of the coin, we have Mary, who is bright and shiny and filled with thoughts of revenge and I suspect is so naive that she will be led by the nose whenever she runs into someone manipulative.
Other things to note: as I feared, Loriya is still around, and still a pedophile. It’s not played for laughs as much, but still disturbing. Speaking of which, the soldiers joke at one point about Tanya marrying Visha for her coffee-making skills, and Tanya briefly ponders whether, as a male mind inside the body of a young girl, he would qualify as gay or not, but then promptly decides to not think about it. Which is fine, I won’t either. Tanya is twelve. In fact, the fact that Tanya is twelve comes up an awful lot here: after four volumes of mostly having everyone ignore the fact that she’s so young, we get a bunch of scenes to reinforce it: she can’t interrogate the Federation prisoners as they won’t take her seriously, she can’t get into the celebratory party at the Officer’s Mess as she can’t drink, etc. It’s a nice reminder that the basic premise of this entire series is meant to be, deliberately, very screwed up. War makes people send a child to battle.
I’ve heard that Tanya light novel fans and Tanya anime fans disagree quite a bit, and I suspect this book definitely falls on the reader side, being interesting more for the discussion of warfare than for the short, yet well-written battles. There’s also a lot of great wartime sarcastic banter between the soldiers here, which I enjoyed. For those who don’t mind long, lecturing tomes, this is still very good.