By Carlo Zen and Shinobu Shinotsuki. Released in Japan as “Youjo Senki” by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Richard Tobin.
For most of this light novel series, there has bee one character pushing back against its main premise: Colonel Lergen. He’s been the one to boggle at the fact that a child is behind most of their major battles, and he also is able to see the terrifying soullessness that Tanya’s combination of military training and past-life management memories can do. We sympathize with him as the lone voice of reason. As such, the scene near the start of this book where he tries to “negotiate” peace with Ildoa is absolutely jaw-dropping. No one in the Empire (except Zettour and Tanya) is really aware of exactly how badly they’re losing the war, and nobody (including Tanya) is quite aware of exactly what the rest of the world thinks of the Empire as a nation. Actually, Rudersdorf may realize this as well. But his solution to the problem is not one that even the Empire can tolerate, and thus Zettour and Tanya are forced to once again make the title of the light novel be as accurate as possible.
For a series with the title The Saga of Tanya the Evil (or, for that matter, The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl), Tanya is not in this book as much as previous volumes. Huge chunks of the volume are dedicated to Lergen’s negotiation with the Ildoans,. and later with his leading the attack on those same Ildoans. We get lots of Zettour here, as he attempts to persuade his friend that he’s being stupid, and then, persuasion having failed, is reduced to assassination. But even this goes pear-shaped, because the Empire’s foreign office is so bad at everything that the Commonwealth use this opportunity to put in their own assassination attempt. As for Tanya, she’s still trying to think of ways that she and her unit can defect (and kudos to her for actually thinking of the unit here at all), but that’s getting more and more difficult.
I want to take some time to talk about the artwork of Shinobu Shinotsuki, which tends to run to two different kinds. There’s the overdramatic gorgeous pictures, such as the ones we see in the color pages. And there’s the ones that look like a total cartoon. Sometimes literally, as one shot of Lergen and Calandro screaming at each other shows drops of snot coming from one nose as if they’re Crayon Shin-chan, while the background has cute l’il caricatures of Tanya and Visha. (Visha also gets a picture of the volume’s funniest moments, trying to eat as much as possible as quickly as possible because they finally have good food and will never get more of it.) The most telling moment, though, is when we read, in Tanya’s matter-of-fact narration, about her idea for an initiative, along with her misgivings about it, and the illustration shows her laughing maniacally as if she’s just shot a dog. One wonders how much of this chronicle can be trusted.
Good news, we get the 12th volume in a few months. Bad news, that’s the latest from Japan, and it came out three years ago. That said, we have a long ways to go before the Empire finally falls, so strap in.