Certain shows have certain nuances that I've always found interesting. My first exposure to Youjo Senki was in the reverse order from what I'm sure most viewers experienced it. My initial contact was from the ridiculous(ly fun) Isekai Quartet. The military historian in me got caught up with one idea though that suppressed the rest: "just who the heck are these people running around in German uniforms?!" Thanks to my Discord friends, I was presented with my answer.
Now to preface this review, I have to say that I did some reading ahead of time on the show. I rarely go into a series knowing absolutely nothing about it. I was relatively skeptical at the getgo simply due to basis of the story, however I wasn't dissuaded enough to totally ignore the series. To be upfront, Youjo Senki is (yet another) Isekai/Reincarnation-esque anime, and that in of itself puts it at a disadvantage in my book. However, that's not exactly what came out in the wash for this show upon my finishing it. Actually, as far as shows where I had a previous perception of the story, Youjo Senki performed well above the rest. We'll take a look at this in detail in the paragraphs that follow.
At it's most basic level, Youjo Senki's plot is that of an Isekai anime - and for that it is not very innovative or unique in it's own right. What is unique is everything besides the reincarnation component, and moreover how that reincarnation is even handled and approached. In fact, if it were not for the occasional reminder by the main character that they are in fact a reincarnation, you would likely forget that was even a factor in this show. For that reason, I actually increased the plots rating by half a step in the middle of writing this review.
The setting takes place in an alternate universe, but a very familiar landscape for a historian (hi) in what seems to be World War I Europe. Unlike World War I Europe, however, we are never given clear names for any given nation. They are instead referred to by some rather elegantly described alliance names. For the purpose of this review, however, I will be referring to these nations and alliances as their real world counterparts (see: Entente, Central Powers, France, Germany, Britain, Russia/Soviet Union, and the United States). The perspective that we are being provided is from Germany, and it is heavily implied that surrounding nation-states have enacted against "the Fatherland" due to struggling available natural resources (I see you, Japan...projecting yourself on Germany like that...bastards!). However, an interesting mechanic that has been introduced is that instead of gunpower and airpower providing the crux of military achievement, it is in fact the harnessing of magical power that trumps all on the battlefield.
Tanya Degurechaff, a 10-12 year old girl (who is also the top graduate in the War College, because why not?), is tasked with commanding the 203rd Mage Battalion (herein 203d MBn for those of you who don't read military). Now, before I go on, let me reel you back here: this is, in fact, our main character who has been reincarnated. Without spoiling too much, 2LT Degurechaff has a number of different screws loose. To borrow from Grand Theft Auto V's description of Trevor Philips, she is "hell on Earth." For good reason, we learn just how ruthless he (yes, he) was in his past life as a scummy businessman. Upon his death, he encounters a divine entity that he dubs "Being X." Being X demands acknowledgement by the businessman, and later Tanya, but at every juncture, he is refused - with Tanya insisting that she (I know, this genderbending thing is confusing, go with it) is in control of her own destiny. Thus, the underlying struggle of Youjo Senki is defined, with 2LT Degurechaff having to survive a much more vicious World War I that is being influenced by Being X in order to get Tanya to yield to him. (M. Night Shyamalan is mad he didn't write this.)
Tanya is forced to fend for herself, however, due to stipulations put in place by Being X. Being X is described as an entity that controls the cycle of reincarnation, and has cast the businessman/Tanya outside of the cycle for the audacity to question his power. Tanya is therefore cursed with two particular limitations, but the one she is fighting against the most is that if she dies from an unnatural cause, she will not be reincarnated again - thus her soul is forfeit. The problem I had with this is that for some reason Tanya cares, despite not even believing in a higher power to begin with. This stipulation seems counterintuitive, but is likely just playing into her personality of not accepting any authority figure.
The story takes place on an alternate Earth, during the equivalent of World War I. The entirety of the story that does not take place in modern, real-world Japan, takes place in this alternative, war-torn Europe. For the most part, things seem to be relatively the same up to a point in this alternative universe. We are still greeted with some of the same major powers as existed in the real World War I, save for their name. Most alliances remain relatively the same as well. What differs, at least on the surface, is the reason behind the war, and the events towards the 1916/1917 timeframe. For the simplicity of review and explanation, we'll say that by and large, this alternative universe diverges paths from our own when Tanya is born (18 JUL 1914). A caveat to this is the examinations and success of cultivating magical energy into a useable weapon, and then having that weapon deployed for military purposes.
Tanya's family is killed early, resulting in her being moved to a orphanage at a very young age. It is discovered there that she has amazing potential when it comes to magic. She self-elects to join the military, assuming that showing prowess and skill will gain her a cushy position as an officer at the upper echelons of the ranks. Clearly, the concept of a combatant commander never crossed the mind of the girl. The businessman knowing full well the events of World War's I and II apparently missed the how-to's in military ranks and structure. Add Being X into the mix, and you will probably guess that the notion of a "cushy" position is destined to prove elusive for the "war loli." In fact, it's so much out of the realm of reality, despite her denial, that she literally gets caught in several explosions either by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being subjected to military experimentation (sure smell's like something that has to do with the words Bikini and Atoll in here).
The exceptional ability to lead, strategize, and single-handedly dominate the battlefield fast-tracked her through the ranks. Her own proposal of how to handle the apparent disadvantage that the Germans were facing, however, ended up being a bit of a downfall for her. She was quickly tasked with amassing a mobile and flexible response battalion - the 203d MBn. As her and her Bn's notoriety increase amongst the warring forces, so do the scale of their missions. Once again, the added dimension of Being X constantly intervening (seemingly whenever things seem to be going Tanya's way), ensures a perpetual state of Chess between the two.
As mentioned, the setting for the series begins with World War I Europe, however it is unclear whether any of the events that happened in reality also took place here. The story, regardless of it's accuracy, is unique in this sense. The struggles and ebbs within the story that are described are done so in such a way that nothing necessarily seems old - yet you are frequently having to ask yourself "why?"
The story has a rather odd progression that I struggled with at some points. However, I attribute this mostly to the fact that I wasn't necessarily concerning myself with the timeframes. That is to say, despite the skips in time, the story flows smoothly enough that you can understand what is happening.
Episode 0 begins with Tanya at the rank of 2LT commanding a small group of grunts and under the command of what seems to be a Forward Support Battalion (FSBn). The closest accompanying character to her is "Visha", who is still an enlisted CPL (for some reason?). Episode 1 focuses on Tanya's previous life as a businessman and his murder by a disgruntled employee. Episodes 2 and 3 are more focused on Tanya's progression into that of an officer in the military and her role as a guinea pig. By episode 4, we are on the other side of episode 0 - and therein lies the bulk of the confusion in the progression of storytelling for the series.
From this point forward, the accounts of the story is rather fluid and straightforward. There are obvious skips in time to get us into the future by four to twelve, but the story continues to press forward, so this isn't really all that distracting. Furthermore, the writers opted to keep all of the fluff relevant to the tale itself, and most of these pieces are relegated to post-credit scenes that last about one to two minutes. I was happy to see that there was no filler, and you were hard pressed to go five minutes without some form of action to keep your interest.
I don't have all that much more to say about the progression, and that's honestly a good thing.
One of the things that got me especially hooked on the series was actually the characters. Youjo Senki has no true protagonist in the traditional sense of the word. It's a series that effectively breaks Joseph Campbell's Journey of a Hero and the basis of a telltale and traditional story. I have identified characters that could potentially fit this role, but there are no emphasized "good" characters. Instead, the path of the story would lead you to believe that everyone in some sense is evil - an antagonist. What a great metaphor really for the events depicted, but I will save my commentary on that for later.
First and foremost of characters to point out is the main character Tanya Degurechaff and her journey from...being born to eventually making it to the rank of O-5 / LTC in what is apparently only a span of fourteen years. Mighty impressive. It wouldn't be an anime main character though if there was nothing special, and that's certainly the case here. Tanya has been blessed or cursed after being reincarnated as having an immense amount of talent when it comes to magic. Her main fault line comes with one major caveat however: she doesn't believe in the God (or rather, the entity) that seems to have control over the rest of the world. Therein lies my biggest beef with her character: the audacity to insist that you are above something that clearly dwarves you in size. (I get it, that was the point, but it's still audacious.) For all intents and purposes, she is unhinged, psychopathic, and manipulative - best seen with her controlled mood swings from charming to insidious. For this reason, it is difficult for me to call her a protagonist.
Tanya's immediate aide is Viktoriya Ivanovna Serebryakov (Visha for short). From my understanding of the interactions between Tanya and Visha, the latter acts almost like Tanya's unattached humanity. She sometimes questions Tanya's motives and process, and thus far, she is the only one to do so and not be terminated for it. Visha submits to the fact that she is subordinate to Tanya, and remains loyal to that hierarchy above all else - what Tanya describes as a Soldiers duty. This may be the only reason that she hasn't been used as fodder for a scheme or plan at Tanya's behalf. That being said, her existence is an odd one - simply because she seems to have a unique sort-of control over her younger superior. I've watched the series twice over now, and still have not been able to determine what that reasoning is outside of the superficial fourth wall principles of having a character present to keep another sane.
The only solid antithesis of Tanya in the series comes from two members of the "Sue" family. The first is Anson Sue, who seems to be aligned with this world's version of France. Anson acts as the front-runner parallel to Tanya and while his backstory for why he initially engages her doesn't seem much defined beyond "it's my order", her continuous assault on his formations lends to the development of his obsession. His only daughter Mary however, has a much more absolute reason when she takes over this role - enlisting in the Army of what seems to be the United States. Like Tanya, Mary is under the influence of "Being X", so much so that she is driven to the same insane and obsessive tendencies as the character she is paralleling. Her drive and "willful cooperation (with Being X)" stems from Tanya's exploits with her father, and the subsequent results that follow (I'm trying not to spoil this).
This show was difficult for me characters wise due to both Mary and Tanya - two characters I want to like, and do like - but feel just plain terrible for liking. I liken them to two douchebag tough guys in a Fast and Furious movie who are drag racing each other through a famers market, running over all of the goods and supplies and terrifying the bystanders. The douchebaggery is strong with them! (Also a fruit stand! Because there's always a fruit stand.)
Elsewhere in the show are a slew of less-than-major-but-not-minor characters that influence the main cast. Amongst my favorite of these was Adelheid von Schugel. Adelheid, bluntly, is exactly who people are referring to when they say "this friggin' guy." A stereotypical mad scientist, Adelheid represents the insanity that was the German RDE programs in World War's I and II. If Tanya is chaotic-evil, then Adelheid is probably somewhere in the realm of chaotically-chaotic-neutral (is that a thing?). As psychotic as the former can be, Adelheid is able to diffuse that and even make fun of it in a fashion that only a true comedian could accomplish.
While the German high-command is depicted, we never see the Kaiser. He is referred to in several instances, but is never seen. Among the high-command is Erich von Rerugen, who seems to be the only one among the general staff (BG by the end of the series) to emphasize concern over Tanya's sanity. The other two primary LTG's in the series (Rudersdorf and Zettour) however, see Tanya and the rest of the 203d MBn as the ace in the sleeve of the "Empire." However, it is by the error of this same general staff that results in the ongoing nature of hostilities - much to Tanya's dismay and despite her attempting interjections. Rerugen, throughout the entire series seems to embody that of a concerned staff officer, whereas Rudersdorf and Zettour represent a break in the chain of command.
Lastly, is Being X, which is seen through a variety of different possessions. These interactions are some of the most vivid in the series outside of Tanya's usual outbursts. There were a couple of depictions that just downright freaked me out a bit. The one that stood out the most was when he spoke to Tanya through an injured civilian that followed an attack by the 203d MBn. Being X and Tanya's interactions seem to constantly involve a war of words and moods, and for that reason I've often posed that they are essentially locked in a game of chess with each other.
Honorable mention for all the wrong reasons is Pierre-Michel de Lugo, a man that I had to go back and dig through the Fandom site for. The only name I had previously remembered him as was "douchey, punchable, French guy." You can understand that Google had no results when searching that.
I graded this section a bit heavy due to one major reason: not one single piece of background music was memorable for me. While I'd ordinarily care little about this, background music should help intensify or ease a moment within the context of the scene it occupies. While Youjo Senki certainly doesn't fail in the department of keeping emphasis and intensity in balance, the soundtrack certainly wasn't what provided that.
I have a word, however, for the two tracks that frame the show. The G version is "perfect." The PG-13 version is "bat-shit insane." So, really...when you think about this show, and the PG-13 version, both descriptions mean the same thing, don't they? (Yes.)
The OP is provided by MYTH & ROID, titled Jingo Jungle. The key visuals for the OP fit with the music - again, perfectly. It's one of the most annoyingly catchy OP's I think I've ever heard, and the absolute insanity of the track matches the show that it's introing for to the point. (The music video for the full length of this song is just as weird, paging Pink Floyd!) My first listening of the track I was convinced that none of the lyrics had to make any sense - there's plenty of gibberish (no, really) in the song - but they in fact do make sense in the context of the show. Not sure who came up with the idea to pair the visuals, show, and track together, but they seriously know what they're doing.
The ED, however, is by far one of the best executed ED's I have seen in any anime ever. Aoi Yuuki, the Japanese voice actress who lends her voice to Tanya, provides the vocals for Los! Los! Los! I have often been a fan of going this route for soundtracks in anime, simply because it makes practical sense. If you have an A list actor, chances are they can carry themselves and belt a line or two. Aoi Yuuki is certainly not a stranger to that notion either. It gets even better with the fact that Yuuki carries that same insanity and intensity over from her character into the ED. For all intents and purposes, Tanya is singing the ED. That'd be satisfactory enough. But we'll take that a step further and add a slew of German words in there that are part of the original lyric set, and translate literally to a set of seven commands - again, we're dealing with a German Officer here, put up or shut up, ma'am.
I am sure that if the backgrounds stood out more in the series, this would be one of the finest soundtracks I've ever heard. The key visuals that were used with the OP and ED lead me to believe that such mating to the story itself could have been done, it just simply wasn't. For that, I did have to judge harshly, despite my grand applause to the surrounding material.
|Myth & Roid||Jingo Jungle||8 FEB 2017||Media Factory||ZMCZ-10928|
|Aoi Yuuki||Los! Los! Los!||22 FEB 2017||Media Factory||ZMCZ-10929|
29 May 2020: I went back and completed a rewatch of this series a few nights ago and attempted to pay closer attention to some of the elements that I may not have noticed before. The soundtrack matches the events as they unfold rather perfectly. These types of soundtracks are not necessarily my favorite, but I can't deny when I see or hear something that works so well and is executed in such a way. As a result, I have changed the grade of this element.
Player: Oppo UDP-203
A/V Receiver: Denon AVR-X4200W
Route 1, HT Bypass: Parasound 200 Pre
Route 2, Stereo Amp: Parasound 2150v2; Parasound 2125v2
Route 3, HT Amp: Emotiva UPA-5
Driver Environment: Klipsch Reference II (Generation 1)
Array Arrangement: 3 Main, 2 Object, 4 Surround, 1 LFE (2-way)
Monitor: LG 49UH60 Series
Codec: Linear PCM
Amp Return: (7.0.1)
Amp Override: Auto / Use Source Formatting
Video Output: 1920x1080p
Output Environment: HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2
Sample Rate: 120 Hz (Video), 48 kHz (Audio)
Origin Audio: (7.0.1)
Origin Video: 1920x1080p, 24 bit, 60 Hz
Type: Dual Layer Bluray Disc
Signal paths and routes indicate how audio and video is processed. The graph on the right represents the audio playback versus the native audio format. The closer the output is to the input, the better the playback generally speaking. LP refers to the listening position of the viewer, while red icons indicate active channels. Grayed out icons on the output chart mean that these objects are not used in this system.
The data shown here does not necessarily reflect what everyone will experience, and all data in this section is purely experimental.
Graphically, Youjo Senki maintains an already established legacy of quality that I would expect. The series is dark, and most scenes are also using dark tones. Suffice to say the brightest portion of the series is a post-credit scene in one of the early episodes. Subsequent and previous scenes are generally dark and lack much color. Normally I would count this as a flaw, but as we are depicting events of World War I in some way, this is a welcome cosmetic approach that is true to form for the subject matter. Your reminder that there is a visual masterpiece in front of you comes in three different bouts: CGI, the execution of magic scenes, and scenes where the sky is in focus. Outside of this, there's an eerie atmosphere that I'm sure many who watch war movies and shows would recognize: an atmosphere of hopelessness and death.
The CGI component is relatively subtle. It wasn't something that is glaring at you the whole time like anime in the 2000s. Most of it is kept strictly with closeup shots of moving parts and objects on the battlefield such as tanks and trucks. However, most scenes that depict these mechanized units seem to use simple animation rather than fall back on CGI, which was a welcome change. Speaking of mechanized units, the depiction of "no-mans-land", is perhaps only hindered by how dry the terrain appears. The only real fault I had with the depiction is that it almost seemed a bit too clean, the rest of the description was relatively accurate: filled with dead and beaten bodies, disabled tanks and armor, scorched earth, and dilapidated structures and vegetation.
The biggest CGI component was likely associated with the sequence in which magic is used in the show, particularly the scenes where Tanya activates magic to strike an enemy. Most of this includes a sort-of heads-up-display with no discernable origin (that arguably displays nonsense, but I'll overlook it) and special effects of swirling rainbows and fire prior to firing a projectile from what seems to be a variant of one of the Mondragon Rifle designs - or a bastardized incarnation thereof.
For those of you who need some shade of vividness in order to appreciate graphics, aerial combat scenes will provide this for you in spades. Most combat with the 203D MBn takes place in the air, but rarely does it elevate above the cloud-deck. In the few scenes that it does, it is an absolutely amazing color palette that is used. The same can be said of operations that take place near or over water. One episode that takes place on the northern fringes of the combat zone (I thought it was Finland, but I might be wrong), breaks away from the usual brown, OD green, and gray scape and replaces it with blues and whites. Couple this with the visually spectacular explosive displays, and you have yourself quite an incredible combination of realism, symbolic shades, and vividness that will leave you impressed.
Youjo Senki was the first anime where I utilized a full-outboard amplifier configuration. For that reason, I was able to pretty much let it ride at reference level the whole time (corrected to -10 dB for room size). Audio was advertised as Dolby TrueHD, and that is exactly what I decided to run with, letting the new UDP-203 pass off the signal to the AVR - which then passed it off to both the DAC/2-CH Pre and the surround amplifier.
Unlike so many titles before it, Youjo Senki's audio track was extremely well mastered for 12-episode run. I did toy around with several overrides before deciding that the native format was best. This show will play with both ends of the audio spectrum, and in general, will also give the front soundstage of your binge-watching room a good workout. I'm relatively certain that we didn't approach peaks on the Parasound amps, even during the most intense fighting scenes with Tanya inevitably blowing people up. However, I am also certain there was at least a time or two where the Emotiva amp struggled on the dialogue and action. This was a hardware issue, not a master issue - but it does paint a description of how much depth went into the audio track for the series.
I ran the playback in a typical nine-channel configuration, but Dolby by nature only supports up to seven channels without Atmos support (which I know of no anime which has this support). All seven channels were active in the playback, and audio was discrete between them, it was not simulated. The LFE channel was also well used however, I did have to add a 3-7 dB dampening factor because some of the explosions were just way too oversampled. A lot of noise got injected, seemingly randomly, into several explosive scenes which caused the LFE channel to run into a wall at times. This likely was caused by a limiting factor on the low-end of the audio spectrum. I don't believe at any point frequency response that was audible dipped below about 45 Hz. On a typical person's audio system though, this would be hardly noticeable.
The correct mastering of audio channels, execution of LFE, and the rendering of discrete audio across multiple surround channels leaves me of the opinion this is certainly one of the best audio masters that anime has seen yet outside of the Ghibli collection. If one were to ignore the problems with sub-LFE execution, the master would actually be perfect. As such, I didn't really dock too many points for this reason. If you have a home theater and enjoy anime, you want to watch this series at reference level - it adds a whole additional dimension to an already fantastic display and story.
For those of you who do not have a theater or the latest theater technology, no worries. When I resampled audio into Pro Logic IIx, the signal remained relatively true to form with the only loss coming through on the LFE channels. Downmixing to two channels did not even stop this master from shining through, I think the only people who may be missing out here are the ones who are using soundbars and television speakers at this point.
The acting in the series is heavily contingent on dramatics, theatrics, and range. I don't think I've seen too many series lately that require quite as much range as Youjo Senki does, but that may possibly be due to my limited exposure to anime these days. With that in mind, I realized about half-way through the series that I wasn't listening for actors. That is, I was watching the show and not paying mind to the fact that it was animated, and I found that was largely due to the atmosphere, writing, and the acting itself. There are four actors that I had to go back and examine in order to appreciate the craft they were bringing to the table, and of those four, I only really knew one of them.
The first of these is Monica Rial who took the role of Tanya, and drove her straight into the ground (I mean that in a good way, by the way). Rial has been in the business at least as long as I've been into anime, and for that reason most of my memories of her characters stemmed from the early 2000s (Chrono Crusade, Elfen Lied, and Full Metal Panic!). From my understanding of her typical roles (that includes her role on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, too) Tanya was a massive divergence from the norm. The range that was required for Tanya across the board surely required a massive amount of talent, and while Rial would not have been where my mind would have gone first for the role, I can't say that there was anyone necessarily better for the job. A flawless performance.
The only other name that I recognized was John Michael Tatum who provided the voice for then-COL Erich von Rerugen. Tatum, to me was probably a natural choice for the character given my only other recollection of his work was as Scar in Fullmetal Alchemist. Regardless, Rerugen's constant pleading with the general staff was believable and seemed authentic, thus Tatum's portrayal of Rerugen was effective.
The other two mentions I wanted to provide are actors I haven't heard of, the first of these is Jeannie Tirado who adopted the role of Visha. I've often found myself struggling with how well an argument between two voices works when one of the voices isn't actually present, and the banter between Rial and Tirado was absolutely amazing and well executed. You really don't seem to notice the fact that recordings were separated. Chemistry is something I usually don't see in anime, but that wasn't the case in Youjo Senki between these two characters. There were a few times where I felt that it may have actually been Tirado - not Visha - that was trying to curb Tanya's tirades, and that is absolutely something special when it comes to acting. When you can't tell if it's real or not, you have something incredible happening.
Lastly, while she doesn't have much in the way of a role in the current series (that changes in the movie, I have seen), Tia Ballard requires my mention here for her work as Mary Sioux. For as few lines as she has in the series, Mary is forced to rapidly develop as a character and develop a purpose in the story. That makes things difficult for an actor that's really trying to sell something, but Ballard did so with very few problems. By the final episode, she is effectively selling her insanity just as well as Rial was selling Tanya's, and that is definitely worthy of mention and praise.
Elsewhere, the acting was on point - the only reason I didn't have anyone else to mention here is that no one else stood out especially. That being said, I don't believe I've seen a cast that's been created almost as perfectly as the one Youjo Senki put out. The only character that always threw me a bit of a loop was Grants, and that's simply due to his appearance coupled with how characters that look like him always seem to sound elsewhere. Since that's on the genre, not on the series, I did not dock points.
While I did not watch the full series in German, I did watch a couple of episodes in the German dub, and I kept finding myself having vivid flashbacks to Enemy at the Gates. This, by far, had to be the most angry sounding anime audio track I had ever heard, and it was absolutely glorious. If you have some spare time you definitely should check that out.
(P.S. Visha's German voice actor, Katharina von Daake, is awesome too - honorable honorable mention.)
29 May 2020: On a rewatch of the show, I took interest in a few tidbits that put everything over the top in acting. Once again, I have to give props to Monical Rial and her performance as Tanya and the absolutely incredible range of emotion that is demanded by this character. Particularly, I have to applaud episodes 10 through 12, where it seems as though there's a ripple that's forming in Tanya's personality. Rial presented this in her role as Tanya flawlessly, and I can only ever remember one such character/actor combination to have done something so well previously. This grade has been increased.
While I question the choice of using the M1908 Mondragon Rifle as the weapon of choice for the German depicted force in the series, it is well described. For the most part, the weapons in the series are designed relatively true to form. This includes the French 75 mm field guns, the M1 Garands, and the V-1 Flying Bombs. (Wait, Michael, did you just say "V-1 Flying Bombs?") Yes, visitor, I did. And while the V-1 flying bombs have four more engines than the original flying bombs, and aren't actually bombs (instead they deliver the 203d MBn into enemy territory), they are relatively well designed and true to the Luftwaffe V-1 designs.
Another thing that I loved was that while the series would have you believe there should be an antagonist and protagonist (and, indeed, there are characters that might fit this role), there really isn't any such role that is defined for any of the main characters. There is no hero. There is no anti-hero. There is madness, insanity, and a sense of pointlessness and hopelessness. To that end, it is depicting World War's I and II, two wars that saw a massive loss of life by conflict. To what end? We often ask these questions in history (philosophers do it better), but Youjo Senki actually puts that in a palatable form. The destruction that the series is conveying is not far removed from reality, nor is the insanity that Tanya seems to go through when dealing with her surroundings. Albeit Tanya's struggle and the subject of her struggle are that of an external entity, Soldiers fighting in the trenches were forced to face this very real form of madness. All that Youjo Senki does differently is change the catalyst and focus for that madness. This in of itself is a reason to give this series praise, regardless of what you think of the rest of the content or any agenda you think it may be pushing.
The character of Tanya, apart from being that of a reincarnated businessman, also seems to follow the career and history of GFM Erwin Rommel. Rommel was notorious for his tactics, strategy, and tenacity. He was one of the few general's that the Chancellor With a Terrible Moustache would listen to and respect, albeit Rommel - as presumably would Tanya - had his own ideas of how the war was to end. In the last few episodes, especially the last, Tanya's role within the conflict almost mirrors Rommel's route to precision. The final scenes depict Tanya and the 203d MBn stuck in BFE somewhere in the deserts, presumed to be North Africa. This is identical to the location where Rommel would begin his final stand against the Allies in 1943.
Finally, credits have to be added for acting as well, since the character of Tanya required an extremely diverse range through her ebbs and flows. The character design and growth for Tanya requires moments of calm, moments of insanity, and even moments of what I could only call "cuteness." All of these serve means to an end of an unstable character that has a well produced and well defined purpose, and I find that Monica Rial executed this role flawlessly.
For all of the things that Youjo Senki does well, there are a few things that are relatively annoying or simply confusing. The biggest beef I have comes with, as always, military and historical accuracy. In the case of Youjo Senki, I was much more liberal with forgiveness on historical aspects simply because it is stated right off the bat that this world is not our own. However, therein lies part of the folly. The businessman retains much of the knowledge he had from his previous life (and I'm not going to go into why this is problematic from a faith-culture point-of-view), yet for some reason Tanya is selective in what she chooses to use in application to the world around her. While history certainly wouldn't flow or work the same way in that world, clearly there are enough similarities to force a stalemate on the Western Front after a failed Schlieffen Plan. The depiction of concern over the United States entry into the war was a real one as well, yet for some reason there didn't seem to be anyone running around trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening (see the Zimmermann Note).
The story also seems to play out as if Germany simply wasn't at fault for (either of) the war(s). While it is true, that Germany wasn't the initial instigator for World War I, it is arguable at best as to Germany's fault in the resulting conflict, alternative universe notwithstanding.
Okay, and I'll just say it: why are we using the M1908 again? Why aren't we using the Mauser, and why is the M1 Garand here in 1920-something?! Deep breaths...deep breaths...Oh God! It's the V-1..! Deep. Friggin'. Breaths. Why are you range-firing a trench shotgun?!...Okay, really...I gotta let it go...
The series wraps up with a bit of a cliff hanger and as I'm able to track the two other mediums, I am aware that it continues beyond the (current) series finale. There's at least a movie that is coming down through the pipeline that takes place at least a few years later. That being said, Youjo Senki will seem like an incomplete series or a cliffhanger series depending on how invested you want to be in it. It is a fantastic series that has a lot of unique traits about it. I was pleased with virtually every aspect, and would even go so far as to recommend it to anyone with interest in military media.
That being said, I'd like to remind fans of the series and the creators that Germany was bad. Japan was also bad later (1931). So while I'm conscious of the fact that Tanya and the 203d MBn will be killing communists in the movie, I have to remind her and the rest of her merry band of one thing - something the great LT Aldo Raine once said: "fella's, business is boomin' [...] I want my scalps!" Good luck 203d MBn, you're gonna need it - can't say I'm gonna be rooting for you though.
(P.P.S. I am totally ready to GoFundMe a Monica Rial vs. Brad Pitt street fight anime. *wink wink, nudge nudge* Call me!)
Why are you still reading this?! Go watch this already!