Starring: Tesshô Genda, Daiki Hamano, Takaya Hashi, Saori Hayami, Daichi Hayashi
Written by: Kenta Ihara
Directed by: Yutaka Uemura
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
The Saga of Tanya the Evil The Movie, like it’s anti-hero, is an odd beast.
It’s an in-media-res adaptation of a story you can still thankfully absorb through instant deep association, even if on the surface what’s occurring seems completely insane. Within a couple of minutes there is an aerial bombardment between fictional versions of European armies…only these armies are hovering without the need for airplanes and they call upon spells for their assault. Also their leader is a teenaged girl with a wicked smirk.
Some may be quick to claim this is typical for ‘anime’ but that term only ever truly meant ‘animation done in Japan’. Tanya is simultaneously hardly typical of anything but deeply owes itself to numerous creations that came before.
The concept of a person from contemporary times being transposed to an alternate universe is hardly new and neither is the real world warfare aesthetic with fantastic additions on display. Even the conjunction of these notions has seen previous examples in anime especially. Tanya distinguishes itself with an evocative discordant blend of highly stylized and almost cartoonish characters adrift in a grim-dark universe of grimy metal war machines and meticulously detailed realistic scenery. Maybe I’m used to juxtaposition at this point but there’s no meta-cognitive dissonance between the big eyed cast and the somber textured backdrops. It does however go a long way to suggest the humanity of the soldiers involved even when the scope of combat, especially with magic involved, is staggeringly large. Since one of the prevalent themes is the folly of warfare having some connection to the bodies being thrown into the air by first witnessing their frightened expressions hammers home the cost of carnage.
At times (and this is not an issue specific to Tanya) the horrors of war theme can often be a bit difficult to reconcile with the sporadically disturbing level of embellishment to the action sequences. Of course entertainment is supposed to entertain and Tanya has plenty of surprisingly silly moments and intense dogfights to satisfy, it’s just a little odd to be smiling one minute and horrified the next. There’s also a baffling delineation of blood, almost as if a ratings issue was involved. Characters freely ooze from gashes, but a lot of slain enemies just seem to disintegrate into puffs of smoke. Also there is a LOT of swearing in this show, and specifically from the lead who seems intentionally written to be by far the most vocally profane.
Then there’s a nitpick issue, but one that kept me scratching. If this universe includes magic, why is the rest of technology so limited and specific to World War Two? If a single person can fly and use devastating magic the use of a spitfire seems a little redundant. Still, it does fit with the whole pseudo-classical presentation.
I guess that’s a testament to the power of animation, that violence and innocence can coexist in a nearly unique fashion.
Style and substance is pretty even here. Every time the story begins to drag or threatens to descend into melodrama you can’t help but appreciate the skillful artistry, thrill to the booming sound effects and epic score. There’s a lot of striking visuals, pitched duels, intrigue and battlefield maneuvering. Ultimately there’s not a lot of traditional heroes or villains to cheer on here. Everyone is so enveloped in conflict, their motives are pushed aside and their emotions are detrimental to their singular purpose of killing. Not a lot of compassion or virtue, which is probably the thematic point.
If you enjoy creative alternate universes, crazed and armed and shouting children, family drama, brutal technical warfare, and oh so swanky uniforms Tanya the Evil is probably the only place to find all these things in one package. And that’s just the film!
Who knows what the pint-sized strategist gets up to in the series?
Tickets for “Saga of Tanya the Evil – the Movie -” can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com, or at participating theater box offices.
Anti-Hero: an original motion comic series with professional voice actors! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmmouuBlWTk