“Trial by Fire”
After the city of Arene is overrun by a civilian militia, Tanya is ordered to drive out any Republic forces in the city, including the civilian rebels if needed. After demanding an evacuation and leading an assault to push the enemy mages back, Tanya authorizes the Empire artillery guns to shell the city and all its remaining inhabitants.
For all the problems Tanya the Evil has with realism in war (what with mages flying around shooting artillery spells), the series has done a fair job of exploring some of the more social and psychological realities that 20th century warfare introduced. With this week’s episode focused on the Empire’s retaking of Arene, the topics fighting in city and the moral grey area of defining enemy combatants take focus.
Anyone with a vague idea of military history understands that WWI was a turning point in the way wars are fought. Artillery improvements, machine guns, and the growing practice of civilian conscription led to a change in war’s capacity to destroy human life as well as any romantic notion that had been ascribed to fighting itself. Conscious of the fact that mages and artillery in this anime can unleash widespread destruction, the nations appear to abide by a written code of conduct with regards to engaging the enemy. Even this, however, is a flimsy protection for civilians as Tanya herself writes a paper on how the rules of engagement can be interpreted in order to allow an attack on an occupied city.
Though Tanya seems to delight in carrying out her operation against Arene, the people of the city are not blameless in what happens. An armed rebellion against the Imperial occupiers is met in kind, as Tanya declares anyone remaining in the city after the evacuation order to be part of the Republican army. To the horror of the citizens and the Republic mages that use the city for cover, Tanya makes good on her words.
As powerless as the people are against the ensuing shelling, it’s hard to watch what takes place. The sight of men, women, and children alike being punished for the rebellion’s defiance makes even the Empire mages begin to question the necessity of the carnage. As 2nd Lt. Grantz finds out in a harrowing experience, Tanya expects that orders are followed to the letter with no consideration for personal feelings or reservations. With so many examples already of Tanya’s ruthless cruelty, forcing Grantz to fire on the escaping civilians still feels like a gut punch to viewers who are wondering what the series is trying to accomplish.
A hint towards the series’ direction appears in the after credits scene where we see Anson Sioux alive in a hospital bed. His cryptic message about an angel telling him to “destroy that devil” sounds like it could be Being X, and if he’s powering up other people to create problems for Tanya then the show will finally be moving toward something resembling a conflict. While the Winter season doesn’t have many episodes left to develop this, the change in the ED makes me think that Tanya the Evil plans to continue into Spring or will have a second season.
– Some pretty good battle scenes, despite the heavy use of 3d modelling.
– A not insignificant look at the uglier side of war and how it affects the characters
– While Los! Los! Los! isn’t an incredible song, I miss it after seeing this more mellow ED.
Is anyone else growing tired of the lack of opposition Tanya is facing? Each episode is starting to become watching how bright Tanya shines, with or without her battalion’s efforts. With Tanya growing more malicious by the week, Viktoriya was primed to become the perfect foil for her. Unfortunately her character became far too under-utilized (like all other characters not named “Tanya.”) With that said, supporting characters are starting to see a bit more inclusion as of late.
What is interesting to note is how the series depicts Tanya’s subordinates’ struggle to deal with her overbearing demands and the pressures of war. For example, Grantz is clearly attempting to overcome the appalling deeds he is forced to commit. Despite his moral objection, Grantz is far too indoctrinated by combat to resist; not that he didn’t try. He is representative of a soldier who is witnessing the true horrors of combat, after buying into the idea of battle being a heroic, proud effort.
The most surprising reveal this week came after the credits ended – Anson Sioux is alive! With him being the closest thing to a series antagonist, that isn’t a mysterious entity that randomly pops up, this is a smart decision on the writer’s part. With that said, they may actually be one in the same now; or at the very least a tool in Being X’s plot. After learning he has been recovering for a few months after, viewers can’t help but notice the sparkling glint in his eye.
– Though only briefly introduced to Anson, I was surprisingly pleased to see he survived (though it remains to be seen if it’s truly him).
– The horrors of war are being fully represented now.
– Same complaints regarding story cohesion, execution, and overall goal of series.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party