I’m not saying that I watched this solely because of the studio name, but leave it up to something called NUT to bust out a light novel adaptation about a little girl being evil-ish in Alternate Reality Imperial Germany. Also leave it up to NUT to make The Saga of Tanya the Evil unpleasant in nearly every way possible. Also leave it up to NUT to make me get back into blogging because writing “NUT” makes me disproportionately happy.
So right, Tanya the Competent Middle Manager follows the eponymous lead serving as an officer in Fantasy World War I. And you know it’s fantasy not because of magic, but because Alternate Reality Romania is considered one of the great powers of Europe. And, since light novel readers are apparently unable to relate to a situation where the lead character isn’t a familiar Japanese archetype, Tanya’s actually a salaryman transplanted in the body of a little girl by God. Granted, I don’t think Tanya herself is supposed to be relatable, hence the title, but it’s a weirdly specific hoop to jump through for what’s basically a show about a girl being vaguely unpleasant in the early Fantasy 20th Century.
Despite its title, there’s very little of Tanya actually being evil on display, nor much of an indicator that she’s going to do something actively malevolent. She does indirectly lead to the deaths of two troublesome subordinates via unrelated artillery strike, but it has so little to do with her that it doesn’t really count. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I’d prefer if Tanya was actually evil, and not just a constantly irritable middle manager. An argument could be made for the excessive way that she kills the Fantasy French being evil, but nobody would bat an eye at it if she were somebody the audience is supposed to actively root for. The show could do so much more with her and actually have fun, but I don’t see any indication of it doing so.
However, I do appreciate that Tanya the Tetchy tars both sides in Fantasy World War I with the same brush. It’s a surprisingly pleasant nod to the real Great War, where soldiers and nations were motivated less by ideology and more by the primal urge to dick measure—and eventually by desperation. Both sides have thus far been shown to be mostly made up of scared, weary people who don’t necessarily deserve to be cratered by our not quite maleficent lead. In something that drops the ball in most other respects, it’s an effective start for making Tanya earn her descriptor. Though granted, it’s less the show clearing a hurdle and more it not tripping over its own feet on the way to the first hurdle.
To say that The Saga of Tanya the Evil doesn’t leave a good first impression doesn’t do its inability to whelm any sort of justice. It’s neither horrendously bad, or pleasantly good. It just kind of exists in a state of NUTingness.