Youjo Senki is an anime that, at first glance, seems incredibly at odds with itself when you consider the contradiction between its setting and main character. But while the show’s plot is ridiculous on the surface, this series still manages to work surprisingly well when translated to the medium of anime. Having a cute, little girl tasked with the killing of soldiers in a pseudo-World War I Europe is a dichotomy that is strangely fascinating to watch, and more than a little addicting once you give it a try.
Take a look below the break to see the rest of my write up on this wonderfully sadistic show.
It’s easy to say that the taboo of the main character’s age is the biggest reason one gets enjoyment out of this type of show, but even beyond that is the fantasy of following a character like this because it’s what we like to think we would do in this salaryman’s reincarnation situation.
To start off, while Tanya may seem like a child, the truth is, she’s a reincarnation of an adult male from our earth. Formerly a salaryman who was pushed in front of a train by a disgruntled ex-employee, Tanya was forced into a little girl’s body in the worst period of time in human history by Being X, a self-proclaimed god. In this world, magic is real and has changed the very nature of warfare, leading to an alternate history where Tanya fights in the not-German army.
Now, like I said, taboo may be what draws you to this anime at first, since having a little girl slaughtering grown men with a sinister expression on her face is something you don’t see every day. Children and war are two things that media in general tend to try and avoid putting together. However, innocence being corrupted or destroyed is a story thread knitted into quite a few tales over the ages, like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel, and in a similar vein to gallows’ humor, there is a morbid fascination involved in watching that corruption happen.
When imagining the horrors of war, one tends to think of brave, adult soldiers giving their lives in defense of their country, but these repercussions often affect the lives of children most of all. This can be taken even further with fact that the younger generation is sent to die for the older politicians and generals, who use the excuse of experience as a way to avoid the frontlines.
In Tanya’s case, the conflict of an older person’s experience and the body of a little girl is perhaps one of the more intriguing part of the anime, because while she wants to rely on that same experience and wisdom of older age to avoid the frontlines, her young nature is what puts her there in the first place. Still, that idea of a little girl in a warzone is now more okay, since she has the mind of an adult in her body and that innocence I mentioned earlier isn’t present. You start looking at her personality rather than what she looks like, a similar observation the characters she interacts with eventually come to.
While played for laughs now and again, Tanya’s stature and age is a plot point to the characters in the show several times. There are moments of startling sanity in this insane world and circumstance, where the anime takes the time to address the fact that Tanya is a little girl in body if not in mind. Eventually, each character that comes into contact with Tanya starts to forget or ignore her diminutive nature in favor of seeing the calculating personality and effective forms of leadership that lie beneath the surface. In this sense of maturity comes another fascinating aspect of this show: that of a man being put in the untenable position of a small, defenseless orphan in the middle of a warring state.
Now, Tanya doesn’t have what some would consider a common thought process. Her psyche is well protected both from a lifetime of seeing her former world as an adult along with the deeply dispassionate world view that the salaryman mind inside her came to develop—logic above all else. At first, Tanya simply lives in an orphanage, thinking and waiting to grow up, but at the first chance she gets, she gets out and joins the military based on the huge magic potential inside her.
Having the salaryman simply be a child living in this war torn world wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if she didn’t decide to take control of her destiny to spite Being X, a fact which she attempts nearly every episode in order to maintain her distaste and lack of faith in an entity she finds reprehensible in her logical state of mind.
In this aspect, too, comes the feature that would draw many people in the anime community to this show: atheistic tendencies and the opportunity to live out what it would be like to spit in the face of God, at least metaphorically. Tanya chooses to live in a way that Being X doesn’t like and runs counter to the point of her being reincarnated in this world in the first place: not believing or asking for help from a seemingly uncaring, omnipotent entity. This point of contention is constantly challenged by Being X as it plots to bring Tanya closer to despair and an eventual acceptance of this Being on faith.
To make it even harder on Tanya, Being X forces her to recite prayer when using her amulet-boosted powers. Even with this handicapping her, Tanya still refuses to accept Being X as a concept, and this staunch rejection in the face of constantly increasing odds is an aspect certain to garner the attention of those who share a similar opinion.
But to bring it back to the strange blend of cute and killing, we can look at the crazy expressions Tanya gives throughout the series as a lens through which to understand why the show can be so strangely fascinating. The stark difference between the cuteness and craziness is a fine line that many people wish to dance across, and one that shares many traits with that of the yandere stereotype that so many people claim as their waifu trait of choice.
While Tanya is not herself a yandere, as she’s given no inclination of love of anyone beside her own continued existence, the crazy traits she embodies do serve to heighten the attractiveness of her character to a certain set of people. Once again, taboo is somewhat brought into this, as the saying that you shouldn’t stick your dick in crazy is something so many people do just for the satisfaction of their curiosity.
So why does it work here and continue to work, then? Most relationships with crazy are often broken off in a short period of time. The most readily accessible reason for the continued interest is because there is a definitive method to Tanya’s madness that she displays in episode one, thanks to the reincarnation reveal at the start of the second episode. It’s not only this reveal which increases the curiosity and keeps you coming back, but the fact that while she seems outwardly sadistic, she actually has a deeper character and resolution that we find admirable, or at least cheer her on for.
Her battle fervor is also an attractive trait simply because aggressive action, especially in a female, is incredibly alluring for an audience that for the most part has a reputation of being solitary or sedentary in their love life. Having this little loli assert herself on and off the battlefield will ignite something in people, and the fact that she’s a man in a little girl’s body will only increase the number of people that like her as they rationalize away their attraction to her with that fact.
Whether or not it’s wrong to find a child appealing, the fact remains that Tanya has excessively cute features that human beings find attractive, a point that’s been made several times in reference as to why we often find cartoon characters tempting even when we shouldn’t: big eyes and big lips. I won’t get into the full brunt of the psychology here, but the way we’re wired is to find such things attractive, or at least something we want to protect, which also feeds into a possible reason that Youjo Senki works despite its rather insane setting.
Adding onto the attraction is the desire to protect a cute and innocent facade that belies the sadistic and supremely logical view of the world underneath. Whether its because you’re attracted to her features or you just want to protect that innocent life you see, watching Tanya grow and move through her life as the show continues on is something genuinely fun to watch.
As with any protagonist in a story, we want to cheer Tanya on, because she’s the character we start out with and continue to follow. And while protagonists are oftentimes good guys, this isn’t a hard and fast rule; anti-heroes like the Punisher from Marvel comics or Slane from Aldnoah.Zero are protagonists as much as Superman or Ed and Al from Full Metal Alchemist. In fact, even villains can be sympathized with, whether they’re the main focus of the plot or just given small chapters devoted to their point of view.
Now, so far we’ve discussed why Youjo Senki’s strange dichotomy works so well, but I do want to address ways in which it might not. As previously said, Tanya has little difficulty finding her way in the world and while she does face some hardships early on, she always gets the upper hand in the end. Now whether or not that will continue as the story goes on is something I’m not sure of since I haven’t read the source material and I was watching week to week, but if you find yourself unenthused about a protagonist cutting their way almost effortlessly through enemies, this anime might not be for you and no matter how cute or crazy Tanya is, it won’t save the anime.
In fact, even the ease at which Tanya goes through her tribulations might not be the worst part of the show to you, because having a loli for a main character may be a deal breaker no matter how it’s rationalized, and that’s totally fine. It takes a certain level of suspension of disbelief to even take in anime, and taking another step on top of that by believing all that Tanya does in the show can be hard to swallow for those already with predilections against these types of situations.
Some of you may even find it sickening to see a little girl so joyfully killing other people, and that’s also entirely normal. Not everyone has the same moral compass and while morbid curiosity isn’t a bad thing in my opinion, I can see and understand why some might find the entire anime distasteful, especially given the setting the anime takes place in.
Tanya is working for alternate Germany to take over alternate Europe, and this may be a sticking point for a lot of people simply because glorifying the very real World Wars that cost so many lives might be too much for some to take. Just by showcasing this little girl killing Swedes, French, and English would seem to some an acknowledgement that such practices are okay, and while I disagree with such assumptions, not everyone has the capacity to distinguish between entertainment or jokes and the reality we all face.
But enough about realism, you’re here for why a loli going on a killing spree makes for fascinating entertainment. Whether it’s the taboo nature of this show driving you to watch week to week, some kind of attraction or wish to protect Tanya, or just the power fantasy that this show obviously is, having a main character be cute can make or break this anime. Whatever side you fall on, this anime is one that stimulates discussion, and I hope you enjoyed this small look into what I think makes this strange dichotomy of cute violence a successful, or at least interesting, anime to watch.
If you want to discuss this anime or tell me how amazing my analysis is, leave a comment down below and I’ll try to answer you. And remember, enjoy the way you watch anime, because as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters.
See you next time.
Video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOl92KORApo