Youjo Senki is a twelve episode anime from earlier this year. It was brought to us by NUT. So far, this series and its recap episode are NUT’s only aired productions. It’s based off of an ongoing light novel by Zen Carlo. So, we have an anime from a new studio based on a light novel I’ve never heard of with an author I know nothing about. How exciting for us.
The series opens with Tanya, our protagonist, leading a squadron of mages in the Rhine in some bloody skirmishes. We then go back and see that our narrative opens properly with a salary man firing someone for incompetence. It’s clear from the narration that he has no sense of empathy and he’s just coldly doing his work. Just when you’re wondering how this remotely connects to the stuff from earlier, he’s pushed in front of a train. Time stops and he starts talking with Being X, a powerful creature who claims to be god and in charge of the cycle of reincarnation. X sends our protagonist to another world, saying that he will make him acknowledge him as god by making his situation desperate. Our protagonist becomes Tanya, with his personality and memories intact. Tanya’s magical potential is quickly discovered and she joins the military. At least this series gives her an early childhood to get used to a drastic change in gender and uses reincarnation as the tool for it instead of having her be changed by aliens and instantly okay with it for no adequately explored reason, looking at you, Kashimashi.
Of course, this series does have some issues. Being X’s interest in this one person doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yeah, they won’t acknowledge you as being god. Why not find some people who will instead of wasting a bunch of time on this one person? Is it because you consider it a challenge? Also, if you wanted to make things desperate for her then why did you give her a massive amount of magical power? Is Being X a part of the Q continuum playing a game with a different member of the continuum where they each take turns using their powers to do different things to this poor girl to see how she’ll respond? One reincarnates her as a little girl in another world, the next comes in and gives her a lot of magic to undermine the first and so on. Maybe it’s explained in the light novels that go beyond the anime, but it seems kind of flimsy here. The narrative itself also follows a rather predictable path. Once they introduce a situation, it’s pretty obvious where they’re going to go with it. There’s never a point where they subvert your expectations and do the unexpected. Except in terms of the military allowing a little girl to join. That’s pretty bizarre.
That being said, it is still kind of compelling to watch. This series borrows a lot from all of those JRPGs where your party has to fight against the arrogant god-figure who sadistically toys with ordinary mortals. Which I’m okay with because I like a lot of those games; FF Tactics, Breath of Fire, Xenogears, FF Legend, Shin Megami Tensei. Etc… So, it’s kind of interesting to see a lot of their basic tropes converted to a different medium. The series is good at setting up parallels between this world of magic and our world and of having Tanya use our strategic history to her advantage. And the strategies she suggests are kind of clever. They aren’t basic nonsense that any grade schooler knows like disguising yourselves as the other guys nor do they only work because the enemies act like morons. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu should take notes.
This is one of those series that tries to make its characters both pretty unsympathetic & complex. Like Dune or Watchmen before it. Does it succeed? Kind of. Tanya is a character who’s motivated entirely by self interest. If she does something for one of the troops under her command, it’s probably so that she looks good. It’s established right from the beginning that she doesn’t much care for them or their lives and she will send them to their deaths without any real concern.
The main thing that makes her kind of interesting is her feud with Being X. You would think she’d be willing to acknowledge him as “god” just to make things easier for herself, given her general outlook. But she steadfastly refuses and defies him at every turn. We see her stubbornness come into play a few other times too but never to the same extent. Being X is pretty much the standard god-figure from those aforementioned games. An arrogant prick who toys with mortals and demands praises. The various supporting characters vary. A lot of them don’t have much in terms of personality. Some of them are about as developed as you could reasonably manage for a side character in a twelve episode series.
The art style in this is kind of interesting. The facial designs are really expressive. I particularly like the way they do Tanya’s smirk. The series is also good about creating an otherworldly atmosphere when Being X shows up. The only real issue I have is that there are times when the characters look like they’re superimposed over the backgrounds instead of blending in. It’s an effect rather like looking at a part of a film where it’s really bloody obvious the actors are in front of a green screen.
They got some pretty good actors. Yuuki Aoi takes on the role of our heroine. Hayami Saori voices our most important secondary character and the Being X vocal effect is pretty grandiose. I have more mixed feelings towards the music. The incidental music tends to be decent enough but I kind of really dislike the theme tunes. Most of them have that heavily synthesised quality you tend to get when someone can’t sing and is relying on auto-tune to make it sound like they can.
There isn’t really any romance in this series, ho-yay or otherwise.
Youjo Senki is one of those series that’s interesting enough for me to want to see a follow up but not strong enough for me to call it good. It’s all right and if NUT does a follow up I’ll definitely review that when it’s finished but, for the moment, there are too many unaddressed questions. Especially Being X’s motivations behind this level of interest in one person. It’s also a tad too predictable. It’s a decent start, but it needs to do some more work on developing its ideas. My final rating is going to sit at a respectable 6/10. Next week we’ll look at Arion. I don’t think the film is actually about the immortal horse, but we’ll see.