Merry Days of Anime: Youjo Senki

youjo senki cover

In hindsight, I probably should have made a commencement post for this “Merry Days of Anime” block, as I tend to do for other events of the like. Ah well, you all read the “I’m Gonna Watch Tons of Anime in December” post, right? Cool. Let’s get rolling.

There’s a certain smugness to Youjo Senki that, for some time, turned me off from watching it. Generally positive press and dark themes aside, the polarization of its main character was enough for me to go, “Eh, maybe later.” Going through things to watch to start this block, I ran into this among the options, bringing back memories of when it first released. Back then, I was fairly different in my approach to what I watched; more strict and judgmental. Now, it seemed like an intriguing viewing, and I could quell the preconceived notions I had from when it first released. A perfect experiment to kick things off.

After the first episode, I wanted the experiment to end.

youjo senki 2

One of the major complaints I had heard constantly of Youjo Senki when it had finished airing was with Tanya herself, the main character. In a phrase, she’s “OP.” The plot armor is thick and her capabilities far exceed what a critical person is willing to tolerate. Her role in the scope of the plot is akin to an Isekai hero appearing in a world completely suited to their pragmatically-useless skills. I half-expected this going into it, but yeesh, they really, really lay it on heavy, to the point where almost everything she predicts in a reality as unpredictable as war actually turns out right. This… can be hard to take too seriously.

So, I could put some spoiler warning here, but I won’t go too much into specifics. Instead, I want to make apparent what exactly what one can expect going into this: escapism. Now, I’ve discussed the role of escapism before here, so one could predict how I’d react to it. Youjo Senki is based in a reality where a really sadistic, but capable dude is killed and reincarnated as a young girl in an alternate reality. Most of the series deals with her (him?) trying to cope with the situation (which she does rather quickly) and face off against the entire world as she… uh, well, it kind of changes over time. More on that later. Brutal, deadly, malicious; Tanya plays host to every person’s fantasy of a loli (physically she’s 9-10) dominatrix, without the sexual overtones.

youjo senki 3

To put a more personal (and vague) spin on it, my experience with it went as follows:

  • Episode 1: Wow, that was really confusing and boring. What the hell is going on? Who are all of these people? Why do I care? I’m probably going to drop this.
  • Episodes 2-4: Okay, so they explained things admirably and I’m starting to understand their reasoning for the first episode, but a lot of the content feels inconsequential and borderline silly with its fantastical elements. And Tanya is OP, very OP. Still probably going to drop this.
  • Episodes 5-6: Oh, okay, things are starting to go somewhere in a character-driven fashion. I prefer it this way, and now I’m more invested. Neat! I guess I won’t drop it after all.
  • Episodes 7-10: Y’know, I wanted to drop this at one point, but now I find myself enjoying it quite a bit. It’s not great, though it employs a lot of admittedly enjoyable character dialogue and Tanya’s starting to become less of a selfless monster and more of a moody leader. I can dig this.
  • Episode 11: That… was rather anticlimactic.
  • Episode 12: Sets up for a sequel, spews a shit-ton of pseudo-philosophical garbage, and the self-indulgence factor is at levels obscene for mankind. Horrible ending and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Really, really unfortunate.

youjo senki 1

Your enjoyment of this series really hinges upon whether you’re able to accept a despicable person as a main character and the Isekai-esque elements at play. There’s very little attention given to anyone on a personal level other than Tanya, and when it does, it’s pretty half-baked. I can barely remember the names of any of the characters, even within Tanya’s own unit. Much of it feels as though they were an afterthought in relation to the plot, which feels a little too simple for wartime strategics, especially considering how OP Tanya is. She can unleash ultra-powerful attacks on a whim that makes her a secret weapon that has an advantage in all battles. Easy for strategies to work when you bring a death machine.

Even when it focuses on Tanya, her motivations are clear… initially. She wants to survive, against the insurmountable odds stacked against her. She wants to cozy herself into an easy position in the army and live in relative peace, but her battle prowess keeps sending her into more danger from higher command. Later on, her motivations change slightly from an empathetic viewpoint, but is never really explored. By the end, she’s just regarded as a monster again without any sort of foundation, like everything beforehand was for nothing. This could be true, but again, it never expressed any of this in a meaningful way. It almost feels like a cover, as without a monster as the show’s appeal, no one would care anymore. I don’t know, it’s a mess.

youjo senki 4

This write-up sounds very negative, though it’s hard not to sound negative when I found it more disappointing than anything. I actually liked this enough to keep going by the halfway point, only to have the final two episodes quickly squander a lot of what had been building in the foreground. Even with the expressive negativity, I think Youjo Senki is more good than bad. The middle stretch between episodes five and ten are enough to reward this a 6/10 at the least, flaws aside. Tanya as a ruthless army general training a bunch of naive, though capable soldiers ended up being fairly entertaining, and seeing her goal constantly being challenged grips the viewer enough just to see what she does to retort.

It’s recommendable more for people who are more for spectacle than substantive introspection. There’s a decent amount of social commentary present in the narrative, though I find it to be more fluff than anything. The kind of thing people incorporate in an attempt to provide reason to illogical events, when I feel it’s more to save face for incompetent writing. Excuse me, I’m drifting back into the negative. It’s enjoyable for what it is, and there’s some fun instances that save it from being a generally mediocre experience. It just couldn’t keep it up until the end, which will inevitably be what sticks in my mind looking back on it. Ah well.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of anime reviews!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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