Tag Archives: flying

Saga of Tanya the Evil (Anime)

Title: Saga of Tanya the Evil

Episodes: 1-12

In an alternate world in the middle of its own WWI, a young girl named Tanya is a formidable member of the military. With a harsh standard and a reputation for success in the worst circumstances, she eventually gains the nickname “Devil of the Rhine.” But Tanya is actually the reincarnation of a sociopathic businessman, and her current life is the result of an unintentional wager with a supernatural entity she calls Being X.

There’s a lot about this show that initially put me off. I mean, what kind of military allows a 9-year-old to enroll, even if it is for a magic division? I’m amazed Tanya managed to pass the physical (even mages have equipment to haul around, so presumably there are SOME standards). It feels like pandering. Thankfully the plot never sexualizes Tanya, focusing instead on the disparity between her age and looks, and her sociopathic personality.

I also wasn’t sure what to make of the religious angle to the conflict, although after watching the show I agree with Tanya that whatever she’s arguing with isn’t God, despite the trappings. The whole show is basically a narcissist versus a sociopath—Tanya’s whole life happened because the man he used to be told Being X only poor people in hard life circumstances had faith in God. So he got a one-way ticket to exactly that life. The interesting thing is that Tanya is, in some sense, refusing to budge from her position no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary—but on the other hand, the God Being X is pretending to be is also supposed to be a supporter of free will, which Being X is definitely not.

Visually, it’s a fun series. I really like flying scenes, and it’s also fun seeing the various adapters each country uses to fly. (Full disclosure: flying scenes are why I picked this up at all.) Tanya’s country uses a boot-like apparatus tied to something like a battery pack. Others use pseudo-horses, skiis, etc. It’s interesting to see how this affects their aerial mobility and tactics.

I’m not a history buff so I can’t say how closely this hews to actual events. Tanya is on the basically-Germans side, and it’s pretty easy to identify all the major players because the names weren’t changed all that much.

There were some weird visual bugs in the first episode especially, mostly around Viktoriya’s face, but after that the art stays pretty good. The air battles are the best part, but the series offers a lot of variety in the kinds of missions Tanya and her company are assigned. (The mad scientist whose research she’s validating makes this all the more hazardous.)

Tanya’s personality was another interesting facet. She knows what the rules are and in most cases abides by them scrupulously, but she also knows how to twist the rules around to get what she wants (or say what she wants). So on the one hand, she’s an ideal soldier—and she’s also someone pretty much nobody wants to work with or under. She’s incredibly hard on her troops, but most of the situations she’s exposing them to are a good mirror of what they will run into in the future.

Other than Tanya, though, I found most of the characters forgettable. The most distinct secondary character is an officer who distrusts her and is looking for reasons to discredit her. Some of the members of the opposing armies get more personal detail than any of Tanya’s subordinates or superiors.

Overall if anything about the premise sounds interesting, give it two episodes, as the second episode provides most of the setup that contextualizes the first. The first episode is a misdirection in several parts. I rate this series Recommended.

Advertisements

Awakening (Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon #1)

Title: Awakening

Author:  C. G. Cooper

Series: Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon #1

Benjamin Dragon has a lot going on in his life. He’s been moved up two grades, which makes him the youngest, smallest person in his classes, his family moves all the time, so he has a hard time making friends, and now weird things are happening around him. He doesn’t know why or how they’re happening. But it’s going to change everything . . .

This is aimed a bit younger than I usually read, but it’s still a solid book. I liked how Benjamin has a hard time figuring out people, so he uses his powers of observation to try to get a handle on their body language instead. I liked his quiet suspicion of things that seem too good to be true, and how he doesn’t just go along with everything. He knows when something’s up, even if he hasn’t quite figured out what it is or how he wants to respond to it.

I’m less fond of the way the power is split up. Three areas, and one of those is “everything else”? That just feels way too sloppy. And of course the “everything else” bucket has a name like destructors—and here I was expecting it to be a disintegrating-matter type of ability, but in reality it’s more just telekinesis. (For a good example of psychic powers split into 3 major buckets with various wrinkles depending on how you use them, see the manga series Psyren.)

Also the power is basically “free” as far as I can tell. (At least in Psyren there’s a non-trivial risk of turning yourself into a vegetable or killing yourself if you overuse your abilities.) Benjamin struggles to use his power partially because he can’t tell any difference when he IS using it. There’s no upper bound visible to what he can do other than possibly keeping track of everything. This makes the final battle almost anticlimactic, as I can’t really see much risk in the actual power display, and the social pressures feel more daunting.

Despite that, I did enjoy the book, and am interested in reading farther. I rate this book Recommended.

The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura #5)

Title: The Harbors of the Sun

Author: Martha Wells

Series: Raksura #5

The Raksura are furious. And afraid. Jade, Moon, and a handful of others left the Reaches to prevent the frightening dreams and visions no one could understand—and instead may have caused them. Now on the trail of the Hians who betrayed them all, they can only struggle to recapture what was lost, and hope they aren’t too late.

This finishes out the duology that started in The Edge of Worlds, though it has some interesting ties back to the earlier Raksura books as well.

Like the other Raksura books, this one features a plethora of strange cities and alien races. I like the hints of earlier eras mingled with later, like ruins other races repurposed for their own ends. And the glimpses blend very naturally into the story. Moon is on a journey, but the story has additional threads with Jade, with Bramble and Merit, and with the court of Indigo Cloud they all left behind.

I like the characters a lot, too. It’s so amusing to see Pearl and Malachite finally meet: two feared/respected reigning queens with very strong opinions who aren’t used to anyone telling them no. It’s interesting to see how Stone and Moon, despite both being well-traveled, are so different in their approach to other cultures. And of course the half-Fell queen that nobody has any idea how to handle.

I also appreciated not only Jade’s choice near the end, but how efficiently she makes it. She knows exactly what’s at stake and acts first, knowing she’ll have a chance to think about the consequences later.

Although the end neatly closes out the duology, this is a rich world that would easily support more stories. I’ve always enjoyed my time in this world and this book continues that. I rate this book Recommended.

The Boy Who Knew Everything (Piper McCloud #2)

Title: The Boy Who Knew Everything

Author: Victoria Forester

Series: Piper McCloud #2

Conrad and Piper have escaped the school that held them prisoner and tried to force them to be normal. But life in the outside world can’t exactly go back to the way it used to be. Conrad has no family anymore—or none he can trust. So Piper offers hers, and for a little while, the two of them start building a home where they can use their extraordinary gifts. But an ugly mystery has been lurking, and Conrad and Piper have been destined to confront it . . .

I really enjoyed The Girl Who Could Fly, and it’s taken me far too long to actually sit down and read this. It’s equal parts hilarity and heartbreak. Conrad is far too smart to live a dull and ordinary life, but he’s also susceptible to the usual human ailments of loneliness and a hunger for love. Piper has plenty of heart, which makes her a perfect partner, but Conrad gets most of the narrative here.

And it’s so quotable. I have to skip the quotes that spoil too much, but I LOVED these:

Conrad stiffened and made no move to come closer. “Uh, Dad, you just tried to kill me, so I’m not really feeling this whole father-son thing at the moment.”

Another favorite:

“It takes talent to lose the President of the United States. Sorry, dude, can’t help you with that one.”

Conrad might be much better at head knowledge, but I love how he’s able to cut right through certain attempts at emotional manipulation and put the situation in plain language. He knows what has to be done, once he understands the situation. And in the end, he has a lot more courage than anyone except perhaps Piper expects of him.

The end leaves enough open that there’s a potential for another book, but it also wraps things up well enough that if it ended here I wouldn’t feel too sorry. (I suspect Conrad, though, is the only person capable of figuring out a way around the villain in question, and it would be interesting to see him succeed and actually kill that person.)

Overall this was a lot of fun. I’d recommend reading The Girl Who Could Fly first to get a proper background to some of the characters and the general situation, and then dive into this. I rate this book Highly Recommended.