Book Review: The Saga of Tanya the Evil Volume 1

The Saga of Tanya the Evil Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, and are enjoying the holidays, in addition to looking forward to the beginning of the new year.

Things have been going fairly well here, with a few annoyances, as I can still do things that I can enjoy.

After covering the last of the books I was expecting for the month and deciding to drop a show I had followed since October, I thought that nothing more would come, but Barnes & Noble decided to ship another title earlier than expected and that title arrived recently.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called The Saga of Tanya the Evil Volume 1 by Carlo Zen.

In modern times, a business exec in the HR department is enjoying life, and making sure that the companies resources are used effectively, believing that he would live a long and fulfilled life, but that all comes to an end when he suddenly dies and confronts a being that calls itself God, whom he criticizes for creating a lousy world, and gets reborn into a new world.

However, unsatisfied with his new peaceful life in the body of a little girl, called Tanya Degurechaff, he joins the military, in order to take down the so-called God and relax in a position of power.

When I first heard about this series, the anime adaptation had concluded its run and FUNimation was streaming all of the episodes, and because I had enjoyed that anime thoroughly, I thought I would check out the original source.

After taking the time to read this book, I have to say that I was extremely unimpressed.

Now, when I do reviews, I liked to talk about the things that I liked and hated, in order to give a work the best possible assessment that I could, in spite of my own biases, but there are times where I can only talk about what I hated, and this is sadly one of those times that I must do just that, even though I do not particularly like to do so.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started reading it, I had a hard time getting invested in the book that reading this felt more like a chore, rather than something that I could enjoy.

The first step to creating a great work of fiction is to grab the audience's attention, which varies depending on the medium used to present that, and seeing as this is a work that is mostly prose, the way to do that right is by creating images in the person's head, as well as having the writing flow well enough that the reader can become absorbed in, regardless of the errors and typos present, which is why something like iWoz was so enjoyable in my eyes, other than the fact that I have a strong interest in technology.

Here, however, the writing style and the flow of things just did not seem to be done well enough that I could read an entire chapter of this book, which could be as long as 78 or so pages, in one sitting.

When I watched the anime adaptation from NUT, I remembered being so absorbed in the work that I wanted to watch all 12 episodes in a single sitting, because it was able to pull me right into the world and made things seem to be so interesting, even giving an example of how an unlikeable character can still be somebody interesting to follow, and I was expecting to get the writing equivalent of that, though I well aware that an adaptation and the original are not exactly the same work.

While I would want to ridicule Carlo Zen for having delivered such a poor product, I cannot do that because I only have access to the edition published by Yen Press and the afterword of this book claims that Enterbrain, the Japanese publisher, did not ask for a single edit during the revision stages, so the only one I can blame right now are Emily Balistrieri and Kevin Steinbach.

Translation might be hard work, and the people that undertake it to bring readers their favorite titles put in a lot of work to make sure that the translations are as accurate as possible, while not making it so literal that it is off putting, rather than engaging, but the job of the translator is to bring the voice of the author to people who normally would not be able to read it, and the text provided here does not seem to be that of a work that should have been published.

Yes, this could be more of Carlo Zein's fault than the fault of the translators, as Carlo Zen was amazed that this book saw the light of day, but writers, myself included, though I have only written five books, kind of have a habit of viewing that their own work is absolutely terrible most of the time, so I cannot really determine that unless I could actually read things not using the Roman alphabet.

Still, this is a travesty that one should not need to deal with in a book, because readers read so that they can entertain themselves.

If the first volume of a series cannot capture the attention of the audience, the readers have no reason to continue on with the series, because it was so unimpressive, as well as makes it hard for people like me to see how this series could even be good to be considered being adapted into anime.

This is not what readers want to see, and this book completely and utterly failed to accomplish that very thing.

Maybe, the nerdy crowd would thoroughly enjoy it, because it has everything that they would enjoy, as the afterword just note that it is hardcore nerdy, but if only the target audience is impressed with the book, it cannot be considered a great work.

I also hated Tanya Degurechaff, the character.

Now, the fans of this series would be screaming at me, saying that Tanya Degurechaff is technically supposed to be unlikeable, and the book just does as good of a job at making me hate her guts as the anime did, if not more so, but Tanya Degurechaff in this book is the worst kind of unlikeable character, in that she is both unlikeable and uninteresting.

When I watched the anime, I remembered not particularly liking her, due to her cruelty, but the way that she was portrayed still made her seem like she was a person and made it fun for me to see how she would torment people.

If I had to say why, there was such a stark difference, it would be because Tanya does not get enough time in the spotlight and things shift around so much that it does not seem like I am still reading the same book, because the shifting is something that only seems to work well for things like comics and works of animation.

Yes, we find out what Tanya is doing and how much of devil she is, but I just do not seem to be excited to see what is going on around her.

Really, Carlo? Is this how to portray a character that many of us are supposed to love to hate, yet have about as much fun following as Light Yagami in Death Note, before L was killed off?

I certainly do not think so, and that aspect of this book led it to be much more disappointing than the anime adaptation that had no true ending.

Another thing that I hated was how hard this was to follow along with.

One of the best things that I liked about the anime adaptation was how it seemed to be quite easy to follow, though it was nothing more than a series that focused more on action and Tanya's struggled against Being X, the self-proclaimed God, even if I were take take a short break away from it, because things were so well put together and executed.

However, with this book, I felt like I could only have followed this by making myself bored out of my mind and reading every chapter without stopping, because I had kind of forgotten the small details of what had occurred and the narrator, as well as point of view, changed on me regularly.

While a reader should be given reason to pick up a book and read it from beginning to end, without stopping, a reader should also be able to put down a book and continue reading without too much confusion, yet this book creates confusion by moving away from Tanya and going other places on a pretty regular basis, as if it was not a book.

Seriously, Carlo? Is this anyway to write a good book?

I might not be the best writer in world, but I definitely know that there are things that might work well in one medium does not always work too well in another medium, and Carlo does not seem to understand how the medium of a written book works in this installment of the series.

This is not something that I should be seeing in any book, especially the first installment of a series, and Carlos has done nothing but disappointed me.

If this is what I get from the first installment of a series, I am definitely not going to continue on with it, because all this does is just wastes my time.

The thing that I hated the most though was the footnotes.

Even though it is nice to see things explained, because I may not understand something, and it really cuts down on the need for people to look things up, footnotes can be really distracting.

In the case of this book, the footnotes were more of a distraction than something to enhance my enjoyment.

For example, on page 8, which brings up the term Chicago school, it does things right in giving it a superscript number to look for, in case I wanted to know what it was talking about, and the explanation is put at the bottom of the page, but the way things flow, I feel like the footnotes are part of the actual contents, rather than just some bonus, especially because these boxes for footnotes do not always show up in the text.

Since I have no way of knowing what the actual Japanese edition is like, though it would be easier to compare than the translation that Yen Press provided, the only people that I can really blame is Yen Press themselves.

If these little extra notes were put in the back of the book and the footnotes referred to a page in the back, I would have been able to be a little lenient, because the footnotes would not be breaking up the flow of the book as much as they are here, and possibly make it easier to read, but because they did not do that, it felt like I was wasting more time than I needed and it took me a while before I could just mentally skip these footnotes.

Footnotes are giving people references to look up, whether in a book or outside works, not give outright explanations of things, as that is what the text is supposed to do, regardless of whether the work is a work of fiction or nonfiction, and because the staff at Yen Press did not seem to realize this, it ended up making the book harder to enjoy than the actual translation did already.

Really, Yen Press? Is manga the only thing that you guys can get right when publishing something? I highly doubt that, because the Spice & Wolf translations were fairly good reads, even if they might not be good enough to be considered the pinnacle of perfection, but this seems to make me think that you guys are losing your edge, which makes me not want to follow the series even more than I already did.

Hopefully, Yen Press decides that this series may not be worth publishing, so that they can keep their good reputation with me intact, but if they decide to release any more, which might be very likely, considering how popular this series is, I will not be picking up more of them because of how disappointing this installment was.

Thankfully, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, nothing else really bothered me too much, so I can just end things here.

Because my attention could not be captured well enough to read the whole thing in a single sitting, due to the translation not sounding great, and possibly because Carlo only wrote this series in a way to appeal to the nerdy type, I felt bored following Tanya because they way she is presented makes her both unlikeable and dull, the book was hard to follow without reading everything in one sitting, which was difficult due to the writing and how Carlo seemed to forget this was a book with mostly prose, as opposed to a comic or something else that could be considered a visual medium, and the footnotes seemed more distracting than they should be, this was one of the worst book I have read so far.

Considering that there was quite a bit to hate, especially things that a reader should not have to put up with, this book was a complete waste of time.

I recommend that everyone avoid this book like the plague it is, though fans of the series are free to give it a try if they wish.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you really want to see if I am right or not for yourself, buy a copy of the reviewed title from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can find more worthwhile reads for you guys.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.