The first episode of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka suffered from some very wobbly plot progression so I’m relieved to find that Episode 2 doesn’t deal with the same pitfall. Just Asuka dealing with the aftermath of her re-appearance as a Magical Girl and more of her slowly realizing that she can’t truly stay away from the fight. The only scene that maybe feels a stop gap in the plot is when the show cuts to Iizuka (Kenji Nomura), Asuka’s guardian, interrogating the terrorist leader from last episode. Even then, it’s a chilling scene in of itself with how Iizuka has a casual conversation with a co-worker before returning to business.
I’ll admit that I am starting to take issue with how exactly this show conducts itself. Is this is a magical girl anime or is this a military operations anime? Obviously, Spec-Ops aims to be both but I’m not entirely convinced it’ll blend these genres so harmoniously. Already, the cracks surface when you look at the magical girls’ outfits. Don’t get me wrong, these girls do look cool, especially Asuka, but is “cool” really what their appearances should evoke? You’d think as military soldiers they would, I don’t know, look militaristic or at the very least uniform? This isn’t like Madoka or MahouIku where them looking frilly or silly belies the fact that they are actually in some perilous shit. Everyone in Spec-Ops knows what they’re getting themselves into, you’d think function would come first over aesthetic.
And as for the action, that’s also a bit of a mix bag. Asuka using knives is fine (I assume she’s just a CQC person) and finding out that mascot character Sacchuu (Kokoro Kikuchi) can psychically provide a HUD weirdly makes sense. I’m oddly okay with the killer teddy bears too (couldn’t exactly tell you why though). It’s the dubstep that really saps the gravity of the action. I suppose if this show wants to be edgy, then I guess it fits. I’d still argue that it’s not the best choice of music. I’m fine with wanting the action to look cool but make it feel cool is a whole other matter. Asuka is clearly a soldier, a war veteran even. She most likely doesn’t find fighting those demonic teddy bears “cool”, let alone “fun”, and the action should reflect that in some way. If not visually, then certainly in the sound department.
It’s Asuka’s PSTD struggles that I still find so enthralling about Spec-Ops. I especially like that the story is starting to tie that to what’s going on at school. If you recall, Asuka transformed in public again to save her friend, Sayako (Chinami Hashimoto) from the terrorists. Evidently, Sayako hasn’t fully recovered from that experience, the very sirens of a police car causing her to collapse in fear, shattering her otherwise tranquil personality. While her friend Nozomi (Rie Takahashi) does the natural thing and tells her she’s strong, Asuka actually agrees with her that she’s weak. However, Asuka elaborates by saying that she thinks admitting your weakness is better than pretending that you are strong and that itself can be where true strength lies. It’s a pretty nuanced viewpoint and it feels so authentic coming from Asuka, given what we know. And yet, I can’t help but wonder something. For Asuka to say this, what does that say about her?
Technically, Kurumi (Akira Sekine…PRINCESS!) aka War Nurse appeared in that weird flashback prelude thing back in Episode 1 but her re-appearance here is essentially her official introduction. There’s apparently some history between her and Asuka, apart from being old war buddies I mean. Evidently, they went to school before and it looks like Asuka is even the one who recruited her into becoming a magical girl. That detail alone could easily make Asuka guilty. She more or less drafted her friend into the war and now that it’s over, she leaving said friend to fend for herself. Kurumi doesn’t seem too mad about it but it also looks like she’s hoping Asuka will keep her promise to protect her and that coming to her aid today wasn’t a one-off happening.
A bit curious then that Kurumi transfers to Asuka’s school at the end. I imagine that was the government’s own doing though if it actually turns out that Kurumi just did it of her own volition, it wouldn’t surprise me either. I would love if it this becomes a running gag. Like, the other three magical girls all transfer to Asuka’s school as well and someone at the school starts to find that odd. Whatever the case, Asuka’s old life is creeping into her current one.
ED: “REBEL FLAG” by GARNiDELIA
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Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is officially available on Crunchyroll.
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