Of course I’d finish the Winter 2019 Episode Reviews with Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka…
Then again, the joke is on me for watching this stinker.
I’m actually willing to give this finale a slight pass in regards to how unfulfilling it is as a finale. Like yes, it blows that we’re just left hanging what the Babel Brigade’s big plan is but honestly, I figured that was going to be the case. Unless someone got creative (and boy did I not expect such a thing for this show), things were destined to reek of inconclusiveness.
Even so, there is one possible change you could’ve done to make this episode a little more satisfying: cut out Peipei entirely. It’s the twelfth and final episode and now you decide it’s a good time to reveal what she’s been up to? I think it would’ve made for tighter storytelling if you just save this character for another season (assuming that we’ll even be getting one at all). Then again, it doesn’t seem like Peipei’s character would be worth the wait. There’s potential with the revelation that she went through plastic surgery to live off the grid but I honestly could care less about how much she likes money. Seriously, that’s her motivation to do anything in life. Even by this show’s own standards, that’s really thin.
I’d say it’d be better to just keep the spotlight solely on Chisato but that’d be kind of implying that what this poor girl got this episode is any good in the first place. Never mind the fact that she obviously has no information to share, setting up a redemption arc for Chisato by torturing her doesn’t really work. It makes sens for Kurumi to treat her purely as a military asset but that makes for an unsatisfying development when Chisato is simply forced to comply. And while Chisato does feel remorse for her actions, she’s not seeking forgiveness. She just wants to die. For a redemption arc to work, you need your character to both seek it and rightfully earn it.
There’s also the fact that, you know, we’re dealing with torture here. Spec-Ops is bad at depicting a lot of things but torture is especially a subject it’s ill-equipped to handle. It’s bad enough seeing Nazani in bondage gear, acting like a dog, and tell Chisato that being tortured has changed her life for the better but worse is that this is it as far as commentary goes. I don’t mind if Kurumi is pro-torture but if that’s where the character stands, you need to actually make a point out of it. There’s no character present to agree or disagree with Kurumi’s methods. There’s no discussion whatsoever. It just happens, no questions asked, and I find that incredibly frustrating.
Even if I really want to put ethics aside, the whole scene just comes across as gratuitous. Oh, I get that Kurumi has a lot of screws loose and for good reason but you know what I also get? That this show has been chock full of fan service. It’s hard to really see Kurumi’s methods as distressing when it’s also framed as erotic, be it treating BDSM and torture as synonymous (which it isn’t) or just by having her straight up grope her target. If not offensive, it’s certainly laughable and that deprives Spec-Ops‘s depiction of torture of any real weight.
As it tends to be the case, there are still some good moments here and there. One new tidbit that I found to be really interesting was the revelation that Tamara’s sister has been dead for years and the Russian military has created a hologram of her to gain Tamara’s cooperation. That is honestly one of the few things about Spec-Ops‘s twisted world that actually works the way it ought to. It’s just a shame that this detail won’t get elaborated any further. There’s also the flashback scene where everyone discusses what they hope to do after the war is over. Unlike everyone else, Asuka has no idea what she wants but Francine tells her that’s okay. She just needs to keep trying. At least to me, that’s a good stopping point for the show to end on. Asuka has yet to recover from her PTSD (it’s possible she never will) and she still struggles to find purpose for herself. Even so, she still presses onward because there was and still are people who want her to.
That’s the thing about Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. For all its problems, I think it largely did a good job as far as Asuka’s character is concerned. But while the core is indeed a bright spot, I’m still left with everything else and everything else, be its serious take on magical girls or even its fan service, could’ve been so much better. Do I regret watching this all the way through? A little bit but look at it this way: the battle of the magical girls is far from over but you know what is? This stupid show.
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