First Impressions – Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka

Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (明治東亰恋伽) – Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka
Animation Studio: LIDENFILMS Premiere Date: January 11th, 2019
No. of Episodes: 12 Airing Time: Fridays at 26:25 (JST)
Genre: Military, Sci-Fi Airing Channel: Station: MBS/TBS
Information Links: AniDB, ANN Encyclopedia, MyAnimeList, syoboi, Wikipedia, Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Official Site

Warning: Show is MA+/R – Mentions of graphic depictions of violence

Following on from the gross spectacle that is ‘Magical Girl Site,’ Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka is a military based action thriller which follows the story of Asuka Otori (Jap: Aya Suzaki (Mei Yachiyo – Release the Spyce); Eng: Trina Nishimura (Hameline – Radiant)), a former magical girl who was known as “Rapture Asuka” back when she was part of a special unit of magical girls (now known as the “Magical Five”) during Earth’s first war against an otherworldly race of beasts known as the Disas. The story begins three years later, with Asuka trying to settle back into a normal life now with the war over. However, despite her best efforts to avoid it, Asuka soon finds herself dragged back into the war zone when her new friend, Sayako Hata (Jap:Chinami Hashimoto (Suzuko Homura – Lostorage conflated WIXOSS); Eng: Bryn Apprill (Earth-chan – Concrete Revolutio)) is almost killed during a terrorist attack and stronger enhanced Disas Bears start reappearing from an mysterious unknown source, leading Asuka to come out of retirement to join a new squadron of magical girls to fight this new threat.

Now one of the things that I really love about this show is how it explores dark serious themes like war, trauma, morality, the role that politics play in human ethics and the dark side of being a magical girl. Similar to ‘Psycho Pass,’ this show is absolutely so not meant for little kids, as it covers serious stuff like terrorism, drug busts and warfare and shows us how these kinds of things can really mess with a person’s mind. Additionally, to make the whole brutality aspect of the show even worse, the Disas and their Halloween class bio-weapons do not take the form of conventional weapons. Rather the Disas and their weapons often take the form of cute cuddly stuffed animals similar to the ‘Care Bears’ which makes what they do even more horrifically disgusting especially later in the first episode.

Being a soldier, Asuka Otori can seriously kick butt as a magical girl, but she is also a deeply wounded individual who not only suffers from PTSD from her brutal war experiences, but has also been forced to deal with stuff that no middle-schooler should ever have gone through. For example, in the very first episode, as mentioned above, it is revealed that during the war with the Disas, Asuka had witnessed lots of deaths including the deaths of her own parents who were kidnapped by the Disas, brutally murdered by them, chopped up and then sent to Asuka bit by bit as a means to psychologically unhinge her. Now, if that wasn’t enough to break someone, she also witnessed the death of her friend and squad leader, Francine, who made her squad leader as she was dying in her arms during a mission and whose death still haunts Asuka’s dreams even now. So its completely understandable why Asuka wants nothing more to do with being a magical girl.

On the other hand, the viewer then has Kurumi Mugen / War Nurse (Jap: Akira Sekine (Princess – Princess Principal); Eng: Sara Ragsdale) who has been Asuka’s best friend and war buddy since middle-school and who prefers being a magical girl over her regular life. The reason for this is revealed during Episode 3, where Kurumi is revealed to have been a victim of intense bullying around the same time she was recruited to be a magical girl. The trauma that she suffers as a result of the bullying though actually has the opposite effect on her because she actually finds it more preferable to stay as a magical girl because she met and fell in love with Asuka as a result of it and became empowered by being a magical girl, so she would naturally much rather not remember the time before it.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka then takes a serious turn into deeper depravity as the serious question of human ethics, morality and politics comes into play during Episode 3-4, when Asuka’s other new friend, Nozomi Makino (Jap: Rie Takahashi (Ryoko Naoe – Sirius the Jaeger); Eng: Morgan Berry) is kidnapped by a psychotic, scissor-wielding, illegal dark magical girl named Abigail / Pick Scissors Abby (Jap: Ayahi Takagaki (Chris Yukine – Senki Zesshō Symphogear AXZ); Eng: Tia Ballard (Yuu Koito – Bloom into You)) who works for the mysterious Queenwho then videotapes Nozomi being graphically tortured as a means to not only lure out Asuka, but to get revenge against her father, Mr. Makino who is revealed to have been working for the secret Foreign Affairs section of the police whose prime duty is to torture information out of terrorists and criminals.

N.B.: (Now, apparently the graphic violence in the anime was toned down a lot compared to what was in the manga, but the torture she goes through is still pretty sickening, very cringy and hard to watch, so I recommend that if you can’t handle it then you either skip the episode or watch another show.)

What makes Nozomi’s situation even worse is how the government and her father’s higher-ups respond to this crisis. Basically, Mr. Makino’s bosses say that they are willing to let a single girl die because her death or so-called “sacrifice” will allow them to rally up and go after the terrorists with full force as part of a “justifiable” revenge plan. Her father’s boss and
Yoshiaki Iizuka (Asuka’s guardian) (Jap: Kenji Nomura (Toya Kamijo – A Certain Magical Index III); Eng: Christopher R. Sabat (Walter von Schönkopf – Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These)), sneakily offers another solution by suggesting that Nozomi’s life will be allowed to be saved if the magical girls go and save her instead of them because the government doesn’t have any control over them. So basically Asuka and Kurumi were being secretly and manipulatively used to save her without any parties having to break their orders.

As mentioned before one potential pitfall to this series that fans may or may not like is the level of violence in this show. Magical Girls Spec Ops Asuka is definitely not a low-key violence show. Just in the first episode alone, you see people getting eaten and limbs being sent flying by Asuka’s karambits (hand blades). Furthermore, the Disas bears and their biological weapons do not take the usual form of tanks and bombs, but rather take the disturbing form of cute little stuffed animals, so its pretty heavy in violence. But, on the plus side, the opening and ending theme songs are amazing and the animation quality of the action scenes are top-notch.

So if you love blood, gore, cute mascots and kick-butt dark magical girl action, then Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka is definitely the anime for you!

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