What’s the show? Magical Girl Spe-Ops Asuka, Episode 1.
So how’s this episode? I’m shamelessly stealing this observation from Irina but calling something a “dark Magical Girl series” feels redundant. I may not be the biggest authority on the genre, there’s plenty I haven’t watched but for the most part they’re all pretty dark in both themes and content. So maybe we should start being more specific with classifying our Magical Girl shows? Let’s start with this one, I’d call it a “bloody and mature Magical Girl series”.
Okay sure, let’s go with that. What’s it about? Sadistic plush monsters called ‘Disas’ invaded Earth and started wrecking shit and killing people, so an envoy from the magical realm signed an agreement with the representatives of Earth to allow specially selected girls to become magical girls to defend the earth. Some years later, after defeating the ultimate evil and loosing some comrades along the way one of the magical girls Azuki just wants to live the life of a normal high school girl but her past keeps coming back to haunt her. Both in the form of traumatic PTSD and by her old handler and official guardian beckoning her back to work for them.
Wait. If they defeated the “ultimate evil” what do they need her back for? To fight terrorists, drug cartels, organized crime—you know all the other evil shit our normal world has to deal with. He wants her to join an international Magical Girl Spec-Ops group but she’s reluctant to do, especially as she makes a couple of school friends in the space of the episode. Absolutely adorable friends I might add—especially Nozomi who charmed the pants off me with her looks and personality.
I’ll thank you to keep your pants on please… so let’s get back to this “bloody and mature” label you designated for this show. Care to elaborate? Well the ‘bloody’ part is easy, Asuka is a magical girl whose weapon of choice is a karambit (it’s like a curved knife) and she slices and dices her way through her foes with extreme prejudice! During the end of episode action sequence she cuts of limbs and eviscerates people with accompanying fountains of blood from their wounds. Likewise the ‘mature’ part is an offshoot of the bloody wake she’s left behind her—not wanting to kill anymore for how much it haunts her—but constantly finding herself in the position where she’s the only one who can protect innocent people. And it’s the ‘protecting’ part that drives her, especially as we find out she lost both her parents to the ‘Disas’ who kidnapped, tortured and sent back bits of her parents as a “punishment” for being a magical girl.
That definitely fits the criteria… yikes! So how’s this ‘action sequence’ come about? Didn’t she want to quit? What she wants and what’s reality are too vastly different things. She’s just out and about minding her own business when an international terrorist who is being transported is broken free by his henchmen and they proceed to shoot up the general public. It’s a scene reminiscent of many Hollywood action films and plays similarly but it was still fun seeing an anime take on such a trope. Asuka then sees one of her new friends Sayaka about to be gunned down by the terrorist and so leaps in to save her, blocking the bullets with her magical abilities at which point she proceeds to murder them all—well except for the main terrorist who she merely slices both his feet off and leaves him for the authorities to take back into custody.
That’s pretty brutal. Indeed, also pretty damn cool too.
So you liked it, overall thoughts and a recommendation then? I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did a lot of ~dark~ magical girl shows conflate edginess for maturity but the two are at the opposite ends of the enjoyment spectrum and I think the way this show dealt with PTSD was nuanced and effective and while the violence was over-the-tip with regards to bloodshed I don’t think it was necessarily gratuitous. Added to that characters that are wholly enjoyable and fun to watch interact and a promising amount of potential for future storylines I’d say this one is well worth watching—regardless of your opinion on the genre.
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