Anime

Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10: Sayako’s Resolve and the Tides of Battle

Quick Summary

In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 10, "Each of Their Deadly Battles," Mia Cyrus heads into town to save as many civilians as possible from the hoard of Disas. Those civilians include Sayako Hata and Nozomi Makino. Will Mia make it in time? Even if she does, will she have what it takes to stand against an army by herself? Tamara Volkova fights against similar odds as she struggles to hold her defensive line. But as soldiers fall all around her, and as the Disas continue their relentless advance, how will she find the strength to continue? Finally, Asuka Ootorii and Kurumi Mugen form the last line of defense in front of General Tabira. Their battle begins when Giess and Chisato Yonamine power their way into the underground vault. What does their presence mean for their friends on the surface? And how will Asuka deal with their tactics, which were designed with her weakness in mind?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious. 

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

This policeman's quick thinking saved Sayako and Nozomi's lives. It's too bad that Mia didn't get there in time to save his. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 1

In the city, Sayako and Nozomi are trying to outrun the Disas. The two of them make a pretty good showing until one one surprises them. It takes a swing at them with a gigantic wooden mallet (5:34), and Nozomi saves both of them by grabbing her friend and hurling both of them to the ground. Sayako looked up just in time to see the Disas raise its mallet for the fatal strike. At that moment, a brave (and unnamed) police officer rammed the Disas with his car, pinning the creature against a building (5:45). He yelled at them to hurry, but Nozomi found her ankle was either sprained or broken. True to heroic form, she told Sayako to go on without her. But buoyed by the memory of Rapture saving her in the first episode, Sayako just heaved Nozomi up and supported her as they limped away. Seeing Sayako face her fears and take control of her life was great, and it was all because the unnamed police officer had given them time. He did so at the cost of his life. The last we saw of him, he was firing his pistol uselessly into the Disas' mouth as it lifted him up to eat him. He done good; I just wish he didn't have to pay the ultimate price.

I'm not sure what Asuka would have done if Kurumi had not been there. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 2

It had to be hard on Asuka to stand and wait. She and Kurumi were stationed outside of the vault that protected both the intra-dimensional gate and General Tabira. Both wore their communications gear, so Asuka could hear a lot of what was going on outside. The news of defeat after defeat brought back all of the terrible memories from the Disas War. She began talking about those memories and about how nothing she'd done had helped. The fragile peace had disintegrated and her friends were once again were dying or in danger. She teetered on the edge of hysteria, but Kurumi wrapped her in a huge hug (14:46). Truth be told, I half expected Kurumi to slap her given how shrill and panicked Asuka's voice had become. Kurumi told her that if she kept talking, she'd make all the people who had died angry. She also said something that I suspect was just what Asuka needed to hear: that Kurumi could keep fighting forever as long as Asuka was by her side. The concrete appeal for Asuka to focus on who was standing right there with her instead of people who had died -- some of them years ago -- snapped Asuka out of it. 

If Sayako's warning had come a tenth of a second later, this might have been Mia's last episode. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 3

We got some great shots of Mia in combat, and she dual-wielded magical grenade launchers with as much skill as Kirito dual-wielding in the original Sword Art Online! Unfortunately for her, the Disas produced guns of their own, and they managed to shatter her shield. She was down on one knee in the middle of the street, bleeding for at least major wound, when Sayako and Nozomi came upon her (15:25). One of the goblin-like Disas came around a corner behind Mia, out of her sight, and raised a rifle. At that point, I'm wondering just what Sayako, even a Sayako who has confronted her fears, could possibly do. Then she answered my question in a very simple and effective way: She yelled "Watch out!" Even wounded, Mia had great reflexes. She put two bullets in her attacker. It's great seeing Sayako do so well; I also liked what I saw of Mia's character when she, a Magical Girl, thanked Sayako and suggested they try to find some place safe together. Given how this show is, that just makes me worry even more for Mia's safety!

Thoughts

Giess wanted to give the humans hope before plunging them into despair, huh (10:02)? That seems like a risky strategy. What if his opponent comes up with a way to defeat his first wave entirely? Watching how effectively the humans fight, though, maybe Giess is right...

Along those lines, I thought it was odd the JSDF didn't have a better joint-forces agreement in place with the other nations. It's not like this kind of conflict was unthinkable. I mean, even with Mia and Tamara present, so they had at least some awareness that something might go wrong. That seemed odd to me...

And they only made two magical shells for their "trump card?" I wish they had foreshadowed that... These felt like plot weaknesses, and those translated into distraction. That lessened the build up to Asuka finally coming face to face with Giess. That was a bit disappointing.

Just a couple more shells would have made a big difference! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

That aside, I think we may have hit the thematic core of the series, and it was delivered by Mia, no less! I wonder if I should start chanting "U... S... A..." over and over? Anyway, do you remember the scene after Sayako's warning saved Mia's life? Mia was leading Sayako and Nozomi to a place they hoped would be safe. Sayako sees that Mia's bleeding (17:14), and she asks, "How can you keep fighting when you're like that?"

"I don't know. It's scary. And it hurts. It's nothing but pain. Nothing good ever comes of it."

Sayako and Nozomi didn't know what to say.

"But I was chosen, you know?" Mia said.

Nozomi asked, "Were you chosen because you were strong?"

"No, I became strong because I was chosen... It's the same for the others."

On the surface, Mia seems to be saying that she and the others were chosen and given Magical Girl powers, so that made them strong. It strikes me that she might be saying something more. It's not just what we're born with that gives us abilities. Sure, that's a start (hard to develop any strength if you weren't born!), but even if a girl has Magical Girl powers, those can't be used, either, if the girl doesn't train her will to be strong. If Asuka had a weak will, we'd never know if she was strong or not -- she'd just run away.

Despite her own exhaustion and wounds, Mia found the energy to console Sayako and Nozomi. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

I supposed we could find out she really fast! But we'd know nothing about her strength.

Mia was in pain. Lots of pain. She was sick and tired of it. But she endured it. Before Sayako and Nozomi found her. she had saved two school girls from the goblin-like Disas and even smiled understandingly when they ran off -- because they were afraid of her! That's the evidence of her strength, the strength she developed because she had been chosen to become a Magical Girl. To face pain and horror and death with a smile.

For the first time while watching a show in the Magical Girl genre, I feel like I have an insight into what drives one of these characters. No disrespect to any series that came before Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, but I couldn't really understand what was going on inside Madoka Kaname's mind (from Puella Magi Madoka Magica). She seemed too far beyond my experience. But Mia might be a neighbor or a coworker. Just someone who stepped up because she was chosen. A normal young woman like many others. Someone who tries to make of a bad situation -- in situations that are about as bad as they come.

Moments like this make me glad I chose this series to review!

What did you think of Mia's insight? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10: Sayako’s Resolve and the Tides of Battle

  1. Another thing Mia said, was that she was lucky (unlucky) enough to discover what her life’s purpose was, and that was why she’s there in Okinawa, doing what she’s doing. I think that’s how she’s dealing with her trauma, treating it as a side effect of being chosen, working up to being strong, and taking all the brutality, violence, loss and the joy of battle as part of the package of what she’s supposed to do with her life.

    Just another shitty day in paradise.

    1. When she said that, it struck me as authentic. I’ve heard friends who were in the armed forces say something similar, so the show felt authentic that way.

      “Just another shitty day in paradise.”

      That’s exactly the kind of thing my friends say!

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