Anime

Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12: Nothing More Expensive Than Free and Their Reasons to Fight

Quick Summary

In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 12, "If This Battle Never Ends," Asuka Ootorii and Kurumi Mugen struggle to complete their after action reports while Sacchuu floats nearby eating junk food. Even though they know their reports are important, Sacchuu's attitude is still annoying. Later, Kurumi works out her frustration on Chisato Yonamine, who needs to be tortured to confirm Kurumi's impression that Chisato knows nothing of value. Rau Peipei, the final surviving Magical Girl of the Legendary 5, finally makes an appearance, and she's not exactly following in Asuka's footsteps -- and it doesn't seem to by her own choice. Finally, Asuka and Kurumi take Sayako Hata and Nozomi Makino to the "Maid Cafe," where they meet two new surprise staffers -- and help Asuka clarify her vision for the future.

Note: Please be aware that this episode contains graphic scenes of torture. While it's not as bad as episode 4, some readers may find it disturbing. If this sort of thing troubles you, best avoid this episode.

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

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

It was surprisingly difficult to get a "tasteful" screen capture of this situation! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

Moment 1

I don't know how to start describing why this is one of my favorite moments. I mean, I'm not into this sort of thing, if you catch my drift. It's just that this moment is so perfectly a capsule summary of this show. Kurumi has apparently finished torturing Chisato, but she's still tied up. Kurumi comes in and says, "I brought a doggy" (9:10). And before I could wonder why the heck she would a canine into a room of torture (and not at all liking where my brain was going), the camera pans down, and at the end of Kurumi's leash, there' s Nazeni, wearing a dog collar, some straps, and not much else. By way of introduction, she says, "Woof!" After twelve episodes of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, after twelve episodes that contained some really unusual moments, this is the one that smacked me in the face and asked, "What the hell are you watching?" Kurumi tried to explain it away by saying Nazeni was atoning for her wrongs and that she and Chisato would now fight on their side, but... Nazeni was wearing a dog collar and acting like a dog! That's just not something I see every day. 

Apparently, Kurumi's "doggie" should have asked for permission before she spoke! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

Moment 2

Sticking with the theme of awkward feelings... Just minutes after my previous favorite moment (maybe I should call it "Notable Moment?"), Nazeni tries to speak to Chisato. Kurumi's vicious glare (10:13) cowed her, but she said she just wanted to share something with Chisato (who's still tied to the wall, by the way). Nazeni goes on to say that the important thing is that they're both still alive (and she implied that they're relatively safe). She's just paying for some of the bad things she did, and she feels "more relaxed now than I did when I belonged to a criminal gang." This would normally be a touching moment, right? When a villain sees the error of their ways and tries to do better? But the fact that Nazeni was on all fours wearing nothing but leather straps, and Chisato was still shackled to the wall, gave the scene a decidedly unusual vibe. Interestingly, it's what gave me the final insight I needed to unlock how I really feel about this show (see Thoughts, below). 

Sometimes, it's nice to hear that your work is appreciated. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

Moment 3

It's not that Asuka or Kurumi necessarily wanted anyone to come out and say "Thank you." In fact, it might have embarrassed them (remembering the scene in episode 11 where Asuka and Kurumi walked out to find the surviving soldiers standing at attention and saluting them). But sometimes, it's nice to hear to you've done well. Asuka, Kurumi, Nozomi, and Sayako were sitting at the counter in the maid bar. They'd been talking about how terrible the food was (with Sayako saying that at least the ice was cold) when the topic of Okinawa came up. The moment got awkward until Asuka asked (15:35), "The Magical Girl you met in Okinawa. What was she like?" She was asking about Mia Cyrus, who had saved both Sayako and Nozomi. Sayako said she was noble and strong, but she was in pain. Sayako was impressed that she was willing to risk her own life to protect someone she didn't even know. This was the most interesting part -- she said that it wasn't just because she was a Magical Girl. She recognized that others would do the same thing, and people like that were really the only reason they had any peace to speak of. She broke off, embarrassed, when she saw Asuka and Kurumi smiling. It had to be a relief to hear that their efforts meant something.

Thoughts

Look, I understand Kurumi's role sometimes requires her to conduct "enhanced interrogations" (okay, torture). But do we really need to see so much of it? Seriously, this is a case where I would have preferred more tell and less show.

Does anyone know what it means that Tamara Volkova's sister appears to be a huge stuff animal? Or is it a Disas? Is is a huge stuff animal that Tamara's bosses augmented to look like her sister -- and Tamara is buying into the lie because the truth is too painful? 

"Die for my wallet's sake," Peipei says. Well, if you can't follow the straight and narrow, you can at least be honest about your motivations.

"I'm not going to kill you, you stupid bitch," Kurumi said with her sweetest smile (11:00). In that one instant, Kurumi summed up the whole show. And because of Nazeni, I was able to understand that instant for what is was.

Talk about sending mixed messages! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

Do you have any friends who were in the military, in the police force, or were first responders? Or were you in that role yourself? I am friends with folks who were (or are), but I've never served. One of the bosses I worked for years ago shared an observation with me. When people who have been in combat long enough, or gone on enough emergency runs, they see stuff. 

That's obvious if you think about it, but sometimes we don't think about the implications. It's not like a solider can decide they've had enough and not go back into the fight (well, at least until their enlistment's up). A police officer can't decline to go on a run to secure a crime scene with yet another dead body. A medic can't refuse to respond to the scene of an accident. Yet, they still need to do something to protect themselves, don't they?

In many cases, they develop a macabre sense of humor. They joke about things that would, if overheard by a "civilian," would seem completely inappropriate or shocking. That's the observation my boss shared with me. Folks in those lines of work are generally careful about what they say around "outsiders"; but when they're among people who have shared the same kinds of experiences, they have to talk about it to maintain their sanity.

That's the key to understanding this show.

Not five minutes ago, these two were in a completely different situation. And now, here they are! It makes perfect sense from their perspective, but to an outsider, it borders on insane. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

Until this episode, there was one complaint about this show that I had a hard time addressing: that the show lacks any sense of tone. It can go from a brutal torture scene to frolicking girls in bikinis in the blink of an eye. It can show a touching emotional scene one instant and jump to some poor guy crushed into a cube in the next. For those of us unused to such things, the transition is jarring. 

For someone who lives the life of a Magical Girl? Just another day at the office. Each of those incidents is, from their perspective, just another event, with one no more unusual than the other. To use specifics from this episode, for Kurumi, walking Nazeni on a leash into a room with Chisato shackled to the wall is no different from Kurumi sitting beside Asuka in a maid cafe. 

It'd be the equivalent of me going into work, checking the morning e-mails for security issues, then going to a meeting to talk to a vendor about new anti-virus software. 

And guess what? We ask soldiers and first responders to do this as a career.

Getting something to eat at a fast food restaurant or getting attacked by Disas that look like giant stuff animals. All a typical day at the office for a Magical Girl. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream. 

The show started out with a realistic portrayal of Asuka's PTSD. It ended with an equally realistic portrayal of the Magical Girls' lives, both from their perspective and from the perspective of those around them. The show wasn't perfect, certainly. But it still treated the Magical Girls and their roles with respect. It also stayed thematically true to itself in that it didn't shy away from the more unsavory (at least from a non-combatant's perspective!) implications of this world. I have to respect a show for staying true to itself!

I'm glad I reviewed this series, and I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews!

What did you think of the final episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

Other Posts about This Series

7 thoughts on “Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12: Nothing More Expensive Than Free and Their Reasons to Fight

  1. “I had problem with the villains from episode one.”

    You won’t get any arguments from me, especially in terms of the Queen and Abigail. Giess and Chisato were much better, given that both were believable characters. I understood where they were coming from.

    “I’ve kept up with your posts after I dropped the show, but I can’t say anything surprised me, and I can’t say I’m conflicted about dropping it.”

    I’m glad you stuck around, if only to prove you made the right choice from your perspective! Maybe next season I’ll review something you enjoy!

  2. I thought it was interesting that Mia thinks of staying a soldier. Like one friend said many years ago, “War is my business, and business is booming!” I also thought it was interesting that her father was a soldier as well. I’ve seen that in many multi-generational military families.

    I’m also thinking of her magical girl name, “Just Cause”. Like Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama 1989. I wonder if her father participated in the action.

    M-Squad’s official name is Magical Girl Development Squad. Does that mean that General Tabira is going to create more magical girls and that Auska and Kurime are going to be training them? Interesting concept. to see Auska go from the blade on the field, to being the instructor, guide, mentor and source of all good bits.

    Personally, this all seems like a set up for a second season and more. I’m curious to see what another season or two does for the story.

    1. “I’m also thinking of her magical girl name, “Just Cause”. Like Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama 1989. I wonder if her father participated in the action.”

      I hadn’t made that connection, though I remember it now you mentioned it. That’d make an interesting backstory for her!

      ” to see Auska go from the blade on the field, to being the instructor, guide, mentor and source of all good bits.”

      I’d like to watch it! If they’re serious about being realistic, then they’d eventually need to go in that direction. In essence, they’re spinning up a special forces operation (I guess they know that with “Spec-Ops” in the title!), and it’d make sense for the existing Magical Girls to come off the front lines to train the new recruits.

      “Personally, this all seems like a set up for a second season and more. I’m curious to see what another season or two does for the story.”

      I hope so! I haven’t read the manga, but I understand that it’s ongoing. Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

    2. “Interesting concept. to see Auska go from the blade on the field, to being the instructor, guide, mentor and source of all good bits.”

      I can’t speak directly to the Japanese military, but that’s how the US Armed Forces work. They cycle back and forth between operational units and schoolhouses. Behind the podium, they not only teach the formal, officially approved curriculum – they also give the student the benefit of their accumulated experience.

      It was hard, but also fun, to teach when I was in the USN. When a student asked why they needed to know something, quite often I could explain from my experience how everything fit into the bigger picture.

  3. ***For those of us unused to such things, the transition is jarring. ***

    I’m not used to such things, but the transitions aren’t jarring to me. In fact, if people weren’t making that sort of criticism I wouldn’t even have noticed and thought that was normal. That’s not a problem I ever had with the show; and it’s not why I dropped it.

    I had problem with the villains from episode one. I didn’t like magical healing to shirk consequences. And things just piled up until I was bored. If anything, I found the show too childish to be properly dark. It’s a trash fest, maybe cathartic to some, but boring for me. I wouldn’t have shared your reaction to scene one: I’d probably have sat there rolling my eyes, thinking “figures” (though I can’t know that, since I didn’t get anywhere near that far in the show).

    And your scene three also seems to confirm where I thought this was going: a typical anime message of “I want to protect people” glossing over trauma as in the end it’s not worth it. Not “was worth it” but “is worth it”. “Hotel California” said it best “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” That’s one of my personal bugbears: stick it out no matter what. (Again, I can’t know that, since I didn’t get so far.)

    I’ve kept up with your posts after I dropped the show, but I can’t say anything surprised me, and I can’t say I’m conflicted about dropping it. It’s just not my thing.

Please let me know what you think!

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