Anime

Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 3: A Jealous Nurse and the Enemy Makes a Move

Quick Summary

In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 3, "A More Terrible War," Kurumi Mugen, having transferred to the same school as Asuka Ootorii, seems less than thrilled to learn that Asuka is already friends with Sayako Hata and Nozomi Makino. Jealously, maybe? Kurumi saying that Asuka is her "goddess" seems to lend credibility to that theory! Nozomi is a cheerful sort and tries to make friends by inviting all of them to go swimming. Will Kurumi still be jealous? Or will she be too distracted by Asuka in swimwear to care? Finally, Mia Cyrus, spear-heading an operation on the other side of the world, makes a terrible discovery that has implications for Asuka and her friends. Nozomi is the first to feel the effects, much to her horror. It looks like the Magical Girls are going to find out just what this "more terrible war" is all about.

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

What's in This Post

Do you like the OP? You can order it from CD Japan!

3 Favorite Moments

The instant they heard the "pop!", Asuka and Kurumi were on their feet -- before either Nozomi or Sayako could react. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 1

The show continues to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with respect, and I like that. Consider this scene: At lunch, Kurumi, Asuka, Sayako, and Nozomi were eating together (and it was obvious Kurumi would have preferred to be alone with Asuka!). Nozomi's not the most subtle person on the planet, so she comes out and asks Kurumi just what Asuka is to her (8:34). It's obvious Nozomi expected an answer about them being childhood friends or their families that lived close together -- something mundane. Kurumi, though, answered simply, "My goddess."  Without missing a beat, Nozomi asks Asuka the same question. Much to Kurumi's delight, Asuka says that Kurumi is someone she can count on and that she's strong and kind -- and that she's gotten Asuka out of some nasty situations. Kurumi's smiling; Nozomi's impressed and even more curious. It's a sweet slice of life moment... Then they hear a loud pop, like a gunshot. Their different reactions were fantastic and perfectly in character. Asuka and Kurumi instantly jumped up and faced the direction of the sound. They were ready to act. But Sayako had another flashback to the terrorist incident in episode one. This time, Nozomi was able to help her breath and bring her reaction under control, but the message could not have been more clear: these four girls inhabit two entirely different worlds.  

In a moment of emotional intimacy that had to thrill Kurumi, Asuka admitted she kept in shape because she was scared. Not of the enemy; but of becoming weak. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 2

I've mentioned before how much I appreciate this show's realistic treatment of PTSD. This episodes adds another realistic element that I enjoyed: it showed Asuka and Kurumi exercising! I've watched too many shows where the characters are in tip-top physical condition, but you never seem them exercising, or practicing their gun handling skills, or their fighting skills. That kind of thing isn't even mentioned! In many cases, those scene might not add anything to the plot, so I'm not complaining about their omission. On the other hand, their exercise scene (11:08) was still a welcome breath of authenticity. And do you know what made it even better? We got to learn something about Asuka's character. She's been trying to stay out of the Magical Girl scene, yet she can still transform and fight instantly. Kurumi asks her shy she continues to exercise, and she Asuka to answer that she just likes staying in shape. Kurumi pushes for a more honest response, and Asuka replies, "I'm scared... Of becoming weak" (12:57). She's not scared of enemies, or of fighting. She's scared of not being strong. I thought that was a remarkable statement coming from the Magical Girl whose callsign is Rapture. 

It was a simple thing. Just a single step off the diving board. But it put Sayako on a whole different course. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Moment 3

Sayako's been struggling since the terrorist attack. Not only did she almost die, but she felt weak, especially in light of what looks to her like Asuka's easy strength and confidence. So where's she go from there? Does she spend the rest of her life jumping at every loud sound? Fortunately, she has a friend like Nozomi who supports her. Even better, she has Asuka and now Kurumi as examples of confident, strong women, so when they were all at the pool, Sayako decided to do something: she decided to face her fears head on. She climbed to the top of the highest diving board in the facility (18:18). It took her several attempts, but she finally managed to jump off. It was a simple feet-first jump. No fancy dive or summersaults. She just jumped off in spite of feeling absolutely terrified. In doing so, she took the first step to managing her PTSD. I thought that was a beautiful moment! Of course, she fainted afterwards, and her friends had to keep her from drowning! She'll still likely need counseling. But it was still a beautiful moment.

Thoughts

In the comment section from episode 2, we debated whether or not there were any new Magical Girls. I wondered because the blond "bad Magical Girl" looked a little like Mia Cyrus, but I think it was pretty clear from the beginning of this episode that Mia is still a Good Guy(tm). Well, Yoshiaki Iizuka made it pretty clear that there are, in fact, new Magical Girls coming into being. At least illegal ones (15:03). 

Before this episode, I'd briefly thought that the "bad" Magical Girl might have been a "fallen" Mia Cyrus. This episode proved that theory wrong! Good thing, too. She's wickedly powerful! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I was a little bummed that the "enhanced interrogation" techniques (okay, torture) worked on the captured terrorist. I would have preferred they continue their dedication to realism! Well, at least they showed the information about the Babel Brigade coming out as a result not of actual physical pain, but of drugs. Still...

This episode ends with the Babel Brigade kidnapping Nozomi. It seems like they're trying to bait Asuka to attack them, or at least some of the other legal Magical Girls. That doesn't make sense to me yet. Even if you're an enemy who thinks you have overwhelming superiority, baiting your enemy to attack you still puts you on the defensive. Sure, you could argue that Babel Brigade's true intent is to lure the legal Magical Girls into a trap, but it still seems to me like picking off the Magical Girls one by one through ambush would be a more effective tactic -- at least until they caught onto it!

Maybe it'll make more sense after the next episode. 

Kurumi clearly didn't think much of Sayako's lukewarm response to the question of whether she and Nozomi were Asuka's friends. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

One that that really worries me is Kurumi's mental stability. Her reactions to Nozomi and Sayako could be explained away as a soldier reacting to kids playing army (for example, Sayako saying that she guessed they were Asuka's friends earned a derisive response from Kurumi). Still, I have to wonder if what she's capable of doing to anyone she sees as in her way.

Maybe this show's tendency to go ultra-violent just has me on edge -- I mean, remember the effect Mia Cyrus' gun had on the drug runners? She less shot them and more bombed them! Part of me wonders if Asuka and Kurumi to on a rescue mission that Kurumi might accidentally let Nozomi get killed. With accidentally in air quotes. 

Another part of me thinks there's about a zero percent chance that'll happen, and interestingly enough, I can summarize why by referring to the pool scene. Kurumi, Asuka, and Nozomi are just sitting and talking. Doesn't sound very interesting, does it? But look at the girls' postures. Nozomi is sitting casually, shoulders straight and arms to her side, which fits here character. Asuka has her legs crossed and her shoulders thrown back. She absolutely exudes confidence and power. Now look at Kurumi. Her shoulders are hunched, and she's dangling her hands between her knees. It looks like a subservient pose to me, despite the fact she's a trained, in-shape Magical Girl.

The body language here was perfectly in keeping with each girl's character. Really well done! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Certainly, she's not subservient to Nozomi! But I honestly think that she'd never, ever do anything to cross Asuka. I think Asuka did a lot to cement that feeling by confirming her loyalty to her friend in this episode. In other words, I think Asuka proved that Kurumi is very special to her. At this point, I'm going to bet that wherever Asuka goes, Kurumi will follow her, even if there's jealousy involved.

At least, I hope so. I'd hate to think the War Nurse would betray her calling. And her friend.

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

Other Posts about This Series

9 thoughts on “Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 3: A Jealous Nurse and the Enemy Makes a Move

  1. Great post.
    I kind of thought the abduction was aimed more at the father than the magical girls, given Nozomi’s father just got intel from the guy he was torturing. Though, I guess we’ll find out next week what the plan is, assuming there is one.

    1. “I kind of thought the abduction was aimed more at the father than the magical girls, given Nozomi’s father just got intel from the guy he was torturing.”

      You could easily be right! I’m still not clear on the scope of Babel Brigade’s operations.

      “Though, I guess we’ll find out next week what the plan is, assuming there is one.”

      Abby _does_ seem like the sort to just wing it, doesn’t she?

      I wonder if it’s a good or bad sign that I’ve started think of her as a light version of Himiko Toga from My Hero Academia?

      1. At the moment the villains are the weak link in the series for me. That doesn’t mean they won’t end up being good, but so far they are very thin in terms of characterisation and I’m hoping they actually have a bit more to them as we go given how well the other characters are being dealt with.

        1. “At the moment the villains are the weak link in the series for me. ”

          I agree. I think that’s why I consider Abby to be a light version!

          “and I’m hoping they actually have a bit more to them as we go given how well the other characters are being dealt with.”

          That’s exactly what I’m hoping for!

  2. So Cactus Matt’s writer brain scores a point. I’m not quite sure what they’re doing with the abduction yet; it’s clear there’s a plan, and I think leadership and henchmen may not be on a page, so who knows?

    I’m not really into the show, to be honest. I’d almost forgotten what happened and had to read the post for a refresher. I’m not quite sure what to make of Kurumi’s mental state, here. It’s almost if there are different forces within her at work, who never quite get into conflict with each other. As if she’s two separate characters. She’s slippery and I can’t get a handle on her. My problem is that I don’t have enough faith in the writing to be sure that’s deliberate, but still the writing’s potentially strong enough to pull it off. It’s an odd show like that. I’m overthinking things again, I think.

    1. “She’s slippery and I can’t get a handle on her.”

      Remember the scene where Nozomi asked Asuka what Kurumi was to her? I was relieved that Asuka didn’t blow off the question and instead said really positive things. I’m a bit worried what Kurumi might do if Asuka spurns her!

      “My problem is that I don’t have enough faith in the writing to be sure that’s deliberate, but still the writing’s potentially strong enough to pull it off.”

      I’m remaining hopeful! Some of the details are encouraging, like the respectful treatment of PTSD and the body language in my last screen cap. Granted, the latter is a storyboarding/graphical expression and not a written one, but it’s based on the written characters.

      “I’m overthinking things again, I think.”

      I don’t think so! If a show’s not bad enough to rule out interesting options, I take that as a good sign!

      1. Kurimi… Bothers me. Her attachment to Asuka goes way beyond senpai/kohai, and yet it doesn’t seem like love or adoration either. It doesn’t strike me as healthy at all, but as verging on the obsessive.

        1. “but as verging on the obsessive.”

          I see that, too.

          I wonder if some of her feelings are a passive/aggressive hold over from when Asuka left Kurumi and the Magical Girl corps? Kurumi might have some resentment she still needs to work through.

Please let me know what you think!

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