Anime

Review of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 5: Rapture Back in the Groove and It’s the Little Things…

Quick Summary

In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 5, "A Very Realistic Way of Dealing with a Problem," Asuka Ootorii goes head to head against the two Russian operatives, who, as she learns to her chagrin, are well-trained in two-man combat. Can she win with the odds stacked against her? Especially since she's out of practice? Meanwhile, Abigail closes in on Kurumi Mugen, who soon has to defend herself against not only Abigail, but two modified Halloween-class Disas. With Asuka occupied and Kurumi backed into a corner, what hope does War Nurse have? Especially against that maniac's scissors?

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

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Will Asuka remember her fighting skills? Uh, yeah! Now we see why she was the one to bring down the Disas king! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 1

After seeing Asuka right the two Russian sorcerers, I'm beginning to an even deeper appreciation for her raw power and intelligence. That would be impossible to see unless her opponents were worthy, and this episode did a great job of showing both how strong they were individually, and how well they fought together. She'd engage one, only to be rebuffed by the other's Rusalka; which left her open attack from the first! She knew that getting rid of that water spirit would tip the odds in her favor, so that's just what she did -- by hurling her Rapture Talon, her magically enlarged karambit, at -- and through -- the Rusalka-wielding Russian (5:31). And by through, I mean just that: she sliced him completely in half. She then sprinted to her second opponent, and, calmly announcing that he was no match for her (6:02), proved her point. He ended up in two halves on the ground. She had analyzed their tactics, thought on her feet, and in the end, overpowered them. Utterly overpowered them It's no wonder she was one of the five survivors! I should also mention that she's really courteous, because she thanked their dead bodies for helping get her sense of magical combat back! It's not often you see that level of politeness on the battlefield!

In spite of her own injuries, Kurumi couldn't bear to listen to Abigail disrespect her fallen comrades. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 2

You know, if you asked Kurumi to say how she feels about Asuka, I'm not sure she could give an honest answer. Sure, she answered that Asuka was her goddess, but in practice, what does that mean? While I doubt she could articulate it, I could see what going into battle beside Asuka did for Kurumi's fighting style. She took on two enhanced Halloween class Disas, as well as Abigail in her Magical Girl form, and she didn't die within moments. That's quite a change from the first time we saw her fight! But despite her new-found resolve, she took a terrible beating. Free-flowing blood obscured her left eye; she could barely stand. Abigail being Abigail, she had to pile on verbal abuse, taunting Kurumi for being too weak to have been one of the Magical Five. And here's where Kurumi showed the quality of her character. "I don't like that," she said (9:30). "...That Magical Five thing. There were eleven of us... It's the six who died who should be the legends!" She was unsteady on her feet, clearly near the end of her strength, but she refused to let Abigail disrespect the comrades who had fallen. I'm not even sure why, but this moment really got to me.

The combination of bright smile and toy wand border on cruel. Now I understand what "Be careful what you wish for means..." Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

Moment 3

Asuka had an emotionally rough episode, didn't she? When she and Kurumi visit Nozomi Makino, the poor girl is terrified. She now associates Magical Girls with torture, which is reasonable, but still painful for Asuka. Based on Asuka's expression, Nozomi's reaction shredded her soul. Asuka is feeling guilty that her friend was hurt and tortured, even though it's clearly not Asuka's fault. Survivor's guilt is like that, and what's more, this shows that Asuka has an overly developed sense of personal responsibility. Later, by the end of the episode, we see Asuka still wanting a way out but feels trapped by what she sees as her duty. It was against that backdrop that she confessed to Kurumi that when she was little, she had wanted to be a Magical Girl who could protect everyone (17:34). She sees her inability to protect Nozomi as a repeat of not being able to keep the other six Magical Girls alive back in the war -- in other words, she sees herself as a continued failure. These thoughts had her teetering on the edge of despair. Then, Kurumi pulled her back by reminding her that her actions had saved both Nozomi and her in the recent battle (18:12). Yoshiaki Iizuka arrives and Asuka finally agrees to join his team, but you can tell she's still conflicted. It's at this moment that the episode decides to show us a picture of a young Asuka with a bright smile, watching a magical girl show as she clutches a toy version of a magical girl wand (20:01). The contrast was absolutely heart-rending. 

Thoughts

Looks like the cold hearted Commissioner Miura was almost relieved that Nozomi was safe (3:19). Or maybe I'm a victim of wishful thinking! In any event, I have to admit that I'm glad that Asuka and Kurumi were able to rescue Nozomi. The show cam be brutally dark, which is perfect for its message and themes, but even in that context, I need a little hope to keep from getting too depressed.

Even if that "little hope" is just setting us up for the next emotional gut-punch!

Quite a contrast to the little girl hopefully grasping a toy magical wand, isn't it? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

What do you think of what this show is doing for Magical Girl lore? In my review of episode 4, Iizuka admitted that Magical Girls were more or less forces of nature that humans couldn't control. This episode added an additional concept when Iizuka said that "The most effective way to deal with a Magical Girl... it's simply to send another Magical Girl at them" (14:44). Which he said an instant before Asuka showed up and hacked off some of Abigale's fingers. Apparently, he was on to something!

Both of these ideas have an implication for our hero Asuka. She can't be forced to do anything, but at the same time, she -- and the other remaining legal Magical Girls -- are all that stands between humans and Magical Girls like Abigale -- if. that is, they decide to. Not even M Squad and their weapons could prevail in the long term against the Queen or others like her. Only Asuka, Kurumi, or other Magical Girls can do that.

Talk about pressure! 

Did you notice what seems to have finally pushed Asuka to make the decision to rejoin? Remember how Iizuka admitted that he felt it was pathetic that professional soldiers weren't enough against a magical enemy? You could tell he felt humiliated that he needed the Magical Girls to fight. Asuka, rather than be repelled, tried to comfort him by telling him there were things only he could do, just like there were things only a Magical Girl could do (19:34). Then she told him she was going to join, much to Kurumi's joy.

Kurumi watches as Asuka -- the Magical Girl who is tormented by the responsibility that's crushing her -- comforts the man who's about to become her commanding officer. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream

With Asuka's hyper-developed sense of responsibility, what other choice could she make and still be at peace with herself? Or is the show saying something else? Is it possible that there is no choice that will bring Asuka peace? If she fights, she'll continue to see Kurumi in danger. There's no doubt that she'll witness other members of M Squad die in combat. All of the kinds of terrible experiences that tormented her will continue to do so. But if she tries to not fight, her friends will continue to be in danger; illegal Magical Girls are an ongoing threat. The best she can hope for is a peaceful moment stolen here and there, unless she can find a way to end the threat of illegal Magical Girls once and for all.

Her situation is much worse than that of the military veterans I know, for one simple reason: Every one of them, as skillful and successful as they were, were simply human. Other humans could step in and do the same things they had done, with the same level of success, so they could retire. In the world of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, there are exactly five legal Magical Girls, and it's pretty clear that of those five, Asuka -- Magical Girl Rapture -- is the most powerful and capable. No matter where she goes, no matter what she does, those abilities will haunt her.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is saying that's the fate of Magical Girls in this world, and that's tragic.

What did you think of the fights in this 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 5: Rapture Back in the Groove and It’s the Little Things…

  1. What I found interesting about this and the previous episode is something pretty much everyone has brushed over if they even noticed it.

    Where did the sorcerers come from? Everybody (in world and in discussion) is all about Magical Girls… Meanwhile, we have these two pretty powerful dudes *whose powers are familiar to Asuka*! And why doesn’t the M Squad have sorcerers?

    1. “Where did the sorcerers come from?”

      You know, I’m kinda embarrassed I didn’t think to ask that question! Sorcerers don’t seem to be part of the Magical Girl equation (in terms of getting their power), so your question is insightful. There’s no other evidence for magic in the human world, so where _do_ they come from?

      The implication is that some Russian folklore is more than just folklore. But this does seem to be inconsistent. It’s not like Japan doesn’t have its own well of folklore…

      “And why doesn’t the M Squad have sorcerers?”

      And you’re two for two! They seem to favor technology, but if folklore is a source of potential power, then this seems like an inconsistency!

      I wonder if the show will work through it or just ignore it?

  2. Last week, shows surprise me by having major characters lose limbs (happened, too, in Dororo). This week, shows surprise me by reversing that. God, no. Why? It’s not that magical solutions don’t make sense. In Dororo it was a mildly pointless and somewhat baffling (in terms of worldbuilding – it can be explained, but its needlessly convoluted) decision. Here, though, it’s taking away from the one thing the show does well. No dealing with that particular fall-out = less interesting show + heightened sense of edginess.

    1. “Here, though, it’s taking away from the one thing the show does well. No dealing with that particular fall-out = less interesting show + heightened sense of edginess.”

      That was my initial reaction. But I’m not so sure now… Nozomi getting her arm back and her PTSD erased gives us a contrast to both Sayako and to Asuka. Sure, she gets her arm and her chipper personality back. But there’s something lost, too. The memories are only the most obvious thing. Look at what Asuka was able to achieve in this episode — she cut through two powerful opponents, and she would have put Abigail down if the Queen hadn’t save her.

      Absolutely, there’s a cost. But there’s a benefit, too.

      It’s the same equation we force on anyone going into the military, isn’t it? They protect us at the cost of their lives and health.

      The question is: What do we give them in return? I wonder if this series will explore that question?

      1. My problem isn’t so much that she got her arm back; it’s that – if she’s going to get it back anyway – that she lost it in the first place. You have a contrast with the trauma, sure. You don’t have a contrast with losing bodyparts. That would have been a first in the show; and it would be extremely rare in anime to do this to someone in the core cast, and would be especially rare to do this to a non-combatant school girl. But to pull this off, they’d have to take it seriously.

        As for where the story’s going? I think the queen is one of the six “dead” magical girls. The timing of Kurumi’s speech, and Abigail’s reaction lead me to suspect this (but I’ve not been right with my speculations so far). If that’s the case, we’ll have a standard show about “protecting people” vs. “taking revenge”.

        1. “But to pull this off, they’d have to take it seriously.”

          I still think the show’s on track. To be completely honest, I really won’t know until I see how the show resolves all of the plot mechanisms that are in motion. But I’m still hopeful — more so than I was with something like Taboo Tattoo at the half way point!

          “If that’s the case, we’ll have a standard show about “protecting people” vs. “taking revenge”.”

          I’ll be interested to see if you’re right. I’m still holding out hope that they’ll go the social commentary route — but we’ll see! You have a pretty good track record, so it’s probably a good idea to not bet against your insights, though!

Please let me know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.