In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 6, "Wish Upon a Star," Sayako Hata invites her friends to a study session at her home, and Asuka Ootorii arrives first. After a quiet conversation where Asuka begins to open up, Kurumi Mugen and Nozomi Makino arrive, and Kurumi is frantic. Why? Did the Disas attack? Not exactly... Later, at the Tanabata festival, Asuka meets a stranger who is oddly sympathetic. Why is the stranger so helpful? Is it because she's enamored of Asuka in a yukata? Finally, Mia Cyrus arrives in Japan on a mission. She finds another dead body compressed into a macabre cube. What's that have to do with the Magical Girls? And why does a terrorist suddenly try to kill Mia and her team?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Sayako seemed almost heart-broken that Asuka said she didn't really like herself. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
This show built its reputation, in essence, on brutality. Asuka and Sayako's PTSD, the ruthless way Asuka cut down her enemies in the previous episode, and Mia Cyrus' fighting style later in this episode are testaments to that. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to see a quiet emotional moment near the beginning of this episode. Sayako invited Asuka, Kurumi, and Nozomi to study at her house, and Asuka was the first to arrive. During smalltalk, Sayako mentioned that she wants to be a screenwriter. Asuka asked if that was her dream (3:54), but instead of answering, Sayako turned the question around and asked Asuka what her dream was. After a pause where she silently remembered watching Magical Girl anime as a kid and desperately wanting to protect the world, she admitted with a small, sad smile that "I really don't like myself that much... So I really don't have a dream." Sayako seemed overcome with emotion and, clasping Asuka's hand across the table, more or less demanded that Asuka not say things like that because she was so wonderful. In that beautiful moment between battles, Asuka had no idea how to respond to that kind of emotion. It was almost a shame that Kurumi and Nozomi arrived and interrupted the moment.
Kurumi and Nozomi had their own quiet moment -- until Nozomi ruined it! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Have you noticed something about Kurumi's personality? When she feels like her relationship to Asuka is safe, she's her normal, cheerful, and helpful self. Take the scene where they had just arrived at the Tanabata festival, where within moments, Nozomi had already eaten so much that she felt sick (7:55). Kurumi saw that Nozomi was in distress, so she offered to stay with her until she felt better. That way, Asuka and Sayako could walk around the festival. Think about that for a second. Earlier, Kurumi had been anxious at the mere thought that something might have happened between Sayako and Asuka while they were alone studying. Now, she's offering to help them be alone! Nozomi even mentioned how Kurumi seemed like she was experienced taking care of people. "Maybe I am," she answered (8:20). This is Kurumi when she's not under stress. It was only when Nozomi, maybe playfully, suggested that Asuka and Sayako almost looked like a couple that things turned less warm and fuzzy. Kurumi stood up so quickly that she spilled Nozomi to the ground. This moment is more than it appears: It's less a comedy moment and more an insight into Kurumi's character.
The helpful stranger, who turned out to have an agenda of her own, was shocked that Asuka didn't have any Tanabata wish. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Speaking of insight into characters, how about the scene where the blonde woman -- who we later learn is a terrorist from Columbia -- meets Asuka in front of a Tanabata Wish Tree. The woman is mystified: What do the handing strips of paper mean? Asuka explains that if you write your wish on a tanzaku, your wish will come true. The woman asks Asuka what she wished for, and she answers, "Oh, no, I don't have any wishes" (13:51). The woman is scandalized and says kids need something to wish for, but Asuka is at a complete loss. So the woman writes "Be happy" on a tanzaku and hands it to Asuka, saying that it's a kid's duty to be happy. Given that we learn this woman was a terrorist who later tried to kill Mia Cyrus, a Magical Girl, there's all kinds of irony in the woman wishing happiness for Asuka. That's just the kind of world they live in, though.
Compared to episode 5, Kurumi was a lot different, wasn't she? Often less confident, more frantic. In battle, she and Asuka had been in complete sync. There was an intimacy that they'd built under terrible circumstances. But in this episode, there weren't fighting. They were back in a world where the rules are less distinct, and where relationships were based on things that Kurumi -- and Asuka -- really don't understand. So of course Kurumi was anxious and nearly frantic at times! Asuka is her rock, the talisman that drives away her fear and other negative feelings.
I am glad that Asuka accepts her without question. She understands Kurumi, even if she, too, doesn't understand these "emotion" things. I hate to think how Kurumi would react if she thought she was about to lose Asuka.
Asuka said something that really resonated with me. "I really don't have a dream," she told Sayako. She said something similar later to Crescent Moon Sandino (when she just thought the woman was a tourist): "I don't have any wishes."
Asuka did have a dream. She remembered it clearly. She had wanted to be a Magical Girl so she could protect the world. In one sense, she's achieved that dream. She is a Magical Girl. She did save the world. Well, she saved the world from the Disas. Turns out there is more than one power that threatens the world, and some of those are best met with Magical Girls.
Asuka did have a dream. And it came true. Though there seem to have been some terms and conditions... Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
After everything Asuka has seen, she can't find it in herself to dream anymore. I understand that place. I've never fought in the military, and I'm not an emergency responder. I don't see death on a daily -- or even an annual -- basis. So part of me says that I have nothing to complain about.
But if you've ever had to deal with a family situation -- mental illness or elderly family members with failing health, for example -- you'll know that there's a kind of exhaustion that sets in. For me, almost fifteen years into such a situation, I realized that Asuka might as well have been answering for me. I'm to the point where I really don't have dreams or hopes. I understand intellectually that they're important. I see other people having dreams and trying to achieve them. So I use my intellect to emulate dreams. I try to figure out what a dream might look like, and if anyone asks, I say that's my dream!
I had thought that was a singular thing -- something unique to me because I was whatever I am. It's almost funny that it took a Magical Girl to jar me into the realization that what I'm experiencing is actually a normal thing. I look back at my interactions with others who have had to work with chronic conditions in themselves and their loved ones, and I see the same kind of demands and exhaustion. I even intellectually understood that this was the case; I just didn't apply that understanding to myself. I didn't acknowledge that sometimes, there simply isn't any emotional energy left to fuel dreams or hopes.
At what point does a lack of dreams or hopes become a problem? Or is it a problem from the very start? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Or is it something else? Is it that, like Asuka, I actually do have hopes, but they're buried? Is that why I feel so emotional when I forced myself to buy and watch Neil Gaiman's Master Class on the Art of Storytelling? Are my dreams is still there, just buried and fighting for breath?
It's not that I look at Asuka and think, "There's someone I should emulate!" It's that I'm watching a show that is trying to deal with these issues, and I think, "Dang. This character just reminded me of a universal truth. I should probably do something about that!"
For me, the show's gone from being an interesting exploration of the effects of combat on the Magical Girls to a show that's addressing what it means for humans to be under long term stress. For Asuka, the source is combat, but for me, it's something different. Yet, there are similarities. There's something I can learn from this comparison.
Isn't that the point of art? To reflect reality back to us in a way that helps us better understand who we are? And what we're capable of?
What did you think of Kurumi's expressions in this episode? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts about This Series
Other Anime Sites
- Reddit Discussion of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6
- Rory Muses: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6: American Heroine
- 100 Word Anime: Everyone Loses in a Magical War
This Site (Crow's World of Anime!)
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 1: The Magical Girl Comes Back
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 2: Daily Life and Comrades in Arms
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 3: A More Terrible War
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 4: Babel Brigade - Combat Begin
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 5: A Very Realistic Way of Dealing with a Problem
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7: Magical Girl Development Unit
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 8: You'll Surely be a Wonderful Magical Girl
- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 9: The Lid of Hell