In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Askuka episode 7, "Magical Girl Development Unit," Asuka Ootorii remembers the terrible final hours of the Disas war, when the weight of command nearly crushed her. Tamara Volkova, a.k.a., Phoenix, talked her into holding herself together one more hour to give the remaining Magical Girls a chance to defeat the Disas king. We know they were victorious; now we know a little more about the high price they paid. Back in the present, Asuka's welcoming party to M Squad was interrupted: Their commander had an assignment to thwart Russian operatives making a deal with Disas agents on Japanese soil -- and those Russian operatives had a Magical Girl with them. Asuka and Kurumi Mugen were apprehensive. Did their Russian friend Phoenix go rogue? If she hadn't, did that mean they had another illegal Magical Girl to deal with? And just what kind of deal were the Russians trying to make with beings from the Disas dimension?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Asuka was a middle-school girl when four Magical Girls under here command died. That's not something she could walk away from unscathed. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I've been wondering just what about her experience during the Disas war traumatized Asuka. I mean, all five of the surviving Magical Girls went through similar experiences, and they don't seem to have the same affliction. What made Asuka's experience so much more dreadful? Well, we find out in this episode through a flashback. There's a lull in the fighting, and Asuka, having taken command after Francine's death, is lamenting the death of four of the Magical Girls -- while they had been under Asuka's command. Asuka was a middle-school girl at this time, so she was what, 12 or 13 years old? A 12 or 13 year old child making life and death decisions on the battlefield -- it's no wonder she's psychologically wounded! She also suffered from Imposter Syndrome, as you can tell when she says that there was no way she should have tried to take Francine's place (4:27). Tamara stepped up and used forceful language to talk some sense into Asuka. Mia gets teamwork points for holding Kurumi back -- War Nurse objected to Tamara's harsh tone! It was, though, about the only thing that would have gotten through to Asuka. Tamara convinced Asuka to hold it together for one more hour. We know from earlier episodes that last hour was the difference between victory and defeat. And now we know just why Asuka, of all of them, seems to have the hardest time dealing with what happened. Personally, I think she's doing well to have made it through the experience at all.
The show went to great pains to show us Nazani's powerful attacks. That made Asuka's victory that much more impressive. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
I like how this episode showed us how powerful Nazani, the Russian mage (who was dressed as a Magical Girl -- I wasn't clear if she was an illegal Magical Girl or simply a mage), was against the police. It showed she wasn't a trivial power. She even gave Squad M a lot of trouble, first halting their advance (15:00) and second nearly injuring one of them (16:19). It also showed how she nearly broke through Kurumi's shielding (16:40), so we knew that she was no push-over. That made it all the more dramatically satisfying when Asuka leapt over Kurumi's protective shield and disarmed her foe. Literally. Asuka made it look easy. The show seems to be sending us a message: every time we've seen her fight, she's not only dominating, she's in her element. That has frightening implications for her future mental health.
Hearing one of her team had been injured froze Asuka in her tracks. Kurumi noticed, and as her shield began to fail, she screamed for Asuka to protect her. About a half second later, Asuka was back on the attack. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
This is kinda a moment within a moment, because it took place within my second favorite moment. But it was poignant and significant enough to warrant a call-out. As soon as Asuka heard that one of Nazani's blasts had incapacitated a Squad M soldier, Asuka froze (16:22). All she could remember was Francine dying in her arms and the deaths of the four Magical Girls under her command. Kurumi, busily defending against Nazani's attacks, didn't notice at first. But as her shield began to fail, she looked back to see Asuka frozen in a flashback. Asuka wouldn't respond to her pleas until Kurumi make it clear: "Protect me!" she said (16:53). That appeal to their friendship, and the promises it implied, was what Asuka needed. I have to wonder if she would have been so brutal had Nazani simply surrendered or had otherwise stopped threatening Kurumi? Though I think we're seeing a pattern where Asuka doesn't just disarm her foes; she dismembers them.
They had to eat expired rations for Asuka's welcoming party because they have terrible funding (6:43)? It's like the writer has been in the military or something! To be fair, there's a chance even expired rations would still be edible. I've purchased Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) as insurance against natural disasters (my house has been without power for 5 days twice in the last 10 years!), and the instructions said that the meals don't immediately go bad. They just gradually lose taste and some nutritional value. Still...
I feel bad for the four Japanese who were traded to representatives from the Disas world! I wonder if it's too dangerous to go after them? I guess it's be like a small team invading an entire world -- or an entire universe.
These poor people! It looks like the JSDF doesn't even know they had been kidnapped. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
As soon as we heard that the villains were Russian mafia (the Oboroten, which are apparently real organized crime units hidden within the legitimate police force) (11:38), I was afraid there was an implied relationship with the previous scene. You know, the one where Tamara was talking to her superior? In other words, I was afraid that the show was going to pit Asuka against one of her old friends -- the very friend who had helped her across the finish line of the Disas war, as it were. When Yoshiaki Iizuka said that the Russian mafia had a mage who used flame magic, Kurumi even seemed worried, though Asuka tried to reassure her. But do you know what's funny? It was only after Asuka saw that the fire-user was Nazani, and not Tamara, that Asuka was positive Phoenix wasn't involved (16:07).
Given how this show treats its characters, though, I was still worried! It was only after we saw Tamara confront the surviving mafia boss (19:18) that I began to relax. To be honest, though, this show has me so jumpy that I think I only concluded that Tamara was still "on our side" (whatever that means in this series!) was when she reacted in shock at the sight of the Disas magic item in the hands of the surviving mafia leader (19:54). That, and she still seems loyal to her government, or at least to her sister, as she pledged to take the case with the magic item back to them instead of keeping it for her own purposes.
The way this show's going, I felt physically relieved that Tamara hadn't turned to a life of crime. Asuka and Kurumi have enough to worry about! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
Seriously, I felt physical relief at that! Mostly for Asuka's sake, of course. I'm not sure how she'd react to having to fight someone who shared the Disas war experience with her. But also, Tamara reminds me a lot of Meteora Österreich from Re:CREATORS. I joked in a Tweet that I was glad to see Meteora found an acting gig after Re:CREATORS ended, and of course I was kidding. But the juxtaposition of the themes of both series just struck me. Re:CREATORS had this amazing hope and faith in the creative spirit. Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is so not all of that! Seeing Tamara just reminds me how much I want to see Asuka experience some hope for a happy future. It just doesn't look like that's going to happen.
The I realized something else. The themes in Asuka might just be more realistic. That's a little troubling, isn't it?
What did you think of 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 7
- Rory Muses: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7: Bloody Strategy
- 100 Word Anime: It’s Raining Magical Girls and Deals With Other Worlds