Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Episode 11

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?

What kind of piece of shit makes teenage girls fight? There appear to be several varieties. The question posed by the solider at the end of this week's episode is one that's been underlying things for a while as we've seen the toll war has taken on Asuka as well as characters like Giess and Sayoko, but in this penultimate episode someone finally actually asks it. And, as it turns out, the answer is multifold. One is certainly the military who enlisted the girls in their actual warfare (as opposed to the more street-level stuff that's usually the purview of magical girls and superheroes), and Iizuka does appear to be aware that he's played a role in Asuka's trauma. I wish he'd actually said it to his superior officer, but that would have been (or at least could have been) a career-ending move, so it does make sense why he had to phrase it as a matter of honor for the adult soldiers, and he does ultimately save Asuka by showing up with a weapon and a distraction. If he's done an awful thing to a bunch of kids, well, at least he's aware of it, and trying in his way to atone.

The idea of atonement is behind the second answer to the soldier's question: bad guys like Giess. No one can deny that he went through his own horrible experiences that led him to fall in with Queen (who did save his life for at least a little while), but his actions as a member of her organization are hard to paint as anything but terrible. Just how terrible we didn't know until now – as he lies dying, Giess confesses to Chisato that her mother's death was orchestrated by Giess and Babel Brigade when their penguin fairy noticed her magical potential. What, they wondered, would happen if they traumatized the girl? Would she then join their side? As we know, the answer is yes, but the realization breaks Chisato in a way that even her father's torture couldn't. The person she looked on as her savior has turned out to be the author of her trauma in the first place, and the whole “saving” thing was just a gambit to win her to his side. She lost her leg, any sort of autonomy she might have had, and her innocence due to Babel Brigade's machinations, and then they made a grand show of giving those things back to her. With Giess' death, they're all ripped away from her again, with the added bonus that now she's committed murder – for him.

That brings us to the third answer to the question, which is the fairies who started it all. If you look at the folklore of the British Isles, most specifically at Ireland's mythology, you'll see that the idea of good fairies is the real fairy tale. Most of the original fey folk are cruel and selfish, interested only in their own amusement and continuation. Chisato's situation is a perfect example of how that might look today, but we should also worry about Tabira and Sacchu and what they did to the original magical girls. Just look at Sayoko – she's come through the same fire as the magical girls (albeit reduced to two battles) and she's able to not only help Just Cause and Nozomi, but to come to terms with and figure out how to live with her experiences. Could that have been Asuka without Rapture? That possibility was taken from her.

Trauma does live on long after you've experienced it. Kurumi's suffering at her bullies' hands will always be with her, and that's as valid as Asuka's combat PTSD. But neither of them has had the chance Sayoko did to process and work through their experiences (trust me, “get over” is not something you do in these cases), and that's because of their magical girl status. Whether or not Chisato gets the help she needs seems up in the air, and the preview of next week's finale seems iffy on that front; it promises torture, but then seems to show both captured enemy magical girls hanging out in the café that's a front for the magical squad. I have a terrible feeling that the show is going to brush the whole torture thing under the rug, thus nullifying its earlier examination of trauma and excusing Kurumi's actions, which is not okay. Hopefully I'm wrong.

The missing Magical Five member looks like she'll show up (with a makeover!) to function as a teaser for the source manga, and with luck we'll see production values that stick closer to this week's episode than last, but on the whole I think I'll be glad to see this show end. It tries, but it never seems to try hard enough to work with its themes, like giving us a bite of something but withholding the rest of the meal.

Rating: B

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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