Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Episode 4

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?

This episode of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is very difficult to watch in places. The central theme of it, that the Japanese government is willing to sacrifice one high school girl (Nozomi) in order to save thousands, speaks to the thematic content of the series as a whole, because essentially that's what happened to Asuka and her fellow magical girls in the last war. It's a mindset that works better on the battlefield than when you substitute a kidnapped child for a trained soldier, but it's still basically what was done to the magical girls, even if they were better able to defend themselves than Nozomi is. And that makes Abigail's torture of Nozomi gut-wrenching, even if it is pretty toned down compared to the original manga.

It also begs the question of whether or not this classifies as excessive verging on torture porn. Ultimately this will hinge on how the anime adapts the subsequent chapters, because I wasn't a fan of the way the manga cleaned this incident up. In terms of strictly how this episode handles things, however, it does do a very good job of showing us how truly depraved Abigail is in her fanatical devotion to her queen, and you have to wonder how much the woman who coldly informed Nozomi's father that his daughter was an acceptable sacrifice knew of her methods. In all honesty, while the torture scenes are horrible, it's that woman's implication that Nozomi's dad should be proud, nay, even happy, to have his daughter be the sacrifice that's truly horrific. It's an attitude that's been around for centuries of child sacrifice, one turned into fantasy in tales of girls offered to water gods and dragons, and seeing it in this much more real context makes it retain its sting. There are words for this lady, but most of them are in Yiddish and not fit for print.

More importantly to the plot, we see for the first time one of the moments that continues to haunt Asuka from her past: the death of Francine, another magical girl who died in her arms. Asuka continues to have nightmares about Francine's death, which may suggest that this was not only the first death of a companion she experienced, but also the most traumatic. As Francine is dying, she entreats Asuka to take over as the leader of the magical girls, telling her that the world is good and worth saving. This isn't as kind a gesture as it might seem, because really deathbed entreaties are given a lot of weight and leave the bearer of them with more guilt than regular requests. Francine dumped more responsibility on Asuka than she was prepared to handle, a price she's still paying today.

This could turn out to be even more significant if my suspicion is right. Did anyone else notice that Francine and Queen look at least a little similar to each other? We know that Kurumi is capable of healing almost any wound, so what if there's a spirit (or “illegal” magical girl) out there who can revive the dead? What might change in a person if that were done to them? Abigail at this point just seems like a seriously disturbed young woman, but could Queen be a resentful Francine returned from beyond the grave? It would certainly have an impact on Asuka's mental health and worldview, and it would also explain Queen's propensity for overt sexuality – have you noticed that, fanservicey as the costumes are, we never get an underwear shot of War Nurse or Rapture? There's a line drawn that Queen consistently crosses, which once again brings up the line between the traditional innocence of the magical girl and the adult qualities of this show.

However that turns out, Rapture has well and truly taken the driver's seat now. She and Asuka almost feel like two separate personalities, with Asuka wishing that Rapture didn't have to exist, as if Rapture was the coping mechanism for ordinary Asuka. (An idea brought up in several magical girl stories, but most interestingly in Othello.) Iizuka isn't going to just sit back and let the rest of the government sacrifice Nozomi, which will likely have repercussions, but the real question remains of who Asuka will be when this particular battle is over.

Rating: B

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

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