Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Episode 5

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?

Even though there's no physical torture in this week's episode, I'm still feeling very conflicted about Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka's treatment of its characters, Asuka in particular. The Nozomi incident ends with more of a whimper than a bang, largely because at the last second the show sort of chickens out and gives War Nurse magical PTSD-erasing powers. While this is great for Nozomi and her dad, both of whom have been very badly used by the government, a state of affairs that may well continue, it has some disturbing implications for the army's treatment of Asuka. Presumably Kurumi didn't just suddenly come up with this particular skill, and given that Iizuka is Asuka's legal guardian, that means that not only was he aware of Asuka's own PTSD after the war, but that he was instructed not to allow Kurumi to take away the trauma. Okay, by the time anyone really realized how traumatized Asuka was it may have been too late (the story does leave that loophole open), but that frankly feels unlikely. That could mean that the JSDF and/or government bigwigs decided that Asuka's value as a military asset was worth more than her mental health, and given that we're talking about a child, someone young enough that she still needs by law to have a legal guardian, that's pretty damn disturbing.

Seen that way, the decision to allow War Nurse to erase Nozomi's PTSD and the past week of her memories can also take on a different dimension than just the story deciding not to throw a second traumatized character into the mix. (Well, more like a fifth given what we know of Kurumi's past and that Queen and Abigail clearly went through some stuff, but still.) A Nozomi without PTSD is infinitely more useful as Abby-bait than a Nozomi who can't leave the house or has to be heavily sedated, and “bait” is precisely what the government wants to use her for. When Iizuka, showing more care than he has at any other point in the show, asks that she be essentially put into witness protection, his request is refused with the lame excuse that attending a school with two magical girls may be safer—oh yeah, and there's some hope that Abigail will come after her again. Why throw away perfectly good bait, right?

If nothing else, all of this shows the callous attitudes and behaviors of those in charge of the magical girls. While it is their job to protect the most people and the entire nation of Japan, there's still something very disturbing about the fact that they're willing to use children to do it—and to sacrifice them if need be. Asuka (and Kurumi) only has value as a weapon, and there's almost a sense that they're grateful that Nozomi was targeted by Abigail, because now that weapon is back in the JSDF's hands, where it belongs. All of this makes me think that the true end game of the series is not going to be Queen's defeat so much as Asuka's true breaking free of the people who won't let her go.

That may be what Queen's trying to do, actually. It really does feel like a given now that she's Francine, the French magical girl who died in Asuka's arms. (If you've seen Fate/Apocrypha, you may have noticed that Queen's magical girl form has some of the same iconography as Ruler's, which feels telling.) Yes, Abigail has a lot of problems, but there may be a reason that Queen chose her for this fight, and if Queen truly is Francine and feels that she was badly used during the war, there may be a message in here somewhere about abused children taking their revenge. I could be reading too much into this, but looking at the treatment Asuka and Nozomi are given there's just something off about the whole thing—and Kurumi may already have been too damaged when she became a magical girl to notice what's going on. Whatever the case, the fact that Nozomi's prominent in the preview for next week's episode probably portends more danger, and with Just Cause coming to Japan, things are definitely going to heat up.

Rating: B-

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

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