Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?
Children should be happy, someone tells Asuka this week. It's a concept that Asuka's not familiar with, not since she realized her dream to become a magical girl and discovered that sometimes dreams coming true isn't a good thing. When Asuka goes to Sayoko's house for a study session and is forced to realize that she hasn't had a dream since, the story digs in on the point it's been building towards in the last couple of episodes: that for a magical girl, being a soldier and a weapon comes ahead of everything else, including being a kid. That's something Asuka's JSDF co-workers seem to notice for the first time when they're sent to watch over she, Nozomi, Kurumi, and Sayoko at a Tanabata festival this week – looking at Asuka and Kurumi stick tongues colored blue from the syrup on their sno-cones, it suddenly strikes them that the two really are just teenage girls.
Unfortunately for them, they're also magical girls living in a world where that trumps all else. Asuka herself has been fighting against that fact (until she was railroaded into at least temporary acceptance last week) while Kurumi seems to have just gone along with the JSDF based on her own emotional issues and desperate need to belong to someone. Mia, on the other hand, appears to have taken a much more pro-active route. She's been working with the CIA since the last war, but that seems to be entirely of her own volition and to have been done with her eyes wide open. She knows that Just Cause is an asset, and her attitude with her fellow agents feels much more equal than Asuka or Kurumi's. While that could be a product of American versus Japanese culture, in the context of the series it would make almost more sense if it was instead a case of Mia using what she's got (her transformation into Just Cause) to her own betterment – a steady job at something she's good at. She currently seems the least damaged of the magical girls as well, although she tells us this week that, like Asuka, she's an orphan; in her case her parents were killed in a terrorist bombing. It could just be that she got better psychiatric help, but Mia could also be the plucky orphan of American children's literature, the kid who finds her niche and never looks back if it means a better life. The fact that her magical weapon is a gun, which allows greater distance from anyone she kills as well as preventing her from having physical contact with them, is another interesting difference between Just Cause and Rapture or War Nurse, and one that could also play into her different approach to being a magical girl.
Be that as it may, this week we also truly get an idea of the global scale of the Disas War. While we did know that all of the magical girls were from different countries, this time we get reference to the “Colombian front,” meaning that there were battlefields all over the world, not just in Japan as would be the anime norm. When a magical assassin comes for Just Cause in this episode, it's because she's mourning the human toll the war took – namely her daughter. She blames Just Cause and the others for not having saved her daughter, another sign that these magical girls aren't Sailor Moon; traditional magical girls would have prevented such a tragedy as a child's death. In many cases, that's the whole point of them – they save everyone, even if they have to sacrifice themselves to do it. But here's Just Cause, still alive, while the Colombian mage's child is dead. It flies in the face of the genre entire, another glimpse at not only the aftermath of war but also of what's eating Asuka's soul. It makes the clear shot we get of a storefront emblazoned “Moon River” interesting as well – it's a reference to a song written for Audrey Hepburn to sing in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, a sweetly yearning song about dreams of searching “for the same rainbow's end” that may never be found.
Perhaps that's why it's so irritating that no one makes mention of Nozomi having lost a week of memories, or that the rest of M Squad is clearly there to keep an eye on her specifically. Sayoko makes brief mention of being uncomfortable in crowds now, but that only makes the omission more glaring. War and terrorism have lasting effects on these characters, and while it's great that Nozomi gets to just be happy, I feel like there needs to be more fallout from what happened.
Because there's always a price for those involved. Nothing shows that better than the woman who tells Asuka that children are supposed to be happy – she's the Colombian woman who goes after Just Cause and whom Mia eventually kills in a nicely understated scene. The message? Children ought to be happy – but magical girls no longer have that right.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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