Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?
I suppose this is as good a time as any to say that I truly dislike Kurumi. In part that's at least a bit because I don't entirely trust her to choose Asuka's well-being over any orders given her, but more than that, I believe that her motivation is more than a little unhealthy. Kurumi herself has stated that she became a magical girl in order to be like Asuka, because she so looked (looks) up to the other girl. While she can't be blamed for that initial reasoning – and to be perfectly frank, she coped with a lot of awful stuff that Asuka saved her from – her continued attachment to Asuka is both worrisome and detrimental to Asuka herself. Apart from the fact that it's really not a great idea to put someone with PTSD back into the situation that caused the disorder in the first place (unless it's a carefully monitored form of therapy, perhaps), Kurumi's response to Asuka freezing up this week is to scream, “Asuka, protect me!” Without all of the other statements Kurumi's made over the course of the series, it would be easy to brush that off as her simply saying what she thought would best snap the other girl out of her trauma-induced state. With that knowledge, however, it indicates a basic selfishness on Kurumi's part. Asuka is supposed to be the strong, competent magical girl because Kurumi needs her to be, not because it is who she inherently is or because it's who she herself wants to be. The blush is off the magical girl rose for Asuka, and if Nozomi hadn't been kidnapped and tortured, she very likely would never have returned to the JSDF's fold. That Kurumi can't see this and continues to play on the guilt Francine left behind in order to make Asuka fill her emotional needs does not speak well of her friendship.
That the JSDF would permit an underage girl suffering from PTSD to go back out on the battlefield at all also speaks to their own callous desperation. That doesn't appear to be exclusive to Japan; while we know that Mia seems to be making her own choices about her work as Just Cause (and perhaps coming from a more stable place than Kurumi), Russian magical girl Phoenix looks like she fits the Rapture mold rather than Just Cause's. When Tamara, the civilian identity of Phoenix, is receiving orders from her superior, mention is deliberately made of her sister; something that Tamara repeats to herself as she takes on a Russian mafioso who left his magical girl partner for dead on the battlefield. That would seem to indicate that Tamara's sister is being used to ensure Phoenix's cooperation in magical matters rather than Tamara being able to decide for herself what she wants to do. Given the way Nozomi may have been used as bait from the get-go (and continues to be), it's not a stretch to think that countries who have magical girl nationals would want to control them no matter what it takes. Could this be behind the disappearance of the Chinese member of the Magical Five? It certainly seems increasingly likely that she figured out what was going on and decided to simply take herself out of the picture, and it could also absolutely be behind Queen's decision to take action at this point.
In the meantime, we have to wonder what's really behind the creation of the so-called illegal magical girls. The Russian mafia doesn't appear to value theirs, who is clearly much younger than the other magical girls we've seen, but the question posed at the end of the episode when a minion of Queen's group is looking at a photo of a girl he's meant to “check” on is “Are you happy?” While that certainly edges us towards a more Madoka-esque area of the dark magical girl story, it also should make us wonder what, in this day and age, could make someone want to become a magical girl. Asuka clearly regrets her choice, and her dream was once to become a magical girl. Knowing now what she does, I doubt she'd have accepted the offer. So how unhappy would you have to be to say yes?
We're going to find out next week, when we'll also be in for another torture scene if the anime sticks to its source material. Thinking about it, “dark magical girl” doesn't really seem like the proper designation for this show. It's a magical girl dystopia, where beautiful dreams of saving everyone go horribly awry.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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