Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Episode 8

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?

To be perfectly honest, if I wasn't reviewing this show, this would be the episode where I dropped it. (Not that I'll be hate-watching; it's just far more brutal than I typically like to watch.) This week's episode of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka hits a perfect storm of terrible elements: torture, emotional pain and anguish transformed into killing rage, a parent attempting to sell their child into the sex industry, child soldiers, and the beating of a disabled child. If things up to this point have been borderline too much for you, this may be the episode that pushes it over the edge.

What's striking is that apart from the scene where Kurumi tortures the illegal magical girl the JSDF caught last week, many of the actions do inform the plot and characters. (The torture scene does tell us a lot about Kurumi, but that could have been accomplished without the actual torture, more like Giess' backstory.) Remember last week when Giess asked the picture of Chisato, the Brigade's next potential illegal magical girl, if she wanted to be happy? He wasn't just asking an idle question. After a deadly car accident put Chisato in a wheelchair and killed her mother, her (step?)father began taking things out on her, beating her regularly and culminating in an attempt to sell her to a brothel because “all she needs is a mouth, right?” before nearly killing her when the place won't take her. Her life has been a living hell for the last year, much as Kurumi's was before Asuka, and when Giess comes in, take out her dad, and offers her power and a prosthetic leg, what options does she really have?

That's the way she sees it, at least, and from Kurumi's maniacal at-times-inner monologue this week, we can see that she's gone the same route – she's just working for the government and perhaps hides it a little better. Chisato and Kurumi almost say the exact same thing, that they would do anything for their saviors, and both of them have absolutely proven the truth of their words. For Chisato, it's killing the four teenagers whose drunk driving killed her mom and whose age mandated lighter sentences when Giess tells her to. Awful, yes, but she's also directly taking it out on those who caused her personal harm, as Giess did before her to his tormenters. Kurumi, on the other hand, voluntarily became the magical girls' own torturer. She says she did so, and continues in the role, because she doesn't want Asuka to have to do it, but that feels like an excuse she tells herself. Even before embracing that role, or even her role as a magical girl, Kurumi was fantasizing about transforming and killing her bullies at school. That suggests that the urge to kill and/or torture was within her all along, a reaction born of the torment she received at her bullies' hands. In a way, Kurumi is more broken than Asuka or Sayoko will ever be because she isn't dealing with her problems at all – she's using them to allow her to act out her revenge fantasies and calling it something nicer. Queen may be zeroing in on Rapture, but in all honesty, War Nurse is far closer to already being on Queen's side than Rapture will ever be through her actions and parallels to those the Brigade already employs.

If anything truly separates the Brigade and the supposed “good” guys (although at this point I think only Asuka really deserves that designation), it's the way that they act on their hurt, anger, and fear. Giess and Chisato are good examples of this (although it seems that Giess does regret what he did to his family, if he's able to feel anything at all at this point), especially when you compare Chisato's murder spree to Sayoko's reaction to the class' CPR lessons. While Kurumi's busy finding Asuka hot and classmates are teasing the group about taking the lessons too seriously, Sayoko notes that they should take this seriously, because you never know what could happen and CPR is a valuable skill. This is the result of her own traumatic experience – now she knows that she's not always going to be safe, and she wants to be able to do something about it, even if that's helping someone else. She's taking her experience and learning from it and how to cope when she just as easily could be deciding that killing others is the more cathartic route to go.

War stories are never easy, and this one is no exception. By casting magical girls, those brightly colored heroines of love and justice, as the soldiers, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka takes a lot of the glory out of battle. It's an interesting approach, but not one that's always easy to keep watching.

Rating: B-

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

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