Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ?
If last week's episode of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka tried to cram too much in, this week doesn't feel as if it has quite enough material. In all fairness, I'm not sure that there was any better way to divide up what was covered this and last week and still manage to end the show in three more episodes, especially since this episode is largely gearing up for the battle that will determine the next checkpoint in the war between humans and disas.
The bone of contention this time is General Tabira, one of the major powers behind the current treaty and humanity's ally in the other world. She has a trade talk scheduled via the permanent bridge between worlds at the army base in Naha, which is conveniently located right near where Asuka and Kurumi are on their school trip. What strings were pulled to make these two things line up isn't clear (but I'd bet that there were behind-the-scenes machinations), but the result is that Asuka's vacation is cut short by a summons to the base. She's definitely not happy about it, although Kurumi seems okay, something that Iizuka knew was coming. In part she's upset with the way her normal life, which is the one she actually wants to be living, has been interrupted by her magical girl duties, but another fly in the ointment is revealed when Iizuka informs the girls that Tabira is en route to Japan. She's not Asuka's favorite person, and it's quickly revealed why – Tabira is rather too handsy with the magical girls, Asuka and Mia in particular, and neither of them enjoys her “funny” sexual predations.
Fortunately scenes with Tabira and her battle bikini aren't drawn out, although the episode still does lean a bit too heavily into other moments that appear intended to be funny, such as multiple girls lusting after an oblivious Asuka or Nozomi telling Sayoko that she's not eating her ice cream sexily enough. While I can see that the idea is to give a break from the difficult content last week and the upcoming bloodshed, none of it is particularly amusing (the ice cream thing comes closest) and it mostly just feels too much like what it is: a heavy-handed attempt to lighten the mood. The series overall would be more effective if it allowed itself to be more consistently serious and grounded, dialing back some of the torture and torture-adjacent scenes such as we saw last week and leaving out a lot of the fanservicey humor to instead focus on the psychological states of Asuka, Kurumi, and the others. At this point it feels like the series simply doesn't trust that that will be enough to keep eyes on the screen, which is a shame.
That more serious fare is likely to return soon, though. The four magical girls are about to be split up in order to fend off the attack that Chisato and Giess launched half-way through the episode, with Phoenix backing up troops outside the base, Just Cause defending the city where Sayoko and Nozomi are, and War Nurse and Rapture as Tabira's bodyguards. That Tabira is the target is confirmed when her attempt to retreat back to her world is stymied by the fact that the bridge has been shut down forcefully with a disruptor of some kind; something Iizuka seems to have anticipated when he refused to let Asuka go to the city to protect her friends. If she can't be the one there, however, Just Cause seems like a good second choice – not only does Mia appear to be the most stable of the remaining magical girls, but she also understands the idea of “protecting” in a similar way to Asuka. Kurumi might be tempted to use the mission as a chance to ingratiate herself by only saving schoolmates, while we just don't know Tamara well enough at this point to judge how she'd do. To be honest, I'm not entirely certain how Chisato and Giess would react if they realized that Rapture's friends were in their war zone – at best they seem likely to use them as leverage, at worst—well, it's probably better that Mia's the one going.
Now as the battle heats up, we'll just have to hope that Tabira didn't raise Mia's death flag with her admonition not to die.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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