It’s Raining Magical Girls and Deals With Other Worlds

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 7 Review

Despite Asuka’s commitment to join the team again, it isn’t all smooth sailing this week in Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. While there aren’t any serious consequences, at least not for the team we’re following, Asuka freezing mid-battle at the thought of one of the team members being hurt could have had dire consequences and it was only thanks to Kurumi that she snapped back out of her frozen state. Honestly, how they are treating Asuka’s character remains the best thing about this anime.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7 Asuka
Another flash back from the war – Asuka really needs some help dealing with her emotions after everything she’s been through.

However, we then have to look at the rest of what is happening. And this episode I even found myself looking at the overall episode count and wondering just where this story intends to leave us at the end of episode 12 because unless we are in for a really rushed conclusion, they still seem to be introducing world building elements at this point so it doesn’t seem likely we’re heading for a round resolution.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7

So with a plot likely to remain unfinished what else have we got. The tone remains pretty interesting. I like this version of a dark magical girl story where the girls are dealing with the reality of facing war at a young age, using magical powers isn’t about pretty sparkles, and consequences are very real (with the exception of Nozomi because they totally undid any consequence around that). I also like the weird mix of military and magic they have going on. It all kind of works.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 7
I don’t know what her name was, nor do I suppose it matters, but here’s another ‘bad’ magical girl. You can tell because of the smile.

What works less is that every villainous character feels the need to pull this ‘hey, look at me I’m crazy’ face just to show off that they are in fact a a villain. As well done as Asuka and even Kurumi’s characterisation has been the villains are really the weak link here (and I seem to be saying that a lot this season as I look at Krone in The Promised Neverland).

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 7

Still, this was a fun episode, we met a new magical girl from the magical five, had a cool fight sequence, some more interesting character work with Asuka, and generally the episode just kind of flew by. The only real drama with it was the welcoming party they threw Asuka. It seemed like they were going for some levity or whatever but the whole thing just sat really weirdly at the start of this episode. Fortunately, the rest of the episode more than made up for it.

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GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY BEST ANIME MIX – BEYOND
GUNDAM 40TH ANNIVERSARY BEST ANIME MIX - BEYOND

Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.

Everybody Loses In A Magical War

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Review

There are two distinct parts of this episode that kind of overlap through a character Asuka encounters and gives directions to who later becomes significant in Mia’s story. I’m going to start looking at Asuka’s side of the episode because that is the less significant part of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka this week.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Asuka

We begin with Asuka and her school friends having a study session. There’s some very clunky exposition where Asuka is asked what her dream is, but otherwise the only up-shot of this whole scene is that Nozomi is bubbly as can be almost as if her whole torture didn’t happen… Oh wait, it didn’t because they erased her memory. They do decide to go to a festival which leads to the main girls in yukatas and Asuka running into the blonde girl she gave directions to earlier who tells her that her wish should be to be happy and everything else will sort itself out.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 6 Festival

I’m not really sure why they bothered to bring the rest of the members of M squad to the festival and all and all this whole sequence just seems relatively like episode filler. I don’t really like saying that given it is still kind of fun to watch, but I can’t imagine this has much purpose other than adding to the overall contrast because Mia’s story is anything but happy filler.

Mia arrives in Japan to investigate the guy in the box we saw at the villains’ lair earlier in the season. She transforms and she and her team check out the apartment before finding the magical girls’ motto written on the mirror. Then the blonde girl who has been encountering Asuka all episode shows up and it turns out she’s a magical mercenary who wants revenge because her family were killed during the war. It all seems just a little bit over the top and Mia is completely cold. Why? Because her family were killed by terrorists. Turns out no one is winning in this war because the disas were a threat and the military used methods that killed civilians, terrorists have risen up but they also kill civilians and basically everyone is suffering from some kind of regret or trauma.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 6 - Mia

It isn’t the most deft handling of the themes but it does get the point across. I do kind of wonder what is going to happen when Mia, Kurumi and Asuka end up together because it doesn’t seem like Mia is really looking for a team to join and she has good reason to suspect one of the magical five is involved in her case. I guess we’ll find out.

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ITEMYA BOOK OF MAGIC BAG
ITEMYA BOOK OF MAGIC BAG

Images from: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. Dir. H Yamamoto. LIDENFILMS. 2019.

School-Live Epiosdes 5 + 6

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Review:

Okay, I didn’t actually stop between these episodes and I think it is going to get harder for me to stop because I’m really enjoying this story, hence the lack of images to populate the post. These two episodes conclude the story of how Miki joined the School Living club and how they revealed what I’d kind of guessed about the teacher.

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Despite more or less knowing the reveal because I’d convinced myself that it had to be the case, this was still pretty dramatic because of the way the characters react to sharing that information. Not Yuki of course. She’s in her own delusional little world and while that might be fun for her I still am not convinced of the other club members motives in letting her just continue on her merry way. I guess its more fun than admitted you actually are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and help may not be coming.

The blend of horror and slice of life in this story continues to be very effective as we go from a standard mall run where the characters are having to constantly be on alert and ultimately face a horde (one of the first real confrontations we’ve seen of any scale) to the girls having a sports competition in the school. The contrast is jarring but in the surreal and fascinating way that keeps you glued to the screen.

I’ll also continue to give this show props for its direction because so far that has been pretty amazing. The only scene I didn’t really like was the one with Miki and Yuki in the music room. For the first time the shift between Yuki vision and reality was a little heavily done and just felt gimmicky rather than sincere. Though, given what that scene was trying to emphasise (and it was ensuring that no further doubt remained about it) the heavy handed nature was probably deliberate.

Overall, I’m really hooked on this and I’m looking forward to the next run of episodes.


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Kimi ni Todoke Series Review

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Overview:

Sawako has been isolated for most of her school life. Mistakenly called Sadako (like the character in the Ring), rumours of her being able to see ghosts and generally be weird have forever circulated, not aided by her strong introverted nature and fairly creepy demeaner when in social situations. Noticed by the class’ Mr Popular, Kazehaya, Sawako slowly begins to integrate with her classmates and is very thankful to Kazehaya. But are her feelings those of appreciation or something more?

Review (Don’t read if you’re worried about spoilers):

Okay, if you’ve watched this you know that it takes 37 episodes for a girl and guy, who both like each other and have the means and opportunity, to actually end up dating (for real dating with both of them aware that it is happening rather than just meeting up and talking which is of course totally different). This is the absolute frustration of this show in that our leads deserve the prize for absolute densest human beings to ever appear in a romance anime. And yet, it is so worth watching all of those episodes to see these two really sweet people end up together.

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A while ago I did a Top 5 Romantic Anime and Kimi ni Todoke topped the list. It did this for good reason. Sawako is an incredibly stilted character at the start of the series after years of social isolation. While Kazehaya likes her he wants her to be able to stand on her own so instead of taking her by the hand early in the series and guiding her through all her troubles, he generally takes the role of the quiet support and mentor but that means his romantic intentions are frequently derailed. From a romance point of view it means they only take very slow steps forward, but in terms of getting the audience to respect both of the characters in the relationship this is actually really affective.

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In addition to the romance itself, the story also examines the friendships Sawako develops through the series. This is also really sweet (though at times cliché) and we end up with a fantastic core cast involving Kazehaya’s friend, Ryuu, Ryuu’s friend, Chizuru, and Chizuru’s friend Ayane. Throughout the series Ayane drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend (always older) and this gives her a fairly skeptical view of love but also makes her the more observant when it comes to Sawako and Kazehaya’s relationship. Ryuu has had a long term crush on Chizuru but for most of the series she’s hung up on Ryuu’s older brother. All three of these support characters feel genuine and have something to offer to the main plot while having their own lives and goals unfolding. While the end of the series definitely takes on a cheer on Sawako tone, throughout the series these characters are treated fairly respectfully.

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But just before you think this show is all sweet and no drama (outside of the does-he-like-me kind), we also have Kurumi and a whole bunch of Kazehaya fan girls. The fan girls get dealt with early on (thank-goodness because that was irritating) but Kurumi has held a torch for Kazehaya for a very long time. As a character, she is golden and we even get a recap of the first season from her point of view which is actually really refreshing and a nice way to recap events without making it feel too repetitive. Kurumi has a lot of personality. She schemes and manipulates and does everything she can to win her guy. And when things finally fail she actually confesses outright and openly. What follows after that is one of the best character developments that can be found in romance anime. While Kurumi still declares that she is a rival of Sawako, it is quite clear that for the most part Kurumi has accepted defeat and she’s finding a new way to deal with things. That doesn’t mean she loses any of her edge as a character though and her interjections in the second season are some of the more entertaining moments as they break up the otherwise mostly serious drama.

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From a visual point of view it’s okay. It isn’t overly detailed and there isn’t a lot of action to be animated, and the colours are a little washed out looking, but it works. The chibi version of Sawako that shows up from time to time is a little off as are some of the moments where the characters are basking in something sweet and all of the setting just vanishes in a pastel background. However, this show is carried by the characters so the visuals work well enough and aren’t intrusive into their story.

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I really love both opening songs, though the first one gets stuck in my head and drives me a little crazy. It can have me humming it days after watching the show. The visuals during the openings are also really good at setting the tone and themes of the show.

Mostly, if you like a good romance and you aren’t opposed to a slow story (different from no story), Kimi ni Todoke is definitely for you. I’ve never come across an English dub of it, even the DVD only came with subs, but I really like the voice actors and actually couldn’t imagine Sawako speaking English as I think a lot of her misunderstandings wouldn’t work and you’d just think she’s a bit slow.

What did you think of Kimi ni Todoke? Did the slow pace drive you crazy or did it work to tell a romance that felt a bit more thought out? Let me know in the comments below.