Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Anime Series Review

Asuka Series Review
Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

Dark Magical Girls
Battling Fluffy Teddy Bears?

If ever a title deserved the dubious honour of being celebrated for its concept but questioned about its execution, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is definitely one of the top contenders. Dark magical girl stories aren’t new. Even before Madoka they existed and after Madoka they flourished giving us a range of hit and miss stories of deranged magical girls fighting each other for various contrived purposes. Fortunately, Spec-Ops takes a different approach and in theory it has a fairly solid idea.

The series begins with the end of a magical war and then our surviving magical girls go their own ways. We are following Asuka, who has chosen to return to a ‘normal’ life though she’s carrying around a lot of emotional baggage from her time as a magical girl. For once we see the toll on young girls of being thrust into such difficult and dark situations. Asuka’s family were tortured and killed, her friends died, and she fought in a war when she was a very young girl. Obviously things aren’t all sunshine and roses for her and she’s very much suffering from PTSD and struggling to make the adjustment back to civilian life.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Asuka
No, this is not how you deal with matters as a civilian Asuka. Stand down.

You know, if the series had focused on that point and actually looked at her ongoing struggle and transition this would have been a much better story. Instead, after establishing this premise the anime immediately feels the need to disrupt Asuka’s life again by having the enemy return and attack Japan. The enemy? Creatures called Disas who take the form of walking plush toys and yet are incredibly nasty and hard to take down.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Disas

Visually this actually kind of works. The enemy are goofy looking but incredibly deadly and the juxtaposition really adds to the tragic feeling this series seems to be going for. The problem is, Spec-Ops can’t really handle Asuka’s emotional journey, plus delving into the emotional status of the other magical girls, look into the impact of tragedy on Asuka’s human friends, and deal with the reignited war as well as the various politics between worlds in the 12 episodes it has and it doesn’t actually balance these elements particularly well.

Don’t get me wrong. Some things and some scenes Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka gets spot on. There are definitely character moments where you really feel the writer just got inside the head of the character and conveyed them perfectly and there are action sequences that very nicely put together. Then there’s the transitions between these moments and the moments that fall completely flat, and the end result is a mixed viewing experience to say the least.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 4 Nozomi's father

As to the violence and torture in this series, it will entirely depend on your tastes whether you find it engaging or disturbing. I liked that it made the stakes seem very real and that it seemed quite likely that characters could die (even if the anime wimped out on actually causing permanent harm – even emotionally – to one of Asuka’s school friends). It made the villain seem like a threat that absolutely had to be fought.

I don’t know, Sailor Moon villains are cool and all but there’s never any sense of real menace or danger with them because their plots and actions are so sanitised. Still, there’s definitely some graphic moments here and the torture of quite young girls, as well as some other weirdness that is just a little bit creepy (yes, I am looking at Kurumi’s interrogation techniques here).

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 3

This series is definitely not for the faint of heart. Now, where I preferred this over some other dark shows, is that the violence and torture mostly seemed to serve the purpose of establishing why the characters were the way they were or providing that real sense of danger and urgency. Sure, the same effect could be achieved by moving some of those more disturbing visuals off screen, but honestly it works here.

The only time it really seemed to push the envelope was in Kurumi’s treatment of the captured magical girls. That was all kinds of concerning and it would have been nice to see this aspect of Kurumi being explored but the series ran out of time leaving it as just a weird point to an unbalanced character.



The music for this series is actually really solid and one of the outright positives however visually this series is at best average. There are some cool moments but then there’s a lot where it seems kind of lazy particularly with background characters. Still, the magical girl costumes in this series are awesome and the only unfortunate thing is that this series isn’t popular enough to see these costumes become staples in cosplay.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Kurumi
Yep, Kurumi is disturbing even if she is working with Asuka.

With an unfinished narrative and I would speculate little hope of a season two, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka doesn’t quite have enough going on to recommend it. If the story had finished then it would be an interesting diversion for those after something a little grittier but without an ending it is just an incomplete tale with characters who have not yet been fully realised. I did have fun enough while watching it weekly but there’s other anime out there and some of them even have endings.


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Karandi James


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

2019 Winter Anime End Of The Season

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Winter 2019 has had its ups and downs throughout but regardless of my final thoughts, I had a lot of fun this season. There was always something to look forward to and as some shows faltered, others rallied. While I know some shows are ongoing and some have not yet aired final episodes (and in the case of Boogiepop wa Warawanai I’m just hopelessly behind), this is my final standings for the Winter season.

In the listing I’ve commented on where the series was at the mid-season point in the list and whether it has moved or not but if you want to see my mid-season thoughts they are here.

Hopefully you enjoy and remember the results of the reader’s poll will come out later today.

Number 15: Boogiepop wa Warawanai

Previously placed at position 13. It didn’t even deliver the little that was expected.

I was vaguely hopeful that this one would improve, but realistically I’m struggling just to convince myself to finish watching it. It has continued to be a meandering mess and while some have enjoyed the mystery I’ve mostly just found it frustrating.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 10 Nagi

Not aided by ugly visuals and characters that are pretty bland, there’s very little compelling me to keep going with this but I will finish it at this point. I kind of feel I past the point of no return a while a go. Still, if I wanted to pick the series on my watch list that I most regret watching, Boogiepop would be it.

Number 14: Grimms Notes

Previously placed at position 15, Grimms Notes continued to underwhelm.

While it would be nice to say that it managed to pull its narrative and characters together, mostly I just felt this one oozed wasted potential until the very end. Not that there weren’t some fun moments along the way, but it just never felt satisfying to watch.

Grimms Notes Episode 8

It isn’t all bad news with some of the character moments being cute enough and having a simple ‘save the story zone’ plot each week. Even if the main story line felt hopelessly underdeveloped and the themes unexplored, it wasn’t as if this ever became unwatchable.

Number 13: Sword Art Online Alicization

Previously at position 10, how this has fallen.

I was disappointed when Sword Art Online Alicization was only managing position 10, and yet honestly I can’t say this has gotten any better. If anything, the faults with the pacing, character motives, exposition, and just idiocy have gotten worse to the point where I’m honestly wondering whether to keep going with episode reviews when it continues or whether to just let this one go and review it once they finally finish it.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

An increasingly frustrating and underwhelming watch full of babble about things that barely make sense even in the context of the story, and characters who essentially break the rules of the world at will, it all just became fairly tiresome to watch this season.

Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War

Previously and still position 12.

For a comedy anime it wasn’t bad. It isn’t really my style and to be honest outside of the occasional moment where the characters really clicked there were a lot of times where watching this was just kind of empty. Still, the visuals, animation and sound design of this one were pretty fantastic so I can’t fault the production in the slightest.

Kaguya-Sama Episode 6 Shinomiya

However, ultimately, if I’d stopped watching this one it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no compelling reason to keep going and while I can see why it appeals to some, it really isn’t speaking much to me.

Number 11: Endro

Previously placed at position 14, this one actually was kind of charming fun.

Despite the pastel colour scheme and cute girl antics, I actually did find this one entertaining from week to week. There were some moments that really just shone for both the story and the characters proving you really can take something fairly standard and make it shine if you put enough love and effort into it.

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Honestly, this isn’t going to be something I watch again but if you like cute girl stories or just want a fun slice of life/comedy that has an adventurers setting thrown in, this is actually really cute and entertaining. The only reason it didn’t get higher up my list is because I’m just not that into cute girls and some of the friendship sequences made me roll my eyes hard.

Number 10: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Previously position 7 there’s just no denying the second cour was ordinary.

After slowly warming up to the show in the first cour, the second cour that aired during Winter 2019 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime was overwhelmingly average. Now source readers will pull out the ‘it gets better’ cards as well as explain that some bits were skipped over, but none of that changes the fact that the anime is most definitely average.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 19 Rimuru and Milim

There were some cute moments and character encounters and a few fairly awesome moments in the occasional fight, but a lot of this second cour was sitting around talking, or introducing characters we were never given a reason to care about who effectively had their problems solved with minimum effort. It remained light and fun to watch but had absolutely nothing to hook the audience or to convince me this would ever be worth watching a second time.

Number 9: The Price of Smiles

Formally position 5. Okay, I was being optimistic.

It is almost scary how on the nose my prediction for this series was at the half-way point. I suspected we had a show that would simply kill off its characters towards the end and in the lead up to the final episode we had one prominent character death an episode all to serve the ‘war is bad’ slogan this anime seemed to want to plaster onto almost every episode. That doesn’t mean it was terrible. There was actually a lot of promise along the way. It just never quite delivered.

The Price of Smiles Episode 10

Still, there have certainly been worse mecha anime over the years and while the ending was foolishly optimistic and naive, much like the main character, I can’t say I’m upset with it. While The Price of Smiles never managed to break into being something truly good, it certainly skated along the edges of it and kept me hopeful throughout.

Number 8: Domestic Girlfriend

Previously in 6th position.

Right, so you get what you expect when you keep watching a melodrama and as the story progresses they have to push to increasingly forced and silly methods to up the ante. That said, there is a certain delight in watching this train wreck unfold and while I wouldn’t say I actually like any of the characters, I kind of am curious about where they will ultimately end up.

Natsuo and Hina - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

This one somehow manages to be trashy without actually being trash and while it isn’t great it is also something that is hard to stop watching. While the occasional scene pushes the sexual content a little further than I’d like and the basic premise and the idea of teachers and students dating isn’t something I’m thrilled about, I can’t say that this is actually a bad watch. Not really one I’d jump to recommend but one that I’d honestly have to admit I’ve been enjoying despite the many complaints I might muster about it.

Number 7: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Previously in position 4.

I’m honestly pleasantly surprised that this one has remained as entertaining as it has. With Sword Art and Slime both plummeting in the ranks during the Winter season it seemed isekai fantasy was taking a serious downward turn. While there are plenty of points against Shield Hero in terms of pacing and at times characterisation, I’ve mostly had fun watching it and continue to look forward to how it rolls out this story.

shield6d

While this one might also take a downward turn as it moves into a second cour, I’m kind of hopeful of this one just keeping things moving. And while the fights remain fresh, the story doesn’t linger for too long on any one part, and Naofumi continues to be an interesting character to watch, I’ll probably keep enjoying this even though I would hardly call it great.

Number 6: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

Down from position 3.

I kind of knew this one probably wouldn’t hold in the top 5 for the season but I was hopeful. A dark magical girl story that actually seemed willing to deal with the trauma a teenage girl would face if forced to fight to save the world and watch companions die? It is a good idea and at least provides some kind of grounding for the violence rather than just being opening gratuitous in killing off young characters grotesquely.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

However, the execution both from thematically and in the delivery of the narrative have been somewhat lacking and once again we’re left with a show that is more concept than delivery. The over the top torture segments also don’t help to ground this as anything more than something trying to be sensationalist when actually there’s a reasonable attempt at exploring trauma and PTSD buried here but alas the show can’t give it the time or weight it needs between the other ideas it wants to cram in an a desire to imperil Asuka’s classmates. I didn’t mind this but I kept wanting more from it and by the final few episodes it was clear that it wasn’t going to deliver.

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

Number 5: Meiji Tokyo Renka

Formally in position 10 – nice climb.

While this one reeks of mediocrity in visuals and almost everything else, this is the anime I’ve gone back to again and again just to feel good and kick back and relax. There’s something incredibly fun and infectious about Mei as a character and the cast of guys surrounding her aren’t too shabby. The supernatural elements work well but it is Mei’s ongoing relationship with Ougai that really grabs your attention.

meiji7d

While I won’t say this improved as it went, it maintained its standard throughout and the characters are naturally charming enough to slowly make you warm to them and each episode feels just that little bit more fun than the last. Not one to be proclaimed a master-piece but for those who don’t mind the occasional reverse harem romp this one is certainly a fun time waster to fit into your viewing schedule.

Number 4: The Morose Mononokean

Previously number 8 on the list – this one exceeded expectations.

Season two of The Morose Mononokean continued to far outstrip season one and advanced the plot and character development in a way I’d been wishing the first season to but it just never got to. There is very little to complain about with this second season with almost everything being better than season one and the balance between yokai of the week episode and episodes developing the world and characters being pretty well thought out.

morose8d

With cute yokai characters, conspiracies, blossoming powers and generally more supernatural fun, The Morose Mononokean ended up being one show I began to look forward to each weekend. The chats with Irina around the episodes were also a factor as watching a show is always better with friends, but honestly this one was a delight this Winter season.

Number 3: My Roommate is a Cat

Previously number 9 on the list (that’s quite the rise).

If I was asked whether this got better as the season went on and whether that accounts for its rise, the answer would be a clear no. This isn’t a story that gets better. There’s a solid character journey for Subaru and one that I greatly appreciated which certainly accounts for a lot of its rise through the ranks, but what My Roommate is a Cat does brilliantly is deliver a fairly consistent performance. Tie in consistently meeting expectations week after week with concluding a character arc in a fairly coherent manner and My Roommate is a Cat might be decidedly average in a lot of ways but it was one that I found a very satisfying watch in the end.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 8

This anime definitely demonstrates the power of simplicity in that it has a very simple gimmick with the cat narrating part of the episode from its perspective but otherwise the character count is low, the scenarios very low key, and things tie in together way too neatly for real life but in a way that makes for a fairly entertaining weekly watch. Not to mention, there’s a cat in it and apparently having a cat in it is something that makes a story recommendable.

Number 2: The Promised Neverland

Remaining in second place.

I feel a bit bad for The Promised Neverland. Given the genre and style of story in almost any other season this one would have been a sure number one for me. Yet, opposite Run With the Wind that mostly didn’t rely on cliff-hangers to maintain viewer interest or suspense, I just can’t say that the gimmick filled Neverland is better even if I’m certainly enjoying it a lot.

neverland11e

The mark of a great story where I want to know what happens, where it keeps me guessing and theorising, and when the reveal is made it may not be what I thought but everything kind of clicks into place as all the anomalies and hints suddenly make sense even while a new mystery rises to be solved. The cast are charming, the setting thrilling, and all and all this one has been a delight to watch this season.

Number 1: Run With The Wind

Maintaining first position.

While I never expected to like Run With The Wind that much, even with a fairly strong showing from The Promised Neverland, there just isn’t any reason to not make this my number one of the season. I’ve fallen in love with the team and through the final episodes I cried, I cheered, I cried some more and then I smiled through those tears in absolute delight. It really helps that every character had a moment to shine in those final episodes and each character journey felt like it was given time to draw to a conclusion. It was a lovely viewing experience and one I’m really glad I picked up.

Run With The Wind Episode 22 King hands the sash to Kakeru

Whether it was Shindo’s absolutely heroic actions during his leg of the race, the general camaraderie and support each member showed for the others, or the feat they accomplished together, there were just so many moments to celebrate. This anime is gorgeous, well put together and has just the perfect number of episodes to tell its story. For all that I do have some minor complaints, they are just that, minor. This is definitely my pick for must watch of the season.


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Karandi James


Magical Torture, Pain, and the Unending War

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12 Review

Don’t expect an ending or even a satisfying last ditch battle. This is more a conglomerate of character moments, set up for future plot lines, and random flash backs that just kind of splatter their way across the screen for twenty minutes before we get a narration that more or less tells us the story is nowhere near finished. Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka has been at times underwhelming and has never really lived up to its potential, but nowhere is this more clear than in the final episode which mostly just leaves the series on its lowest note yet.

Mia- Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 12

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some interesting points along the way and the series as a whole has been kind of fun and introduced some interesting ideas and concepts. But it does mean that as a season it is sort of lacking given the absolute lack of resolution in this final episode.

Part of the problem is this episode is jumping between Asuka and Kurumi writing reports, time at school and hanging out with friends, the special forces group making an alliances with some other agency that I can’t remember in order to gather intelligence, Kurumi torturing the captured magical girls, a sex scene between the villains, and flashes to what the other magical five are up to, plus the flashbacks to prior to the end of the previous war. That’s way too much and as a result everything feels like it is just kind of crammed in and nothing gets developed or dealt with or feels overly satisfying.

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It isn’t a great way for this anime to go out this season and it probably has shot itself in the foot for a season 2 (then again, maybe it already has one planned, who knows). I do know that this series hasn’t made me interested enough to go read the books and with an ending like that I’m not sure I’ll watch season 2.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

Still, this one is going to be a tricky one to fully review with some fairly strong positives in some areas and some really big flaws elsewhere. I’ll have to think that through but for now Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is done for the Winter season.


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Karandi James


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

Bring the Pain; It Won’t Stop These Magical Girls

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11 Review

As Asuka faces off against Giess and War Nurse Kurumi faces of against Whiplash, the fighting above ground grinds to a halt with The Russian magical girl rescuing Mia as well as Nozomi and Sayako. Of course, there’s no more reason for the fighting to go on above ground given the box with the magical tool in it has already left the building and so the fight below ground, while grand and all, is mostly just marking time.

Asuka vs Giess - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka  - Episode 11

Kurumi gets quite the beating in this episode, both physically and emotionally. We already knew War Nurse wasn’t amazing at hand to hand combat so her opponent couldn’t be any worse. Yet, despite flash backs to days of being bullied and a lot of mental trauma, War Nurse isn’t going to take a beating lying down.

Kurumi - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

This is probably the best showing Kurumi has been given so far in this series. She’s wanting to go help Asuka, but more than that, she doesn’t want to feel pathetic. She doesn’t want to return to who she was. Kurumi gives this fight everything she has and while she is still very much a support fighter, you have to respect her victory in this instance.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

Asuka on the other hand is a front line fighter but her opponent is also ill-suited. She takes significant damage including the loss of an arm, but don’t think that’s going to stop her.

Now, I should point out, that the fact that Nozomi lost an arm earlier in the series and they simply reattached it takes a lot of the tension out of this sequence. There’s never any doubt that Kurumi will get there and repair Asuka’s arm for her so the cringe and fear that should really work with this scene isn’t there. So instead it feels a little bit flat despite the apparent gravity of a teenage girl having her arm torn off.

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Again though, we know it isn’t going to be permanent, unless Kurumi dies before the fight is over but that seemed unlikely, and also, the audience knows the reason for this fight has already gone. Asuka isn’t aware of it so is fighting for real, but it makes it hard for the audience to invest.

Of course, that doesn’t make Asuka’s winning attack any less cool to watch.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11

I don’t know what they are going to do to Whiplash but I don’t think it will matter. She was pretty broken after losing her fight and then Giess put the final nail in the coffin by revealing what his side did to her.

Whiplash - Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka - Episode 11

The one thing I do know is that none of this will be properly solved next week unless it is done at break neck speed so it seems we’ll be left hanging at season’s end. And was that last comment by the villain about the magical tool a sign that Sayako is actually going to become a magical girl or am I reading too much into that?


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Karandi James


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

The Battle of the Magical Girls Begins

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Review

With the invasion of the military base and the parallel invasion of Naha city occurring at the end of last episode it was clear that this week Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka would be focused on the battle at hand. What follows is a fairly scattered affair with the audience jumping from one scene of the battle to another and seeing Tamara and Mia in action at their respective locations as well as following the actions of various soldiers and Nozomi and Sayako in amongst the fight before we finally get down to business in the bunker with Rapture, War Nurse and the main villains of this fight.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Disas

While it is a scattered affair frantically jumping from one point where the soldiers are being beaten back to another, interspersed with civilians fleeing and dying and ordinary police being incredibly heroic before dying, all of this cut with scenes of the military commanders glaring at their screens and musing about potential strategy, it works really well because the set up for this fight was put in place last episode. Even though the overall motives of the villains is still unclear, making that the weakest link in the whole series, the basic parameters for this sequence were clearly laid out and the target of the General in the basement was pretty straight-forward, even if it turns out they were after something the general had rather than the general herself.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Nozomi and Sayako

Action sequences in this anime remain very entertaining to watch with a real sense of pace and movement about them. It makes getting screen caps kind of difficult because of the amount of motion blur at times but at the same time, watching the sequence it is very solid portrayal of a frantic fight sequence. It’s also fun watching the transition between the soldiers and their standard tactics compared to the Magical Girls who are almost a whole army on their own and have their own way of fighting.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 10 Mia

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While characterisation gets put to the side for a large majority of the episode, Asuka still manages to deliver a decent effort at remembering that she was traumatised by the previous war and has yet to really accept that she’s back involved with the conflict. While many an anime hero would have committed to fighting and then never mentioned their trauma again, Asuka is wearing hers on her sleeve and it really is only Kurumi’s presence at her side while they wait that keeps her grounded and prevents her from breaking down entirely as they listen to the sounds of battle and dying over the radio.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10 Kurumi and Asuka

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains a fairly decent viewing experience and while it has at times pushed the violence a little further than some people would like, its been delivering a reasonably compelling story and it seems to be heading to a decent climax. Now whether or not we get a decent end point or are left hanging is really all that’s left to find out in the next two episodes and that could really change my overall opinion of the show.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 10
Well, I’m scared.

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

The Dark Side of the Magical Girl Myth

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 8 Review

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka continues to hover on that narrow line between dark and violent with narrative purpose and gratuitous with a scene this week of Kurumi torturing the captured magical girl stepping over the line and firmly into gratuitous territory. While the themes and ideas in Spec-Ops continue to be interesting and characterisation at least for Asuka fairly solidly handled, it is scenes like this one, that could easily have been cut down and still maintained their effectiveness, that will make this series fairly hard to recommend without some strong caveats attached.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Kurumi

Kurumi’s character is also becoming something of a problem. While her obsession with Asuka was already known and understood, this week we see that Kurumi has really got some issues and needs a lengthy amount of mental health care at this point. What she doesn’t need to be is put in charge of extracting information from prisoners and while I get the need for the military to use magical girls, I’m not entirely convinced that relying on someone that unbalanced is exactly a great plan A.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8

However, equal opportunity for crazy this episode as we see another girl with some mental health issues (grounded firmly in trauma caused by drunken humans killing her mother and crippling her followed by abuse by her father) being given the opportunity to become a magical girl for the villains. Her transformed costume is perhaps the least subtle so far and isn’t exactly magical girl so much as BDSM and really makes you wonder how far they will push it. Not to mention, her initiation being to kill the four teens who kills her mother while in her human and un-transformed state really does make you wonder just how far she is willing to go.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 8 Asuka

Still, for all that this episode was definitely getting close to the line I’ll draw for myself, it continues to pose excellent questions for the characters to deal with and while the villain’s grand plan is still no where near clear at least these villains aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. If you can handle the violence, blood and torture, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka remains an intriguing viewing experience even if at times it isn’t as nuanced as it needs to be to really land the point it seems to be trying to make.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 9 Review

Episode 9 of Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka gives us almost an all out war as the military base hosting talks with the spirit world comes under attack by the Disas. It’s a tense situation and we have magical girls all ready to fight but civilian casualties are definitely going to happen.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

For all that the episode ends up building to one of the biggest conflicts yet, we still have quite a bit of downtime early in the episode as they set up the scene and move all the characters into position. Kurumi and Asuka are reunited with Mia and Tamara as well as a general from the spirit world who apparently is the target of the most recent attack. Meanwhile their classmates are in the city currently being attacked.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 9

But they still manage to waste time on a stupid fan-service joke which just kind of broke the tension of the episode entirely.

There’s a lot going on and a lot at stake and I’m really kind of looking forward to seeing where they go next episode. It would be great to see all the magical girls fighting and really great to see how the military handle this current threat.

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

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.

Magical Trauma and Political Intrigue a Plenty

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Post Title Image

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 5 Review

There’s always a little bit of a problem when an anime tries to have its cake and eat it as well. So far one of the strengths of this series has been its desire to look straight at the trauma of war and the mark it leaves on those who fight in them, particularly when the participants are quite young girls. This week they at first do an exceptional job with Nozomi and the lasting impact of her capture, and then, after making their point, erase the memory and essentially reset her character. While there are implications going forward given she’s still a target, it felt like the anime just could commit to its own theme in this instance and wanted to just move things along.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 5 Nozomi

That said, that moment comes on the back of what is a fairly impressive and interesting series of fights. Asuka vs the two magical mercenaries is a fun battle of tactics as the two double team her and each one uses their strengths to compensate for the holes in the other’s defence. It forces Asuka to go for a brute force approach which again, may have had some implications later except that the villain just kind of runs away later. Asuka was more or less out of magical juice and couldn’t have broken free but there’s some other plot going on that the audience still has no insight into (though clearly there’s a connection between the Queen and Asuka so I guess we’ll wait for tragic back-story flashback time).

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 5 Asuka

Kurumi’s fight isn’t as visually impressive as it mostly involves her getting pounded as Abby not only transforms into a magical girl but also pulls out two Halloween Class monstrosities. In Kurumi’s defence, she’s a back-line support character and a pretty impressive one, and she does manage a fairly decent fight here she’s just out-numbered and out-classed. Still, she does deal a heavy amount of damage, even taking out one of the opponents despite the circumstances.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 5 Kurumi

But, we’re still left with the noise in the background here. We still don’t know what the terrorists are actually after, which may help explain why the Queen just kind of picks up Abby and runs off. We don’t know what the different organisations want, though they are clearly fine with continuing to use Nozomi as bait for future encounters which makes it hard to get behind the government agencies as the ‘good guys’ in this plot. It’s also kind of hard to like Kurumi when she’s clearly projecting her own vision of Asuka onto Asuka and isn’t going to let her hero play any other role.

Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka Episode 5 Abby
She’s a little annoyed by their interruption.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka continues to be interesting and has some solid ideas. It also seems to have found a good balance between being a dark magical girl story and actually dealing responsibly with the fall out of those darker moments, even if Nozomi is going to be spared the memory of being tortured. However, there’s still a lot of connections that are missing and it will really depend on how these come together as to whether this one ends up being a solid entry into the Magical Girl genre or just another title trying to ride the coat-tails of those that have come before.

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POKEMON X TAMAGOTCHI: EEVEE X TAMAGOTCHI COLORFUL FRIENDS VER.
	POKEMON X TAMAGOTCHI: EEVEE X TAMAGOTCHI COLORFUL FRIENDS VER.

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

2019 Winter Anime Half-Time

Run With The Wind Episode 14 Fireworks

With a lot of shows very strongly into their mid-season and some of the shine coming off those that started strongly and some of the weaker shows rallying and finding their feet, I decided it was probably time to take a look at the shows on my watch list this season and see how they were going. Unlike some seasons during 2018, there’s nothing on my watch list I actually actively dislike, which means even the anime vying for the bottom rung of my watch list are actually relatively decent shows even if they aren’t to my personal tastes.

That isn’t to say I’ve got nothing but golden shows on my list. In as much as there’s not a lot I really dislike, there’s not a lot that is making me sit up and take notice. Most shows this season I could watch or not and while I’m having fun part of me feels that as a viewer I was spoiled for choice last season with so many really great anime.

Right now I am following 15 anime and I’m going to count them down from the weakest on my watch list to the anime that might make it to the top for the end of the season. For each anime I’m going to give a brief impression so far and then my prediction for the rest of the season. These are all just my opinions and some of these anime are only 4 or so episodes in, so I’d love to know your take on the Winter Anime so far.

If you don’t want to read the whole post I’m going to try linking to the individual titles so you can check out the ones you are interested in. Hopefully it works.

Number 15: Grimms Notes

There’s not much to say about this one. It isn’t a particularly good anime and the narrative so far has been told out of order for no reason that I can figure out other than to be annoying. The characters are pretty shallow and so far the exploration of the premise has been woefully underdeveloped.

Grimms Notes Episode 2 Ex

I know, I said that I wasn’t watching anything really bad. And Grimms Notes isn’t. Watching it is kind of just numbing really. What kept it in my line-up at all is the fact that there is a potentially interesting premise at the core of this anime and if they get around to exploring it and the characters develop a bit and their motives are made clear, this has the potential to be really interesting. At the moment it isn’t, but it also isn’t unwatchable, so for now it can sit at the bottom of my watch list.

Prediction: This probably won’t improve and I’ll ask at the end of the season why I didn’t drop it.

Number 14: Endro

This one was recommended to me by Cactus Matt. I’d actually passed on the first episode based on the art work and the basic write up as it didn’t seem like it was something I’d enjoy. In honesty, it isn’t really my kind of thing, but there are enough interesting points that I don’t dislike watching it, and I actually feel like it is getting more interesting as it progresses.

Endro Episode 2 Leader

The main cast here are actually reasonably fun to spend time with when they are doing something (I’ll pass on anymore pyjama parties though) and the quests they go on are amusing enough. The fantasy elements are kind of fun and the comedy isn’t too eye-roll worthy. All and all, this one is actually just kind of pleasant but for me fairly forgettable.

Prediction: Either this will continue to be pleasant enough but  unremarkable or we may take a downward turn if they up the  comedy and slice of life aspects but minimise the adventuring. I  guess we’ll see.

Number 13: Boogiepop wa Warawanai

Frankly, Boogiepop wa Warawanai is a mess of frustrating narrative and bland visuals. But from a core concept point of view this one is something I should enjoy. Which is probably what makes it so frustrating is you can actually see a really interesting story bubbling underneath dull conversations and forgettable characters.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai Episode 2

I’d really like to like this one more but at the moment I’m watching more out of hope for improvement than any expectation of it. Then again, even if it doesn’t improve noticeably, it is an interesting idea and one that I’m not going to regret watching (at least I hope not).

Prediction: I’ll be an optimist and hope this one makes my top ten by the end of the season because it just got that little bit better and utilised its strengths.

Number 12: Kaguya-Sama Love is War

This one, I’m not loving the concept of. It is a beautifully produced anime, visually impressive, with a great score, but I’m just not feeling it. It doesn’t help that I’m not a comedy fan in the first place and that I find the central conceit of this anime ridiculous, nor does it help that so far most of the schemes have either been predictable or ludicrous.

Kaguya Sama Episode 2 Shinomiya

Still, this one is actually getting a little better as it goes (something readers of the source have been insisting would happen since the start) and there’s a possibility of continued improvement. My main hope would be that the two main characters actually start to feel like characters and not caricatures and that would increase my enjoyment of this a lot more or less instantly.

Prediction: Again, I’ll be optimistic and hope that this one continues slowly getting better and maybe it will end up in the top ten by the end of the season.

Number 11: Meiji Tokyo Renka

Meiji Tokyo Renka has actually been rather surprising so far. I honestly expected something like Sengoku Night Blood or Libra of Nil Admirari neither or which was particularly noteworthy but both were watchable. However, Meiji Tokyo Renka has so far managed to make Mei, the protagonist, relatively interesting for a harem protagonist and I’m liking that they seem to be doing something with the premise.

meiji2c

Certainly this anime has its share of generic harem tropes and it isn’t exactly jumping to the top of my list, but I’m certainly actually enjoying watching it so far and it has the potential to get better as the season progresses.

Prediction: I think this one will sit right about here on the list. Even if it uses all its narrative potential the central premise here isn’t as interesting as some others and the overall production isn’t amazing. That said, I think it will stay entertaining.

Number 10: Sword Art Online Alicization

I’m a little disappointed that this one is placing so low but realistically after a lot of set up in the first arc, this second arc has been trying to bury us under exposition and honestly the plot doesn’t seem to be moving anywhere very quickly and I’m not entirely sure I like a Kirito who sermonises more than hits things with his sword. All and all, Alicization isn’t really working for me.

Sword Art Online Episode 15 Alicization Kirito

There are certainly still moments of cool to be found in this series and that is what has kept it in the top ten (even if it is scraping the bottom). However we’ve come a long way from the Aincrad Arc and at this point I’m really convinced Aincrad was where Sword Art Online should have begun and ended. I really enjoy that story and while I like these characters, they’ve been suffering from increasing diminished returns ever since. Except Asuna who shone in the Mother Rosaria arc but she’s all but vanished from sight at this point.

Prediction: Disappointment? I think this will slide further down the list before it gets better. I’ll happily be wrong though.

Number 9: My Roommate is a Cat

I do not believe I went in to this one with any expectations but for a slice of life story about a socially awkward author adopting a cat because he’s inspired to write a story despite no knowing how to look after a cat, this one is pretty adorable. The central gimmick of the cat getting to narrate the events of the episode from its perspective at the end each week works well enough and while this one isn’t exactly amazing, I’ve kind of found my relaxation viewing each week.

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 5 Haru

Alright, a lot of the draw for me is actually the author, Subaru. For some people they just find him rude and off-putting in the first couple of episodes but I actually kind of related to him fairly quickly and kind of saw his point when he was annoyed at his editor for dragging him out to a noisy place to talk when there really wasn’t any need to do so.

Prediction: This one is cute and relaxing but that’s about all so I’m doubting this will move any higher up the list unless something else seriously falls apart. That said, I’m not expecting this to really move down the list either as it has been pretty consistent so far.

Number 8: The Morose Mononokean

Season one of The Morose Mononokean was kind of happy nothingness. I like yokai stories so I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t overly remarkable. Still there were a lot of potential plot points left unexplored and it has been an absolute delight seeing them being explored and expanded upon so far in season two. It is everything I could have hoped for from a follow up to this series.

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 4

I also think it looks a bit better this season though that might just be the distance between season one and two talking. Either way, so far season two of this has done an excellent job at looking at the characters and the lore of the underworld and I’m really curious to learn more about how everything works. Plus, more fuzzy.

Prediction: I wouldn’t have picked this one as a potential season favourite prior to watching it – more casual nothingness. However, if things continue to develop the way they are… This one has a lot of potential to rise up this list.

Number 7: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has been up and down for me since the beginning. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but it slowly won me over and built on its strengths. The mid-season point, so the start of Winter 2019, was actually really solid. But we’ve since had a lot of talking and meetings and its been awhile since anything really exciting has happened.

slime17d

Realistically, this one isn’t going to be topping my must watches any time soon, but on balance it has remained pretty fun to watch and given the absolute lack of stakes or tension it is pretty relaxing to tune into each week. That said, it is also hard to really care about where it is going.

Prediction: This will hover around here for the remainder of the season and whether or not it manages another emotional highlight, like Shizu’s death or the defeat of the orc lord, may determine whether it goes up a few spots before the end.

Number 6: Domestic Girlfriend

Really wasn’t expecting this one to place so high on the list and yes it is full of teen melodrama, enough to rival any soap opera, and no it isn’t overly logical and it does rely heavily on coincidence. What it does right though is make me actually care about the central trio (or at least two out of three) and want them to find some way to be happy at the end of all of this.

domestic4a

It kind of helped this along that it was nowhere near as trashy as the title and promo images made it look which automatically made me more favourable toward it (low expectations always help a show along). That and some of the characters have actually made some good decisions in amongst the melodrama that have surprised me. All and all, hardly a perfect anime but one that I’m kind of hooked on this season.

Prediction: One of two things will happen. Either this show will manage a beautiful emotional ending or it will completely implode. I’d love the former but I suspect the latter.

Number 5: The Price of Smiles

Of all the anime titles this season, this is the one I’m probably the least sure about. The first episode was interesting enough but relatively unimpressive. Since then, it has managed to really make me care about the characters despite the limited screen time some have had, and I’m interested in the conflict, but the anime as a whole is still a little bit rocky.

The Price of Smiles Episode 3 Stella

I think this one has a lot of potential but it all depends on where they take the story and if they actually get around to doing anything with the questions they are raising. Also, whether or not these characters actually learn anything at all from their experiences. It’s really hard to tell at this point if this anime has the strength of writing to get this right or not.

Prediction: I’d like to be hopeful but I suspect we may just have a show that kills off its characters toward the end in order to make for a tragic ‘war is bad’ kind of message rather than any actual narrative depth.

Number 4: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Well, this one certainly made a contentious start to the season. For me The Rising of the Shield Hero has done exactly what I expected having read the light novels. It isn’t great but it isn’t bad and so far the adaptation has it all the notes it has needed to even if it isn’t exactly the same as the source – though given how many versions the story has gone through all ready it would next be the question of which one.

shield3e

Where Shield Hero is succeeding for me and why it is so high on my list is that it seems to have made Naofumi’s character a little more tolerable even in the early stages of the story, while still making him flawed enough that a redemption story is needed. Plus, Raphtalia is just kind of awesome. I’m having a lot of fun watching this one and looking forward to more.

Prediction: Not sure how much material they will cover in 25 episodes or whether we’ll end on a good resting point, but I do know that the novels meander a bit so this one may very well sink a little on this list despite generally thinking I’ll enjoy it.

Number 3: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka

I suspect already that this one is not going to last in the top 5 by the end, however I’m leaving it here for now for the simple reason that I’m glad an anime that is deciding to put teenage girls through trauma is then actually interested in examining how trauma affects people. Some of the things anime characters go through and just kind of shrug off with no lingering impact is kind of insane so dealing with the real ongoing trauma as Asuka tries to integrate into a normal life, was actually kind of great.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - New battlefield

Though a single concept within a story can’t keep it as a must watch unless it does something else. Visually, this one is a bit hit and miss but there are some beautiful sequences. The characters have so far been the strength of the show but the villains are a little weakly developed at this point. There’s a lot that might be amazing about this and a lot that could go wrong so we’ll see where it ends up at the end of the season.

Prediction: I don’t think this will stay in the top 5 but I do think I’ll be glad I gave it a watch this season.

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

Number 2: The Promised Neverland

Such a promising, suspenseful and beautifully directed start to the Promised Neverland. While I will admit we’ve gradually been winding back the praise on this one, it was still a first episode well worth watching because so few anime manage that much characterisation, world building and intrigue in twenty minutes. Plus, the directions of this series has so far been really interesting though even that aspect seems to be winding down.

The Promised Neverland Episode 3 The Kids Train

I’m definitely with this one for the season and in terms of genre it is doing a great job of keeping my interest. Now that the anime is far enough ahead I’ve read the first volume of the manga and my interest is even more piqued by the potential for this plot. Still, there’s been some shaky characterisation in the last couple of episodes and that gorgeous direction seems to be giving way to more pedestrian approaches. It will be interesting to see if this one can hold its nerve to the end.

Prediction: This one may not stay quite so high on my list but it would have to make a serious downward turn to leave my top 5. Very much recommend trying this one.

Number 1: Run With The Wind

I do not think I ever believed that a sports anime (other than Yuri On Ice) would be topping my watch list and yet Run With The Wind has managed to build from strength to strength over its season. I doubt it is going to derail now and it has been exception at building up the cast of characters despite the large number of them. Add in great sound design and some interesting visual choices and we have a very solid anime.

Run With The Wind Episode 12 Kakeru

I like that this anime doesn’t seem willing to bite off more than it can chew. It knows what it is and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that. But it is working hard to deliver the story of these boys coming together as a team in an interesting manner and so far it has largely succeeded (though Kakeru’s back story dragged on a little too long). I’m very much caught up in this story at this point and hopefully it will nail the ending.

Prediction: This may not finish number one but it will definitely be up the top of my list. Consistent delivery of quality character work and competent narrative makes this an easy recommend.

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THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR’S UPGRADE EDITION]
THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE: SUMMERSET [DIGITAL COLLECTOR'S UPGRADE EDITION]