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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Up Close With Madoka

You know, plenty of people want to change the world. Most of us won’t ever be given the chance to. But what if one day a small, white, bunny like creature appeared and told you that you could make a wish, and because of your great potential you could wish for almost anything you wanted and it would come true?

Would you end up like the Rat from Juni Taisen who simply wishes to forget everything that has happened so that he could find some peace? Or would you manage to find a wish worth changing everything for?

This is the question Madoka is confronted with early on in Madoka Magica and it isn’t really surprising that it takes her the full series to finally come to a resolution. Madoka is living an ordinary life. She is an ordinary girl. This wasn’t a case of her being reborn in human form or born into a family of magician or anything along those lines. Madoka is painfully ordinary and she is well aware of the fact.

Madoka Magica - Madoka's Family

That said, her family interactions are adorable. She has a career driven mother who still tries to find time to bond with her daughter and to support her through the awkward transition into adulthood sharing small pearls of wisdom while preparing for a day of work/school. The father prepares meals and takes care of the younger brother and again provides that quiet background support within the story. Madoka’s home life is well established and her family feels warm and caring, though also busy with their own concerns. I would have liked to have seen more of hose Madoka’s choices impacted upon her family but realistically in the episode count they had they did a great job with this.

Madoka also has well established friendships with Sayaka Miki and Hitomi. These three are very well grounded and while Hitomi gets sidelined a little from the main action, serving more as a catalyst for Sayaka’s disintegrating mental state, early on it is fun spending time with these characters as they head to school and the like.

Madoka Magica - Sayaka

So from this very ordinary beginning, Madoka is asked to consider making a wish that might very well change the world. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to become a magical girl. It is clear early on she is interested as even the prospect of it has her daydreaming and drawing potential costume designs while at school. She also jumps at the chance to observe Mami in action so that she knows more about what a magical girl is.

The problem Madoka faces is she doesn’t want to waste her one and only wish and yet she doesn’t want anything badly enough to wish for it. Her life is settled and happy. Good family and friends. It makes sense that while she has things she’d like, none of them seem like something that are worth using such a wish for.

Of course, this is where things get ugly, because being a magical girl isn’t all it is cracked up to be and as Madoka witnesses the tragedies of the other magical girls and ultimately the threat to her family and friends from a witch that is really too powerful to be fought, Madoka finally does find her wish.

For a character who is fairly unassuming and comes from such an ordinary background, Madoka really does think this one through and while there are consequences and implications she couldn’t possibly have imagined, her wish really did change the world.

Madoka is a great character. She truly transforms in response to the circumstances around her and ultimately manages to figure out what it is she wants and uses her one and only wish to ensure it happens. Watching the journey as she tries to figure out what is really worth wishing for is truly a rewarding experience and one I absolutely loved.

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PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA PORTABLE [LIMITED EDITION]
PUELLA MAGI MADOKA MAGICA PORTABLE [LIMITED EDITION]

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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MAGICAL GIRL SPEC-OPS ASUKA LARGE TOTE BAG BLACK
MAGICAL GIRL SPEC-OPS ASUKA LARGE TOTE BAG BLACK

Top 5 Magical Girl Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

Welcome to another top 5 list for Tuesday and this week I am counting down my favourite magical girl anime, mostly inspired by how much I’ve been enjoying Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka (while not perfect, it has been quite fun as a darker magical girl series). I’m not convinced I haven’t already done this but if I did I can’t find it so let’s all just go with this is the first time I’ve put this into a top 5 list. Now magical girl anime and I have a real nostalgia thing going on as some of these were the shows that got me into anime and they really stuck with me. While there are some more recent entries in the list, the nostalgia is strong with this one.

With that in mind, I’d love to know what magical girl anime are your favourites and why. Is it something a bit older that reminds you of your childhood or are you into some of the more recent entries into the genre. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Honourable Mentions: Kamichama Karin

This one is a bit of a weird one, but for whatever reason I kind of got stuck on it a few years ago and I’ve binge watched it a couple of times since. While it doesn’t stand out as much as some of the other entries on this list, it is a fairly functional magical girl show and it is very easy to get caught up in it and lose track of time.

Number 5: Is This A Zombie

It feels weird to give the number 5 spot to a comedy anime about a male zombie character who manages to acquire the power of a magical girl and then undergoes a transformation into a cute pink dress complete with chainsaw. I do love that as his power level rises the frilliness and flowery add-ons on the dress get even more over the top. It is a great jab at some of the impractical magical girl costumes out there. Whichever way, when I think about magical girls, there is literally no way to not think about Ayumu so that is why he got the number 5 spot on the list even though technically he’s a zombie who is borrowing magical girl powers.

Number 4: Madoka Magica

The only ‘dark’ magical girl story that made it onto my list. What can I say? As much as I love horror and dark stories, when I got to watch a magical girl story I kind of go wanting something a little bit more sparkly. Madoka Magica managed to balance its darker subject matter with some really great magical girls, cool powers, and spectacular fight sequences in a way that while it was dark and serious, it still felt like a magical girl story and not a horror that just happened to feature magical girls right before they got slaughtered. I really did enjoy Madoka Magica and it is another anime I regularly binge watch.

Number 3: Cardcaptor Sakura

Despite the heavily edited version of this that I saw originally, complete with a truly terrible English OP, I really did get caught by the plot of Cardcaptor Sakura so when I was older and I could access a translated but less edited version of it, I jumped at the chance to watch this anime again. Syaoran and Sakura are beautiful in the leading roles and I just love how cute and happy this anime is. While Sakura doesn’t include some magical girl tropes, no spinning costume transformations, Sakura actually has to change clothes if she wants to wear one of her friends’ hand-made costumes, it very much captures the spirit of Magical Girl anime and is an excellent started anime if you have kids you want to introduce to something without worrying too much about some of the anime tropes out there.

Number 2: Shugo Chara

Another super adorable, super pink Magical Girl anime. This one grabbed me because of Amu. She’s got such a mismatch between her inner and outer personality and I love how she struggles with figuring out who she is, particularly when she has so many guardian characters with each one presenting a different aspect of who she might be. While the overall plot of this one is a bit harder to take seriously, there are some really excellent character arcs for a lot of the cast and it ends up being a story well worth the effort of investing your time into.

Number 1: Sailor Moon

Did you expect anything else to top this list? I mentioned at the start that this was a nostalgia fuelled list in the first place and Sailor Moon is the starting place for me and anime so of course it was always going to be number 1. Serena and the Sailor Scouts are characters I grew up loving and I don’t think anything is going to change that anytime soon. While Sailor Moon villains might border on the idiotic or ridiculous, the core cast remain full of heart and life and if you want cute costumes and pretty sparkles, Sailor Moon has you covered. Also, some darker moments and real danger which certainly pushed beyond what a lot of ‘girls’ TV shows were doing when it came out.

So that is my list of my favourite magical girl shows. I’d love to know yours.

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FIGUARTS ZERO CHOUETTE BISHOUJO SENSHI SAILOR MOON: SAILOR MOON -MOON CRYSTAL POWER, MAKE UP-

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

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

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.