Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka in the Land of Trauma

magicla girl spec ops Asuke

 

  • Genre : Magical Girl; Fanservice; action; torment
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: LIDENFILMS

 

Thank goodness for Magical Girls! If it hadn’t been for the legendary 5, the world would have been lost to the invading forces three years ago. Now they can finally kick back and enjoy a normal high school life. Well earned, to say the least. Nevermind that the unit was in fact 11 girls, only 5 of which made it out and that the devastating war has ravaged the earth making it ripe for criminal and terrorist organizations to run amuck. Someone probably should take care of those. No need to think about the fact that young girls were made to kill on a daily, and watch their friends die before their eyes or have their families in the line of danger because of them. Surely these things will have no lasting effects. A cute school uniform and some fun at the pool is all you need to wash all your worries away!

I’ve come to realize something about myself. I like the Magical Girl genre. I’m pretty sure I’ve enjoyed every single series that could loosely fit that description. Whether they be the gritty drama, cute innocent action or goofball comedy type. I must have subconsciously known this because I was looking forward to Asuka and brought it up my watch list very quickly. Did my bias hold true?

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ep1-2 (1)

oh good!

Be honest with me guys, are my little above the fold paragraphs, stupid? I can take it. I really enjoy creating my own summaries, but the teaser paragraphs are another story. It’s just that jumping straight into the technical aspects of the series from there just seems so abrupt.

Anyways, Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka could have used more budget!

Ok, ok. To me, this series is a mix of highs and lows that more or less cancel each other out, and a lot of those lows are on the production side. The best technical asset by far is the character designs which are cute. Actually, they are basic for the most part except the actual magical girls that have that traditional overcomplicated and woefully unpractical aesthetic. I liked it! Everyone else just looks like stock anime characters. The voice acting wasn’t painful and the colours probably won’t hurt your eyes.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ep1-2 (16)

they might hurt something…

The rest of the production values should go into the lows. Atmospheric sound design doesn’t seem to have been given any consideration while the soundtrack was uninteresting and occasionally got in the way. Light was flat and framing and directing were basic. Not bad but what you would imagine a first effort to look like. By far the biggest flaw, however, was the animation and art.

Asuka is a high action series and animation was jagged and just unpolished. Occasionally still shots were intertwined to fill things out which made the end product even jumpier. Generally speaking, it gave the impression that the action scenes were just not quite finished and personally, it did take me out of the moment a little. I also noticed that battles are frequent but very short, or at least intercut with moments of stillness (a character lying knocked out while enemies slowly walk towards them, that sort of thing). I guess they couldn’t afford to animate longer sequences. As for the art, as I said the designs aren’t bad but it’s terribly inconsistent. One of the worst offenders I’ve seen in a long time.

Magical girl spec-ops Asuka ep3-4 (13)

great posture

You know what, I was going to talk about this later but let’s just get it out of the way. Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is a sexualized show. There’s a lot of fanservice and some scenes border on lightly ecchi. This is not a problem in and of itself, however, the art is so inconsistent that instead of being tantalizing, these scenes become distracting if not a little confusing. The girls seem to gain and lose noticeable amounts of weight from one scene to the other. Even from one angle to the other. And not just going from B to DDD cups size. Thighs, waists even faces change proportions in very visible ways.

Moreover, details get lost and character models lose integrity with changes in angles. I have difficulty overlooking bad visuals in animes but I can get past it. However, when you have so many scenes that are supposed to just look great, that’s their main, occasionally only, purpose, then at least for those scenes, you should have really focused on the visuals. That’s my two cents. There are still some very nice fanservice moments if that’s all you care about, but I have a feeling you can find better easily, at least in terms of art consistency.

Magical girl spec-ops Asuka ep3-4 (14)

I know, scary!

The way I would describe Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is that it’s an interesting plot with a classical premise, delivered in the most uninteresting way possible. I really liked that the story starts after the girls have already experienced (and been heavily scarred by) the atrocities of war. A lot of similar series start off with innocent optimistic girls that slowly get broken by harsh reality. With Asuka, the girls start broken and we get to explore the aftermath which I thought was a good take on it. Putting your weapons down when you essentially are a weapon. Good conflict, lots of potential for drama!

Similarly, the characters are just a little spicier than average. It’s the usual archetypes, the prodigy, the badass, the stoic genius ect… but already twisted and warped by the suffering they’ve had to endure. They’re a little haunted…a little wrong… That’s also an interesting twist.

Unfortunately, both character and plot development are given almost entirely through plain exposition and the writing is not witty or interesting enough to do the story justice. As a result, everything seems a bit more boring than it should and characters never really get to shine despite how potentially interesting they are.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ep5-7 (8)

I know right?!?

There’s also the classic problem that they tried to cram way too much into 12 episodes. Because so much of the current story is influenced by events that happened three years ago, the show feels constantly obligated to give us flashbacks to events and people long gone. However, we only get glimpses, so we never really establish and connection to those events. On top of that they need to introduce and develop 6 main characters, 4 main antagonists, an array of supporting characters, explain the laws of this magical universe and cram in some complicated story of interstellar/interdimensional warfare.

It’s just way too overstuffed. To the series’ credit, you do generally understand what’s happening at all times but not always the greater why, or why you should care. Oh, and it’s unfinished. The two main antagonists introduced in the early episodes sort of forgotten midway through and that storyline is never resolved. Instead of long scenes of sexualized torture (not kidding) that added really little to the story, I think we could have used some character-building moments and a little explanation of what the different realms are and why we’re at war. They could have had the characters stand around naked while talking about it, that way they could get the fanservice quota in as well. I’m a genius!

So did my bias hold true? Well, yes! Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is not an objectively good anime in my opinion. And it’s easy to see that it could have been way better. But I still watched it all and was often curious about what would happen next. It’s a show I wish was better and that’s saying something. I still generally like all Magical Girl shows I’ve seen. But Asuka is possibly the one I liked least.

Magical girl spec-ops Asuka ep3-4 (6)

maybe she reminds me a bit of Tanya?

 Favourite character: Mia 

What this anime taught me: ummm..always have a cyanide capsule when going into enemy territory?

I love drunk me, but I don’t trust her

Suggested drink: Tampico Trauma 

  • Every time you see lots of blood – take a sip
    • dismemberment – big sip!
  • Every time the genki friend tackle hugs someone – take a sip
  • Every time there’s any Yuri – bow chica whoa wow
  • Every time– take a snack
  • Every time there’s a traumatic flashback – get some water
  • Every time there’s cleavage (front or back) – fan yourself
  • Every time there’s cleavage during a traumatic flashback – spit take
  • Every time there’s a magical girl transformation – take a sip
  • Every time anyone says “Magical girl” – breath in
  • Every time we see Francine – take a sip
  • Every time anyone mentions Phoenix is from Russia – switch to vodka
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka ep8-12 (27)

educational!

You know how it goes, I have a tone more pictures you can see/download/use…whatever you like, over here on imgur or if you prefer, on Pinterest. But I will give you a sample here:

 

 

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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24 Responses

  1. I’m beginning to understand the perspective of many of the first responders and retired military people I talk to. Seeing and experiencing what they do affects them.

    I understand that some folks found the torture scenes to be disturbing or gratuitous or in some other way uncomfortable. But I saw them differently.

    Kurumi is broken. She was carrying a heavy burden even before she became a Magical Girl, but after going through that war, it’s amazing she’s even coherent. But she’s keeping it together mostly because of Asuka. Kurumi’s attitude toward torture — towards doing anything that would either protect or help Asuka — makes perfect sense to me in that context.

    Kurumi’s affection for Asuka was fanatical. She loved Asuka with all of the gratitude and pathos and desperation in her heart. I got the sense that Asuka understood that, even if she couldn’t put it into words. She was always quietly present for Kurumi.

    I also think the show got PTSD right, at least dramatically. I respected how they treated it seriously.

    And no, the art wasn’t perfect. Everything in this post was a solid description! But even the art had high spots. Take the image captioned “Nice posture!” Yes, it is a good example of nice posture for Asuka. But look at Kurumi. Her shoulders are hunched in; her posture is a perfect representation of her personality: uncertain, unconfident, and tentative. So even the art could make a positive statement from time to time.

    I liked the show. Not as much as something like Re:CREATORS, but really, there aren’t many on that level for me! Keeping in mind that I can’t dispute anything even in the most negative comments, for me it came down to the characters and themes.

    • Irina says:

      I personally don’t find the scenes either disturbing or gratuitous. Frankly their way too sexualized to be taken seriously so there goes the disturbing and are in line with the rest of the show. To me these scenes as well as the repeated flashbacks to francine’s death

    • Irina says:

      Wasn’t done… Some of the set up for the throwaway magical girls some of the school scenes ect… Are a mismanagement of narrative priorities, i assume through adaptation. For me, the show suffered form lack of establishment and even exposition, and these scenes added either information and emotional context that was redundant or not used and as such to me felt like the wrong tradeoff

      • I can’t disagree with you. Because of my non standard wiring, though, I saw it a little differently. Too sexualized? Maybe… but that’s really who they were. The narrative never really address the question of why the girls had to be so scantily clad — even to the fairy general. Yet, there they were…

        You’re absolutely right about the show not taking opportunities to establish the characters. Yet, based on what I did know about Asuka and Kurumi, I had a strong sense of their relationship.

        Again, I can’t disagree with you or anyone else in the comments who agree with you. I suspect my imagine filled in the blanks and didn’t bother to mention it to me.

        That’s nothing new.

        It might be that I’d prefer to apply all of my critical power to the creation process. Once we get a finished product, I like to use those same skills to enjoy the work as much as possible, if it strikes my interest. And this show did!

        • Irina says:

          Our definitions of sexualized are different. The characters could have been completely naked and the scene could still be less sexualized(once again It’s the sexualization of the scene which I think is a misfire not the caracters. There’s a huge dissonance for me between the cinematic language used and the actual narrative which I found funny and undercut the dramatic tension.

  2. A Library Archivist says:

    Within a couple eps of this show starting, my Anime Watching Buddy and I renamed the show “Magical PTSD” and never referred to it any other way. Watching it was painful, not terribly entertaining. The animation quality was relatively good, except that much of the imagery is kind of like a terrorist clown attack during a carnival when you’re only 2 feet tall. Everything is bright, colorful, looms, and covered in explosions and gore and blood. I gave it 2 stars but only because the production was competent.

  3. I saw this one while it was airing, but “going overboard with the torture” doesn’t begin to describe it, really. Although I don’t agree with the full extent of Dawnstorm’s statement of magic explaining everything, I do agree that magic as a way to keep Nozomi (genki girl)…well, genki…really undermined the deep thematic stuff that could’ve gone on there and I think I’ve seen comments to that effect on WordPress and elsewhere, since it could’ve been a proper commentary on PTSD otherwise. (That seems to be the only praise I remember this show getting, come to think of it…)

    Also, is it just me, or does Tamara remind anyone of (Nancy) Schaal (Bancroft) from To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts this season…?

    • Irina says:

      I haven’t started watching it yet but I’m looking forward to it

    • Dawnstorm says:

      Actually, I didn’t mean to say that magic explains everything. I haven’t seen enough of the show to make such a statement. And when I said “but then they used magic to gloss over the fallout,” I was thinking of the Nozomi incident. I mean they still handled it pretty well with Sayako.

      I’ve been suspicious of the show from episode one, mostly because of the over-the-top villains. It’s not the whiplash that bothered me, either. It’s perfectly fine to have a camp, fun show and smuggle in some authenticity. I’m fine with that.

      The problem I had was that in the case of trauma, if you send her back into the battlefield, the danger is great that you use clichés (“it’s to protect everyone!”) as an excuse to justify pushing into your trauma and then, as the plot goes into action and depravity, sort of forget the trauma part and make it seem that traumatised people just need the right attitude – and that doesn’t sit well with me.

      With the Nozomi scenes I had the feeling that they had to up the ante, get more gruesome to stay interesting, and that’s never a good sign. But there can still be value in such escalation (as hyperbole) if you take the fallout seriously. As a thought experiment, imagine the show going back to be slice-of-life about living with trauma. No great drama, just the occasional fit in the wrong situation. A CGDCT show with a one-armed character, who’s still not over the events that led to that? It’s probably not easy to pull off, but if you do, you’ve got something unique at the very least.

      Since you mention Tamara: I think her introductory episode was the last I’ve seen. I’ve followed Crow’s episodical posts to the end, so I may feel like I’ve seen stuff I haven’t actually seen, but I think that’s about as far as I got. (I can see the comparison to Schaal).

  4. Dawnstorm says:

    I dropped this show. A lot of the torture and cruelty felt gratuitious. It would have been easy to connect this with the trauma better, but then they used magic to gloss over the fallout… The entire mood of the show was just not my cup of tea – it felt either too gruesome or too afraid of consequence (unless if it was to heighten drama). The scenes that showed trauma were actually good, though.

    • Irina says:

      True. It did show trauma pretty well just went a bit overboard with it. To the point where I started wondering whether this was just an ultra black comedy…

  5. Karandi says:

    I did enjoy this but like you I realise that objectively it wasn’t very good. There were just too many issues for the good points it has to overcome. Still, the concept was interesting and I did like the characters we were introduced to. It really would have been nice for us to have gotten a bit more from them though, and as you said a lot of it felt really rushed. I still have to write my review of this one, Endro and Domestic Girlfriend from the Winter season and I’ve been putting them off because I have mixed feelings about all three shows.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Asuka.

    • Irina says:

      I look forward to it. I remember the episode by episode reviews were a bit of a rollercoaster and now I know why

  6. raistlin0903 says:

    Well not surprisingly I have never heard of this one, and it honestly despite some of the obvious flaws you pointed out, doesn’t sound half bad. Seeing as I have a backlog that is so big I probably will never finish it in my lifetime, I’m obviously not in a rush to watch this one.
    Oh…and to answer your question: no your above the fold paragraphs aren’t stupid. But that said nothing about your posts is ever stupid, so there is that 😊

  7. ospreyshire says:

    I was wondering about that anime, but I thought you made a good assessment. The concept of war with magical girls sounds interesting, but not everything worked from what you and others explained.

  8. Lynn says:

    I think you nailed it. Too much crammed into too little time. The torture scenes didn’t really add anything and almost felt out of place for me. Average is a fair assessment.

  9. negativeprimes says:

    Sounds like a fair assessment. Asuka went up a notch in my book, though, by being the only anime I know of to mention Systema, the Russian martial art based on breathing control. Though that guy didn’t stand a chance against the magical girls…

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