Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser January 12, 20190 Comments
A girl in an elaborate dress cutting a bloody swath through a pair of men with guns

What’s it about? The invasion of the Disas necessitated the creation of a special combat unit: magical girls who gained special powers by fusing with spirits. Three years after the Disas were driven out, Asuka is attempting to attend high school like a normal teen—but defeating the Big Bad didn’t mean the end of conflict.

Content Warning: Gore; fanservice; NSFW screenshots.

There’s something that sets me on edge about modern dark magical girl series, which is perfectly embodied by a scene early in the premiere: a girl catches sight of the heroine and says, excitedly, “I want to be a magical girl!”

To which her mother replies, leading her away, “You don’t want to be a magical girl, it’s dangerous.”

five young women in costumes and armed with weaponry standing on a cliff edge. subtitle: there were nine of us when we started. Only we five are left.
And they’re all still alive! As far as I know!

That idea of taking a hopeful, empowering genre predominantly aimed at young women and saying “no, you shouldn’t want this; if you reach for this power, you’ll receive suffering in equal measure” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Doubly so when it is overwhelmingly male authors who led the modern dark magical girl movement, as though the genre wasn’t plenty of capable of being dark without indulging in suffering porn.

That said, Magical Girl Spec-Ops the Line (I’m sorry, it’s all I can hear) has a much stronger start than something like Magical Girl Site. While the premise is very pleased with itself for framing magical girls in the context of military ops and gun porn, I didn’t get a sense that it’s hellbent on punishing its protagonists for cheap emotional punch.

There’s a moment when Asuka rushes to save her new civilian friend from a terrorist attack and actually does save her rather than being re-traumatized for maximum edginess, which was when I gained a fraction of faith that the series might actually be interested in engaging with the themes that normally characterize magical girl series rather than wallowing in its gimmick. The depiction of Asuka’s PTSD flashbacks is even trying for tastefulness, though I’m not entirely sure it succeeds.

close up of asuka in a sports jersey. subtitle: her swimming and marathon times ranked in the inter-high championships.
I just need you all to sit and absorb these Cubist-inspired boob physics with me for a minute.

It is still a Grim and Edgy series, mind: Asuka quit fighting because her parents were kidnapped and mailed back to her in pieces; there’s lots of bloodspray during the combat sequences; and there’s a glimpse of a rather intriguing box stuffed with disassembled people-parts.

But for me, at least, the gory trimmings are offset by the sense that the series isn’t set on being relentlessly misanthropic. If I’m honest, the series’ attempts at seriousness often strode right on over into hilarity. When Asuka very seriously stated that “I’m not killing anyone now that I’m in high school,” I had to stop the stream and laugh for a full thirty seconds.

There’s a magical girl character named Mia Cyrus, people.

a girl in a gothic-style dress smiling at a floating cat spirit. subtitle: girls who could synchronize with spirits to gain special powers.
The facial designs are also…trying their best. I think. It’s hard to tell.

Aside of the gore there are a few other things to aware of. There’s definitely boob nonsense going on: Asuka’s costume vacuum-packs her breasts into presumably weaponized torpedoes, and we meet the Big Bad via a shot of her budding amoeba-titties glistening with drops of water. I also get a strong yandere lesbian vibe from one of the subordinates.

Series like this are always hit-or-miss on whether they’ll tip their balance from camp into unpleasantness, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t kind of wanna watch another episode.

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