Mar 29, 2019
papsoshea (All reviews)
Welcome to the latest entry of “Dark Magical Girls”, the anime sub-genre that rose to popularity in the 2010s. The creators of these types of stories grab the aesthetic made for young girls and smash it repeatedly until blood is splattered on everything. When you begin to peel back the very thin layers to the story, it really isn't interested in playing with the Magical Girl aesthetic or tropes at large outside the most obvious surface elements. The magic element is there so it's teen girl super soldiers have a justification to wear fetish outfits instead of Kevlar.

Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (Spec-Ops Asuka for short) is a story where magical girls meet military warfare. The premise is proud with itself for framing Magical Girls in the context of military ops and gun porn, and while it’s not determined on punishing its protagonists for cheap emotional punch, most (if not all) emotional scenes lose their importance with the show implementing gratuitous and titillating fanservice. Simply removing such things instantly turns this into a decent show that really understands PTSD, it depicts and tackles this issue well. Spec-Ops Asuka does a good job of showing its heroine’s having to continue living after having fought a bloody, vicious war for humanity's survival, coping with the emotional consequences of their actions. Even though they once saved the world but its survivors are often blaming them for the unintentional side-effects post-war. It's a good hook, but the shows biggest issue with fanservice gets in the way of having these themes resonating, and thus the impact is lost.

At least it tried to distinguish itself from the crowd by the way it chooses to tackle the Dark Magical Girls sub-genre—by wrapping it into a story about soldiers, war, terrorists, and weapons of mass destruction, etc., which is cool but maintaining your suspension of disbelief is incredibly hard when most of the enemies the heroines are fighting are oversized, cute-looking plushies that have the “Fluffal Frightfur” (Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V) aesthetic to them. And in case any of you were wondering, yes, this show has yuri elements for the sake of having yuri elements. And yes, this show has the “all men are assholes” narrative for the sake of… well, you get the point. The disappointment comes from the fact that you know that this could have been a decent Magical Girl series. The excessive torture porn, fanservice, and vulgarity just feels too weird, bizarre, cringe-worthy and sometimes unintentionally funny. This is one of those anime series where it recommended to view with the volume turn down and with headphones on because you don’t want anyone overhearing a big fat orgasm that is thrown into most of those scenes.

Furthermore, I think the creators and LINDENFILMS don’t understand that you can have a dark and gory depiction of Magical Girls without the excessive number of unnecessary elements. The result is that you get a show that is Cinemanarratively Dissonant. Spec-Ops Asuka is a very ugly undertaking in its depiction of the cruelty that happens in times of war. But we also have to sit through the ahegaokin faces, titillating fanservice with the victims put in scandalous positions. Imagine watching a war movie where the goal and purpose is to show the audience the terror and horrors of war, but during the battle scenes, it's portraying visually that war is the most badass thing ever. Another example is playing a video game where the whole goal and narrative revolves around stealth missions where you have to go through the game undetected with minimal casualties. Yet, there are achievements based on how many headshots you can perform to attain a certain skin—the story being told visually doesn't agree with the story being told by the script. Or, in this case of the video game example; the story being told narratively doesn’t agree with games mechanics.

By now you may have gotten tired about the constant callbacks to the show's fanservice. I’m not against fanservice in general, but just pointing out that the type that exists in Spec-Ops Asuka is the kind that devalues stories. Take Kurumi for example. By the text of the script, she is smart, caring, talented, hard-working, driven, heroic and strong-willed. She’s essential to the plot and the main Heroine in Asuka, she has her own thoughts and opinions, she comes up with plans, and her character arc meshes while with the themes of the show, like PTSD for example. However, the camera treats Kurumi as a hooker in a strip club because of how she is consistently framed. Despite these good traits and qualities, she is framed to be pervy and annoying, and that dissonance between the cinematography and Kurumi's writing devalues her as a character. The theme of “girl power” takes a hit when Asuka says she wants to be just as strong as a Magical Girl when she was young, only to have her mother discourage her that it’s too dangerous—the scene is framed in such a way that girls must remain in the kitchen.

So, as you can already tell, the shows visuals take’s a dive in the scoring department. Although there are plenty of well-choreographed action sequences, some having solid fluidity to them, LINDENFILMS didn’t really do the Spec-Ops Asuka justice unless you’re into the fanservice. The character models look like they’re from another decade, and even then, not of the good sort. Most times poorly drawn where facial features get inconsistent with size and proportion. The big eyes and pupils are very distracting. The fashion sense for our character has one goal, which should be obvious by now. Designing almost every female character to have huge knockers is part of the shows absurd hilarity (unintentional) and reinforces the idea that this is basically softcore hentai. The score has a few great tracks which are mainly used for the battle scenes, but apart from the dubstep beats, it just exists. For what it's worth, it has a fantastic OP theme, "KODO" by nonoc.

In conclusion, Spec-Ops Asuka doesn’t only dwell in seriousness, there are moments, even a dedicated episode for the fun slice-of-life side of things, giving another tone for the characters to show other sides of their personality. Between the fun and campy action stuff, the show is constantly vacillating between gun porn, misery porn, torture porn, justice porn, and just porn—sometimes simultaneously. I found myself laughing in moments when the show feels the need to remind its viewers that it’s a Magical Girl show because the guns and weapons have the name “Magical” in it. A disappointing series, where the flaws outweigh the boobs. A rather great recommendation for hardcore ecchi fans that need more spank bank material.