Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is a twelve episode anime adaptation of the manga written by Makoto Fukami and illustrated by Seigo Tokiya. The director of the anime series is Hideyo Yamamoto, and the writers are Makoto Fukami and Norimitsu Kaihō. Liden Films is the studio that produced it.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka aired during the winter 2019 season of anime, and is available to watch on Crunchyroll.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is set after a massive war with creatures known as Disas. It focuses on Asuka Otori, a magical girl with the call sign Rapture, who is still haunted by said war. She wants nothing more to live an ordinary life, but when the Disas appear once again, she is pulled straight back into fighting.
One of the things that Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does particularly well is trauma. Asuka has PTSD from the Distonian War, and that is something that remains a constant throughout the series. Seeing, or even hearing, conflict brings back memories of Asuka losing her comrades during the war. That is something that is fairly consistent, rather than a one-and-done deal.
Asuka isn’t the only one who has to cope with trauma, as there are a couple of civilian girls that Asuka befriends when trying to live a normal life. They are Nozomi and SayakoWhilst Nozomi and Sayako are unaware that Asuka is a magical girl, they do find themselves getting caught up in certain events. Sayako winds up in a terrorist attack during the first episode, and that is a trauma that stays with her throughout the season. Nozomi has a worse experience, but certain events transpire that prevents that from mentally scarring her. The same is true for the manga as well.Not every character suffers from trauma, at least not in the present day. Asuka’s constant companion, Kurumi Mugen – call sign War Nurse – has a backstory that could easily be found in something like Magical Girl Site. Fortunately, she had someone pull her out of that misery, and thus she ended up falling in love with Asuka.
Asuka and Kurumi’s relationship is another thing that Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka does quite well.Kurumi is very much a pillar of support for Asuka. Meanwhile, Kurumi is willing to get her hands dirty all for Asuka’s sake.
On that subject, this show has a fair share of torture scenes. They don’t particularly hold back, and it does come across as somewhat over the top. There are some scenes from the manga that were toned down in the anime, but it seems that these torture scenes are an exception.
The scenes exist to demonstrate that both protagonists and antagonists are willing to go as far as it takes to achieve their goals, but at times it is just torture porn. Particularly when War Nurse is involved…As for the antagonists, they just seem to be evil for the sake of being evil. Their ultimate goal isn’t ever really revealed; it is in this regard that this anime is a bit of a manga hook. There are a couple of genuinely sympathetic antagonists introduced a little later on, but we are still left in the dark as to what the enemy ultimately wants.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka‘s animation isn’t the highest quality, with some noticeably off-model shots at times. It also tends to have a habit of showing action scenes by panning over still shots, though thankfully that doesn’t happen enough to make it a major issue. When action scenes are actually animated properly, they look great and the soundtrack that accompanies said scenes works well too.There is a lot of fanservice present in Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. There’s swimsuits, but you also have characters stripping down to their underwear here and there. A certain character from the Spirit World is basically just fanservice manifest, as well. When it comes to fanservice, mileage will vary between different people, but it is something that is very much present.
There’s no getting around this: Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is a dark magical girl show. That’s not a mark against it, though. It effectively explores trauma, at least in most cases, and just what it means for these magical girls to fight once more. Maybe it is best thought of as a military anime, with a magical girl twist added to it. After all, these magical girls are soldiers.
Whilst there are some elements that may dissuade some from watching Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, it is ultimately an enjoyable experience providing you can stomach its more gruesome moments.