Genre(s): Magical Girl, Action, Drama, Military, Seinen
Age-Appropriateness: 17+ (Strong language, Gore, Disturbing themes, brief sexuality)
Platforms: Crunchyroll, Funimation
TheAwersome Rating: 5.8 / 10 (Good premise, Poor execution)
Premise: Three years ago, a bloodthirsty race of interdimensional beings known as the Disas appeared and destroyed everything they could reach on Earth. With regular weapons rendered useless, humanity’s only hope of survival relied on humans who became magical girls after forming an alliance with the Spirit Realm, who had followed the Disas to Earth. After a violent conflict, the squad of magical girls emerge victorious, with the survivors now known as the “Magical Five.” Following the war with the Disas, the Magical Five disbands. Kurumi Mugen, Mia Cyrus, Tamara Volkova, and Lau Peipei independently continue their own military services, while their leader, Asuka Ootorii, retires and becomes a high school student. However, Asuka’s peace is short-lived, as it seems there were survivors on the enemy’s side as well. As magic must be fought with magic, Asuka is dragged back into combat as an even worse battle looms on the horizon.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This sounded like it was going to be an intriguing time. With magical threats defeated, magical girls fight international crime and underground organizations. Think Netflix’s Daredevil series, but with Magical Girls. Fun, right? Next, do everything poorly. Animation is stiff (when there is any, often times it’s a still that pans across the screen), character design feels inconsistent and unpolished, and the characters don’t feel fleshed out. I can mostly forgive shortcomings that clearly come from budget (animation, art) but what was most disappointing was that the writing felt like story-board notes that never made it to the actual writer.
TLDR: A poor execution of an otherwise good premise.
My biggest disappointment with this series was that I felt it was irresponsible with heavy subject matter. You can have a gnarly, violent show without it and I’ll accept that it’s just a gnarly, violent action piece. But if you’re going to bring up heavy topics like PTSD, the psychological effects of war, trauma, torture, and abuse, it’s insulting to be so casual about it. I feel that here it was purely done to “have heavy elements.” It just threw them in every once in a while, but they had less of an effect on characters than typical shonen motivations. The show leaves off with nothing really resolved and a big cliffhanger for more story but considering that I literally fell asleep during the final battle scenes, I doubt I’ll see it if it even does get made.
Another issue I had with this was the genre mismatch. It wasn’t sure if it was a dark, crime/military show that had magical girls, or if it was a Magical Girl show that was dark. It started out as the former, but would occasionally throw in the second genre and it didn’t quite work. A dark crime/military show with magical girls would be something along the lines of the aforementioned Daredevil, but having magical girl superpowers. The latter, a Magical Girl show that’s dark, is more along the lines of Madoka. Frequent topics and discussions of friendship, hope, interpersonal relationships, with a few cute slice of life moments, with punctuating moments of psychological trauma and heaviness.
Spec-Ops Asuka is primarily the first genre, and didn’t execute the typical Magical Girl shojo moments well, so rather than add to the feel of the movie they just felt like shoe-leather.