「帰ってきた魔法少女」 (Kaette Kita Mahō Shoujo)
“The Magical Girl Comes Back”
Ah grimdark mahou shoujo, it’s been around the block of late. Every couple of seasons or so sees a new one to indulge our love of cutie breaking (don’t deny, you know like it) with a new mechanism by which to see the fun ensue. Sure the concept is getting a little worn out by now, but never say a little imagination cannot go a long way. Or at least that’s what Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka (or MSTA because long names are hard) believes because it’s certainly aiming to differentiate itself from the pack.
As mentioned in the always useful RC Preview (I should know, I helps write the things) MSTA takes a different approach to gritty magical girls. Rather than the usual story of girl meets magic and hilarity (read: endless suffering) ensues, this one flips the script, seeing instead what happens after all the cutie breaking is said and done. The threat MSTA’s mahou shoujo were went to deal with—i.e. the Dias—has largely been eradicated, beaten back by their spirit-infused powers, albeit at the cost of a few cute lives. It was certainly a vicious war if a few scenes are anything to go by, and definitely one helpfully reinforcing the trope that all cute mascots are evil and malicious. Because if there’s one thing you do it’s never trust the plush. Ever.
Such an aftermath setting though wouldn’t be complete without the concomitant character suffering, and it’s here where MSTA will likely make its biggest impact. Main girl Asuka (Suzaki Aya) for example, one of the remaining magical girls by all appearances, is pretty much the definition of suffering as she not only has textbook PTSD, but possesses one hell of an ability to lob limbs off via magical combat knife without a moment’s hesitation. She’s stuck in a kind of postwar purgatory, wanting to live the rest of her life in peace after the trauma, but not quite able to abandon that which made her who she is. There’s just too much in way of memories and societal demands for a life of peace (as many ex-soldiers can relate to), especially given Asuka looks set to see her past come back in two different ways. Old squad leader/guardian begging for her return to help keep the world safe? Please, we all know where the real impetus is. Conspicuous box and new friend death flags courtesy of modern day political realities—I think we all know exactly where this one is heading.
While unclear just how well MSTA will execute its premise going forward (never count your magical chickens before they hatch), considering the current setup and the lack of any egregious production issues so far this is one show which has gone up a notch in my books. Sure it may still all fall apart, it may turn into a glorious trainwreck, but I’ll be damned if I’ll turn my nose up at magical girls doing special ops. There’s a lot of cutie breaking fun to come in this one, and I’d be remiss to skip out on it all.
OP: 「KODO」by nonoc