「もしもこの戦いが終わったら」 (Moshimo kono tatakai ga owattara)
“If this Battle Ever Ends”
To say letdown may be a bit of an overstatement for MSTA’s finale, but seriously: where’s my reveals? Where’s the answers which have been teased so incessantly from the start, the reason to say damn, I want to watch more. Yeah it may have been a pure “read the manga” type of ending (which by nature is going to mercilessly tease the hell out of you), but I cannot deny I was looking forward to getting something for all the trouble. Well, something more than Kurumi going full threesome dominatrix mind you. Poor Asuka, you have no idea what’s coming when that girl finally gets aggressive.
In the end though MSTA pretty much went out the way it came in. Conspiracies were revealed, enemies were fought, and—mostly importantly—magical girls were made to suffer at every step. It may not have been the mahou shoujo deconstruction we’re all used to (or even looked forward to), but MSTA certainly showed the wellspring of cutie breaking has yet to run dry.
In the close it’s easy being conflicted about MSTA. This was one show billed as being the “new” mahou shoujo deconstruction, a gritty, realistic (somewhat) approach to the Madoka-inspired genre which has quickly come to find its place among the likes of shounen and isekai, and while it certainly succeeded in producing that image, it also didn’t lack for faults and defects. Much like aesthetically similar Mahou Shoujo Site or even Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, MSTA had the look, but couldn’t quite fill in the gaps.
The biggest issue with MSTA as a whole is definitely its story. While the show did great in laying out its premise and introducing key players, it never advanced beyond those initial trappings. We got the protagonist backstory and some on point looks at an arguably underappreciated condition with PTSD, but beyond that MSTA never really went anywhere. Who are Asuka and friends specifically fighting, why is it important to fight them—just what is the true objective of the Babel Brigade? While true many of these answers cannot be fit into a single season of obvious promotional material, MSTA ultimately lacked the hook which demands you to immediately reach for the source material to see how it all fits together. Even hints towards these questions (and secondary ways to encourage further audience interest) were few and far between, leaving the likes of Chisato, Kurumi’s new puppy, and Gies as nameless enemies easily forgotten and the most important antagonists—i.e. the Queen—as little more than window dressing. MSTA had the plot pieces, but couldn’t quite put them together.
Where MSTA did succeed however was in terms of that aforementioned image. The show may not have delved too deep into this, but MSTA did showcase a fairly realistic concept of “militarized” magical girls. Spec ops, tactics, showcasing of war’s aftermath—we got the full meal deal when it came to wartime mahou shoujo, even if many of concepts and potential story threads remained largely unspoken for. It doesn’t take much to see where this story could run with Asuka’s PTSD for example, or even how far it could take such things as collateral damage (ex. Nozomi and Sayako) and conflicting loyalties (*looks at Tamara and that substantial connection of hers*). The series simply put had some unique and intriguing ideas compared to its peers, and while it never made the most of them (which to be fair was mostly down to time and emphasis), it easily shows not all cutie breaking has to involve large free for all games of death. Cute and obviously evil mascots yes, but there’s more than one way to bring about that magical suffering—just ask the puppy dog.
Ultimately though while MSTA had its flaws I cannot say I’m disappointed in the time I spent blogging this one. It may not have lived up to the expectations I originally had, but it shows there’s still plenty of appetite for magical girls gone wrong and that this (sub)genre still possesses plenty of room for some creative ingenuity. We may not see more MSTA in anime again, but if this series can pave the way for similar boundary exploring mahou shoujo in the future, then I think it has accomplished all that it could have ever hoped for.
Full-length images: 10.