Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – 05 – Magical vs. Badgical

War Nurse reattaches Nozomi’s arm, heals her abdomen wound, and gets her to safety, but Abigail catches up to her and transforms into a full-fledged Badgical girl, with razor-sharp barber’s scissors.

As for Asuka, once she expends a great deal of her magic to destroy the Russians’ water spirit, the mercs are no match for her, even when she’s out of practice…which is as it should be. Asuka wouldn’t have survived this long letting herself get beaten by lightweights like these guys.

However Abigail came upon her magical gifts, she proves quite the challenge to War Nurse, especially when she summons not one but two Halloween-class Disas at her (her dominatrix getup certainly stands in stark contrast to Kurumi’s good witch garb).

Kurumi takes one of the Disas out, but Abby presses her attack with the other. Kurumi has to be bailed out by M Squad, who keep Abby occupied until Asuka can relieve them. As Iizuka says, you need a magical girl (or girls) to fight a magical girl.

Now Abby’s against the wall, until she’s rescued by her “Queen”, in masked badgical girl form, who then retreats. While Asuka couldn’t defeat Abby or the Queen, the fact they destroyed two Halloweens and recovered Nozomi makes this a victory.

But there’s a cost: Nozomi may be physically fine, but her PTSD is so bad she can’t look at Asuka or Kurumi for more than a second before going into a paroxysm of terror before passing out. But hey, it’s all good: Kurumi can heal her PTSD too—she just needs to erase all of Nozomi’s memories of the last week to do so.

With that procedure carried out, Asuka and Kurumi wait for her to rest and recover, with Asuka lamenting that she can’t protect anyone or anyting. Kurumi begs to differ, as neither she, Nozomi, or the M Squad would be breathing were it not for her, to say nothing of the bystanders saved when she stopped the terrorists. Suddenly convinced once and for all, Asuka informs Iizuka of her intent to officially join the Spec-Ops M Squad.

Iizuka reports to his superiors, who tell her the powers that be want Nozomi to stay at her current school where she’ll continue to serve as potential bait for their enemies. Kinda harsh, but they’re banking on Asuka and Kurumi continuing to protect her.

Meanwhile, Nozomi seems to be fine; she’s just forgotten their fun pool trip…not the greatest sacrifice if you ask me (Sayoko’s complete absence from this episode was puzzling…if she was there, wouldn’t she have corrected Nozomi?). Even when Asuka resolves never to go see that movie, letting the wind take her ticket, as soon as she turns around Nozomi is there to invite her all over again.

So basically, they got their first good  look at the bad guys and what they’re capable of, but the battle resulted in a draw, while hitting the reset button on Nozomi reduced her horrible suffering to a motivating cautionary memory for Asuka. It’s all rather neat-and-tidy, but at least she’s no longer in denial about having to fight in order to protect those she loves.

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Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – 04 – Taking the Bait

Asuka has a recurring dream where she’s too late to save her leader Fracine from her injuries. Before she dies, she names Asuka to succeed her, and assures her that while the world has a lot of problems, it is also full of beautiful things worth protecting.

Asuka apparently needed to be taught this lesson in the worst way  possible, as one of the current problems plaguing the world (groups who wish to use magic to hurt people and gain power) takes one of the beautiful things (her friend Nozomi) hostage.

Nozomi’s father is to blame for her capture, not Asuka. It would seem that terrible things need to be done in the name of national security, but it’s clearly better if the ones doing the terrible things didn’t have such lightly-protected family.

In a further display of cynical pragmatism that borders on comical, Nozomi’s dad is told his daughter will be a “sacrifice” that will give Public Safety the budget and mandate they need to go out there and really bust some heads.

Since no police or military unit will mount a rescue, it falls to Asuka. With Francine’s words still ringing in her head she doesn’t spend much time mulling over whether going into action to save Nozomi is the right thing to do.

Considering how sweetly and adorably portrayed as Asuka’s friends were, it was fairly inevitable that one of them would end up in some real shit. But while Sayoko was merely caught in some crossfire, Abigail and her twin Russian sorcerer mercenaries spare no cruelty as they burn Nozomi’s skin off and simulate drowning, all while the cameras roll.

You get the feeling even if Kurumi can heal her many physical wounds, unless she can also remove all memory of the ordeal, Nozomi is going to be severely scarred by the torture. But first thing’s first: she has to be rescued. Asuka and Kurumi have no trouble getting past the initial waves of guards, but Abigail isn’t remotely concerned they’ve arrived. In fact, she’s delighted they took the bait. She feints “freeing” Nozomi, but slices one her arms off.

Unfortunately for her, in such close quarters Abigail has the disadvantage, which Kurumi exploits by impaling her with a giant needle, after which she and her familiar Sacchuu grab Nozomi and rush her to safety while Asuka keeps the Russians busy with a grenade.

She knows that won’t be nearly enough to kill them, but is still confident in her abilities to handle the three mages alone. But she underestimates the Russians’ magic, getting smashed into a wall and allowing Abigail to go after Kurumi (who hasn’t even started getting serious yet).

Overall, the stakes were succinctly set: poor Nozomi’s life and many other lives will be lost in gruesome fashion if Asuka and Kurumi (and whatever other magical girls/guys wish to participate) can’t get the job done. I would hope that whenever this is all over, Asuka will cool it with the “not my fight” attitude, and Nozomi’s dad will quit torturing people. Bad guys are going to do bad guy stuff regardless…so don’t give them any excuses!

GOD EATER – 02

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It still looks the business, but GOD EATER came down to earth a bit this week. The relatively taut pacing of the first episode was gone, replaced by a plodding storyline that felt dragged out in order to build up suspense for the eventual reveal of Alisa, the self-proclaimed Best New-type who looks to be Lenka’s rival.

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Lots of guys sorta-looking at boobs this week

The slowed and somewhat creaky pace and preponderance of people standing around having casual chats made it much harder to overlook the cliches of the plot, which were many: The kid screws up and ends up in the brig, but sudden circumstances and a ringing endorsement from Major Amamiya’s older brother (and Fenrir-Far East’s top Old-type) Rindou force her hand, and she gives him a fresh chance to prove himself to the brass, who want to take his weapon away.

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All that well-tred ground is made tolerable by the show’s gritty-yet-smooth style, but the battle that results in Eric dying and Lenka getting jailed is needlessly split up into separate parts, killing its momentum. And during the battle, there’s just no sense of urgency.

That is, until after Rindou takes out the “Vajra” (a type of Aragami boss), and a stray Aragami tries to pounce on the unconscious Lenka. If nothing else, I liked the symmetry of an unarmed Lenka saving Eric before (which is the rumor at Fenrir that makes Rindou a fan) and Eric repaying him with his life.

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Back in the present, after Eric’s memorial service, Alisa is on her way via air transport, but all of her fighter escorts are taken out by a swarm of aerial Aragami, creating the emergency that requires Major Amamiya to entertain Rindou’s suggestion they send the kid out again.

But again, the pacing and direction undermine the tension. The rapid-fire events up in the stratosphere just don’t jibe with the slow deliberations of the Amamiya siblings, not to mention the Major’s confronting of Lenka to give him a choice only he can make: Stay in the cell or step out and fight (even though she opposes the latter). Things on the ground are just taking too long.

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Which is a shame, because the bay door of the transport plane opening to reveal a no-nonsense Alisa ready to do battle is a pretty badass way to close the episode. It’s just too bad it didn’t feel like there was enough in this episode to justify leaving this scene for the very end. It lurched its way to this point, and left me feeling gypped Alisa didn’t actually get to do anything.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 07

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This week’s Drrr! is all about the contrasts between similar pairs of people, starting with the Two grizzled Ivans somewhere in Russia, both post-Soviet arms dealers; one’s pretty much fire one’s pretty much water. The water Ivan is Vorona’s father, and she possesses both characteristics, sometimes in sync, but sometimes in chaos.

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When Egor enters Russia Sushi, Simon and Dennis initially suspect he’s there to knock them off, but he’s really there for Vorona over, among other things, stolen anti-materiel rifles. Dennis is doubtful Vorona would use such a weapon in Tokyo unless she was in “a real crisis”, and at that moment it become’s Chekhov’s AMR.

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For all its prolific complex, multi-modal, zig-zagging storytelling, Drrr is just as capable of focusing in one one person an delivering a quick, efficient profile. Vorona’s life as an assassin and general badass began with one of those real crises; an unsavory home invader.

Vorona, armed with a sprawling library full of knowledge in every field, but useful and useless, Vorona answers her sudden fear of being killed with a ruthless plan, luring the burglar into a trap and literally killing him with water (from the bath) and “fire” (from a hair-dryer), executing everything perfectly and precisely like her dad, but also seeming to take a bit of enjoyment from it like the other Ivan.

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Seeing this new side of Vorona for the first time, her dad let Simon and Dennis train her, and she learns quick. These two ex-military guys ostensibly came to Ikebukuro to start new, laid-back lives, but it’s cool to see their old lives on display here, and how closely they’re connected with Vorona, who’s only just arrived.

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Without their tutelage, she wouldn’t be nearly as tough and honed a killing machine as she is when we meet her. But because she’s not just a carbon copy of her father, once she gets really good, odd jobs and small fry aren’t enough for her. She seeks out her father’s rivals and eliminates them to a man, but not for his approval or to help with the family business or because they were an imminent threat. She did it because it was fun.

Her first kill was overzealous self-defense,  armed only with household appliance and her wits. But I don’t think Ivan turned his daughter into a monster by having her trained; he was only facilitating a foregone conclusion.

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That brings us to Vorona’s latest job; capturing Anri. Ikebukuro has been so weak and unimpressive to her thus far, she’s riding a wave of arrogance and invincibility, which rams her right into a concrete wall. Vorona is good, but she’s still human, and coming up against something not quite human is a glass of cold water to the face. Even more than that, it’s something she hasn’t read about in any of her books; an unknown.

Vorona and Anri are a lot alike, in that both are imminently capable and potentially dangerous young women, one of whom choses to explore that potential to the fullest, and one prefers as quiet and normal life as she can manage.

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Armed with her bookish knowledge, wits, resourcefulness, Vorona thrived, but she didn’t fact Anri with as an underdog, but with the mentality of of a favorite. Her earlier success wasn’t success at all; you cannot beheaded what is already headless. Suddenly outmatched by real and frightening aberrations, Vorona returns to that night before she took action, and remembers again what it’s like to fear being killed.

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In other words, she enters the “real crisis” mode Dennis thought so unlikely, whipping out the AMR and firing it right at Celty, blowing her away but obviously not killing her. Having bought some time, and learned more about what she’s dealing with, she’ll formulate a new strategy that doesn’t rely on brute force alone.

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That brings back to Mikado, who has followed Masaomi’s advice and stayed in of a Saturday night. Considering what went down, that looked like good advice. Of course, by staying in Mikado is subjected to another manipulative phone call from Izaya, who understands Mikado founded the Dollars not only to put some excitement in his life, but also to fit in, to belong within the ensuing community.

Just because that community is off doing unscrupulous things like picking fights with rival gangs, that Mikado doesn’t agree with, doesn’t mean it’s all falling apart, nor can Mikado impose his pacifist will on them without destroying the Dollars’ fundamental philosophy of freedom. The Dollars are evolving, that’s all, and Mikado’s fear of being left behind is similar in strength to Vorona’s fears about being weak, unable to cope with threats, or killed.

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It’s a New Day in the Dollars, and Mikado can’t stem the tide. Aoba, Izaya’s heir apparent arrives at his door the next day, as if to herald that fact. Simon’s voiceover returns, and he mirrors his earlier comparison of the two Ivans with these two Taros: one who is Mr. Nice Guy, and the other who uses nice guys.

Will Mikado evolve, or dig in and let the wave crash around him, leaving him alone and left behind, his greatest fears realized? Such a scenario suggests there’s no one around of like mind to help him resist that wave, which is untrue. But in that case it certainly points to some kind of conflict. Mikado can’t very well stay holed up in that room forever.

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