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.

Akame ga Kill! – 12

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Night Raid’s decisive defeat of Dr. Stylish and his army of experiments does not immediately lead into another Jaeger fight, and that’s okay by me, since we get to see them enjoy a little down time (or rather leveling-up) time, and we’re formally introduced to their two new members and the new dynamics that ensue within the group.

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First up, Susanoo, who we saw a lot of last week in action, turns out to be Najenda’s new Imperial Arm, having awakened for her in part because she resembles his old master (who was a guy, mind you). Because he was designed to serve as an Imperial bodyguard, he’s not just good at fighting, but is a neat freak and household chore-master. His culinary skills ingratiate him with Akame, and the two make fast friends.

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The second new member is Chelsea, who dons a school uniform, is almost always sucking on a lollipop, and is voiced by the lovely and talented Nazuka Kaori. Najenda identifies her as one of the rebellion’s top assassins, specializing in deception. Her Imperial Arm “Gaea Foundation” is a cosmetics box that allows her to take the form of anyone, a useful skill the group has lacked thus far. She’s also very laid back, confident, and arrogant, and clashes with Mine often.

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When Mine orders Tatsumi and Lubbock to “teach her a lesson”, Tatsumi ends up learning that Chelsea is the only survivor of her old group, and doesn’t want that to happen with this new one, which is why she won’t hesitate to tell it like it is if she thinks any member of Night Raid is coming up short. There are a lot of battles that have yet to be fought for the revolution to succeed.

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As Night Raid trains in a remote and secluded area, the rest of the Jaegers are also standing by when Esdeath realizes Dr. Stylish has bought it. As the person who gave Seryu her new arms, he is yet another loss for her, putting what remains of her sanity in jeopardy before an increasingly empathetic Esdeath comforts her (beating Wave to the punch). Seryu remains an interesting character in that she is utterly convinced she and the Jaegers are the good guys.

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For her part, Esdeath is still upset over Tatsumi fleeing, and is determined to get him back, but we learn that Run has joined the Jaegers to “observe” her, suggesting he may have plans in mind she may not agree with. We close with the reveal of another new guy who has a big grin and sics danger beasts on miners. One major takeaway from this episode is that there’s plenty of material for the second cour.

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Akame ga Kill! – 11

"I'm not dead! No worries!"
“I’m not dead! No worries!”

From the moment Leone is stabbed in the head, I knew this was going to be a different kind of AGK; one in which for the first time Night Raid will have to repel an invasion of their no-longer-secret headquarters. The Jeager Dr. Stylish, your typical mad scientists, sends waves of foot soldiers and lieutenants at Night Raid, resulting in some nice matchups and a good variety of battles, some of which are faught in their pajamas!

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“Sorry, No time to change.”
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“‘Tis…but…a SCRATCH…”

First, a wrong is righted when Kakusan, bearing Sheele’s scissors, picks a fight with Tatsumi. Both are brawny, but Tatsumi does his job, getting beaten up enough for Kakusan to get too cocky, whereupon Mine arrives and uses her rifle in the worst possible pinch, making the weapon powerful enough to do Kakusan in entirely. The scissors are now back in Night Raid’s hands. It occured to us if Tatsumi’s old sword broke, he could become their new user, but we’ll see.

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Repelling an invasion is tiring work

An HQ invasion is a good chance to see the rear line in action, and we see the ingenuity necessary to ably wield Lubbock’s string arms, as he fights a knight-like foe in a narrow hallway. Lubbock gives way to Akane to lop off limb after limb off the increasingly Monty-Pythonesque knight, but it’s Lubbock who delivers the killing blow, an unsporting surprise blow from behind. But this isn’t the time for fair play; not with Night Raid’s haven and home on the line.

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“That was bugging me.”

After Leone takes out the guy who originally stabbed her (catching another one of his knives in her teeth), Dr. Stylish surrounds the assembled Night Raiders, who all succumb to a weakening poison except the armored Tatsumi. That’s when the cavalry comes into play, atop a giant manta ray danger beast. Najenda has returned just in time with two new members, only one of whom we see in action.

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“Hi-Ho, Tatsumi!”

Susanoo, as he’s called, is a powerful “Human-type Imperial Arm” whose very body is the arm itself, making him the one fighter immune to Stylish’s poison. He also takes the time fix Mine’s mussed hair, lightening the mood. Of course, his arrival on the battlefield leads Stylish to take it up a notch and inject himself with something that turns him into a berzerking monster, as mad scientists in things like this tend to do when they’re out of options.

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“I could use a shower. And breakfast.”

Tatsumi isn’t quite the poisoned Akame’s knight so much as her horse, as he carries her up to Stylish’s weak spot in a nice bit of teamwork. Again, it was good for Najenda and the other newbie not to engage in battle at all, as it’s smart to save some reserve awesomeness for the battles to come. After all, Stylish is just one Jaeger, and probably not the strongest.

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Akame ga Kill! – 06

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While AGK painted super-bleak pasts for all of the members of Night Raid (the most recent bleak past being Tatsumi’s), but their present had typically been painted with an optimistic, jaunty brush, as they defeated target after despicable target with righteous ease.

Not this time.

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Just when Tatsumi was finding solace in the warm kindness of Sheele, she is the first curmember to bite the dust, indicating the show is fully invested in the idea that members of Night Raid can indeed die any day, at any moment, something Tatsumi didn’t understand the full weight of. Bumping off a major character only a quarter into its run was a bold move by a show has never been afraid to be bold, even to the point of ludicrousness.

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The episode is pretty sneaky about it going down, too, starting out with Just Any Other Mission as Tatsumi and Leone sneak into a drug-addled brothel, kill its operators with their usual baroque flourish, and free the women. Leone even licks Tatsumi’s ear! When they wonder whether Mine and Sheele had as easy a time as they did, we cut to that pair, having just completed their mission as well.

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Then the episode did something I didn’t expect: it never goes back to Tatsumi or Leone, but sticks with Mine and Sheele for the rest of the episode, because now is the time Seryu has chosen to emerge from her hiding spot and take out one of the wanted Night Raid members; specifically, Sheele. Her reasons are simple: they’re criminals, she’s justice, they killed her dad and dad figure.

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Let’s get this out of the way: Seryu’s Imperial Arm Coro is ridiculously overpowered, capable of doing…whatever it is Coro (and the show) wants or needs it to do. Still, it wasn’t invincible; if they could find its core they could destroy it; and it would deactivate if Seryu herself was killed. But Mine simply doesn’t find the core in time, and Sheele’s fatal mistake is treating Seryu like normal human being.

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A normal human being whose arms were lopped off would probably be willing to yield, but Seryu was hiding guns in her arms, and even her mouth. This is frankly quite disturbing, and a little random, but there it is. This is an battle where Night Raid comes close but ultimately comes up a little short, and they were always only an inch or a second away from being killed.

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We didn’t get a lot of time with Sheele, but this has always been an exceedingly efficient—if never particularly deep or nuanced—show, and we cared enough about Sheele to feel bad when she was killed. The montage that closed the curtain on her life was another example of doing a lot with a little bit of time and material.

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So…Night Raid can lose sometimes, and they can die. The group of assassins looks particularly vulnerable and shell-shocked when Mine arrives outside HQ with the grim news. With Seryu arm-less but still alive and full of bile and Esdeath arriving in the capital, more of them are likely to die still. Whatever happens, Tatsumi’s honeymoon is officially over.

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Akuma no Riddle – 03

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What’s red but not read, and dead but not dead? The Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Azuma’s role as Haru’s protector is accepted by the gamemakers and the mission begins in earnest, with the first advance warning being given by Takechi Otoya. Needless to say, her assassination attempt fails, so she drops out of Class Black by the end of the episode. That leaves ten assassins and ten episodes remaining.

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Takechi starts her morning smashing her roommate’s glasses, and it’s gradually revealed she only gets sexual release from murder and is thus a serial killer. If she succeeds in offing Haru, she’s asked for bulletproof insurance that she’ll be able to murder as much as she likes in the future without consequence. She kills her prey slowly, taking after spiders but substituting scissors for fangs. Her buddy-buddy routine with Haru before striking is pleasantly unsettling, but she isn’t convincing anyone.

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What’s really interesting about this first attempt isn’t that Takechi failed to kill Haru, but that Azuma failed to protect Haru. Receiving her first warning unsettles Haru, but it also steels her resolve to protect herself, which is what she does, with a little luck: when Takechi lowers her guard, Haru kicks the hell out of her, sending her signature scissors flying right into Haru’s binds, cutting them. Azuma has her chance to take Takechi out, but her gun’s knocked out of her hands and she ends up on her back with a saw blade mere millimeters from her eye when Haru rescues her with a nifty sleeper hold.

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In this regard, Takechi gets a pretty raw deal, as she’s expelled for failing, but Azuma isn’t. One thing’s for sure, both of them agreatly underestimated Haru’s propensity for survival. I imagine we’ll learn a little more about that propensity with each successive assassin. It may well be that Azuma is the one who’ll continue to need protecting from increasingly sinister adversaries. Bring on Number Two.

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Nazo no Kanojo X – 08

Tsubaki dreams of touching Urabe’s breast, and can’t get the feeling out of his head after waking up. While wandering around of a Sunday, he happens to stop in front of her apartment building, and encounters her returning from the store. She invites him up for tea. A big storm brews, and lightning strikes as Urabe gets up to turn on the lights, startling her. Falling into Tsubaki’s arms, he tells her about his dream, and she lets him touch her breast. He pushes her down and nibbles her ear, then snaps out of it and leaves, ashamed of his behavior.

The next day, at school, after recieivng her very enlightening saliva, Oka advises Urabe that changes in her body are normal during a romantic relationship. After school, Tsubaki apologizes more, and insists on being slapped before getting his saliva for the day. She obliges, but then reveals how she now tears up every time he or she touches her ear, thanks to him, but isn’t mad about it, and actually likes it. She tastes his drool and wears the same bruise she gave him, since she was responsible for letting him touch her breast in the first place.

Tsubaki and Urabe have different ways of expressing sudden moments of intense happiness. Urabe suddenly coughs up a abnormally large amount of saliva, while Tsubaki tries to give her a big affectionate hug. He’s never succeeded, though, thanks to Urabe’s catlike reflexes. She always tells him “not without my permission.” She isn’t ruling out physical contact altogether; she just wants a little bit of warning, is all. When the stars align and Tsubaki ends up alone in Urabe’s room in the dark, in prime position to touch her breast like he did in his dream. But he doesn’t ask permission, and before he knows it, he has scissors at his throat. Urabe is particularly menacing in a form-fitting black turtleneck sweater, which makes her resemble an assassin.

Once Tsubaki calmly and honestly tells her what’s on his mind, she actually allows him to touch her breast. And then something else happens: something comes over Tsubaki and he makes more moves, but even with superior strength and speed and her scissors in reach, she doesn’t stop him, because he makes her feel something “she never felt before”, and learns later from Oka that Tsubaki is changing how her body reacts to things, and he’s changing hers. The episode is a very touching (no pun intended), slightly kinky, and above all an earnest, relatable exploration of the biology and psychology of physcial contact.

With eight straight episodes of quirky, creative, refreshing excellence, we’re ready to elevate Nazo no Kanojo X to our esteemed favorites list.


Rating: 9 (Superior) ~series elevated to favorites ~

Nazo no Kanojo X – 05

Tsubaki learns that Urabe’s sweat also conjures images of her in his head; specifically of her in a swimsuit. She chalks it up to sweat being similar to seawater. When summer vacation arrives, he suggest they go to the beach for a day; she agrees. When they meet up at the station on the promised day, he finds her extremely tanned. He also learns why she’s wearing a skirt over her bikini bottoms: wearing scissors on the beach by her dad’s house gave her a scissors-shaped tanline.

Tsubaki seems to learn something new about Urabe every day he’s with her. He’s learning, for instance that sudden movements, especially those close to her, put her on edge. She also likes her yakisoba with lots of ginger and no meat, and mayo if she can get it. She’s also a fast swimmer with a great body, and isn’t above leaning on him if the circumstances are right. But even knowing all these new things about her, she remains, on the whole, the titular mysterious girlfriend. But there’s nothing wrong with that. When we saw the fanservice-heavy preview for this episode, we were expecting the first non-4 outing for Nazo no Kanojo X. However, we were plesantly surprised.

This episode maintained the quality of its predecessors, while moving Tsubaki and Urabe’s relationship further along by having them finally go on an honest-to-goodness date, which Urabe is happy to agree to, as she likes the ocean. Her sudden, extreme tanness was fittingly odd, while the scissor tanline (aside from being an awesome name for a band) was a priceless “reward of the week” for Tsubaki. Her genuine surprise at getting a nosebleed after tasting his saliva reinforces the fact she’s not yet fully cognizant of how her actions, gestures, and habits turn him on, which is nice, because it means she’s not intentionally messing with him. And we should also mention that nearly half of the episode wasn’t about the date at all, but Tsubaki’s anticipation – including a goofy grin that took over his face.


Rating: 9 (Superior)