This episode totally changed the nature of this series.
Before this, I looked at this show as a goofy, pulpy amalgam of magical girl shows and modern day political/military thrillers. It was all terrorism and paramilitary fetishism dressed up in frills and skirts and talking mascots. It was trashy and cheap, like a direct to DVD joint starring a has-been action star, and it was great in that regard.
This episode went way beyond all of that, and if this is the true nature of Spec-Ops, it’s gone from simple genre mash-up and straight into outright exploitation.
This isn’t just a matter of playing around with genre stuff. This is reveling in nastiness and “problematic” ideas. Here’s what we get in this episode:
- An abusive father tries to get his disabled daughter a job in a brothel. She’s rejected, and her father abuses her physically and emotionally.
- The “bad guys” of the series take advantage of this and give the daughter a “second chance” by killing her father and allowing her to become a magical girl.
- The daughter lost her leg, and her mother was killed, after being hit by a drunk driver. The driver was a minor and got off with a light sentence.
- After effectively selling her soul to become a magical girl in a scene that’d make Kyubey from Madoka blush, she’s given the chance to kill the drunk driver and everyone else sentenced in her mother’s death.
- Said revenge killing isn’t simply a matter of using her new powers. She’s given a knife and is told to take her time and savor the kill. She does this.
- The magical beast who kills her father, makes the “deal,” and arranges for this revenge is a former Somalian child soldier.
- He was spared death when terrorists told him to kill his family and rape his sister. He does this.
- He was found by the “bad guys” and given a “deal” much like the aforementioned girl. He kills his captors and joins forces with the series’ antagonists.
- The magical terrorist who was apprehended at the end of the previous episode is tortured for information.
- The torturer is War Nurse Kurumi. She enjoys it. A lot.
- It’s revealed that Kurumi isn’t just the team’s healer and support type. She’s also the one who does the “dirty jobs” for the team, like torturing. She enjoys it. A lot. It’s revenge for being picked on as a child.
Any one of these things would be a nasty, upsetting, exploitative plot point– an “OH MY GOD” moment of shock meant to throw you off-kilter or whatever. This episode is a litany of such moments, going from one to another with an almost eerie sense of ease and casualness. It’s as if this is what the series always wanted to be, but had to be sure you were willing to accept it after sprinkling a few teasers before hand.
By throwing all of this out there with such ease, it has a way of lessening the blow and revealing it all for what it really is: exploitation television. This isn’t an attempt at a serious treatise on terrorism and the effects of war. All of that is here and worth considering– exploitation is never without ideas on its mind– but it’s using that sort of subject matter in a revelatory, absurdist way.
It’s fun because it goes so far and disgusts you to no end– all to the point where you can’t help but laugh.
It’s horrible, disgusting, repulsive trash, and I’m loving it all the more for it.