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What 'Witch' Means in Gundam: Witch From Mercury

by Brian Stremick,

“History does not repeat, but it often rhymes.” One of the best anime franchises to depict this concept is Mobile Suit Gundam. Since the first TV anime aired in 1979, this franchise has shown that for all the technological or philosophical advancements in a society, there are still elements of human nature, especially the negative ones, that will come to surface. The newest iteration of the franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, evokes the European witch hunts of the 15-17th centuries in both its title and other references throughout the narrative.

In order to see how the witch trials helped influence the world of G-Witch, the very first question we need to ask is what constitutes a witch in this world. In our world's history, it was believed by many that some people, mainly women, made pacts with the devil in order to influence things around them. A one-to-one comparison cannot be made as there are no prominent superstitions in G-Witch (the closest is the fortune-telling game one of the characters, Aliya, plays with the other members of Earth House). As of this writing, the show is between seasons and has been keeping things close to the vest, so we must infer the definition based on what the show has already presented to us.

In the world of the show, humans have been facing severe difficulties in migrating to space such as weightlessness, vacuum, the atmosphere of other planets, and cosmic radiation. While there are some solutions such as vaccines and implant apps, they barely hold back the disorders they're supposed to prevent as well as them being expensive, which means that it is usually the wealthy that make it into space, thus creating a discrepancy between those living in space and those living on Earth.

To counter this, the Vanadis Institute dedicated itself to producing the GUND Format, where the human nervous system would be able to control artificial appendices and organs, to quote Dr. Cardo Nabo, “[to] supplement the fragility of the human body.” Their hope was not only to remove the constraints that prevent successful habitation of space by human beings, but also to help repair the divisions between the peoples of both Earth and space.


The statements described above have all the hallmarks of transhumanistic philosophy, a way of thinking that seeks the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its existing human form and limitations. The methods can range from real world concepts such as nanotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science to more theoretical applications such as simulated reality, cryonics, genetic manipulation (think the Coordinators from Gundam Seed) and even artificial intelligence.

There have been serious ethical questions regarding these ideas and how they conflict with basic human values. If, for example, humans are able to manipulate their genes, it could be possible that there could be discrimination against those who choose not to or could not afford to modify them. If limitations on human life or thought could be overcome technologically, could we consider ourselves even human anymore? There is not a clear cut argument for or against the philosophies as there are valid points on each side of the general debate. Yet with the rate of acceleration in modern technology, it is a debate that is becoming more necessary to have.

By developing and using GUND Format technology to achieve something that normal human beings are unable to do or perhaps create something that could be superior to humans, those who seek to use this technology were like the witches of old making deals with the devil for power or immortality, but at a great cost. That technology is known as whole brain emulation or mind uploading, where a person's consciousness is uploaded into a computer which is supposed to give them a sort of quasi immortality. While not stated outright in the show so far, there is strong evidence that it is possible with the GUND Format, if not a desired result.

The first example comes from the prologue where Ericht's father Nadim is using a Gundam to fight off the Cathedra forces that were attacking Folkvanger. As he raises his permet score in order to buy time for his wife and child to get away, there is a scene of a few quick seconds where it appears that Nadim is being drawn into the system. Later when he starts singing Happy Birthday to his daughter, the song could be heard on the Catherda ship's com systems (the novelization goes farther when it is remarked that coms weren't even on).

The second and possibly more sinister example is where Suletta is fighting Elan in Episode 6. At the climax of the duel, his Gundam Pharact begins to resonate with Aerial. Elan sees multiple images of Suletta which turn out to be Aerial's deployed GUND-bits. What is most noticeable is that Elan hears the laughing of several young children.


We must now rely less on hard facts and go more into speculation for this section. For many weeks during the show's run, there has been much speculation and debating on the matter of Suletta's nature, whether she and Ericht from the Prologue are the same person, and if not who was Suletta supposed to be. One of the theories that was making the rounds in various corners of the internet is that Suletta is a clone (the best evidence we have in the show are some cryptic words Elan uses to compare himself with Suletta in light of what we know of his nature). It had been speculated that the various parts the Aerial uses to form shields and weapons are in fact the personalities transferred from other clones.

While this is just speculation, if the show proves this to be true, it could be another connection with the witches of the past. One of the many crimes they were accused of is crimes against children, whether it is by murdering them, digging up the corpses to use the parts for potions or offering them when they were still alive to the devil (often many of the women accused were midwives). If this is the case, it would show not only the dangers of the GUND Format, but it could potentially also show that if it is used for the wrong ends, the Gundams might deserve their poor reputation.

When it comes to the aspect of the witch trial itself, we must keep in mind that Suletta, Prospera, or any other character accused of being a witch, were not subjected to tests or torture to extract a confession (the worst that would have happened to Suletta was she would have been kicked out of school and Aerial ended up dismantled). However, there are some similarities to some of the procedures of actual witch trials.

While there are three instances in the show where there is an inquiry that could be described as a witch trial, our focus will be on the formal hearing in Episode 2 where it is Lady Prospera who is being questioned. To make our comparison, we will be looking at testimony from one of the most famous witch trials, the ones held in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. In particular, the trial of Bridget Bishop, who was one of the nineteen who were executed.

Let's begin with the inquiry with Lady Prospera:

Delling: Lady Prospera, representative of the Shin Sei Development Corporation. Are You a Witch?

Prospera: No.

Delling: Do you have ties to the Vanadis Institute?

Prospera: No.

Delling: Then how did you build a Gundam?

Prospera: The Aerial is not a Gundam. It's a product of Shin Sei's newly developed drone technology.

Now we shall take a look at Bridget Bishop's trial:

John Hathorne (the presiding Magistrate): You are here accused by 4. or. .5. for hurting them, what do you say to it?

Bridget: I never saw these persons before; nor I never was in this place before.

Mary Walcot sais that her brother Jonathan stroke her appearance & she saw that #[ha] he had tore her coat in striking, & she heard it tare.

Upon #[sea] some search in the Court, a rent that seems to answere what was alledged was found.

Hathorne: They say you bewitcht your first husband to death.

Bridget: If it please your worship I know nothing of it.

She shake her head & the afflicted were tortured.

The like again upon the motion of her head.

...I am no Witch.

Hathorne: Why if you have not wrote in the book, yet tell me how far you have gone? Have you not to do with familiar Spirits?

Bridget: I have no familiarity with the Devil.

Hathorne: How is it then, that your appearance doth hurt these?

Bridget: I am innocent.

Hathorne: Why you seem to act Witchcraft before us, by the motion of your body, which #[hasin] seems to have influence upon the afflicted.

Bridget: I know nothing of it. I am innocent to a Witch. I know not what a Witch is.

Hathorne: How do you know then that you are not a witch? #[and yet know not what a Witch is?]

Bridget: I do not #[understand] know what you say.

Hathorne: How can you know, you are no Witch, & yet not know what a Witch is:

Bridget: I am clear: if I were any such person you should know it.

Hathorne: You may threaten, but you can do no more than you are permitted.

The notable part of this line of questioning is that they are relying on what is called spectral evidence, in which testimony about what ghost or spirits that no one but the accuser could see was doing them harm or that they are being tortured when they are around them.

In G-Witch, they are at least using facts and logic, with Shaddiq presenting evidence that the Aerial's permet influx values exceed the set standards, something that only the GUND Format can do. Prospera counters by stating that there should also have been a data storm, yet there wasn't. Therefore, it couldn't have been a Gundam.

What is similar between these two events, however, is that both are going on the assumption that guilt is presupposed. Sarius Zenelli, head of the Grassley group states, “You are merely using the lack of evidence as an excuse. Are you trying to tell us that black is white?”


This is how the trial ends in the show:

Prospera: ...Please allow us continue the Aerial's development. We are in need of the Group's support.

Delling: No. That thing is a Gundam.

Prospera: Why is that?

Delling: Because I said so. Any objections? Silence Then it's settled. The mobile suit shall be disposed of. We'll get rid of the student pilot.

And what Delling says here sums up the final burden of proof that was needed. Even though there is no evidence to conclude the Aerial was a Gundam, it was his judgment and judgment alone that decided the issue. It was the same with Bridget where it all came down to some young girls saying she was a witch and her inability to prove a negative.

It is also worth noting that Delling uses the phrase “Hammer to Witches” at one point. This is a reference to the translated title of Malleus Maleficarium, the most famous book regarding the evil nature of witches and how to deal with them. Written by a Dominican friar named Heinrich Krammer between 1484 and 1486, the work is divided into three parts. The first part discusses that witchcraft is real and gives arguments to refute those who say it wasn't. The second part discusses what witches can do and what powers they have. The third is a step-by-step guide on the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft, such as asking the right questions, and the proper procedure to conduct a witch trial.

One of the most notable elements of this work is the fact that it is extremely misogynistic. One of the most well-known quotations from it is “What else is a woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors!” Krammer goes on to say that the reason women were more likely to become witches is that women are more susceptible to temptation than men as they are more superstitious and impressionable. Most of all that she is more carnal than men, which means that by his thinking, most women can't help it. It doesn't mean that only women were being accused of witchcraft (around 20 percent of those accused were men), and some women were often the accusers. The fact that such a high percentage of the accused were women does speak to the effect of this book.

While the Malleus was actually condemned by some Catholic Church hierarchy for being too strict on the accused and was never used in any of its proceedings, the fact that it was written when the printing press was coming into prominence ensured that it would be disseminated throughout Europe at a rapid pace. Secular courts both Catholic and eventually Protestant took it in earnest, with the number of witch hunts increasing exponentially in the following decades.

Of course, the time of the witch hunts is centuries in the past. As we have just read, however, the fact that time has moved on and there have been both technological and societal changes to humanity does not insulate us from the worst elements of ourselves. In our more recent past, there have been cases such as the quest to purge Communists from government positions and society at large in the 1950s, or the so-called “Satanic Panic” that swept through preschools and daycare centers 30 years later. After the 9/11 attacks, suspected terrorists were held for years without trial (and some still are) or were sent to other countries where torture is allowed. Even today, there are issues in our society where certain groups receive the ire of others with power and authority on their side. Don't take this to mean that society in general doesn't change at all, but we must understand what's in our past to give us the future we want.

Sources/Further Reading

Pavlac, Brian A. Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem Trials. Greenwood Press, 1st edition, 2009.

Miesel, Sandra. “Who Burned the Witches?” Crisis 19, no. 9 (October 2001): 21-26. reprinted at https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2022/10/30/who-burned-the-witches-part-1/

Malleus Maleficarum. Translated by Montague Summers (1928). https://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm/index.htm

Site on transhumanism: https://whatistranshumanism.org/

Bridget Bishop's examination: https://salem.lib.virginia.edu/n13.html

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