The Fall 2022 Preview Guide
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury
How would you rate episode 0 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury ?
Community score: 4.4
How would you rate episode 1 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury ?
Community score: 4.4
What is this?
An era when a multitude of corporations have entered space and built a huge economic system. A lone girl from the remote planet Mercury transfers to the Asticassia School of Technology, run by the Beneritt Group which dominates the mobile suit industry.
Her name is Suletta Mercury. With a scarlet light burning in her pure heart, this girl walks step by step through a new world.
How was the first episode?
It was easy enough to be blown away by the stellar Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury PROLOGUE, given its incredible production values and intriguing world-building for this new spinoff Gundam timeline, but it feels like there's so much riding on this series that I wanted to wait until the story of Suletta Mercury and her Gundam Aerial premiered properly before I allowed myself to get truly excited. Sure, it was clear from the opening minutes that the animation and direction and music and Gundam designs were all still very much firing on all cylinders, but even the most eye-searingly gorgeous anime need a solid premise to support their visuals. Hell, we've been burned badly enough by incredible-looking anime that had great starts recently that I still don't know if getting my hopes up this early is just setting the table for soul-crushing disappointment down the road, Wonder Egg Priority style.
Then, about 10 minutes into the episode, the corporate “princess” Miorine Rembran explains to Suletta that everything at the Asticassia School of Technology is settled via elaborate Mobile Suit duels, whether it be issues of pride, finances, or the right to take Miorine's hand in marriage. That is when it became clear that The Witch from Mercury wasn't just aiming to be a grand Mobile Suit space opera with the franchise's first female-centered cast; it was straight up giving us Revolutionary Gundam Utena. All bets were basically off by the time Miorine confirmed that Suletta and her Aerial have unwittingly placed themselves in a corpocratic robot war where the happiest ending possible results in the gayest wedding in Gundam history.
Granted, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury isn't adopting Utena's famously abstract and theatrical aesthetic, which may disappoint those of you who might be reading this and thinking that Gundam was about to really cut loose and go completely Kunihiko Ikuhara on us, but that's probably for the best. I'm already worried that Sunrise's artistic ambitions won't be sustainable for this kind of production, what with all of the delays and production woes that have already been making the rounds on the internet, so I don't think the show needed to add another layer of volatile experimentation by turning a franchise about badass fighting robots into something entirely allegorical. Besides, the charming literalness that Witch from Mercury applies to the Utena formula could end up being the show's saving grace. I kind of love how, regardless of whether the show will actually have the spine to commit to a queer romance between its leading ladies, there is literally no way to interpret Miorine calling Suletta her “groom” as any of that “something something Japan doesn't care about SJW politics whine whine whine” nonsense.
Could Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury still implode under the weight of its narrative goals and high visual standards? Absolutely. It wouldn't really be a proper new Gundam series if there wasn't the ever-looming threat of the show completely falling apart by the end, now would it? For now, though, Witch from Mercury is absolutely everything I hoped it would be, and you can bet your bottom space-dollars that I'll be watching every (hopefully) magical second of it.
You know, I had a lot of ideas about what this latest Gundam show could be, but “Revolutionary Girl Utena with giant robots” wasn't one of them. I have rarely been happier with a surprise though. By the end of this premiere I was slapping my hands together and cackling so hard I probably scared my neighbors. While this premiere has its share of issues, and is sure to tick off more than a few older Gundam fans, I had an absolute blast with it.
Firstly, the premiere just looks great. I wasn't sold on the character designs when they were first shown, but seeing them in motion – and in the full context of their environments/mobile suits – they work really well and make for unique, expressive silhouettes across the premiere. Meanwhile the mobile suits, and especially Aerial, look fantastic in action, channeling the paradoxical mesh of effortless movement and crushing weight that make this flavor of mecha so much fun to watch. The robot fights we get here are Grade A stuff, and Suletta's big final attack is absolutely terrifying to see in action, slicing through her opponent with a casual viciousness that's at once disconcerting and exhilarating. It also captures the scale of these machines excellently, making them feel both real and surreal in their physical presence in a way that few robot shows are able to. It's altogether just a fantastic-looking episode.
Things are a little shakier with the actual story, however. First off, if you haven't watched the “Prologue” episode that released earlier this year, you should definitely watch it before episode one. Nothing there is critical to understanding the immediate stakes here, but it provides a much larger and clearer picture of the underlying conflict and history that isn't expanded upon here. Without that context, it's easy to get lost when we suddenly leap from schoolyard robot fights to stuffy board meetings from The Sci-fi Capitalism Committee. There's also likely to be folks totally put off by Gundam High School, as funny as that whole concept is to me, and this episode doesn't really do anything to assuage those misgivings. There's a larger conflict at play here, as evidenced by the prologue's story, but it's probably not getting much attention in the immediate future, and its shape is nebulous at best from here.
Then there's Suletta Mercury, our titular Witch, who is also going to be very polarizing. She spends most of this episode as a nervous, stuttering wreck who resembles a frightened rabbit more than a Gundam protagonist, and could easily get on viewers' nerves if she stays that way for too long. There are hints at a more complex personality, like how she's far more confident and comfortable in the seat of her mobile suit, but she's still a big departure from most modern Gundam leads. I also imagine folks excited for the first mainline Gundam production with a female protagonist were hoping for a more confident or striking personality, and are going to have issues with her, and that's fair. That said, I like her just fine, especially when she has the more level-headed Miorine to bounce off of, and there are moments where she really shines, like challenging her opponent to a duel via ass-slap. She's nervous, but not a pushover when it comes to people crossing lines, and I hope we see more of that as the story goes on.
But really, any concerns I have about where this show might stumble are currently buried under a raging adrenaline rush from seeing this show so blatantly pour its hard sci-fi setup into the structure of Utena of all things, complete with Suletta unwittingly becoming Miorine's new fiancé. That's a bold move so laser-targeted at my taste in anime that I can't exactly be objective here. This show could absolutely go off the rails – it may already have for all I know – but right now there's nothing I want more than to see more of it.
Is it just me, or does it sound an awful lot like Utena in here? The second (first, by the numbers) episode of Gundam's latest offering makes some substantial changes to the character of Suletta we met in the prologue, and one of those is plopping her down in a mech school with a competitive duel system that comes straight out of Ohtori Academy – a fight for the hand of a particular girl. The young lady in question is no (early) Anthy, however; Miorine is furious that her freedom is on the line based on nothing more than who wins a staged mobile suit competition, and that's a nice angle for the story to take. Based on the prologue and this episode, it looks as if female agency is going to be a major theme in this show, which both makes sense (nothing quite says “I'm in charge of my own life” like piloting a giant robot) and stands to allow for some good character development for Suletta.
She, at first, is the most striking difference between the two episodes. In the prologue, we see her as a determined toddler, reveling in her sense of freedom and the little joys of her life. When we rejoin her ten-odd years later, she's retreated into herself and become a hesitant, nervous young woman who only appears able to stand on her own two feet when her back is against the wall. That actually makes a lot of sense, given how the prologue ended: with the death of her father and the destruction of her home and everyone she loved (mother excluded), Suletta's world has completely fallen apart. She's then raised by her presumably traumatized mother and those terrible memories of her own that she likely comes to understand better and better as she grows up. Of course that's going to have a negative effect on her life. In fact, it makes it all the more striking that she can bring herself to act when she needs to, and her determination to save Miorine, while obnoxious to Miorine herself, is likely rooted in her inability to save her father all those years ago.
While I'm not certain that we needed the Utena angle, it's also not necessarily a bad thing. Both Miorine and Suletta are clearly hurting in different ways, and it looks as if they could be helpful to each other in terms of coming into their own. Miorine's perpetually angry, but if you were forced to be engaged to the human-shaped pile of garbage that is Guel, I daresay you would be too, and even her impulsivity and Suletta's reticence should balance each other out. Apart from an abundance of questionable hair choices, this also looks very nice (I think the prologue was a bit better on that front), and I've got high hopes for it. A Sapphic Gundam story? That's something that I can get behind, and if the school setting's a bit of a letdown after the prologue, I'm still interested to see where this goes.
I think it's a little unfair to pretend this first episode of Witch From Mercury is the same as other series premieres. After all, we've already spent a full episode on Suletta's backstory, establishing the setting and themes of this new Gundam series in the process. This means very little of the usual world-building needs to be done in this episode. Rather, we are just brought up to speed in what has happened in the rough decade between the prologue and the first episode and introduced to the school where the series proper will take place.
In a broad sense, the school we see here is a lot like the school from Kakegurui—however, instead of settling everything through gambling, all issues are settled through Mobile Suit duels. However, that's not to say that the school is a meritocracy by any means; it is a microcosm of corporate corruption run wild. Basically, the wealthy heirs to Mobile Suit technology companies duel in custom made mobile suits that give them every possible advantage. Thus, the richer and more powerful your parents, the easier it is to win.
On the more personal side of things, we see that Suletta is far from the precocious, talkative kid she was when we last saw her. Growing up in isolation with her mother has stunted her social growth dramatically, giving her both a nervous stutter and an inability to recognize sarcasm. Yet what lies beneath is a soul that knows right from wrong and isn't afraid to fight for it. It's impossible not to root for her as she stumbles through the process of making her first friend.
Speaking of said friend, Miorine is a corporate princess who is tired of being nothing but a bargaining chip or a prize to be won. She wants to take her fate into her own hands and protect what she cares about. However, in this episode she learns that while taking responsibility for yourself is important, you can't do everything alone. Relying on your friends in times of need is not a weakness—especially if they have a freaking Gundam.
All in all, this episode serves as a solid introduction to both Miorine and the school while acting as a fantastic reintroduction to Suletta at the same time. It's got humor, action, and some absolutely awesome animation. I can't wait till next week to see the consequences of Suletta's flashy entrance onto the interplanetary stage—especially given what happened in the prologue episode.
You've probably seen the phrase “Gundam Utena” dozens of times by now; I know I did before I started up the episode. But boy, even hearing it from tens of people whose taste I know and trust didn't prepare me for just how much this is a melding of Gundam and Revolutionary Girl Utena. You've got duels, gardens, toxic masculinity, fiancees being passed around, and even a long-haired pretty boy narrating the action from the (presumably) student council room with his shirt unbuttoned. I may not be a huge Gundam person, but I've loved Utena since I was too young to understand it, and this? This is Utena to me.
Actually, it's close, but not quite. And that's fine! I wouldn't want it to be just Utena with giant robots; I'm happy it's doing its own thing. Other than stumbling ass-backwards into her engagement, there's very little resemblance between Suletta and Utena herself, after all. Suletta's stuttering nervousness wears thin by the end of the episode, even as I appreciate her proactiveness and drive to care for others. Miorine, who is constantly trying to escape, isn't exactly a passive Rose Bride, either. (And before you come into the comments, yes, I know there's more to Anthy than that, but this isn't exactly the time to write a treatise comparing the two.) These girls are very much their own characters, and while I'm not sold on their chemistry yet, I'm very interested to see how their relationship will play out.
Here's the thing (and yes I'm going to keep framing my discussion of the show around its similarities to Utena because it actively invites that comparison): from its very first frame, Utena makes it clear that it's all allegory. Nothing about it works on a surface-level reading, and that's by design because at its heart, it is a modern fairy tale. I'm not sure if or how that'll transfer over to Witch from Mercury, but I do feel a certain disconnect between the school scenes and the adults discussing corporate profits in a boardroom. However, I'm totally game to find out.
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