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This Week in Anime
Could Gundam: The Witch From Mercury Be the Best Alternate Universe Gundam Yet?

by Kim Morrissy,

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury has gotten off to an exciting start, with its flashy Mobile Suit duels, hilarious romcom antics, and biting class commentary. Nick and Steve unpack this shiny new Alternate Universe Gundam series—will it stay true to its roots or revolutionize the franchise?

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @BeeDubsProwl @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Steve, we're still knee deep in the Halloween season, and while we've covered ghosts and monsters, there's another staple of the spooky time of year that we haven't touched on. So before Samhain passes us by, let's get to talking about Robert Eggers' The Witch From Mercury.
'Bout time we finally covered a goat anime!

"Goat" of course being an acronym for "Gundam Of All Time."

That's right, folks. It's the sci-fi sensation that's sweeping the nation (of Anitwitter). The simple and relatable story of a girl and her four-story-tall war machine.
A family can just be a girl, her younger mech sister, and her Char mom. We as a society need to normalize this.
Oh, this show is normalizing a lot of things, but we'll get to that.
True, and there's a lot to get to! I mean,The Witch from Mercury is a pretty big deal simply by virtue of being the latest mainstream television Gundam series, and the first one since Iron-Blooded Orphans concluded in 2017. Sure, we've had movies and such in the interim, but nothing quite hits the same as a weekly episode of Gundam goodness. Or not-goodness. It's a franchise containing multitudes.
Not only that, it's the first mainline series with a female pilot for the main gundam. Sure, the franchise has had numerous iconic and memorable women—some of whom even lived to the end of their series—but a non-spinoff series with the full push from Sunrise et al is something people have been wanting for a long time. Though I don't think anyone was quite expecting our first leading lady to be, uh... this.
Oh, you mean a complete disaster? That's pretty par for a course that stretches all the way back to Amuro Ray. But certainly none of the others have been quite so tanuki-like in appearance and mannerisms as Suletta here. Oh, and I guess there's also her raw sexual magnetism. Usually it takes a bit for the ladies to start falling (in all senses of the word) for a Gundam protagonist, but here we haven't even hit the season's midpoint and Suletta is already raking in suitors like they're autumn leaves.
Like we said, they're normalizing a lot of stuff here.

I'm pretty sure that one line catapulted this whole show into the discourse stratosphere, and now Suletta Sundays are communal event television for basically my entire online social circle.
It's a rare occurrence that a single show grabs our sect so immediately and concurrently. Don't think I've seen this strong a groupwatch phenomenon since JoJo's Fridays (rest in peace (thanks a lot, Netflix)).

But if anything were to break our collective brains to this extent, I'm not surprised it's gay Gundam girls.

It's a blast, both in that it's fun and that my twitter feed is filled with spoilers faster than a shotgun fills woodland animals with lead. Though personally I was onboard a little earlier, when the Prologue episode introduced Baby War Crimes.

That's such a perfect, chef's kiss-worthy Gundam punchline to the prologue. While the whole franchise has always been about child soldiers, smol Suletta's glee juxtaposed against the remains of the mobile suits she just unconsciously destroyed is quite worthy of its legacy.

Also worth noting we're not in the Universal Century here, so Witch is allowed to do what it wants lore-wise, including making its Gundam origin story about prosthetic technology weaponized by the military industrial complex. Definitely not making any commentary here, nope.

It's definitely an interesting interpretation of the typical Gundam/Newtype dynamic that the franchise goes back to regardless of strict continuity. The technology that makes our central Gundam a viciously efficient killing machine was originally conceived to allow human advancement alongside space travel. And it's hinted that the reason Suletta is so good at utilizing that technology is because she first encountered it as a kid and just sees the big bad murder machine as her precious little sister.
Pretty sure that theme's gonna run down the spine of the entire show's runtime. It's revealing how, in the premiere proper, Suletta first uses her mobile suit to rescue someone, not to fight someone.
Granted, that rescue turns into a fight because she saved a very angry cockatiel that was trying to get out through the cracked window.
That's our other lead, Miorine, who is perhaps best described as Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena if she were regular aggressive instead of passive aggressive. And on that note, the entire premiere is best described as Revolutionary Girl Utena plus robots.
And it is not even a little interested in being subtle about it. They straight up give Miorine a garden that her shitty original fiancé wrecks up. Though instead of roses she's more into fruits.
There are a ton of super fun, super obvious parallels: The duels to determine who gets to be Miorine's fiancé, the Saionji-like inaugural opponent, the homosexuality. And, of course, the bulbous mascot characters named Chuchu.

Two of Ichiro Okouchi's first gigs in the industry were writing Utena novels and Turn A Gundam episodes, so this is definitely a intentional act of homecoming on his end. Which is pretty cool.
Though for all the narrative parallels this is decidedly not very Utena in style or aim. Where that series basically necessitates a non-literal reading of its world and characters to be coherent, G-Witch is a lot more straightforward with what it's about. Though it does indulge in a few metaphors for the hell of it.
This is why I think it was smart to have the prologue to introduce all the space corporate politics, so the premiere could have fun with all the Utena school shenanigans. Both aspects of the show complement each other in neat ways. Like how Guel's dad wants to use the duels to further his own greedy ambitions.
Meanwhile, episode two makes it clear that the duels themselves are basically just Miorine's dad keeping the corporate ladder climbers below him busy with in-fighting. The moment it starts to interfere with his designs, he's ready to chuck the whole thing out. The systems only exists to aid him in maintaining power—and conveniently keep the next generation of corporate heirs nipping at each other's heels—and when it no longer serves that purpose he's done pretending it meant anything.
The "witch trial" might be my favorite scene in the show so far, because it's layered with all this political infighting—some of which we're privy to, some of which we aren't—and I'm the right kind of boring to find that interesting. It also has this incredible exchange, which is the truest thing ever said of a Gundam.

Much like its Utena pastiche, it's not subtle about Delling's autocracy. As far as he's concerned, being in charge means he gets to define everything beneath him. Words mean what he decides they are. It's not the first time we've seen politically-minded media delve into the concept of a post-truth society, but it's probably the most in-your-face about it. In the prologue, you even have him giving a big speech about the importance of "bearing the sin of killing" to justify banning Gundams, while a whole space station is wiped off the star map countless miles away.

It's so good! I love when Gundam just goes for it! This week's episode utilizes so many cues from modern protests and their coverage in the media. Taking, for instance, the absurd degree of militarization seen in American police and blowing it up to even more ridiculously disproportionate levels by having giant riot police mobile suits shooting "nonlethal" Gundam-sized tear gas canisters at peaceful protesters. I know writers who use subtext, and they're all cowards!

You don't understand, Steve. Those protesters posed an enormous risk of property damage that could only be prevented by the peaceful dispensation of military equipment. That's why we need to give the Zaku PD an extra billion dollars in their annual budget.
You're right, I neglected to mention some of those protesters had bottles of booze that cops hastily shoved some rags int—I mean, they were throwing molotovs! And look at those umbrellas! They could've poked someone's eyes out with those things.

Seriously, this is so pitch-perfect to the cop-fellating bias in how protests are actually reported. Enough that I know this screenshot got ratioed into the Oort Cloud by Earthian Twitter.
But like we said, that's all stuff at the fringes, the outer ring of events that pushes and pulls characters inside the birdcage of the school, where the hierarchy has every so slightly more elasticity, meaning Suletta can rummage around in it like a raccoon in a dumpster and stumble into seducing the heirs to all of space capitalism.
You say that, but I think she's a more calculating harem protagonist than audiences are giving her credit for. Look at how precisely she negs Guel when she finds out he's her opponent again.

And you can't argue with those results!
I called her the Bakarina of Gundam on Twitter, and I stand by that assessment. Suletta is just guileless—and importantly detached from the social caste system that the rest of the school has grown up in—that she kind of tears through all the backstabbing and artifice of it all. So of course Diet Cherry Chocolate Saionji gets all tsun-tsun after she kicks his ass twice.

Granted, Suletta's first fiancée is having none of this harem nonsense.
They may as well already be married with all the bickering they do.

Hell, they've already moved in together as of the latest episode.
Suletta really living the Anitwitter dream of bunking with your slob wife who refuses to clean up after herself and only has one chair.
I do love the various details that tell us Miorine is kind of a disaster outside of her ice-cold demeanor. Filthy dorm room because she's not used to cleaning up after herself? Check. Cannot drive to save her life? Check. The only reason anyone thinks she's a "princess" is because her current groom has the social acumen of a tranquilized golden retriever.
She's terrible in a wholly endearing way. I will defend mean anime women with my life. Although a lot of them certainly don't need any help from me, such as this pink ball of fluff and furious class consciousness.
Suletta sending texts back home that just read "moooooom, the cotton candy keeps yelling at me."
This toy poodle's either gonna nip at my heels or tear me limb from limb and I don't care to find out which.
Chuchu was the character who caught everyone's eye in the trailers, thanks to those enormous... tracts of land. And I'm happy to say that her intro episode lived up to the hype. As does her right hook.
Sent that girl to the damn shadow realm. That's also one of the best-foleyed punched of the entire year. This, most significantly, cements Witch from Mercury as a worthy successor of the franchise's long history of violence to the face.
Though the Bright Slap has nothing on the Chuatury Panpunch. If Amuro got one of those he'd have never piloted the Gundam again because he'd be dead.
And there's righteous fury behind those fists. Both the school and corporate politics paint a picture of Earth labor being exploited by Space capital, but that divide becomes even more pronounced in the academy's competitive zero-sum games where rich corporate heirs hold all the advantages.
And it's that unifying factor that kind of makes the disparate parts of this narrative work. This school exists as a microcosm of the larger world, with all its purposeful inequalities and not-so-secret blind spots hiding behind a semblance of meritocracy. These kids aren't on the front lines of a physical war, but they are participants in a class war. Which is both a clever twist on the typical Gundam formula and a great excuse to introduce a ragtag band of rejects for Suletta to join.
Yeah, Chuchu obviously stands out the most for two very large reasons, but this week's episode establishes the other Earthian students as fully cognizant of their position and struggles, and it'll be great to see Suletta learn more about them in turn. As we've also seen, not all Spacians are treated on equal footing, either, so Mercury being the runt of the solar litter makes this alliance an appropriate one too.
As much fun as it is to see Suletta be an unwitting U-Haul lesbian with her fiancée, I do also want to see her get to know the other Earth House kids better. They look like a fun bunch, and more often than not it's the extended cast that make or break a Gundam series for me. And these kids have got the naming down already.
I like the kid named Chewbacca Alter. How very Type-Moon of them.
Personally, my favorite is Suletta's mom giving her the alias "Mercury." Like she was coming up with the fake name while filling out the application and pulled a Violet Evergarden on a galactic scale.
I'm really still not over her first opponent practically being named "Duel Jerk" either. There's nominative determinism, and then there's Gundam.
RIP to this kid then.

Though, really, if you're a teenager in a Gundam show, your days were numbered anyway. And while this show has been slow on the larger plot, I have no doubt it'll get deeply tragic in its own time. So, uh, try not to get to attached to anyone, folks. Not even the goat.
I'm interested to see what other trends Witch from Mercury might seek to buck. Gundam is best known for its tragedies, but there are happier stories buried in there too, and Witch's ambition to appeal to new fans may see it take some surprising routes. Maybe even revolutionary ones.
Maybe! The fun part is I genuinely don't know. But if these kids want to keep casualties to a minimum, they'd best tread lightly.

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