Words I associate with this series. Squish, tomato, pizza, splat, bumpkin, awkward, yuri, war crimes, child abuse, farm animals.
There are few things cherished in the anime world like Gundam. Rather it is the late 70s concept, the rather mid-80s flop to be followed by a rise from the ashes. It is a lot of ways defines what modern mecha is. As the series evolved we got fantastic series like Iron Blood Orphans, while many more lukewarm spin-offs. Gundam is a hard series to defy in a lot of ways due to its generally mixed critical acclaim. It is a series even non-anime watchers have heard of but doesn’t always hold up.
So when Sunrise studio decided to give it the old college try with its own Gundam title based more along the lines of school, dueling, and the first female lead it got my attention. Then it dropped the title, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, and I was hooked.
Following Suletta Mercury, an unknown pilot ace from the backwaters of the solar system she enrolls in Asticassia School of Technology, a type of private school for the ultra-wealthy run by all the shitty corporations that influence mobile suits. Finding herself socially inept in this new world she finds another schoolmate, Guel Jeturk, bullying a girl she thought she saved in the beginning, Miorine Rembran. Though unable to form coherent sentences Suletta has a strong sense of justice, standing up for Miorine.
With this action Suletta discovers that this school has one rule, dueling is everything. Challenging Guel, the school’s top dueler she easily dispatches him discovering yet another particular thing about the dueling hierarchy. Whoever is on top, is Miorine’s groom. Caught in this tailwind of new social norms Suletta does her best to make friends, go on dates, and generally make the best out of her new school life. While all the adults that run the policy and politics behind the scenes make damn sure she doesn’t.
What is really interesting about this title is how it struck a different tone. Gundam has always been a bleak series, a world where the greedy elites use the general population as little more than pawns in their games. A capitalistic hell hole where scheming is always happening, assassination is always afoot, and kids get no childhood. Suddenly we see this pure-hearted but socially bumbling girl befriending the daughter of the head of the whole Beneritt Group who up to this point loathed and rebelled against her life.
The series following this is entertaining but fairly tame given the series title. We get to see Suletta navigate school, and befriend Miorine as she shifts to accepting her rule beside her. The back room shady political scheming becomes apparent as we come to terms with that indeed even in this Gundam series children get no childhood. In a lot of ways, it’s cute, funny, and while it had its intense moments for most of the series it seemed like a simple country bumpkin goes to school.
The animation is crisp, I wouldn’t go and say groundbreaking by any means but it was clean, had some really stellar shots and the fight scenes were fluent. I adored the character designs, if you had to pick out who was the main character in a lineup it wouldn’t be so easy. The soundtrack is top of the line, easily standing out as one of the best I’ve heard all year (granted I didn’t watch A LOT of shows in 2022), and to put it simply, I loved the series. Gundam is tricky, like I said earlier, it is full of history and cultural impact but even hardcore Gundam fans I know are always wary of new titles, they have just been fucked up that much.
So I was curious while watching this series what would a gruff and aged Gundam fan think of this new, slice-of-life take on a series that is everything but. Then the last episode happens. Though while a lot of what the first 11 episodes may seem mundane the series ends on a note that only Gundam can. A note of terror, war crimes, and sheer chaos as dissension boil over. The Witch from Mercury is a Gundam series through and through even with its semi-soft start. It is something that I think every fan and nonfan should take time out to watch and with another 12 episodes coming this Spring the ride is far from over and I am here for it.
On that note, I want to take a second to talk generally about spoilers and what I think of Suletta and her actions. From the very start of the show I was wary of how Suletta acted, not because she is a socially awkward mess, I actually liked that, and found it charming and funny. What really bothered me was how her mother, Prospera talks to her. Initially it seem subtle and even innocent but as the series went on her talks with her daughter, even in the time of Suletta’s distress never seemed maternal. At every turn, Prospera seemed to coach her daughter and push her farther toward whatever goal Prospera had set for her. She even lied about Ariel being a Gundam until it benefited her goal, simply laughing at her daughter’s nativity and assuring her that yes Ariel is indeed a Gundam.
Just like that, a lifetime of gaslighting is gone.
It also puts a curious view on Miorine and her father’s relationship. While wholly unhealthy there are times when Delling gives into his daughter’s rebellion. There is definitely a rift between them but every so often a glimmer of respect shines through. It also complicated Suletta and Miorine’s relationship as a whole since they have grown quite close throughout the 12 episodes.
I am not sure where the second season will take us but the powder keg has definitely been primed. I hope the best for our darling female duo but I know it is unlikely to work out that way.
As always thanks for the read!