“What would you do if you know you could not fail?” –Eleanor Roosevelt
As Suletta settles in to life at the Asticassia School of Technology, she continues to try and fill her list of things she’d like to do. Suletta eventually befriends Earth House, and after making a name for herself upon defeating both Guel Jeturk and Elan Ceres with the Aerial. The Aerial’s performance eventually catches notice of the Benerit Group, who move to confiscate the Aerial owing to its status as an illegal Gundam. Miorine ends up making a bold proposal during the Incubation Party – to form a company with the aim of purposing the GUND Format for safer applications. Lady Prospera makes an appearance, and while Miorine ends up securing funding for such a company from her father, Prospera informs Suletta that Aerial is technically a Gundam. Miorine kicks her company, Gund-Arm Incorporated, off, and determines that medical applications of the GUND Format will most likely succeed – she’s discovered that this is what the technology had originally been used for, and remaining faithful to the original applications would allow the public to learn the benefits of the GUND Format prior to its usage in military systems. Although Gund-Arm Inc. is successful in building their prototype, Suletta becomes distant when she begins to feel that Miorine is ignoring her. Meanwhile, Shaddiq’s interest in the Aerial leads him to try and duel for it: Suletta and Earth House manage to beat him, but in the aftermath, Shaddiq contacts an Earth-based terror group, Dawn of Fold, to assassinate Delling after learning that Vim and Sarius intend to take over the Benerit Group. In order to demo their prototype to stakeholders, Earth House and Miorine head over to Plant Quetta in order to pick up the Aerial, and along the way, Miorine and Suletta reconcile. However, Dawn of Fold choose this as the location and time to execute their attack. Delling is gravely injured in the process, Guel accidentally kills Vim, who had sortied to fend off Dawn of Fold, and ultimately, Suletta ends up fighting Dawn of Fold’s Gundams before the defensive fleet arrives, forcing Dawn of Fold to retreat. Suletta ends up locating Miorine, killing a lone terrorist in the process and frightening Miorine. This is where The Witch from Mercury sits after its first half has concluded – while the series had initially given the impression that it would be a Gundam series with elements from Revolutionary Girl Utena, which similarly had an emphasis on the “battle high school” elements, the moment Dawn of Fold appear and strike at Plant Quetta, it becomes apparent that The Witch from Mercury is decisively Gundam as concepts of right and wrong, the nature of warfare and the dangers of new technologies swiftly return.
The use of Utena elements in The Witch from Mercury is a particularly innovative means of storytelling: for most of The Witch from Mercury‘s first half, traditional elements associated with the “battle high school” genre are seen, with youth slugging it out in arenas while enjoying their halcyon days and jousting for dominance both within their cliques and for social supremacy. Discussions for these sorts of shows gravitate towards analysing character traits and interpersonal dynamics as people strive to figure out how duels and story progression may unfold based on how characters act around others, and their internal thoughts. However, all of this falls away once Dawn of Fold begin their attack; this has far-reaching consequences on the remainder of The Witch from Mercury and reiterate the idea that reality is dramatically different than the environment that schools provide their students with. This is where The Witch from Mercury‘s genius is – up until now, Miorine’s world had been defined by a rocky relationship with her father, and a chance to earn his approval through Gund-Arm Inc. Guel had similarly wanted to maintain his status and restore his honour through duels, and Suletta herself yearns for a fun-filled life with classmates. Disagreements between students are settled in a structured and relatively safe manner, and students are more concerned with things typical of youth, whether it be coursework or social status. However, in reality, all of these assumptions evaporate; schools abstract out many of the difficulties in reality to instruct on a concept, and while one may perform well in a classroom or arena, reality is different because it will introduce situations where there are multiple, often conflicting variables. In The Witch from Mercury, for instance, duels at the Asticassia School of Technology are initiated by pilots who know one another, and battles end when the v-fin on an opponent’s mobile suit is destroyed. In actual combat, the only rule is to survive. Enemy combatants won’t have a full-fledged knowledge of one another’s capabilities, and instinct matters as much as skill and one’s machine. All notions of honour and fairness quickly disappear; while in a duel, pilots don’t aim for their opponents’ cockpits, a live combat situation demands one must be prepared to shoot to kill. Suletta seems to adapt quickly to this, allowing her to save Miorine in the final moments to The Witch from Mercury‘s first half, but at the same time, Miorine, being completely unaccustomed to the harshness of reality (and the fact that had Suletta not acted, she and Delling would be corpses), panics in response to Suletta’s actions. By having a terror attack force Suletta’s hand, viewers are reminded of the fact that the real world isn’t as black and white as textbooks make things out to be, and similarly, Guel’s accidentally slaying Vim in combat following a misunderstanding shows how things won’t always be cut and dried. In this way, The Witch from Mercury shows that there is a dramatic difference between school and real life. In the latter, the horrors of warfare leave none unscathed, and that extraordinary situations may demand people act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise consider. Similarly, one’s identity and beliefs matter little once the bullets and beams start flying – who one believes themselves to be is irrelevant next to how one acts; the choices that on Suletta, Miorine and the others make will will doubtlessly have far-reaching consequences as The Witch from Mercury enters its second half, and excitement mounts to see what exactly goes down now.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Before delving any further into this post, I will remark that I had been following The Witch from Mercury with regularity since its airing, even if I haven’t otherwise been writing about it. Gundam series are inherently difficult to write for in an episodic fashion because episodes only show more pivotal moments, and it is the sum of narrative progression over several episodes where one begins gaining an idea of what a given series aims to convey. Here in The Witch from Mercury, the first half is almost entirely set at school and apparently deals with business, with a side of duels.
- However, in the first half’s final moments, The Witch from Mercury completely blows away everything from earlier and sets the expectations for what’s possible. Admittedly, the use of war machines in settling what are otherwise petty squabbles between students felt immature, a waste of the vast potential behind mobile suits, and in particular, Gundams. Here, Suletta fights Guel, who’s rocking the MD-0064 Darilbalde from Jeturk Industries. These mobile suits seem to emphasise close-quarters combat, and the Darilbalde comes equipped with an AI that helps a pilot react to changing situations on the battlefield.
- I found that the duels in The Witch from Mercury limits the show’s ability to showcase a mobile suit’s combat capability – students might be going all-out in a duel, but parameters are turned down so pilots don’t vapourise one another or damage their school grounds. In this way, seeing the result of a duel, while impactful for the students, don’t give viewers an accurate look at what the mobile suits can really do, or the greater implications of one’s actions. The Witch from Mercury is not impressive in its earlier episodes for this reason, but on the flipside, the reason why the mobile suits are given less emphasis is to give the characters more shine time. Suletta initially feels like the most unlikely Gundam pilot with smiles and mannerisms more befitting of the lead character in a slice-of-life anime, but this also endears her to viewers.
- The first bit of The Witch from Mercury also gives viewers a glimpse of the discrimination and mutual dislike between Earthians and Spacians (basically the Earthnoids and Spacenoids from the Universal Century). Among the students, this sort of dislike manifests as sabotage of other student’s work, disparaging comments and the like. Miorine tends to take the high road and avoids involving herself in these things – she prefers to focus on her garden, and while other Spacians make life difficult for the Earthians, she handles things with maturity; during one drill, she continues to walk Suletta through things until the latter passes in spite of some other students’ actions.
- For now, I’ve not bothered learning all of the different factions that exist at Asticassia School of Technology, and instead, I’m mainly interested in Earth House because they represent Earthians, whereas the remaining students are Spacians. Because the conflict between these two groups define Gundam series (such as the Universal Century’s Spacenoids and Earthnoids, or Cosmic Era’s Coordinators and Naturals), seeing how the conflict is portrayed gives insight into how extensive conflicts are. In the environment of a school, things seem restricted to bullying, but later down the line, news clips also show that the divide is much more severe than The Witch from Mercury initially shows.
- The Aerial’s performance, a product of the GUND Format, is prohibited technology, and from what The Witch from Mercury has shown viewers so far, it allows for the mind to interface with hardware more readily. In practise, the Permet System is most similar to the Pyschoframe from the Universal Century with one important caveat – it only converts thoughts into motion and cannot otherwise create extraordinary phenomenon. Use of the Psychoframe in Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative had made it so that mobile suits could perform otherworldly feats, such as travelling at speeds faster than that of light, and even turning time back.
- With the GUND format, it would appear that here in The Witch from Mercury, the definition of a Gundam-type machine is that any mobile suit capable of using the GUND format is counted as such. Suletta had spent most of the series convinced that the Aerial was not a Gundam and that she just was attunemed to its systems. The definition of what makes a Gundam varies from series to series: Universal Century Gundams are powerful mobile suits with a special kind of armour that make them quite resilient to damage, and in the Cosmic Era, Gundams have a special OS. On the other hand, Anno Domini’s Gundams are equipped with GN Drives, which offer nearly limitless energy.
- Gundam-type mobile suits in The Witch from Mercury are especially powerful because they allow pilots to run remote weapons, but duels have shown that mobile suits also equip counters for them. Peil Technologies’ FP/A-77 Gundam Pharact uses the same technology as the Aerial, and some mobile suits have jammers that prevent the GUND format from working. This renders the mobile suits balanced against one another, a sharp contrast with how Gundam 00 had presented its lead machines. The GN Drives in Anno Domini were said to be up to twenty years more advanced than anything the rest of the world had, and for the first half of Gundam 00‘s first season, Celestial Being carried out armed interventions without any resistance.
- On the other hand, Gundam SEED had Gundams be constrained by their battery life, which forced pilots to use them strategically. Kira had to work within the Strike’s operational time until he became responsible enough of a pilot to utilise the Freedom, whose internal reactor gave it a limitless operational time and increased performance over conventional mobile suits. In every Gundam series, the mobile suits themselves speak to the pilot’s intentions and aims. The Freedom represents Kira’s maturation as a pilot and gives him the power he needs to fight on his terms, while in Gundam 00, the Gundams symbolise a tool for opening a path to the future. Here in The Witch from Mercury, Suletta’s Aerial appears to represent family and protecting what’s important to oneself.
- With this being said, it’s still a little early to say if this holds true, but what is known is that Suletta has a perfect record with the Aerial. When Elan decides to challenge Suletta to a duel, he does so with the aim of securing the Aerial for Peil Technologies to study. The corporations of The Witch from Mercury are competitors even though the operate under the Benerit Group, and this is what motivates corporations to use any means necessary to gain the leg up. Having had limited social interactions, Suletta assumes that Elan wants to be friends with her, and while she makes an admirable attempt to do so, corporate interference means that the Elan Suletta knows ends up being discarded.
- The “profits ahead of everything” mindset in The Witch from Mercury is a criticism of contemporary views on capitalism: companies out there have increasingly put profit over all else. What’s seen in The Witch from Mercury might be an exaggeration, but it does speak to how such a world can rapidly devolve if corporations are allowed to operate outside regulation and government oversight – pursuit of quarterly growth means that people are inevitably sacrificed. Elan’s fate is a tragedy in this sense; the relative seamlessness of his replacement by another iteration speaks to how little regard there is for his well-being, and Suletta’s efforts come up to naught.
- While a majority of the community seems to be quite interested in the possibility for a yuri relationship here in The Witch from Mercury, I’ve chosen to skate over this because for me, the core of any Gundam series is the complex interplay between man and machine. How the Gundams are used, and how their pilots respond to warfare inevitably drive the story, and while romance plays an ancillary role in how characters may act in a given moment, the type of relationship doesn’t matter. Instead, other elements in The Witch from Mercury take centre stage, and I find these aspects to be significantly more noteworthy.
- During a start-up gala, Miorine ends up making a proposal to both show up her father and save Suletta’s Gundam: given the Cathedra Agreement’s terms, a weapon that kills its operators is unfit for use, and the Gundams have done this. However, Miorine demands that the underlying technology be investigated further before it should be dismissed, and to this end, she suggests the Gund-Arm Inc as a company for proving that the GUND Format is safe to use. Surprisingly, Delling ends up acting as an angel investor, and his actions give the other investors confidence to follow suit, giving Miorine 240 billion dollars of starting capital.
- In the aftermath, Lady Prospera congratulates Miorine and clarifies that the Aerial is in fact, a Gundam. I’ve never actually seen a Gundam series deal with start-ups before, so this was actually a refreshing approach to the story. For the next few months, Miorine sets about trying to prove her concept, and upon reviewing enough videos, learns that the GUND format was actually once intended for use in medicine. Because medicine is the study of human health and healing, it is universally regarded as a benevolent field, and associated discoveries always draw interest in their applications.
- The early days of Gund-Arm Inc. brings to mind the humble beginnings that start-ups usually go through, reminding me of when I had worked for my first startup. The excitement is real, and Miorine’s natural talent for leadership means that under her, the Earth House members begin trying to figure out what their value proposition will be in earnest. However, Shaddiq develops an interest in Gund-Arm, believing the Benerit Group will benefit from the study of the GUND Format. His efforts to take control of the company fails thanks to Miorine’s iron resolve, and Shaddiq eventually resorts to altering school regulations in classic Utena-style student council meddling to shut things down with the hopes that Miorine will transfer everything to him to keep Gund-Arm alive.
- I’d been worried that The Witch from Mercury would derive more elements from Utena than Gundam when things started out. Utena is counted as a classic for its surreal imagery and encouraging themes: viewers agree that Utena is about accepting one’s identity and learning how to deal with internal conflict. Although well-suited for describing a youth’s journey of self-discovery, Gundam‘s dealings with the real world beyond school means that Utena‘s themes are better suited as a starting point here in The Witch from Mercury. Since Gundam series have long shown how people change and respond to drastic things like warfare, characters are usually thrown onto the battlefield and pushed into a situation that draws out their best (or worst).
- While it is important to find and accept oneself, and a school environment is oftentimes suited for this because it abstracts out many complexities of reality, what matters in life beyond school is how one acts, and what motivates one’s choice. The Witch from Mercury therefore has the chance to build upon this and separate itself from Utena: I would argue that one does not truly understand themselves until they’ve been put in a situation where they’re compelled to make a difficult decision using their existing experiences and whatever knowledge and facts are available to them. The arena, being a contained environment, simply cannot offer this, and so, even when Shaddiq challenges Miorine to a six-on-six duel for Gund-Arm Inc., the stakes aren’t too high for this reason (and I remark that having people comment on the course of a battle diminishes the weight behind the combatant’s actions).
- Shaddiq himself wants Gund-Arm, but his lackeys from Grassley House only seek to prove their superiority to Earth House. Conversely, Earth House, Miorine and Suletta are fighting to protect that which is dear to them, and in their arrogance, Grassley’s pilots underestimate Earth House. Even though Suletta is eventually boxed into a corner, a well-placed shot from Chuatury brings the match to a close. The outcome of this duel was never in the question because at this point in The Witch from Mercury, Gund-Arm Inc. hasn’t even built anything of note yet, so the story must proceed in a way as to allow for some tension as the company gets further along with its development.
- Of all the groups at the Asticassia School of Technology, I am most fond of Earth House because Chuatury, Nika and the others feel the most authentic, down-to-earth, standing in contrast with the arrogant and conceited members from the other, wealthier houses. In past Gundam series, whether or not viewers aligned themselves with the Earthnoids or Spacenoids depended greatly on the series. I found that in the Universal Century, the EFSF are more sympathetic than Zeon, and similarly, ZAFT was easier to root for than LOGOS. In Gundam 00, however, it’s Celestial Being versus the world, so rooting for Setsuna and his team of Gundam Meisters was the obvious choice. Of course, in classic Gundam fashion, not all Earthians are agreeable, and not all of the Spacians are arrogant in The Witch from Mercury.
- The prosthetic legs that Gund-Arm Inc. develop under Miorine’s leadership is a solid prototype that shows that the concept of using the GUND Format is viable, and during a test run, Suletta proves that their first draft is able to secure various medical certifications. Unlike Theranos’ Edison machines, Gund-Arm Inc. actually has a prototype that Miorine is willing to show to authorities; while Miorine briefly gave off Elizabeth Holmes vibes early in Gund-Arm Inc.’s history, the gap between Gund-Arm Inc. and Thernaos is massive: Miorine isn’t motivated by anything beyond a desire to show the Gundam as a safe, legal technology and stick it to Delling. However, with a good team in her corner, progress is made within the space of two months.
- Suletta is, for the lack of a better word, adorable – she’s unlike Gundam pilots that come before her. Previous Gundam pilots have varied greatly: Amuro Ray and Kira Yamato both were civilians who eventually accepted their duty and found a way to fight for what mattered without inflicting wanton destruction, and Setsuna F. Seiei came to realise that there was more to his life than being a soldier. However, each of these earlier characters took time to become the pilots they’re best known as, and it is appropriate to give Suletta this same opportunity. With this being said, Suletta’s resemblance to the average military moé protagonist is what makes her unique, and one hopes that the battlefield won’t change her into a Heero Yuy or Setsuna F. Seiei.
- As The Witch from Mercury progressed, I got the distinct feeling that Delling, despite his Darwinist viewpoints and cold treatment of Miorine, was someone who is distant with his daughter because of something that happened in his past. He acknowledges Miorine’s successes and indicates that as long as she can continue to maintain her course, he’ll keep backing Gund-Arm Inc. The Gundam wikia at present lists him as the main antagonist of The Witch from Mercury, but traditionally, Gundam series have always introduced the actual antagonists later on – Gundam 00, for instance, didn’t unveil Ribbons Almark as the true antagonist until the final episode of the first season. After Alejandro Corner is defeated, Ribbons comments on how everything’s fallen into place and that he’ll inherit the world Ribbons created.
- I imagine that the real antagonist will be made known in due course, and if anything, I feel that Grassley could be the real foe: following his own failures, Shaddiq hires a group of Earth-based terrorists with the aim of shaking things up and securing his own position amongst the Benerit Group. Shaddiq is motivated by a desire to prove himself, and the constant power struggle amongst members of the Benerit Group means that greed could be a motivating factor. Of course, with how Gundam series unfold, I expect to be surprised as things unfold. Here, members of the Dawn of Fold discuss their latest assignment, which sets in motion The Witch from Mercury‘s rising action: as soon as Dawn of Fold are introduced, The Witch from Mercury finally begins to feel like a full-fledged Gundam series.
- On paper, multiple sparring corporations had the potential to create some complex conflicts and provide writers with a chance to portray the dangers of unregulated capitalism, as well as corporate interference with democratic systems. While this is a topic that is often ignored, the Universal Century’s Anaheim Electronics and Luio & Co. both played instrumental roles in supplying arms and armour to both the EFSF and Zeon alike, as well as engineering under-the-table deals to provide both sides with increasingly lethal weapons with the aim of prolonging the conflict between the Federation and Spacenoids for maximum profits.
- The Benerit Group and its internal conflicts would have represented a great way of showing another side to things, and in The Witch from Mercury, glimpses into these elements are shown from time to time. However, most of the first half was devoted to building up the characters, and over the course ten episodes, Suletta and Miorine both receive solid development to establish their traits. Suletta is still quite unsure of herself, and after a full episode of miscommunication, Miorine finally confronts Suletta and reassures her that she matters. Once the character growth is firmly established, The Witch from Mercury can finally step towards that which makes Gundam so enjoyable.
- The halfway point of a given Gundam series is when things tend to get exciting: in Gundam SEED, the Archangel suddenly find themselves under fire from both the Earth Alliance and ZAFT after arriving in Alaska, while in Gundam 00, the world lures Celestial Being into the Taklamakan Desert in a massive operation to capture their Gundams, which in turn led to the Throne Gundams appearing. Here The Witch from Mercury, once Dawn of Fold appear, they bring the Lfrith Ur and Thorn to the party. These Gundams are based off the Lfrith, which was developed into the Aerial, and far outstrip any of the mobile suits that Jeturk and Peil produce.
- Dawn of Fold’s Gundam pilots, Sophie Pulone and Norea Du Noc, are polar opposites in temperament. Sophie is brash and impulsive, while Norea is more reserved and focused. Despite differing personalities, the pair get along well enough, even if Sophie’s nature occasionally jeopardises missions. I imagine Sophie and Norea’s names are references to Gundam 00: Sophie’s family name is similar to the GNY-004 Plutone, predecessor to the GN-005 Virtue, and Norea’s name might be a callback to Sumeragi Lee Noriega, Celestial Being’s tactician and the de facto captain of the Ptolemios. Once Norea and Sophie start firing on Plant Quetta, prompting an evacuation.
- While evacuating, Miorine runs into Delling; she’s surprised he’s here, and even more so when he asks her to accompany them. With this, The Witch from Mercury suddenly begins to feel a great deal like Gundam Unicorn: in the first episode, during a transfer to hand off Laplace’s Box and the Unicorn Gundam, the Sleeves (Zeon Remnants) attempt to infiltrate and capture the Gundam for themselves. Students find themselves among the carnage, and like Gundam Unicorn, The Witch from Mercury also portrays the belligerent forces as dealing collateral damage to their surroundings.
- Earth House’s response to the unexpected incident is a natural one, and everyone wonders if they’ll make it out, especially as the Dawn of Fold Gundams begin firing on the docks. Norea makes to neutralise all of the vessels present, but at the last second, notices a light signal from one of the ships. It turns out Nika was able to transmit something that saves them, and the implications of this are that she knows something about Dawn of Fold. Beyond this, viewers will have to wait for The Witch from Mercury‘s second half to learn more.
- Meanwhile, both Vim and Guel have sortied with the aim of taking out Dawn of Fold’s other machines. Unbeknownst to each other, they end up clashing when assuming the other is a hostile, and Guel inadvertently kills Vim. There is a degree of dramatic irony in this scene, and viewers are now reminded of the fact that in warfare, many things cease to matter. Guel had spent much of The Witch from Mercury as the punching bag, losing status and prestige after Suletta had defeated him. All of this feels trivial now; while Guel probably disliked Vim to some extent, no part of him had wished for this outcome.
- Female pilots that aren’t sound of mind are a longstanding element in Gundam series – from Louise Halevy and Quess Paraya, to Nena Trinity and Stella Loussier, the Gundam franchise is littered with pilots that deserve pity more than dislike. In this knowledge, I have a feeling that Sophie probably has a background that contributed to her becoming the person she is presently. Sophie has the same temperament as Nena, but in terms of story, is doing what Marida Cruz had done at the beginning of Gundam Unicorn.
- Dawn of Fold fighters enter Plant Quetta’s interior and prepare to slaughter all in their path, but Lady Prospera guns them down, saving Suletta in the process. She explains that in this moment, acting allows her to save Suletta. The line “gain one by running away, gain two by stepping forward” is reiterated at several points in The Witch from Mercury, and this mindset is ultimately what led me to suggest that The Witch from Mercury is building on top of elements from Utena: knowing yourself is only the stepping stone, and it is ultimately how one acts that defines them. Suletta has always thought about this line, and even when frightened or confused, tries to act with the aim of bettering her current situation.
- Much as how Banagher uses the Unicorn after Cardeas Vist entrusts the Gundam to him before perishing, encouraged by her mother’s words, Suletta sorties in the Aerial. The entire sequence was a homage to Banagher’s first sortie as the Unicorn’s pilot: after activating the Unicorn, he uses it to drive the Kshatriya out of Industrial Seven. In The Witch from Mercury, Suletta uses the Aerial to push the Ur out of Plant Quetta. Out in space, the two Gundams separate and clash with their beam sabres, similarly to how the Unicorn draws its swords after the NT-D kicks in.
- The fact that Dawn of Fold have access to Gundams brought to mind Hathaway’s Flash; traditionally, a Gundam is a mobile suit that comes to represent something more than just warfare, and so, when terrorist factions gain access to them, this sullies the notion of what a Gundam is meant to symbolise. Looking back, both Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 had done this: Cosmic Era Gundams are any mobile suit with a special kind of OS, while in Anno Domini, Gundam-types possess a GN Drive and a specific head design. The mobile suits thus become secondary to the beliefs that their pilots hold, and indeed, this was a secondary story in 00: once the world begins to gain access to GN Drives, Setsuna must re-evaluate what Gundam means to him.
- With this as precedence, what Suletta ends up doing as the Aerial’s pilot will shape its image and legacy within The Witch from Mercury: while the arena-style duels haven’t been able to convey this, throwing Suletta and the Aerial onto the battlefield will. One aspect I’ve not yet covered in my discussion too deeply is the Aerial itself. So far, Suletta has had a pretty solid performance with it, and looking at the Aerial’s GUND Format and GUND Bits, it feels decidedly like a combination of the 00 Qan[T] and its Sword Bits from Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, which could assemble into a large sword, with a plausible version of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam’s psycoframe, and as a result of the GUND Bits being able to configure themselves into a rifle or shield, the Aerial has the GAT-X105 Strike’s versatility.
- This combination of functionality makes the Aerial a contender, and in discussions where fans compare what different Gundams can do, I would hold that the Aerial is an excellent suit capable of performing well both against individually powerful units and groups of mass production units from other universes (in fact, it would probably give even the 00 Raiser and Freedom some trouble). To keep things balanced, The Witch From Mercury has jammers for the GUND Format, and this means that as a pilot, Suletta would have room to improve and maximise what she can do with the Aerial. Here, after Suletta uses her GUND bits to form a powerful rifle and forces both the Ur and Thorn to make distance, Plant Quetta’s defensive fleet finally arrives, forcing Dawn of Fold to retreat.
- Although Delling is still alive as far as Dawn of Fold can tell, a single terrorist manages to survive. Before he can do any damage to the already-injured Delling, Suletta arrives and pulverises him with the Aerial, turning a former human being into a pile of blood, flesh and bone. In the aftermath, Suletta is all smiles, since she’s just rescued Miorine, but all Miorine sees is a blood-splattered Suletta. Graphic violence is not foreign to Gundam, speaking to the horrors of warfare; Gundam SEED had shown in vivid detail what happened when people were hit with the Cyclops System and GENESIS weapon, while Cucuruz Doan’s Island had Amuro trample a Black Tri-Star pilot with the RX-78 II.
- In the case of Cucuruz Doan’s Island, Amuro’s expression had been one of regret and revulsion – he clearly did not wish to kill the Black Tri-Star pilot, but the moment had demanded it. Suletta, on the other hand, sees things quite differently, a consequence of realising that saving Miorine is more important than trying to sort out the terrorist with a non-lethal approach. The community’s been quite divided as to whether or not this moment breaks Suletta’s character. On my end, I find that it’s appropriate because an indecisive Gundam pilot tends to be ineffective; Gundam series often portray a pilot who’s reluctant to fight, but once they find their resolve, they go on to contribute towards protecting what is dear to them. Here at The Witch from Mercury‘s halfway point, my main remarks are that the series has laid down the groundwork for what could be an excellent series.
- If The Witch from Mercury decides to focus on warfare and its implications in the context of corporations and their actions, this series will meet expectations and be enjoyable. If the series wishes to return to the school environment and fall back on exploring identity over actions and their consequences, The Witch from Mercury will become a disappointment. Innovation and trying to tell a story in a different way is an admirable pursuit, but in a given story, what makes for a worthwhile experience is whether or not something can leave viewers with a definitive message to walk away with. For the present, my thoughts on The Witch from Mercury‘s first half draw to a close. The second half is set to continue in April, and I’ll be following this one with interest. While the break does break the momentum up (Gundam series typically ramps things up after its halfway point), it also gives viewers a chance to pause and reflect on what’s happening.
- I’ll admit that writing this post was difficult: The Witch from Mercury is quite unconventional in its execution, and while things were quite slow to start, once the series hits its stride, it has its moments. It took me some time to figure out which topics The Witch from Mercury were the most noteworthy, and this is why my thoughts on the series comes out nearly a month after the first half concluded. I remark that not everyone is going to agree with how I approach things or the conclusions I reach, but at the same time, I’m also not going to agree with the notion that using a Revolutionary Girl Utena setup in Gundam makes the series more revolutionary, either. A revolutionary Gundam series explores the implications of technology, warfare and society in different ways, and here in The Witch from Mercury, the corporate piece, coupled with how novel technology is presented, is what’s innovative and in turn, holding my interest.
With The Witch from Mercury raising the stakes, elements from past Gundam series return. Gundam has always raised the question of whether or not taking a life is justified, and different Gundam series handle things differently. Gundam SEED, for instance, has Kira learning how to shoot precisely enough to take an enemy pilot out of the fight without harming them, and in Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro reluctantly accepts that taking a life is a necessary evil in war. He shoots to kill where needed but otherwise doesn’t go out of his way to kill his foes. Similarly, Celestial Being’s Gundam Meisters typically aim to disable rather than kill unless circumstances force them to do so otherwise. The gap between right and wrong is a narrow one, and over the years, Gundam series suggest that the answer to this question is situational. At the same time, the series also reminds viewers that passing judgement may not always be feasible: although Suletta probably will have a difficult time explaining things to Miorine once The Witch from Mercury resumes, the fact is that the blurring boundaries between right and wrong, and making decisions that are consistent with one’s beliefs will be a core part of this Gundam series, as it has with previous instalments. Learning to set aside one’s judgement of others, and instead, focusing on doing what one can, is a core part of the Gundam franchise. Although The Witch from Mercury is slower than its predecessors to reach this point, the fact that the series is beginning to step up and expose both Suletta and Miorine to the horrors and desolation of warfare means that the second half is going to be an interesting journey to follow. Beyond stepping into the realm of what makes Gundam stories so engaging, The Witch from Mercury also has begun to hint at how mobile suit combat looks. Until Dawn of Fold’s appearance, the arena environment greatly limited what the mobile suits in this universe could do, but outside of the constraints that is school, viewers are given a chance to see what mobile suits can do. The combat sequences outside of the duels are of a respectable quality, and as the conflict extends well beyond the boundaries of Asticassia School of Technology, optimism for thrilling, well-animated mobile suit combat scenes is not misplaced. Changes to anime production in the present means that viewers won’t be continuing with things until the spring, and while this may dampen some of the momentum the first half had built up, if The Witch from Mercury can present a meaningful message about how there is merit in doing what one can by learning and adapting to the moment (versus clinging to things like the past, social status and the like), the series will make for an excellent addition to the Gundam franchise. At this point in time, however, it’s anybody’s guess as to how things will unfold, and this means that entering The Witch from Mercury‘s second half, one will need to enter with an open mind.