REVIEW: Mobile Suit Gundam – The Witch from Mercury Eps 1-5 (2022)

An Anime

When new creative teams tackle the prospect of creating an entirely new entry into the long-running Gundam franchise, there exists a historical tendency to seemingly go back and try to essentially remake the original show with all its tropes and plot points intact. We have seen this happen a lot with many shows including Gundam SEED and Gundam Wing which, despite being largely new storylines, took a lot of inspiration from the original 1979 show. I’m sure they do this in order to try to keep the “old audience” intact and content while appealing to a younger crowd, but at this point most “Universal Century purists” don’t actually seem to want any show that isn’t fit squarely into that timeline, and younger audiences aren’t about to consume forty years of continuity to watch and understand a show. According to a recent interview, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury producer Takuya Okamoto stated that the mood in Japan was that most younger fans felt that “Gundam isn’t aimed at them” and “If [they] see Gundam [in the title, they] won’t watch it.” To answer this question, Sunrise occasionally takes a chance and creates something so different to what one would consider your “standard Gundam show”. Today I’m going to be taking a look at such a show, the newest “main” Gundam TV series, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury – a show that seemingly is unlike any other Gundam that I’ve seen before.

My initial opinion on “G-Witch” (just within the first episode) was that this was basically Revolutionary Girl Utena in space if any of my readers are old fogies enough to remember that franchise. You have your weird school rules involving hierarchical structures that would never exist in a real school at any point in time, a strange system put in place to maintain power involving duals between students, and a main character that is now mandated to potentially marry an underclassman that seemingly is there simply to be betrothed to somebody for political reasons. If Witch from Mercury is not in any way inspired by Utena I would be very surprised (and I’d likely call BS). Even the opening animations have plenty of similarities that cannot possibly be coincidental, and series writer Ichiro Okouchi had a job writing Utena light novels in the past. Utena is one of those things I have fond memories of, as I used to read a manga magazine where the story was serialized way back in like 2001-2, so this homage is welcome to me.

  • Episode 1 – The Witch and the Bride – “A.S. (Ad Stella) 122― 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.”
  • Episode 2 – Cursed Mobile Suit – “At the conclusion of the duel, Suletta is arrested and Aerial is impounded on the suspicion of being a Gundam in violation of the Cathedra Agreement. Due to the battle, Elan Ceres picks up an interest in Suletta, despite his promise to never fall in love. Meanwhile, Nika and her classmates are left to deal with discrimination from Spacian students due to being born on Earth. Delling takes charge of the investigation and orders Aerial’s manufacturer, the Shin Sei Development Corporation, to appear before a hearing.”
  • Episode 3 – Guel’s Pride – “Suletta is reinstated as a student for the upcoming duel, which will be a rematch against Guel. Vim has arranged for Guel to pilot the more advanced Darilbalde mobile suit equipped with AI assistance. Not content to let the AI fight for him, Guel takes back control of the Darilbalde and fights back with all of his strength., with Suletta narrowly prevailing over him. At the conclusion of the duel, Suletta is impressed with Guel’s piloting skill and shows her respect to him. Inspired by Suletta’s sportsmanship, Guel becomes infatuated with her and asks for her hand in marriage, much to Suletta’s shock.”
  • Episode 4 – Unseen Trap – “A mobile suit exam is held but Suletta instantly fails due to her lacking a support crew. Another student, Chuatury “ChuChu” Panlunch also attempts it but fails as well due to her mobile suit’s camera having been sprayed over by bullies, blinding her. It is revealed ChuChu resents Spacians due to the discrimination Earthians like her suffer, and the bullying is related to this.”
  • Episode 5 – Reflection in an icy Eye – “Suletta and Earth House witness Elan win a duel against three opponents. During a meeting between the Peil Technologies leaders, it is revealed that Elan is actually a genetically modified human designed to pilot Gundams. Elan is ordered by his superiors to investigate Suletta, and he accepts since he believes she is an artificial human like him. Elan then invites Suletta to spend time with him on their day off, which leads to many students to interpret it as Elan asking her on a date.”

To see my thoughts on the prologue, click HERE

So far, I’m not 100% sold on G-Witch as of yet simply because of how different it is, but I’m sure that the show will grow on me as most Gundam shows do. We have glimpses of the overall political situation going on in the background throughout these initial episodes and to me that is the bread and butter of what makes Gundam the sort of show that I like so I am glad that that has not been removed entirely. The character designs are also not my cup of tea, but I can imagine that people that have enjoyed shows such as the newer Macross franchise iterations are well at home with the characters. To me, the characters have somewhat ridiculous hairstyles and clothing that I can get over eventually. Another minor gripe I have is how meek Suletta can be at times. She is an insanely shy and non-confrontational character, to a point that any minor situation leaves her in a stuttering mess. In a way she is a stark departure from pretty much any previous Gundam main character, and I fully assume she will grow as a person and gain some courage.

Truthfully, my major concern for this show are the duels. One on One battles between Mobile Suits is the hallmark of the Gundam Build series, and having it here seems to make this show a replacement for that type of show. This is not what I was expecting and concerns me a bit about the ultimate goal of this. I know this is a way to show off random mecha designs with the ultimate goal of selling model kits and other merchandise, but hopefully there is a way to come to the same selling potential without turning your show into a fighting game. Hopefully the plot of this show tracks like Mobile Fighter G Gundam, a show that started out with similar duels and changed to a normal plot progression around 15-20 episodes in, when the real villains of the show surfaced. In my opinion, G-Gundam is VERY underrated, and if this turns into that I will be pleased. We see hints of an overall struggle brewing between Spacians and Earthlings in episode 4, and I fully assume for this to boil over at some point. I could see The Asticassia School of Technology getting attacked by terrorists at some point or become the battlefield for an attempted corporate takeover – the possibilities are endless, and the battles would be crazy considering what we’ve seen so far.

Things from this show that I have loved include interesting mobile suit designs which are familiar to longstanding fans of the show but hold on to their own style pretty well. I believe they have something like five or six different designers producing the designs for these and seeing the completely different styles on the various mecha has been awesome. I liked how the current main mobile suit has a more feminine appearance than what we’re normally used to, somewhat sitting in between a suit from Gundam 00 and perhaps Gundam Reconguista in G. The animation is somewhat similar to what we’ve been seeing in the iterations of this franchise in the last five years or so which involves CGI rendered mobile suits and animation for characters that looks more traditional. The melding of these two styles is pretty seamless and does not stick out as bad as one would assume. The overall product looks well-made and well-funded.

I also really like the mystery behind “this show’s Char” in Lady Prospera Mercury. When we last saw this character, in the prelude, she was known as Elnora Samaya and was the pilot of an experimental mobile suit called Gundam Ilfrith. After the Earth’s military take-over of her research facility and the death of her husband at the hands of the invaders, one can assume she’s pretty salty. She has assumed a false name, changed her appearance, and is now wearing a mask to hide her appearance from the rival corporations. The fact that she has created an assumed name for her daughter, Suletta (previously assumed to be Ericht Samaya), I assume she has some kind of plan brewing, I’m just not sure she’s a “good guy” or “bad guy” quite yet. This is easily one of the most interesting things in this show so far, and I absolutely can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

One of the things that struck me so far in the show is that the overall power of Suleta Mercury in both her battle prowess and manipulation of the funnels/drones on her mobile suit. This makes her incredibly powerful right off the bat in comparison to what we generally see in Gundam shows. Considering that I’m assuming her mobile suit, dubbed Aerial, will get various upgrades as the show commences and I can only imagine how terrifyingly insane the battles will get when that happens. So far, the show really hasn’t gone into exactly what is different about Suletta and her abilities, but one can surmise that she has been enhanced in some way making her some variation of the tried and true Gundam trope of a “Newtype”. Of course, being this way dubs somebody a “Witch” and triggers the general disdain of most “normal” people around her.

Long before this show even aired, there was a lot of discourse online about this being “woke Gundam” simply by nature of there being a female main character in the show. So far, there is literally no indication of this, but you’re probably going to have a lot of “fans” that dislike this show because everything has to be a gigantic culture war at all times, much to the annoyance of any sane person that actually touches grass every once in a while. Yes, the show deals a little bit with a marriage betrothal between two female characters, but who knows if they actually go into actually making them an item of any kind. Honestly, if that does happen, and we get the first lesbian couple in Gundam, who gives a crap because adults should be able to handle the show with a same sex relationship because it is 2022. People need to stop watching Tucker Carlson and getting their opinions from Reddit users with anime profile pictures. That’s me off of my soapbox for now bud I can tell 100% that some fans are going to be endlessly annoying about this.

Overall, it’s an interesting start to a show, and hopefully they can build on the foundation they have laid to create a new classic. With any luck, the one-on-one duel aspect gets minimized for more of a full-on plot at some point, and once that happens I’m sure I will be fully on-board. I love the mecha designs, might get used to the character designs, and appreciate the show for taking some chances at least. If you are looking for a more inclusive Gundam show that doesn’t go into pandering territory, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury should be on everyone’s fall 2022 anime watchlist. I’m sure I will continue reviewing this in short bursts like I usually do for animated shows as this runs, in about a month we’ll check back and see how the show is going.

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