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Mobile Suit Gundam : The Witch From Mercury

Mobile Suit Gundam : The Witch From Mercury
Β© Sotsu - MBS - Sunrise

Mobile Suit Gundam : The Witch from Mercury is the latest entry in the long-running Gundam Saga. It’s been a while since Gundam has produced a “classic” TV-show, seven years actually, since the last series were Gunpla-based stories (like the Gundam Build series) and the rest of the productions were movies/OVA. The Witch from Mercury is quite an innovative series for the franchise because it’s the first TV series to feature a female protagonist (but not the first Gundam show to do it). Also, it’s setting is different from the traditional Gundam show since it’s based on financial, companies, emerging technologies, corruption, capitalism and revenge instead of the usual war between colonies and nations. The series premiered in October 2022 and started with a prologue episode, then 12 episodes ending on a second season announcement.

In a distant future, in a era now known as the Ad Stella (AS), the humanity has expanded in space and the solar system is now split between the Spacians, the inhabitants of space colonies and the Earthians, the earth-born people. The Spacians flourish thanks to a very developed and well established economy while the Earth remains highly polluted and very poor.

In space, the Vanadis Institute created a higly advanced man-machine interface named GUND made to help humans to survive in the harsh space environment. However, while the GUND technology aimed to produce advanced cybernetic implants and prosthetic limbs or organs, the technology got also employed by the military and produced the GUND-ARMS, nicknamed “Gundams”, a type of Mobile Suits using the GUND Format to increase the pilots performances, at the cost of their own life. Because of this defect, the Gundams earned a bad reputation of machines that kills their pilot and the GUND technology developers got branded as “Witches” since they were all women. The GUND technology got eventually banned and the Vanadis Institute raided by the Mobile Suit Development Council who killed the creators of the technology. Only two people survived, Elnora Samaya and her daughter, Ericht, who fled to Mercury.

21 years after the Vanadis incident, Suletta Mercury transferred from Mercury to the Asticassia School of Technnology, a prestigious academic institute owned by the Benerit Group, a megacorporation. At her arrival, she encounters a girl student, Miorine Rembran, trying to escape from the control or her father, the head of the Benerit Group. The two girls will cross their path despite different perspectives, ambitions and goals, while Suletta will try to integrate in a very different society and prove her worth as a Mobile Suit pilot with her Aerial, a Mobile Suit built with the forbidden GUND technology.

The Witch from Mercury features a really different background for a Gundam show. At the beginning, it’s going to a “school life” classical anime show where the issues are mostly caused by the representative of the the various companies forming the Benerit Group who are usually the heirs of the CEOs. It’s more a spoiled-child story than a traditional Gundam story. Since this is not a state of war, the Mobile Suit action in this show is based on a “duel” rule applied by the school regulation where the outcomes are decisive and are a law to respect.

Like said in the introduction, The Witch from Mercury is the first Gundam TV series to feature a female protagonist, Suletta Mercury. That’s not the first Gundam show to do it, the manga Gundam Ecole du Ciel, ONA Gundam SEED CE 74 : Stargazer and Twilight AXIS also did. Also another detail shared by a few TV-series, she’s the third Gundam protagonist to go by an alias instead her actual name, like Heero Yuy in Gundam Wing and Setsuna F. Seiei in Gundam 00. However something bothered me… Suletta is annoying. Because they made her timid, light headed, full of insecurities, and with difficulties to talk to others, I didn’t liked the character. The idea itself is not that bad, but the show insist too much on these aspects and that annoyed and disappointed me. On the other side, the second main character, Miorine, is the opposite : determined, brillant, and having troubles with her father who barely cares about her. But also the capricious little princess.

The first twelve episodes batch is merely a prologue in my opinion. The prologue episode was really necessary to setup the background story, but the first season is terribly slow and was only here to put the basics. We get the various elements that make the essence of the series : political interest, corruption, treachery, self interest and also unrestrained capitalism placing the companies and the megacorporation Benerit Group in the Cyberpunk kind inspiration of big industries having more power than a State. Along with this setup, we don’t really know what is the actual geopolitical situation of the story unless the difference between Spacians and Earthians and the fact that Earth is poor. It is mostly explained through the “Earth House” in the Asticassia School, one of the student houses exclusively composed of Earthian people that are targeted by the mocking and low appreciation remarks of their Spacians counterparts. Additionally, the show set the first steps of what seems to be a revenge scheme of Suletta’s mother, Prospera Mercury, who seems to have a special grip on her daughter especially with the deep connection she have with the Aerial.

Since it’s a Gundam show, the Mobile Suit action must be present, and in this case, it’s in a different way. Most of the story of this first season is set in the school, and there are no geopolitical context requiring fights. So the series uses the duels in the story to justify some action and it brings back some codes from the Gundam Build series since the duel locations are the Mobile Suits test and training fields of the school, but these places seems to be able to dynamically generates the various testing condition using a kind of very advanced holographic technology. The mecha design of the series is nice, I like a lot the design of the Gundam Aerial which reminds me the G-Self from G No Reconguista with some details from the Gundam Legilis of Gundam AGE. The other special units (because the grunt units are quite conventional, which is logical for a show about Mobile Suit manufacturers) have their own style and we can see some inspiration through the various Gundam series. The design of the Aerial and the Lfrith shown in prologue has been made by JNTHED, a new comer for the franchise and an artist who worked for the Metal Gear series.

On the story side, we can quickly understand that Suletta has a special connection with the Aerial since she says she can “hear” her voice. The unit is treated as a character itself and Suletta often repeat that Aerial is a member of her family and they “grew up” together. Actually, there is a side media associated to the show named Cradle Planet (Yurikago no Hoshi) which narrates Suletta and her mother’s story on Mercury from Aerial’s perspective. This prequel story helps to understand the bond between Suletta and Aerial since the Mobile Suit is intelligent and despite not showing an actual personality nor interactions, we understand in the show and in this short novel the fact the unit has an advanced AI or something like this. It would be another reference to previous Gundam work since it’s the plot of the novel Gundam Sentinel involving a unit, the S Gundam, having an artificial intelligence able to manifest itself and taking self conscious decisions without any explicit behavior. Cradle Planet also helps to understand Suletta’s personality, since she was one of the only kids of the BepiColombo (named after the joined Mercury exploration mission carried out by the JAXA and ESA launched in 2018) base where she grew up and having an absent mother because of her responsibilities. Additionally, Cradle Planet explain the revenge schema of Suletta’s mother using her daughter as a pawn in it.

To summarize my opinion about this show, I’ve been divided because the characters were generally annoying and some absurd situations took time in the show I didn’t enjoyed. On the other side, the back story and the goals behind it seem to be quite interesting but the first season of the show barely scratched it. It’s almost like Gundam 00 when its first season introduced the background and the basis for the next one, but with the half of the episodes. So I hope the next season will jump to the next level and make this show starting, because for me, so far, it’s a twelve episodes introduction.

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