I enjoyed Fall Anime Season 2022. I was elated to finally watch the goofy and delightful anime adaption of I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss, yet my favorite series was Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. I’d hadn’t touched a Gundam show in a while and had to pick up watching as all the anime heads were clamoring about it. What I found was a thrilling new series that had me equally on my seat waiting for more and devastated by such small moments. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is THAT girl! Here’s the review!
A Formula That Shouldn’t Have Worked
Talking it over with my fellow anime watching BNP family, we all agreed that this was a formula that probably shouldn’t have worked but did. Not only did the Gundam “but make it in high school and also in space with actual children being involved with huge corporations and huge economic systems in place” work, but this first season has continued to build on blowing audiences away. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury follows Suletta Mercury who transfers to to the Asticassia School of Technology, run by the Beneritt Group which dominates the mobile suit industry. She comes from the remote planet Mercury with a tragic backstory that we learn about from the prologue–that was a banger that had no business going that hard.
This Gundam show is set in an era when a multitude of corporations have entered space and built a huge economic system. By chance, Suletta is introduced to Miorine Rembran who is the daughter of the Benerit Group’s President, Delling Rembran. Miorine had been attempting to run away from her father and the school colony that made her feel imprisoned and without much agency. After her arrival, Suletta learns of the school dueling system which also plays a big hand in Miorne’s future: the student duelist that reigns supreme will be the future groom of said president’s daughter and the assets his company owns. Suletta’s arrival and continued interventions changes up the status quo at Asticassia causing waves and ripples to cliques in the student population to corporations all around.
And look narratively–the Gundam franchise has not shied away from having children or young adults in their media, historically. Sure, there’s nuance here and there: actual child soldiers from different factions in Gundam W, some young adults fighting in the tournaments that different colonies participated in to solve political strife instead of resorting to warfare in G Gundam. Yet, while there are a lot of moving parts of the plots and layers, it is mostly easy to follow. (Sorry Gundam Seed, I still think you are great!) Throughout this first offering of episodes, Suletta goes on to battle the three heirs to the three branches of the Benreit Group: Guel, Shaddiq, and Elan and it is a thrilling ride with all the teenage hormones and discoveries against a backdrop of angst caused by parents and political undermining.
A Main Character Who is Nearly Universally Loved
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury has a lot of heart! I was reminded by all the tweets and other posting on social media networks of how this newer series in the illustrious Gundam history became the gateway anime for several new fans. More surprisingly, people who I know have watched anime for years, and never touched Gundam, watched Witch from Mercury. Some of this is due to the appeal of “the new Gundam,” the catchy soundtrack, the glorious animation, but there is a great deal of love for the show because of the cast and its main protagonist Suletta. (She’s either the first female lead protagonist in Gundam media–or among the first.)
Timid, socially awkward with all the great one-liners, Suletta is a memorable character who is responsible for a dedicated meme factory each week a new episode aired. Living a childhood isolated on Mercury but also introduced to mobile suits and Gundam at such a young age makes her a gifted duelist and operator of such machinery. But because of that, her social skills are lacking, and we see this manifest in different ways: take her hilarious delivery when speaking in high stress situations at the school like being confronted or confessing. But I think you should also take note of the unfortunate scenes where she holds insecurities when she thinks she is the weaker link in the community she’s building.
And I understand that we all have different readings of the media texts we consume. I know that I wasn’t the only one pleased with this hot take of Suletta and Miorine as the main protagonist and deuteragonist of the show. On a more serious note, I do love that neither girl is a ‘strong female character’ type and they both have some heartfelt moments of vulnerability that give them enough depth to make me care about them and root for them. I also mostly love the dynamic Suletta and Miorine create not just as partners (groom and bride) at the school colony but as friends and protectors of each other. To paraphrase a fantastic tweet that I can’t find now because Twitter is on a new level of broke: I love the focus and emphasis the two girls have for each other, especially Suletta towards Miorine. Whereas Guel, Shaddiq, and Elan only saw Miorine as a tool or person to obtain, protect, enforce rules on, Suletta chose to do differently, instead offering her a hand in gaining agency for her life and her goals. Suletta Forgotta Mercury as in “Suletta… Forgotta” is my child and I would fight you to protect her.
A Near Perfect Start
My main and very valid criticism of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is that for all the cute moments, for all the awe inspiring moments–it is still very dark at heart. Yes, yes, hear me out. While watching, I really felt emotionally knocked around–like my emotional tether was all over the place. This translated to certain episodes capitalizing on spectacular character development and making the pacing of certain episodes a tiny bit of a chore to endure because of the tensions created. Smaller instances of Suletta running into petty conflicts between other students and even Miorne do drag some parts of certain episodes. On the more extreme end, I want to point out the very insidious way the parents and guardian figures in this show manipulate their children.
From the more oblivious way Guel and Mironre’s fathers publicly demean their children and make them into chess pieces for their own goals (dueling, arranged marriages) to the slyier ways Suletta’ mother uses her daughter’s innocence in turn to create violence against other people. (Looking at you episode twelve and the after credit scene I hope viewers did not miss) Suletta’s mother is presented as an underdog and more caring of her child than the other adults but each reveal in this first cour of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury cut me deeper than I expected–not that I was expecting them! Now this is not terrible writing, I deem it the opposite! Great commentary on parental relationships, in fact! It makes for storytelling that leans into thought provoking story-lines yet emotionally audiences are going to feel weathered by the emotional load not giving them a break. An inside joke I remember hearing with many viewers is that “the hits keep coming! EMOTIONAL DAMAGE!”
What should not be overlooked is the animation that Sunrise put their entire foot into! Not only do I adore this look of this new Gundam show but I love the attention to detail in its character designs: from this insightful nod to the handful of larger/fat female characters in the supporting cast who are not made into jokes to the very deliberate designs of Suletta and Miorne and how the complement each other. (I’m also very happy to see Black/darker skinned characters without the caricature-like visuals that can sometimes be found in anime. Always a plus!)
The animation in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is stunning. The fight sequences are amazing and make mecha in animation, a priory to watch. I’m not sure how much CGI was used in the animation process, but I’d like to guess a minimal amount as what I watched was a very polished product. I sincerely hope this consistency continues in the next leg of this story.
As someone who has occasionally dipped into the giant mecha franchise here and there, I love this entry’s take on technological innovation and the greed and destruction that follows. In the prologue and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury we learn about the damning and banning of Gundam. While it is revealed that the technology had origins that were meant to be a medical assist to help human bodies endure the harshness of living in space and also help with prosthetics, the movement to literally kill those working with the Gundam format proved to be lethal to the work.
The introduction of Suletta, Aerial, and those who back her on this new stage at Asticassia makes for a daring fire-starter of a move. This reclaiming of Gundam and its storied history by Suletta and her fellow students makes for incredible watch and an interesting update in the Gundam lore. And in all, as stated by most: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is a fresh entry in the long running history of Mobile Suit Gundam and one that continues to be a standout. You should be watching this one!
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is streaming now on Crunchyroll. The Second Season is set to premiere April 9, 2023.