Director: Hiroshi Kobayashi, Ryō Andō Screenwriter: Ichirō Ōkouchi Cast: Kana Ichinose, Lynn, Yōhei Azakami, Natsuki Hanae Distributor: Sunrise Running Time: 24 eps x 22 min. MPAA: TV-14

The Gundam franchise always takes on different flavors when it ventures out of the established Universal Century timeline. For The Witch from Mercury, there’s a merging of Gundam’s traditional anti-war roots and the colorful drama of high school romance. While that might seem like a controversial cocktail, this anime series ended up being rather surprising for how well it blends the two genres. There’s enough promise within the premise that it made me wish it was given more time to simmer before its abrupt end.

There’s a compelling nature of taboo within this setting, where space colonies have outlawed a mecha system known as GUND. The system requires intense brain power to operate and not everybody who uses it survives. The team developing it was disbanded by its corporate branch and by that I mean special forces were called into kill everybody involved with the project. As the team was primarily composed of women, they were dubbed witches for hysteria stirred up with their development. This leads up to a common Gundam universe without much explanation required on the divide between Earth and space colonies, the fear of new technology, and the horrific consequences of war.

A surviving and secret witch is the teenager Suletta Mercury. As a high-spirited student of Mercury, she transfers to the Asticassia School of Technology for mobile suit development. Though socially awkward, she still puts her best foot forward to represent her mother’s company and grow as a person. Her foot also happens to stumble onto Miorine Rembran, a teenager seeking to escape her father’s firm hold on her life. Part of Miorine’s escape from becoming a corporate pawn is to disolve her arranged marriage. Fortunately, such ordeals can be circumvented through giant robot battles. Since Suletta brought her powerful (and apparently illegal) Gundam for duels, Miorine is able to win Suletta’s hand in marriage. What starts as a loophole soon turns into a romance, considering how much is implied in the opening and closing animations.

The show darts between being critical of how capitalistic endeavors trivialize humanity and the coming-of-age romance for teens still finding themselves. The strongest moments are easily the chemistry between Suletta and Miroine. While Suletta looks on the brighter side of life (repeating her mother’s mantra of going forward), Miorine stoops herself in business to better assert herself. Their relationship traverses hills and valleys. The mid-season finale offered a rollercoaster ride of the two confessing their feelings on a space station, only for that tenderness to be shaken when Suletta effortlessly murders assassins, her innocent smile eerily shining amid her blood-soaked hands. Can a brainwashed soldier and a shrill business girl find a way to live happily ever after?

The answer would ultimately be yes, but with more of a melding into the system. Throughout the series, there’s a critique of capitalism, but also an adherence towards it. A major project for Suletta and Miorine to better combat their corporate overlords is to establish their own business to better push GUND tech. In other words, the couple and their cohorts want to change the system from within rather than rebel against it. While it seems like a doable aspiration, considering how much power they both wield to shake things up on a corporate level, there is something discomforting about simplified this resolve becomes. It feels like there’s a conflict of the blunt restructuring of the military industrial complex and the desire for Suletta and Miorine to end up married with romantic completion. Unlike other Gundam shows that feel like a revolution was had, this show ends more with a compromise.

The journey up to that mixed-bag denouement, however, was still a fun one. The mobile suit battles are grand and exciting, with amazing tension when the non-lethal skirmishes quickly turn brutal and war breaks out in the peaceful colony. The political intrigue is strong, where the show rarely slows down with its exposition and forces the viewer to keep up with the developing takeovers, mergers, and corporate assassinations. There’s also plenty of compelling characters worth exploring, from the cocky Guel getting a lesson in being taken down a peg to the manipulative nature of the cloned Elan. It’s also impossible to forget the poofy hair and spitfire nature of hot-headed Chuchu, not even thinking twice about punching someone who bullies her crew.

The Witch from Mercury is a Gundam series that blazes trails with a lesbian romance, even if it doesn’t go as far with its politics. I have severely mixed emotions on the resolve of the series with its political implications, but, in terms of characters and animation, it transfixed me with ease. There’s enough time spent with the teenage protagonists to care about whether or not they’ll survive when the chips are down. There are strong stakes for a show that could have merely settled on being the Gundam version of Revolutionary Girl Utena. It does have those elements and, on that basis alone, it’s sure to garner a new crop of Gundam fans with this invigorating invitation to newcomers. That said, when it comes Gundam addressing war and humanity’s greed, this TV series only feels like it embodies half of Gundam’s grander attributes, especially for being about half the length of most Gundam anime.

7 thoughts on ““Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury” Review

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