Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
The world of anime, especially when it comes to genres like sci-fi and fantasy, can often revolve around big flashy moments and fight scenes. Mecha anime, in particular, utilize their giant robots as not just points of literal conflict but symbolic conflict as well.
Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the most historic in terms of its themes surrounding war and the costs thereof. Given the nature of its combat involving giant war machines, seems logical that these questions would arise. The latest of its incarnations, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, however, arguably does a bit more to differentiate itself in this lane than some of its peers.
Despite wanting to talk about this show a bit more in-depth, my friend and I’s group watch of the series has only gotten through the first season, and thus there is probably a lot that could be missing from any analysis. Still, there is so much in this series worth talking about, and since most of my attention has been elsewhere recently, it feels like good a time as any before reviewing the series properly once it finishes. As such, the things highlighted in this post will relate primarily to season one.
There is a lot of charming optimism to be found in young anime protagonists. Many of them fight not just because they have to but because they believe doing so will bring about some sort of good in the world. While Naruto spends a good portion of his own story hated by the people around him, he rarely gives up hope in favor of a darker outlook. The same can be said of Gon in Hunter x Hunter, though the show’s more angry, rage-filled moments certainly provide a stark contrast. Hell, one of the most famous mecha series of all time Gurren Lagann is known for its main character’s eternally optimistic attitude.
The Witch from Mercury approaches its story similarly with Suletta, a young girl who comes from the outskirts of the solar system and whose parents were involved with a biological weapons program known as GUND. Despite Suletta’s shy personality, her outlook is decidedly positive, often reciting her mother’s mantra “Retreat and take one step, move forward and take two steps.” On top of that, her generally friendly personality makes her approachable later on.
Given many MC’s tendencies toward positivity and straightforward thinking, shows often develop a sense of black-and-white morality that leaves little room for exploring ideas in any sort of nuanced way. However, Suletta’s storyline buckles this trend in ways that make it stand out as a more subtle narrative.
The ending of season one might have felt like a bit of a surprise to some, but the show leaves enough clues in earlier episodes that its more murderous direction is not at all unwarranted. The show draws a lot of attention to her early on, not just by making her the main character, but by making her the only character from a business family without a set of ulterior motives. While everyone else’s kid serves as a puppet for one of the businesses in the group, Suletta seemingly remains missionless.
However, it is the seeming lack of deeper derision between Suletta and her mom that becomes suspicious, especially framed within the context of her mom’s actions. This is especially apparent in episode 12, where it takes all of 20 seconds for her mom to use that same motto “retreat and take one step, move forward and take two steps” to essentially convince Suletta that murder is ok. This is, of course, assuming that the masked woman is even her mom which feels less and less certain as the episodes roll on.
Not so surprisingly, the concept of witches comes in the show as well. The fantastical beings have their origins in a number of places but in recent times have been mythologized as much more evil. The Salem Witch Trials in the U.S. are a great example of how hysteria created by religious fervor fueled many into believing in these beings and has since become so famous as to become a parable about delivering false accusations against others.
The invocation of this event and the history of witch hunts is utilized quite well in the series. Given the taboo nature of the GUND format and people as biological weapons piloting Gundams, it is no surprise that Suletta’s fellow classmates take to her robot’s mysterious powers with a bit of fear. Though the fear is initially framed as unfounded and irrational on the part of the students, it is slowly revealed that the technology not only still exists but is possibly still worth pursuing.
A lot of this is also seen from the perspective of Miorine, especially in the previously mentioned episode 12 final scene, who watches Suletta’s development. The dynamic between the two changes drastically, both in the whole of the first season as well as when she murders Miorine’s assailant. What in her eyes were annoying, unfounded rumors about her…wife (I’ll save talking about this dynamic for the review proper) becomes founded in a near instant.
The Witch from Mercury does not feel the need to spell out a lot of its larger points. Part of this might be its attachment to the legacy of Gundam which at this point feels like it needs little explanation. However, a lot of it feels like trust in a more mature audience, one that is able to handle not just layered and nuanced storytelling but also queer relationships and the ethical dilemma that is warfare.
How do you all feel about the series so far? Let me know in the comments (preferably without spoilers from season 2).
If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.
As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.
If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!