Thoughts and observations from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Episodes 1-12
The last twenty years of the Gundam franchise have probably been some of the more expansive, throw-all-the-shit-at-the-walls to see what sticks than the first twenty-four of it’s overall forty-four year run. The franchise has always been about selling model kits, first and foremost. But where most of the series up to 00 have had the same messaging (war is bad), they’ve at least felt very similarly-themed in characters and settings. AGE seemed to be the moment where someone started unraveling the timeline at the TVA. Build Fighters, Reconguista, Iron-Blooded Orphans, Build Divers, some of these were good, but they all lacked a sort of cohesion that us old farts miss in our GANDAM shows. Sell me model kits, yes, but at least pen a story to go with it, and characters that aren’t always troll-hair zoomers. Their response? The Witch from Mercury. The premise? Humans finally got further than the LaGrange points, but they’re having a difficult time with it. So here are some genetic modifications and machinations to help, but they’re difficult to get working right, and oh, space people and earth people hate each other and use these things to fight and make weapons instead. Wow.
Mercury actually starts with an “episode 0” ONA that lays out twenty-ish years prior to the start of the actual show. The place where a bunch of science folks were researching “GUND Format” technologies was overrun by the military, after they decided we ain’t doing this GUND-AM shit anymore because it just kills people who use it. Or hostile corporate takeover? I dunno, either way seems KKona as fuck. But somehow, the girl here, Ericht, is able to move a mobile suit her mother had been trying to get working forever, and they’re able to escape the slaughter, at the cost of her father/husband.
It was probably smart of the writers to sort of slow-burn this story in the first cour so as not to blow their load too quickly early on, which has been a problem plaguing many long-running western franchises of late. Here’s Suletta Mercury. Is she the same girl as before? Her mother doesn’t look the same, she looks like a Char-Zechs-McRoanoke! Who are all these other characters? This house, that house! Look, I do like shows with a lot of different characters, but if I need a fucking theme park style map to keep all this shit together in my head, I kinda stop caring. It became easier just to focus on Suletta and Miorine and less on all these pretty boys and what company they’re with, whose father will tell them they’re worthless trash for not being the most popular kid at school, or the gaggle of girls around every house that were just sort of there. I didn’t realize Death of a Salesman could be made into a stylized Gundam series, but here we are.
However, like most Gundam series, when characters and stories are perhaps a bit middling, it’s up to the mobile suits and combat to make up for it. Thankfully, this series has plenty of good action, both from wizardly Gundams themselves, to even the standard mobile suits most of the students have. Most were variations of classic designs like your Zakus and Doms, but a few tried to run in some wild directions. Ariel’s use of bit funnels of course is perhaps a guilty pleasure of mine through previous franchise entries, especially when Jesus Yamato abused them in SEED Destiny. And the musical score they paired behind most of Suletta’s fights and use of these bits were on the mark. Gundam series OP/EDs and music are maybe third for me behind Symphogear and Initial D/MF Ghost in this “this better blow my fucking foot tubes off”
As the series began to pull away from constant duels for Miorine’s honor and more about Miorine’s own company, GUND-ARM Inc. she founds to try and find medical uses for the GUND-Format technology, the real plot of the series begins to take shape as the cour winds down. Key figures within companies and houses begin to fall Game of Thrones style, and you start to suspect a lot of people gaslight our poor Suletta and manipulate her into doing things like most neurotypicals of their autistic co-workers.
Finishing the first cour, and that final scene, that was the kind of other shoe landing moment I kinda needed to affirm I was actually watching a Gundam series that wanted me to pay attention to its shit. Taken as a whole, I like it, I didn’t hate it, but it definitely needed a little more salt. Trouble is, I don’t know if that would have worked or not. We’re not in ye olde dayz of more storied Gundam where you’d bookend every minor moment with something major. Wing had a penchant for always needing to move a chess piece with each episode. That’s cool, and you think it’s cool, but some of the fun comes with waiting and frustrating your opponent by deliberately waiting. You also have to acknowledge that this series won’t be a typical four-cour, fifty episode affair like those Gundam series prior to AGE I think. The second cour is already out and down as I write this, but as usual I forgot about following up on it as it was airing. So I am watching it now, and will write some more about it after.