The following may contain spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam the Witch from Mercury.
Director / Hiroshi Kobayashi, Ryou Andou
Screenplay / Ichiro Okouchi
Production / Sunrise (Bandai Namco Filmworks)
Release Date / October 2022
In late 2021, Sunrise dropped an announcement that many in the Gundam community have been waiting for. It was an announcement seven years in the making since Mobile Suit Gundam IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS premiered in 2015. Slated for premiere in October 2022 was Mobile Suit Gundam the Witch from Mercury. It was just a title and logo reveal but it immediately set the tone of what the next Gundam series would be. I do want to note that there wasn’t a drought of Gundam content between the two series. In fact, we got several Universal Century movies, and a couple of Gundam Build series. But those were targeted to seasoned fans and aren’t the best “gateway” series for newcomers, especially in the current norm of seasonal anime. I guess, the years in between were spent figuring out how to make a modern Gundam series that would invite a lot of new audiences while keeping its existing demographic engaged. And those years were well spent as the Witch from Mercury is arguably one of the most accessible series in the franchise and still able to introduce concepts unheard of previously.
As an alternate universe (or “another century” as the Japanese marketing calls them) series, Gundam the Witch from Mercury is set in its own timeline, the Ad Stella timeline, where humans have advanced its civilization into space and has established a whole new economy surrounding this setup. But the nature of conflicts remains the same as inequality and discrimination between Earth-born “Earthians” and space-bound “Spacians” remain. Here, we focus our attention on Suletta Mercury, a 17-year-old Spacian who’s about to enter the prestigious Asticassia School of Technology who encounters Miorine Rembran through what appears to be an accidental rescue effort. Little do they know that this chance encounter would catalyze a series of events that would ultimately reopen pains of the past and set the stage for conflicts in the future.
Now first things first, and I know there’s already a lot of discussion about this. But I really, really appreciate that we are finally getting a female main character, an answer to years’ worth of fan clamor. And I do think this is the culmination of the seeds they’ve planted with other female-led productions. Examples include the games Mobile Suit Gundam BATTLE OPERATION 2: Code Fairy and Mobile Suit Gundam U.C. Engage, as well as the strong female presence in Gundam Breaker Battlogue. Gundam the Witch from Mercury also features a strong ensemble of female supporting characters and has progressive themes not seen in previous works. So, kudos to the staff for successfully setting this series in the current inclusive climate.
On that note, the characters of this series are charming and full of personality that you’ll instantly recognize and remember them as the episodes come and go. Suletta is your typical fish-out-of-water character but from the get-go, there’s more to her than the innocence she portrays. There already are several fan theories that attempt to explain why she does things and we’re hoping season two addresses those questions. Miorine is more of your stereotypical “tsundere” though it is revealed why she has such dispositions, and how meeting Suletta changed her for the better. Asticassia School of Technology operates like Hogwarts from Harry Potter where students are grouped into several “houses” sponsored by one of the mega-corporations in this space-based economy. I’ll delve into the setting later, but this is where we get the rest of our key characters.
Our main protagonist duo belongs to the Earth House where, as the name implies, Earthians typically go to. And in a school clearly dominated by Spacians, there’s a lot of discrimination going on, but this also brings out more notable characters. We have fan-favorite Chu-Chu thanks to her cotton ball hair and spiky attitude, as well as Nika who, as the series progresses, has a lot more involvement in the bigger scheme of things. Another fan-favorite is Guel Jeturk, from Jeturk House, who initially came across as your typical jerk but ends up with the most development in this season. Elan Ceres hails from Peil House and provides us with the moral ambiguities of this seemingly scientific utopian society. And then we have the flamboyant Shaddiq Zenelli from Grassley House and is responsible for the larger political machinations that would play later in the series.
I do mention bad parenting in the title, and it’s because this plays a huge role on our main characters, to the point that the series also comes across as a parent-versus-child story. Starting with Delling Rembran who played a significant role in the PROLOGUE and comes across as a worthless father, mainly because of how Miorine perceives him. But as the season progresses, he’s shown to be a much more caring person. We also have Guel’s father Vim Jeturk who’s more of a jerk than Delling. But the most interesting character among the parent association we have here is Lady Prospera, who’s also the mandatory masked character for this series. She’s eventually revealed to be Elnora Samaya from PROLOGUE and there’s a lot going on with her. I won’t be surprised if she’ll become the overarching villain as season two picks up.
Going to the overall setting, it’s a good decision on the production team’s part to focus a good portion of the series on this school-slash-duel setup that shelters the characters from the larger conflict brewing in the background. It provides a good misdirection and a sense of security that, at the same time, equally provides whiplash when the background Earthian-Spacian conflict takes forward. I also appreciate how they didn’t go straight into a war story unlike previous series because that’s a concept the current generation wouldn’t latch into. So framing warring countries or states into mega-corporations vying for economic supremacy on society is a definite fresh take. This also allows the series to inject concepts relevant to today’s modern audiences like the progressive tones as earlier mentioned, and corporate start-ups to name a few.
Production value is top notch, as expected for a Sunrise anime. Excellent animation and an equally excellent soundtrack make those key moments hit much heavier. And while I’m not a hater for CG in anime, I do appreciate the use of traditional animation for the mecha and battle scenes. Though they still do use CG in some shots but they’re not jarring and blend well with the rest of the scene. The animation also provides subtle details and world-building that are normally overlooked, like how beam colors are indicators of their power levels – blue for combat and green for non-combat. I also want to mention the excellent sound design used in this series, and not simply a reuse of effects used in the past. From the sounds of beams hitting the GUND-Bits, to the minute servo movements of each mobile suit, it further enhances the experience of being immersed in this technologically advanced world.
That, of course, comes in the cost of a tight production schedule and Gundam the Witch from Mercury is no exception as there’s been a couple of delays in this season, though some are pre-emptive programming. But I do hope that the production staff and animators are able to balance their schedules better as we head into season two.
Obviously, this is just season one so I can’t give a complete opinion on the story, but they’ve done an excellent job in hooking us for season two and providing an overall different Gundam experience with this season. It may not have the same scale and stakes as the previous series, but they closed the season with a definite bang that leaves the audience wanting for more. And so, Mobile Suit Gundam the Witch from Mercury is an excellent gateway Gundam series for new fans and is a fresh take for the more seasoned fans. Highly recommended!