Mobile Suit Gundam The Witch from Mercury is something truly special. If you’re here for a spoiler free recommendation the answer is yes, go watch it, and make sure you don’t skip the prologue episode or miss the after credit scenes in some of the later episodes. And that’s coming from someone who generally dislikes mecha anime and who has never watched a single Gundam before this one. Witch from Mercury hit in the same way Arcane did, in that it was so surprisingly good I immediately started re-watching it the day after I finished it. These are the only two shows I have done that for, though granted it’s partially because I watched both during relatively slow seasons of anime. From here on there will be major spoilers, you’ve been warned.
There is, or at least was, an argument in the community for the 3 episode test – wherein you should watch at least 3 episodes before dropping a show so that you can get a proper idea of what it entailed without watching the whole thing if it didn’t capture your interest. The now former (I think) Youtuber formerly known as Digibro quite convincingly argued that you could tell in 1 episode whether or not a show would be for you. And I can’t think of a more concrete example of them being right than my recent experience with Gundam. I tried Iron Blooded Orphans and had immediate misgivings with the aesthetic style, the heavy-handed writing, the tone, and the general character of the show. I stuck it out for 3 episodes to give it a chance where I summarily dropped it because my initial read of episode 1 was spot on for me. It wasn’t that Iron Blooded Orphans was bad per se, but it certainly didn’t click with me and I didn’t have good time with it – didn’t have a bad time either mind, I was mostly ambivalent and disinterested. Witch from Mercury on the other hand had me hooked before the prologue episode was even over.
That prologue episode displayed, without revealing overmuch, that Witch from Mercury had everything I wanted as well as things I didn’t know I wanted. The character designs were more grounded, important characters had gravitas, the politics and philosophies of both sides seemed relatively well defined and realistic, the pros and cons of the tech was immediately apparent and brought to the fore in combat, the conflict was immediately grounded by the sudden deaths in a small company that had a genuine family atmosphere to it, as well as by the actual family of three that lost their dad. And then some amazing action animation hit in tandem with that Metal Gear-esque battle them, and I was in love. Anyone could tell from this episode alone that Witch from Mercury had it all. And in the middle of it still wove in some mystery and intrigue by having a four year old activate a battle mech that no one else can safely use, a feat that makes her mother stare at her in horror, before she happily blows up 3 enemy mechs with childish joy and innocence. By comparison Iron Blooded Orphans had incompetent asshole adults beating child soldiers and then running when the fighting starts, a noble lady who wants to understand child soldiers and constantly berates her own ignorance after a single episode, and Gjallarhorn fuckbois so over-designed and arrogant they walked straight out of Code Geass. Iron Blooded Orphans’ idea of tragedy was child soldiers having to undergo dangerous surgeries mostly off-screen to pilot their mechs and not even being mad about it, Witch from Mercury had a dad do a suicidal charge to make sure his wife and daughter escaped while he deliriously sings Happy Birthday for his four year old as his overuse of his Gundam starts to shatter his mind. And as extra icing on the cake, his daughter starts happily singing along with him, since it is in fact her birthday, and keeps the song going after her dad’s suddenly cuts off as his opponent rams a sword through the cockpit and kills him. These are not the same.
Witch from Mercury then flashes forward an indeterminate number of years, I say indeterminate because they don’t put a specific age on anyone and though the main cast mostly seem like teenagers, the mom from the prologue has a throwaway line to the antagonist of the prologue about 20 years since the witches, so theoretically our leading lady Suletta is 24. Though she hardly acts that way as she remains very childish even compared to her peers. The part of Witch from Mercury that will probably most put anyone unsure about it off is that it takes place in a school, like 95% of all anime. Granted the Asticassia School of Technology is very much a technical school, mostly centering around mechs, with courses for pilots, engineers, support techs and business. If you watched the prologue however, this fact should not dissuade you as Witch from Mercury already proved it has what it takes to be great. And in fact the school is a good microcosm of the setting as a whole which is one of things Witch from Mercury least explores or explains. There’s blatant bias against Earthians, as opposed to Spacians, and the feeling is mostly mutual with the Spacians having the clear upper hand in power, wealth and influence. Mechs, related tech, and how to sell them dominate business interest, which in turn dominates the school and all major political bodies. Imagine if the robber barons of American history, like Rockefeller for my non-American readers, and their monopolies all merged into one corporate group, the Benerit Group, and basically took over the government and ran everything. Though there is a distinctly un-American subordination of every CEO’s children’s’ free wills to the good of the company, mixed in with a generally ruthless hypercapitalist attitude about all interactions. And into this setting plops Suletta.
Suletta is a mix between the fish out of water and classic small town girl archetypes, though she is more childish than either such archetypes usually go for. She is a relative nobody with no guile, no aptitude for the cutthroat corporate world she’s entering and just generally wants to make friends and help her homeworld of Mercury out – granted she’s not actually from Mercury but she doesn’t appear to know that and it’s one of many signs that her mother is hiding things from her or that she maybe repressed her memories from prologue and before. I mean she could have just forgotten them especially if 20 years have passed but I still remember specific events like birthdays from my early childhood and I’m older than that so who knows. Because she’s a wholesome girl she immediately saves Miorine Rembran, who was actually in mid-escape attempt. Miorine is trying to escape both her political marriage and her very overbearing father Delling Rembran, who is president of the Benerit Group and the one who had Suletta’s space station raided and destroyed in the prologue. Not that Suletta knows any of that as she is woefully unaware of politics in general, let alone the politics of the Benerit Group specifically. She doesn’t even appear to know about the ban on Gundams, at least not by its official name, which again suggests her mom is hiding things from her – though she also explains that Mercury has such a small population it doesn’t even have any schools, so her education is sorely lacking. Anyway one things leads to another, Suletta ends up dueling Miorine’s fiancé Guel Jeturk and handily beating him because she’s got a Gundam and he doesn’t, and therefore becoming Miorine’s fiancé in turn because Miorine is literally a trophy for the school’s top duelist – a fact she is deeply angry about. By making such a splash, Suletta naturally makes a lot of enemies and captures the attention of the main four families behind the Benerit group and by extension the school, the Rembrans, Jeturks, Grassleys and Ceres.
Each of the four have their own power struggles amongst themselves and a balance which was already crumbling as the Jeturks were planning on assassinating Delling in episode 1, before Sueltta beats Guel and takes Miorine from his grasp, foiling the plan at the outset. Her mother also learns of the plan and blackmails the Jeturks into supporting her during the inquiry following the duel, as the one-sided defeat of the reigning champion obviously caused some to believe, correctly, that Suletta is using a Gundam. Both Suletta and her mom are major chaos factors in Benerit Group politics though for entirely different reasons. Suletta is a bull in a china shop, but a blindfolded bull, as she has no clue what she’s doing most of the time nor the consequences of her actions. Despite this I don’t want to paint Sueltta as an idiot because she isn’t, rather she appears to sheltered and ignorant, probably deliberately so. Her mom, who hides behind a mask, dyed hair, and the alias Lady Prospera meanwhile is a savvy operator who punches far above her corporate weight as her company is one of the smallest and least profitable in the Benerit Group. Her overall goals are more mysterious but in the short term she wants to protect Aerial, Suletta’s Gundam, so Suletta can continue using it. In addition the Ceres are undercutting the Gundam ban by developing their own Gundam in tandem with enhanced humans who can survive using one for longer – strangely when the former of these two facts are revealed the Ceres are not punished for it, though that scene has a lot going on in-universe so it can be excused somewhat for getting swept under the rug.
Speaking of Gundams and tech, Witch from Mercury centers on 2 components Permet and the GUND format. Permet is an unexplained resource that can be mined from multiple planets and presumably has something to do with data transfer as Gundam users calibrate their mech’s operating level using something called a Permet Score. The higher the score the more reactive the machine, and the more strain the pilot is under, as shown by reddish markings on their bodies and faces. The intricacies of this tech are not revealed beyond the broadest strokes, the tech is dangerous, Permet is the key resource, etc. The GUND format is biomedical tech that uses Permet to sync prosthetics with people who need them like Lady Prospera, this was then scaled up to fit a mech, hence the designation of mechs with the GUND format as Gundams. In Gundams, the GUND format allows users to better sync with their mechs for higher performance and allows for the use of drones or swarm weapons which can be finely controlled and coordinated via this tech. Gundams have a massive advantage over other mechs, as is always the case in Gundam shows, though these ones come with a huge risk attached and in the prologue the people who will become the Benerit Group already have an anti-Gundam EMP type weapon. Suletta overcoming the anti-Gundam weapon in one of her duels is probably my favorite scene in the entire show, and the revelations of her feat are then passed on to another secret group of Gundam pilots on Earth for the final conflict of the first season.
All of these interesting details aside, the biggest two strengths of Witch from Mercury are the action spectacle and the characters. The amination is top notch across the board but the action scenes are where it shines the brightest. The battles are fluid, kinetic and high impact. The special effects look amazing and are accompanied by excellent sound design that gives the weapon blasts some real weight to them. The battles are a total joy to watch, and Suletta’s big moments hit all the harder as the amazing battle theme from the prologue accompanies them all. It is beyond hype when that track hits. The mech designs are good as well, 2D and animated to an amazingly high standard. You could stick them in a movie unedited and probably not tell the difference – the mech battles are some of the most impressive pieces of animation I’ve seen in a while, and boy is that saying something because we’ve been spoiled with tons of great shows in past few seasons.
The characters are the most interesting part of the show however as many are deeper than they first appear. Even Geul Jeturk who comes off as an aggressive rich asshole with an ego problem, has deeper personality traits beneath the facade and goes through probably the most punishing character arc in the show. This actually makes Miorine one of the least interesting characters, which is by no means an insult because she’s quite compelling. However she’s one of the most straightforward, she’s a driven, talented rich kid who wants to escape her controlling father but comes around to working within his system for Suletta’s sake. But the two most interesting have to be Suletta and Lady Prospera. Suletta is straightforward and seemingly simplistic, but her childish personality has some darker elements as she maintains it even after doing the most brutal kill in the entire show. She also spends the whole show saying Aerial and her grew up together, and when she overcomes the anti-Gundam weapon she’s actively talking to it and seemingly hearing whatever it’s telling her. Since the prologue Suletta has had her unusual connection with a Gundam but the mechanics of it are not explained and even as other Gundam users are revealed, Suletta reigns supreme in her connection to Aerial and/or her apparent resistance to Permet. And I for one can’t forget the way her mom stared at her in horror during the prologue even before she started blowing other mechs up. Suletta and the nature of her connection with Aerial is one of the most intriguing ideas in the show and one of the least explained, so I’m hungry for answers.
Lady Prospera is an equally mysterious character though one who appears much more villainous. She is clearly manipulating Suletta to some extent but how much and for what purpose we don’t know. The most that we can gleam on this front is that she is as interested in Suletta’s connection with Aerial as I am, and seems to be pushing her in a direction to develop that connection – as best seen when she sheds a tear as Suletta overcomes the anti-Gundam weapon. But even that moment is ambiguous and multi-faceted as while there seems to be a sinister side to Lady Prospera, she is also a proponent of the GUND format, looked up to its creator and lost her husband to said anti-Gundam weapon. So while she could have a hidden motive, which seems likely since the other Gundam users now have this knowledge in the final battle, that tear also has several compelling reasons to be a genuine expression of joy. Even more curious she seems to be actively working against other pro-GUND people from the prologue by trying to flush them out of hiding, and in the most perplexing turn yet, appears to working directly with Delling on a project relating to Gundams. This despite the fact Delling is publicly famous for being anti-Gundam and directly responsible for the death of her husband and mentor; a fact she can’t not know. Bizarrely he seems to know who she really is too since she says her real name to him and she brazenly mentions witches in his presence. Now witches are never explicitly explained but it’s implied they are women with abnormally high compatibility with or resistance to the adverse effects of the GUND format, hence Suletta being dubbed the Witch from Mercury. So far as we know though, all witches come from Earth, since Suletta and her mother are Earthians who hid away on Mercury. Why witches seem to only come from Earth is not yet explained and it is yet another mystery I’m dying to learn more about.
If the preceding mass of text didn’t convince you give this show a try, only watching clips from the show will. Witch from Mercury has my highest recommendation and I eagerly await the second season, which comes out in a few months. Do yourself a favor and watch this show. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.