For those unaware, I am just now getting around to watching Gundam Witch From Mercury. If you’re curious as to why, there’s a whole video on it here.
As Blue and I watch it together, I’d like to blog after every handful of episodes to give my thoughts on what I’m watching, starting with episodes 1-6, plus the prologue. If you haven’t watched the show yourself yet, realize that I won’t be spoiler-tagging anything, and it’s not so much a ‘review’ as it is my-thoughts-in-real-time because I think that’s fun.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Happy birthday to you…
Talk about a strong hook. The prologue doesn’t pull any punches with its opening and the horrors of war waged by bureaucrats. The prologue lays a solid foundation that offers:
- what a “Gundam” in this show’s context is
- the current world state and our characters’ placement within it
- emotional connections among the characters within only the first act of the episode
- the absolute saddest rendition of “Happy Birthday” I have ever heard
I think it also serves as a strong introduction into the overarching “children at war” theme that has been present in Gundam since its inception, for those who only found the franchise through this new and uniquely marketed Gundam show: Four year-old Eri pointing at a screen like a mobile game to end people’s lives without even realizing what she’s doing, all while her mother has to watch on and encourage it for survival, is actually… really chilling.
I came into the show spoiled on a couple things, one of which is that Eri’s mother, Elnora, ends up being the Char clone of this show. It gave me some context on how this is the standard family-killing incident that sends the Char clone down a path of ambivalent antagonist, but even with that information in my head the moment we first see Elnora, the feels didn’t hit any less hard.
Guys, this is just Utena.
Once the current day starts proper in episode one, I realized very quickly that this show, at least in its setup, is just a modern retelling of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m sure this isn’t a hot take, so feel free to scroll past this bit if you’re already aware. But if you’re not, allow me to paint you a picture of how Utena opens. See if it sounds familiar:
A new student (Utena) shows up at school with bright-ass main character hair and a naive level of positivity and altruism. There, she finds a girl she doesn’t know and witnesses her abusive boyfriend smack her in her greenhouse full of plants she grows herself. Utena then tells him to stop, at which point she learns that this girl isn’t actually his girlfriend but the “Rose Bride,” which is now in his possession because he won a duel– because apparently this school just settles these things with anime-as-hell one-on-one battles in designated arenas. In such a duel, you win by knocking the flower off of your opponent’s lapel, and Utena challenges him despite not really understanding what this all means. She wins, gets a cool new uniform to signify her win, finds out that now the Rose Bride is her bride, and basically says, “lolwhat but I’m a girl!”
Now, this isn’t a bad thing. The concept clearly draws heavy inspiration from Utena, but the story isn’t at all a 1:1; it’s more that they used this as the character story within a more typical Gundam backdrop: space colonization, war-is-bad, humanity sectioning off between Earth and Space, etc. I just find it super interesting.
(If you’ve never watched Utena, go do that. It’s good.)
The characters are neat.
This is just kind of a hodgepodge of disorganized thoughts, but in general, I like the cast of the show through the first six (seven, I guess?) episodes. We’re thrown a lot of appearances in a short time, which is typical for shows in a school setting, and while it’s difficult to remember everyone’s names (and there are still multiple characters whom I don’t even know what they’re doing here yet), the important ones are beginning to stick out in memorable ways.
It is interesting to me that the story’s protagonist is clearly given autistic personality traits, because I’m all for it. Representation, baby. Suletta is precious, and I now understand why I’ve seen much love for the “space raccoon” on Gundam Evolution. When writing naive, sheltered characters untainted by the society that’s formed everyone else around them, you risk having them come off as just that: painfully naive. But her worldview is instead painted as a purer picture of the world, one that influences those around her, slowly but surely. Being accepted into the Earthians (hate that name) and building that bridge seems like it could have only happened because she was raised on Mercury. No other kid in this school could have done it.
(Side note: we were apparently able to colonize MERCURY, a planet so close to the sun that it reaches 800°F, and they’re somehow the country bumpkins of this setting? What happened between “let’s go to space” and “ew you’re from Mercury”???)
There are some characters I’m not sold on yet. Miorine, for one. There are spurts where I like her, spurts where I don’t, and I assume that’s because this is still very much Suletta’s story, and Miorine will have her chances for character growth later on. Guel sucks but that’s the point; he’s clearly being set up for a redemption arc so I’ll wait on judging him. Chu Chu won me over the moment she punched a bitch, Nika is so wholesome I want to give her a hug every time she talks, and Lady Prospera is… well.
Lady Prospera is so effing cool.
I’m often a Char clone fan. Jamile is my favorite part of Gundam X. Harry Ord is the best simp who ever lived. Char himself stole the show in the OG Gundam, and Zechs was my favorite anime villain growing up, until Makoto Shishio took his place. So liking this show’s masked antagonist was likely, but so far, she might be my favorite character in the show. And she hasn’t even done much yet.
Part of it might be Elizabeth Maxwell’s convincing performance both with and without the mask. (By the way we’re watching it dubbed. Sue us.) But her constant smug grin while telling both outright lies and lies of omission, taking off her arm and just chucking it at a guy in the audience before pointing her nub for emphasis, and having this ‘all according to plan’ attitude anytime she speaks just has me wanting to see her on screen more. She also had one of the best shutdowns I’ve heard in awhile when she derails a serious conversation by simply saying, “You’re much more talkative than I remember,” and walking off. Like, damn.
Now, I can see what the show is setting up, though I don’t know how it will play out. Prospera, when talking with or about her daughter, is way too wholesome and wonderful. There’s gotta be a catch. And I’m afraid that she’s going to tear my heart out when her ultimate betrayal, whatever it is, comes to light. Suletta genuinely loves her mom, and I think that her mom loves her just as much… but something since that day in the prologue episode has warped and twisted that love. We just can’t see what that is, yet.
Still. She’s f***ing cool.
“Elan” and what he represents.
So the guy whose sole purpose was to be edgy and say he doesn’t date turned out to be the real turning point in the show’s story. What we find out about the GUND system, about humans engineered artificially to handle it, about what other organizations have done after the prologue to continue working on it, and about how you can apparently graft someone else’s likeness onto a person Face/Off style… It leaves a lot of open space to guess what happens next.
I can see why this show’s first season was such a hit. If I’d been watching it weekly with everyone else, I would’ve been in spoiler chats making all kinds of fan theories. For instance, if faces can be plugged onto other people, what other people have we made incorrect assumptions about up until now? Is Suletta really Eri? (I mean, she has to be. Right?) The woman who conducts tests on the fake “Elan” clearly knows Prospera from even before the prologue, referencing something tragic that happened (I think, going by memory here) 21 years ago. Suletta is obviously not 25, so something happened before the prologue that likely led to Prospera’s synthetic arm. Does this mean that Eri’s effortless synchronization with Aerial wasn’t a fluke? Are we going to learn something about how Prospera planned this all from the start?
Man I really am simping for Prospera, huh. I started this segment wanting to talk about Elan, but… come on. He sucks.
…Eh, I feel bad saying that. What the world turned him into, whether he willingly took it on or not, is sad, and he’s tragic because of it. More positively, though, it was satisfying to see the Earthians rally behind Suletta, and also satisfying to see Guel lose again. But like, extra hard. I kind of hope he doesn’t get a redemption arc and is more just the Dan Hibiki of this show. But the space fight between Elan’s newtype-like Gundam control and Aerial with freer movement was very satisfying with music that got my blood pumping. Which, small hangup for me…
CAN’T THESE KIDS DIE VERY EASILY IN THESE DUELS, ESPECIALLY IN SPACE? Seriously, who’s running this school? Throughout these fights as suits get sliced apart, I keep thinking, “You know, if they just miss their aim a little bit or misjudge which direction their opponent dodges, they’re cutting the pilot in half.” Suspension of disbelief, I know, but you’d think they’d be using concussive rounds and dulled blades or something.
…happy birthday to you.
This f***ing tore me up inside.
I can’t wait to watch more.