Greetings and salutations, dear reader! I’ve recently spent an entire day just binging the first season of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury which consists of 13-episodes. So, after watching this new entry in the Gundam franchise, I’ve a few things that need to be said.
After nearly a decade since we’ve gotten a new major Gundam series, which was Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans that aired from 2015 to 2017, Sunrise/Bandai has graced us with a new mainline series in the fall of last year. That new series is With from Mercury- that promises to be a bold new direction for the franchise, by bringing new and exciting ideas to this decades old franchise. The first major change is the introduction of a female protagonist for a main series, and a female Char clone.
Well, after watching thirteen episodes, the anime does a lot to differentiate with its predecessors and previous incarnations with plenty of new things being introduced. Some of them are done remarkably well and be exciting to watch, but does also suffer from glaring pacing issues that border from mediocre to just boring.
The Witch from Mercury’s story revolves around Suletta Mercury, a shy and somewhat socially awkward girl from the planet Mercury who enrolls to the elite Asticassia School of Technology. With her Gundam Aerial, Suletta sets out to use this opportunity to help her home planet of Mercury to grow and prosper. This due to the school being run by a the infamous Benerit group, the largest conglomerate corporations in the G-Witch universe. Now this is where the it gets interesting for the anime, much like Food Wars’ Shokugeki battle system, the students settle their disputes through duels with their mechas.
Like I’d said earlier, anything can be resolved with a simple with a duel between to pilots, be it for corporate takeovers to asking someone’s hand in marriage- Something our dear Suletta will have to learn the hard way. Without a second of a thought, she challenges the school’s top ace to a duel, and manages to come out the victor. As a result, she is crowned the ace duelist in the school, but is also the new fiancé of one Miorine Rembran, the daughter of Benerit Group’s president.
After the initial prologue and first episode, the anime can be very inconsistent with its shifts in tone and pacing, switching from high school antics found in anime like Food Wars to serious anti-war themes of old Gundam series. For example, in one episode, Suletta is unable to participate in a mobile suit exam for not having a pit-crew and must make friends, to learning that her mobile suit is a Gundam (a form of banned technology), and may face expulsion.
If you were the binge watch this series from start to finish, it’s clear G-Witch often alternates between action-orientated episodes, and drama orientated ones. If Suletta is set to have an intense mecha on mecha fight in one episode, well, you can be sure that the next episode will focus on her school life. Also, episodes that focus on Miorine will largely involve her family drama centered around her relationship with her father, and the corporate machinations of the major mobile suit companies. Essentially, Suletta’s are fun and action, while Miorine’s are expositions.
While it’s great that both of our heroine’s get their moment in the spotlight, taking on lead roles in specific sections in the story. Though, you’d rarely see Miorine in major mecha-action sequences, as these parts are meant for Suletta. Then again, when it comes to the slice-of-life or school portions on the anime, Suletta’s inclusion is rather lackluster. While the exposition moments do drag the story, they do allow Miorine to have some dramatic scenes worthy of a telenovela.
This goes to my next major flaw of G-Witch’s storytelling: the need to innovate and pressure to bring something new. While it’s great to see this franchise getting a new coat of paint once in a while, like G-Gundam in the 90s. While not many liked that it strayed too far from the original’s premise, but its tone remained consistent throughout- super robot anime instead of real mecha.
That’s not to say the new elements introduced aren’t interesting, the school life aspect for example- they’re just not well executed. And I think the production staff know this too, as it didn’t take all that long until G-Witch started to go back to the usual gundam tropes of military conflict, political thriller intrigue, and explosions in space. What I’m trying to say here is that, in their pursuit of reinventing themselves, they’ve managed to alienate their core audience in the process. Familiarity is still needed, as the fans already have a certain expectation about what they want to see in a new series. This is most evident in the final two episodes where it seems like we’re about enter darker and more serious part of the story.
In summary, the first part of Gundam: The Witch of Mercury has some thrilling combat sequences and some interesting moments. However, like I’ve said above, the story has many mediocre moments too. That said, the series goes to breakneck speeds to wrap up the school life elements to reach the more grandiose battles seen in Gundam anime. While the finale sees a return to form, I’m rather disappointed at how we got there.