Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury has very much been a Gundam show from the get-go — in lockstep with the wider franchise in the ways it plays with some of the series’ most enduring elements, and in how its worldbuilding extrapolates Gundam’s longstanding critiques of capital and the military industrial complex. But in its first season finale, it reminded us it’s ready to get its hands very dirty.
The 12th episode of the series, simply titled “The Witch from Mercury,” brought a dramatic conclusion to an attack on the Mobile Suit development facility Plant Quetta by a group of human terrorists known as the Dawn of Fold. As all our various pockets of characters converged on the facility — Suletta and Miorine, who reconciled a previous distancing in their relationship to appear closer than ever before; their parents Prospera and Delling, themselves seemingly working together in spite of a tortured background; the Earth House students from Asticassia, slowly embroiling themselves in the capital of the Mobile suit industry; and even Guel Jeturk, brought back into the world he’d tried to run away from, and his dispassionate father with it — Witch From Mercury exhibited a capacity for violence unlike anything we’d seen since the series’ prologue episode.
Echoing the attack that began the series — as the Dawn of Fold, backed by its own Gundam-wielding “witches” from Earth, carved a bloody path through Quetta — all of our young heroes are bluntly thrust into the kind of conflicts that they’ve been trained for at Asticassia, only to discover just how horrifying that conflict can be when it’s not gamified for school politicking and lives are on the line instead of social and capital standing. It’s not that Suletta, Miorine, and the rest of the Asticassian students are unaware of violence; their lives at school are driven by it, just in a defanged, desensitised manner.
They are training to become pilots and engineers of weapons of war, or the next generation of managers of companies that drive an interstellar military economy that has driven a wedge of poverty and persecution between the peoples of Earth and the space colonies. Disputes big and small are settled by the ritual combat of the Mobile Suit duels, full-scale mecha combat that while utilising weakened weaponry, is still using military-grade hardware capable of rending these machines into scrap — there’s no killing, just the victory conditions of claiming the antenna of your rival’s suit. There’s no acknowledgement of what conflict actually entails in what we’ve seen of life at Asticassia; everything is just removed from the actual cost of a world where giant machines wage war.
The sudden violence of the Fold’s assault is traumatic for all of our young viewpoints across the episode. The Earth House students are paralysed by fear as the facility explodes all around them. Guel, in a tragic twist, inadvertently duels and kills his father, each unaware that they are in their respective mobile suits until too late. Most crucially, Suletta is brought from the brink of terror by her mother, after the latter brutally guns down a group of Fold terrorists in order to save Suletta from meeting a similar fate — sinisterly manipulating her daughter into rationalizing that she should not fear violence, but that it is the logical conclusion of her hopes to protect her mother, her friends, and her relationship with Miorine in this harsh world.
That’s exactly what Suletta goes on to do, almost like her mother’s words flipped a switch in her. There’s a moment of joy as we see her, in the newly upgraded Aerial, chase away the Fold of Dawn with an almighty blast from the Gundam’s new beam rifle to end the episode — until a post-credits scene offers a moment of terror that changes The Witch From Mercury forever. As Miorine and her injured father attempt to find medical aid, only to be cornered by one of the remaining terrorists, Suletta and the Aerial come crashing into the scene… and as the infiltrator raises their gun at Miorine, Suletta takes decisive, brutal action.
Smashing the Aerial’s palm down onto the terrorist, their body explodes in viscera. The moment is slowed down, so we can see blood spray across the floor, across the Aerial’s fingers, across Miorine’s petrified face as body parts idly float past her, numbed to that small horror as a greater one unfolds in front of her. Suletta, ever the ditz, climbs out of the Aerial while slipping on the blood and guts of a someone she just, without qualm or quibble, smashed into gory paste. As she raises a blood-soaked hand to Miorine to cheerfully declare her bride rescued, Suletta’s face carries none of the horror that she experienced when her mother saved her earlier, or the horror of her fellow students, or even the horror of Miorine in front of her, unable to do more than breathlessly call Suletta a murderer.
With that moment, Witch From Mercury has crossed a threshold many Gundam shows have crossed before, and crossed quicker — its young protagonists forced to confront the nature of death and war directly and horrifically. Gundam has done this many times before, of course. Even last year’s Cucuruz Doan’s Island movie gave us Amuro calculatingly mowing down a fleeing soldier by stamping on them with his Gundam, albeit nowhere near as graphically as portrayed here. Even then the level of blood displayed has been matched by the franchise in the past, alongside many more moments that, while bloodless, were just as if not more violent. And yet, that’s not the point of this violence’s impact. It’s not the gore that makes this Gundam, but the shockwave of its impact on the relationships between all these characters we’ve come to know over the past season.
Time will tell just what kind of lasting impact this singular moment will have on The Witch From Mercury heading into its second run this April — what it means for Suletta’s relationship with Miorine, what it means for Prospera’s own plans for her daughter and the Aerial, what it means for the inevitable outbreak of conflict that now comes between the myriad companies at play in the series’ world. But one thing is certain: by spending its first season rooting conflict in the safe confines of duels, and by distancing the class and literal warfare of its wider worldbuilding to couch its young characters in a bubble of isolated safety, the show’s hard-turn approach to violence made an impact almost unlike anything Gundam has done before.
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