Bandai Namco Under Fire For Downplaying Gundam: The Witch From Mercury LGBTQ Relationship

Bandai Namco Under Fire For Downplaying Gundam: The Witch From Mercury LGBTQ Relationship

Bandai Namco has come under fire from the anime community this week after attempting to pull a “just gals being pals” with the leads from the recent hit anime series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury. 

The whole issue stems from the monthly Gundam Ace magazine’s most recent issue, which includes an interview with the lead actors of The Witch From Mercury. In the article, Kana Ichinose (the voice actor for Suletta) said: “In the epilogue, the scene where Miorine puts her head on Suletta’s shoulder is so good. 3 years have passed, I could feel that the space between the two of them had become more intimate, seeing a married couple in that form, once again my heart was touched.”

While the interview snippet itself is a wholesome take on Suletta and Miorine’s relationship, Anime News Network reports that Bandai Namco promptly had all mention of the girls’ marriage removed from the digital version of the publication, but didn’t quite get to cutting it from the print version, published July 26. The digital version of the interview now reads: “After the three-year time jump, I could feel the intimacy between the two had grown, and to see that in the pair was, once again, very touching.”

It’s worth noting that The Witch From Mercury is made by Bandai Namco Filmworks/Sunrise (the team behind Cowboy Bebop), while Monthly Gundam Ace is overseen by Kadokawa.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury
Image: Bandai Namco Filmworks

While the change on its own was enough to frustrate fans who noticed, Bandai Namco went on to double down in an apology statement released on The Witch From Mercury’s official website and Twitter. Rather than apologising for seemingly censoring discussions of the characters’ marriage, Bandai Namco Filmworks apologised for including that part of the interview. 

A machine-translation of the original Japanese statement says that the latest issue “contained statements of speculation from magazine editors,” and that the company “would like to leave it up to each and every one of you who have seen the main story to understand and interpret it, and we would like you to enjoy the work.” 

This is a pretty strange hill for them to die on, given The Witch From Mercury explicitly and repeatedly describes the pair as betrothed, and art pinned to the Japanese official Twitter account’s timeline shows Suletta and Miorine holding hands with literal wedding bands on their fingers. The official North American Gundam Info Twitter account shared a similar image of the girls describing them as “wives” in the alt text.

It’s not exactly clear why Bandai Namco is attempting to retcon or soften the relationship between The Witch From Mercury’s main characters, especially as its LGBTQ themes have been praised by many fans for taking a series that hasn’t typically delved into these kinds of storylines in a way that feels authentic, or without dipping too hard into queerbaiting. While romance is certainly not at the forefront of the story, Suletta and Miorine’s betrothal and relationship as both friends and future wives play a key role in the story. 

Some have speculated that the vagueness of defining their relationship in writing through official channels (other than, like…the actual anime itself) could be due to avoiding censorship or legal issues in other countries where the show has aired.

Mobile Suit Gundam The Witch From Mercury
Image: Bandai Namco Filmworks/Sunrise

Unfortunately, it’s not a surprising move for The Witch From Mercury team — anime fans are used to seeing queer relationships (particularly between women) vaguely hinted at without any clear definition, often for titillation more so than actual representation or storytelling. To backtrack what felt like a pretty cut-and-dry case of ‘girls who fall in love and get married’ to ‘girls who … maybe are married, but who knows? (Maybe the rings are bestie rings?)’ is an interesting choice, and a disappointing one at that. 

When sapphic representation in anime and TV is still leagues behind — see the trope of either teasing at a queer love story before introducing boyfriends or having a final episode explicitly reveal a relationship before the show ends or is abruptly cancelled (I’m looking at you, She-Ra, The Legend of Korra, and Adventure Time) — backtracking one of the few shows with a very clear-seeming ending just continues to hurt representation as a whole.

Anime stans, never ones to not find the perfect opportunity to create solid memes and actively make fun of whatever’s in the current zeitgeist, have not disappointed, though. Fans of The Witch From Mercury have been producing absolute gold on Twitter in the aftermath:

It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll see any further comment from Bandai Namco Filmworks on the issue, but I’ll be continuing to “leave it up to my own interpretation” that the leads of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury are definitely very married and in love (as they should be). Alea jacta est.

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