Episode 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is an effective fusion of the preceding episodes’ themes and developments. The weighty political intrigues and issues of technology from the Prologue are starting to intersect with the student rivalries and mobile suit duels from Episode 1, and the immediate and future consequences for the characters are strongly felt as the episode unfolds. Overall, “The Cursed Mobile Suit” does an excellent job sowing the seeds for more conflicts within the Asticassia School, between various business interests, and, on a more personal front, between Miorine and her father Delling. At the same time, it also introduces this particular series’ obligatory “Char Clone,” who is bound to shake things up even more. One feels by the end of the episode that the table is just about set, and we’re now ready for the first courses.
So far, The Witch from Mercury has established two primary settings—the political and business worlds of the adult characters, and the academic world of their children—and “The Cursed Mobile Suit” makes it clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The episode spends a good deal of time exploring the pecking order of the Asticassia School’s students, who we see are just as petty and competitive as the members of Delling’s business conglomerate. Students measure their value based on which corporations they’re connected to, and we also learn that there is a sharp, resentful divide between those from Earth and those from Space. The scene in the cafeteria is a standout moment in this regard, with the tense standoff between Nika’s friends and a clique of “Spacian” students highlighting how much these students value leverage, influence, upbringing, and where a person comes from.
Meanwhile, over in the adult world, Delling and his business partners are dealing with the fallout of Suletta’s duel and the realization that a Gundam—technically an illegal mobile suit, as per a major treaty—has suddenly appeared. Delling is just as resentful towards the technology as he has always been, and his colleagues are similarly unsettled, insisting the machine be confiscated. At the same time, they also wonder how such a mobile suit can even exist, and how Suletta is still alive after operating it, considering what we saw the prototypes do to test pilots in the Prologue. When Delling learns that Suletta’s Aerial Gundam is registered to the Shin Sei Development Corporation from Mercury, one of the smallest companies in the conglomerate, he immediately organizes an inquiry. It is at this point we meet a mysterious masked woman named Lady Prospera, the President of Shin Sei, and the apparent creator of the Aerial.
After 40-plus years of Gundam, it’s now a foregone conclusion that every new series will feature a masked character in the tradition of Char Aznable, but Lady Prospera already feels like a much bigger variation on the theme than any other “Char Clone” before her. For the first time in the franchise’s long history, the masked character is a woman, and far from being an antagonistic pilot or soldier, she appears to be an engineer and businesswoman operating in support of Suletta and in direct opposition to Delling and his conglomerate. What she does share with her spiritual predecessors, though, is a confidence and assertiveness that immediately commands respect, and her exchanges with Delling at the inquiry go a long way in establishing that.
The episode also communicates, without explicitly saying it, that Lady Prospera is almost certainly Suletta’s mother Elnora, who we saw in the Prologue: both characters are voiced by Mamiko Noto, and both have the exact same type of prosthetic right arm. While it might have been nice if the writers kept this connection a secret, at least for a few episodes, it ultimately matters very little. We still don’t know how her technology for the Aerial compares to the Gundams from the Prologue, and her motivations, history, and goals are all unclear, so there are plenty of unsolved mysteries surrounding the character to keep us intrigued. And, assuming Lady Prospera is Suletta’s mother, there are still many unanswered questions regarding what happened to both characters in the years between the Prologue and now. For starters, how exactly did Ericht Samaya become Suletta Mercury, and did her mother have a hand in that?
In the middle of all this is Miorine, who acts as a kind of bridge between the student and adult worlds. Since Suletta is largely absent this time around, having been detained and investigated for using a Gundam in her duel with Guel, Miorine gets the bulk of the character development, and the episode convincingly fills in a lot of her backstory. Apparently, her father Delling has heavily influenced every aspect of her life, from the school she attends to the hobbies she’s allowed to take part in, and her frustration is starting to boil over. In the episode’s final act, she takes a big step in standing up to her father, interrupting his inquiry and challenging his authority face to face. Her slow-motion strides as she enters the room, and her footsteps echoing amidst the stunned silence of the conglomerate’s members, make the moment that much more powerful. Even so, with Delling seated high above the proceedings and towering over Miorine, visually reinforced through low-angle shots for Delling and high-angle shots for Miorine, the scene does a fantastic job highlighting the current imbalance between parent and daughter.
It’s a bold confrontation brimming with tension, and considering what we know about Delling already, it heightens the stakes of Miorine’s situation considerably. But this moment also suggests that the primary conflicts of this series going forward will not be the traditional “Earth vs. Space” wars of past Gundam shows, but rather “Old vs. Young.” It wouldn’t be an unexpected development, considering head writer Ichiro Okouchi also worked on Revolutionary Girl Utena and Code Geass, both of which dealt heavily with themes of generational conflict and new ideas toppling stagnant, older orders. And even though original Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino is not directly involved with The Witch from Mercury, the series is already starting to embody his famous assertion that “adults are the enemy” due to their shortsightedness and inability to think beyond themselves.
The episode closes with a cliffhanger setting up the next installment’s action: Suletta will pilot the Aerial in another duel, and if she loses, she will be expelled from Asticassia, and Aerial will be scrapped. While it’s a foregone conclusion this worst-case-scenario won’t occur, a more interesting teaser occurs post-credits, as we see a lightning-fast red mobile suit in some kind of simulated (or real?) combat scenario utterly decimating two other mechs. While it’s an immediate callback to Char Aznable’s legacy of ace pilots in red mobile suits, the lack of context means that this new machine’s pilot, its affiliation, and its full capabilities are unknown at this point. But this teaser perhaps speaks to one of Witch from Mercury’s greatest strengths so far: it honors some of Gundam’s most well-worn traditions, while making them feel fresh and different at the same time.
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