The third episode of The Witch from Mercury accomplishes something special: it manages to grip the viewer throughout, even though we essentially knew from the start how it was going to pan out. It was obvious that the duel between Suletta and Guel, announced at the end of the second episode, was never going to end with Suletta losing and getting expelled. But while “Guel’s Pride” can be neatly summarized as “Suletta wins the rematch,” it is so much more than that. This week’s episode effectively develops the generational conflicts introduced in the previous installment, fleshes out Guel’s character considerably, and, on top of that, gives us a taught, intense mobile suit battle. The end result is an inspirational and exciting half hour, and a further indication that The Witch from Mercury is going to be a very different Gundam series from its predecessors.
So far, one of the underlying themes of Witch from Mercury has been the relationship between the adults of the Delling’s Benerit Group and their children at the Asticassia School, and the conflicts that arise when those children start of come of age and form their own identities. Many of the students are still closely tied to their parents’ apron strings and live according to their expectations and standards, but Miorine’s stand against her father in the previous episode marked the first real challenge to this parent-dominated power structure. “Guel’s Pride” shows that Miorine’s act of rebellion against a domineering parent was no one-off, and this time around, as the episode’s title suggests, the focus is on Guel, whose own personal beliefs about dueling and honor conflict his father’s obsession with winning at any cost.
Guel’s character development over the course of the episode is beautifully executed and makes for compelling viewing. In the pre-credits teaser, we learn that Vim Jeturk’s new mobile suit for his son, the Darilbalde (seen briefly at the end of Episode 2) is outfitted with a new combat AI that automatically determines when to attack and defend, with minimal input from the pilot. Guel is appalled, insisting that a pilot’s skill alone must determine a duel’s outcome; in response, Vim grabs him, smacks him in the face, and insists that Guel’s desires are irrelevant as long as he wins. The usual order of things, with the parent dominating the child, and the child having no say, even in their own endeavors, is on full display here, and it’s a genuinely uncomfortable opening to the episode. Guel’s meek “Yes, sir” in response to his father’s scolding affirms that Vim still has absolute power over him.
There’s a long-standing trope in Gundam, dating back to the original series, of older characters smacking younger ones in order to get them to grow up and conform to a more “adult” way of doing things. Usually, “growing up” in Gundam entails broader themes of taking responsibility for one’s actions, or understanding the world is bigger than you, but “Guel’s Pride” offers a unique variation on the theme. When Vim smacks Guel, in keeping with tradition, it does force him to mature, but as the episode unfolds it becomes evident that Guel is starting to grow up on his own terms, not those of the ruthless adult world that his father embodies. His conversation with Suletta before their duel is one of the episode’s most thoughtful scenes, as she reminds him just how narrow-minded his father’s view of “winning at any cost” actually is. She notes that fighting on your own terms and gaining experience from the endeavor, even if you lose, can be a victory in itself, and perhaps even more significant than winning for winning’s sake through the cutthroat tactics that Vim, Delling, and the other adults are accustomed to. Although Guel expresses his doubts at first, his posture and facial expression as he listens indicate that he acknowledges where Suletta is coming from, and it marks a clear pivot point for the character.
One of the outstanding aspects of “Guel’s Pride” is how successfully the personal battle between Guel and his father actually pans out in the duel itself in the latter portion of the episode. The joy and passion Guel experienced during his Episode 1 duels are notably gone, as he realizes the Darilbalde’s computer is basically fighting for him. Even worse, Guel realizes Vim has also given him an unfair advantage by setting off the battleground’s fire suppression system, which compromises the Aerial Gundam’s beam rifle. Following Miorine’s lead in Episode 2, Guel finally gets fed up with his father controlling his life, and it makes perfect sense that Vim’s heavy-handed influence on a duel—perhaps the one pursuit that defines Guel’s individuality—would be the thing that breaks him.
Guel’s final act of rebellion—telling his father “SHUT UP!” as he breaks the Darilbalde’s AI and fights Suletta on equal footing—is a truly powerful character moment, but it’s even more meaningful because we understand his reaction is coming not just from a sense of pride, but genuine hurt. For all Guel’s usual swagger and bragging, this episode reveals him to be an insecure boy trying to live up to parental expectations, and it truly crushes him when he realizes that even after all his accomplishments, his father still doesn’t believe in him, or trust him to live his own life. Even though Guel loses the duel in the end, one senses that the self-confidence he gained from standing up to Vim was far more valuable than another notch in the win column. From start to finish, then, Guel’s personal growth is both readily felt and genuinely uplifting.
While Guel’s story arc constitutes the heavier content of the episode, the writers successfully balance it out with a combination of solid action and light humor to keep things from getting bogged down. The previous episode featured barely ten seconds of mobile suits, but “Guel’s Pride” devotes its entire second half to mecha combat, and it does not disappoint. The duel between Suletta and Guel is a tense back-and-forth affair, smoothly shifting between long-range shootouts and close-quarter exchanges, and the final sequence—a barrage of beam saber strikes and desperation attacks from both pilots—is especially gripping. The frequent cutaways to various students around campus watching the battle also showcases just how central these duels are to school life.
Additionally, while the episode’s tone is generally more serious, Suletta’s ongoing goofiness provides some welcome moments of levity. It’s hard to find a Gundam series that doesn’t have a flawed main character who repeatedly screws up, but the choice to make Suletta adorably awkward and a bit oblivious, as opposed to a traumatized child soldier, has been a refreshing change of pace. And the last scene of the episode, in which Guel gets down on one knee and proposes to Suletta, is an absolute scream. Sure, it’s yet another cliffhanger that we almost certainly know won’t amount to anything, but as a coda to a meaty and action-packed episode, it works like a charm.
“Guel’s Pride” is a strong outing, and a self-contained story about a secondary character that acts as a microcosm of the bigger tensions between the adults and their children. By this point, it seems likely that more rebellions from younger characters against the older order will continue now that Miorine and Guel have gotten the ball rolling. Interestingly, though, one brief scene makes it clear that at least one parent is set apart from the likes of Vim and Delling. Early in the episode, Suletta has a video call with Lady Prospera—now revealed unequivocally to be Suletta’s mother—and their relaxed, honest exchanges stand in stark contrast to the ugliness of Guel’s relationship with Vim. A loving relationship, a mutual respect between parent and child, a mother having faith in her daughter, and a parent encouraging growth rather than forcing it—if The Witch from Mercury is headed towards an overhaul of the power dynamics between young and old, then Suletta and Prospera look like the perfect people to lead the way.
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