The Witch from Mercury has been generous so far with its character spotlights. Episode 2 gave considerable screen time to Miorine, while Episode 3 focused almost exclusively on Guel’s strained relationship with his father. This week’s installment is all about Elan Ceres, the enigmatic Asticassia student who so far has been almost a complete mystery. “Reflection in an Icy Eye” is an effective balancing act for the character, as it fills in some details about his origins and motivations, while simultaneously raising further questions. It also marks a return to some of the more complex issues of Gundam technology that have been on the backburner the last couple of episodes, and features what might be the most unnerving mobile suit battle since the Prologue. Most importantly, it establishes Elan a major new antagonist for Suletta, and one senses the threat he poses is far more menacing and insidious than a mere school rivalry.
So far, Elan’s only notable action has been admitting to Suletta that he finds her fascinating, but “Reflection in an Icy Eye” starts to flesh out why. We learn that Elan, at Asticassia, is a representative of Peil Technologies, one of the major companies in Delling’s conglomerate. He is apparently a product of Peil’s experiments, as well, with the executives referring to him as “Enhanced Person Number 4.” As it turns out, his main reason for being at Asticassia is reconnaissance for the company, as they try to gain an advantage over their competitors’ technology. With the arrival of Suletta and the Aerial, he now has a new focus.
The revelation that Elan, like Guel, is a pawn in his company’s ventures further reinforces these businesses as cutthroat and brutally competitive, but it also builds a bit of sympathy for the character. His fate is completely intertwined with Peil Technologies’ goals due to the enhancements they gave him, and there’s something sad about the fact that his “contributions” to the company seem to completely define his sense of purpose. One early scene where Elan muses about his augmentations, and reflects on how his only role in life is to work for the company’s benefit, is a noteworthy and affective moment that shows how unhappy he really is with his existence.
These new revelations about Elan also bring up some bigger discussions about this universe’s Gundam technology, and “Reflection in an Icy Eye” is perhaps the most heavily tech-oriented episode of the series so far. The most striking development here is that Elan is involved in Peil Technologies’ endeavors to develop the “GUND format” technology that interfaces a pilot with a mobile suit, despite the fact that Delling banned such technology back in the Prologue due to the devastating effects it had on test pilots. It should be no surprise that Peil is willing to ignore the conglomerate’s regulations when it benefits them, considering Miorine already pointed out in Episode 2 that Delling himself has often done the same. Still, it’s chilling that Peil is willing to go to the extreme lengths of augmenting test subjects in its attempt to make the technology work. Additionally, we still don’t know the full extent of what Peil has done to Elan, or what happened to “Enhanced Persons” 1, 2, or 3, though one suspects it probably isn’t anything pleasant.
What’s evident for now, though, is that whatever GUND format technology Elan has been using at Peil is unstable compared to the Aerial’s system, and Elan’s recognition of this appears to irrevocably alter his attitude. Midway through the episode, Elan takes Suletta on a date in order to get closer to her Gundam, and when Suletta allows him to test-pilot it, he reflects that it doesn’t have the painful sensation of “a hand reaching so roughly into my brain” that he’s accustomed to. His realization that a pilot can naturally interface with Aerial—without all the artificial enhancements and mental distress—causes him to become bitter, and we can easily understand why. After all, how would any person feel if they gave their body, their freedom—their life—to make a technology work, only to learn someone else had already figured it out, done it better, and rendered all their sacrifices moot?
Elan’s newfound resentment towards Suletta and the Aerial triggers the second half of the episode, as he and Guel agree to duel. If Guel wins, Elan has to stay away from Suletta; if Elan wins, he can duel Suletta, with Aerial as the prize. Even though it’s another case of a mobile suit duel with a predictable outcome, it still does a great job highlighting Guel and Elan’s contrasting personalities. For Guel, it’s obvious the events of Episode 3 have altered him—not only does he agree to the duel for Suletta’s sake, but he does so in defiance of his father, who had banned him from dueling after his previous losses. It’s nice to see that Guel’s budding independence is becoming a trend as he further distances himself from his father’s control. For Elan, on the other hand, more than anything else, one feels the weight of this duel on his sense of self-worth—for him, winning isn’t simply about personal pride or accomplishing a mission, but a validation of all the experiments and enhancements he has gone through for the benefit of Peil’s business ventures.
From a technical standpoint, the duel is overflowing with tension as both pilots give it their all, given the stakes for everyone involved. Elan’s machine of choice, the prototype Pharact Gundam, is also an imposing new mech, with its multiple drones attacking Guel’s Dilanza from a variety of angles. As visually impressive as the whole sequence may be, though, this is easily the most unsettling duel in the series so far. Elan doesn’t just defeat Guel, he humiliates him, viciously dismantling his mobile suit piece by piece before ripping off the antenna and triumphantly holding it high in the air. It’s a truly spine-tingling moment, reinforced by a montage of the students’ horrified reactions as a school competition suddenly becomes too real. It also firmly establishes the kind of person Elan really is—seemingly quiet and unassuming, but when provoked, he lets his actions speak loudly for him.
Like the previous episode, “Reflection in an Icy Eye” is focused almost exclusively on Asticassia’s student life, but it successfully develops Elan’s character while raising the stakes and adding some extra tension to the school setting. The episode also does a good job exploring a company from Delling’s business conglomerate that we haven’t seen much of yet, potentially setting the stage for further conflicts down the line. While it raises as many questions about Elan and Peil Technologies as it answers, though, one does come away from the episode wondering: how is Elan piloting a Gundam that uses GUND format technology, which as far as we know is illegal? Does Delling know about this, and if so, will he condemn Peil Technologies the same way he did Lady Prospera, or will he give Peil a pass because they’re one of the biggest corporations in his organization? Only time will tell, but in either case, it’s doubtful this issue will be going away any time soon.