Suletta has just arrived from the solar system boonies to attend an elite mech academy. She immediately runs into Miorine, who is trying to escape from the academy, and unknowingly ruins said escape. Miorine’s father owns the academy and has made a rule that all disputes there are settled via mech duels, with the top winner (the “Holder”) also becoming Miorine’s fiancé and thereby the heir to the Benerit Group’s vast wealth and influence. Feeling indebted to Miorine, Suletta tries to defend her from Guel (the current Holder), who is trying to control her so she won’t attempt escape again. This results in a duel between Suletta and Guel, which Suletta wins easily with the power of her mech, Aerial. Now Miorine is engaged to her and the eyes of the school are focused squarely on the new girl and her Gundam.
There are a lot of things not to like about Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. Which is a shame, because the show has high production values, both the OP and ED are good music, and Suletta being the first female Gundam protagonist is a landmark in the long-running franchise.
Those things are not enough for me to enjoy the first episode of the show, because of the elements that are not done well. These would be the setting, the characters, and the premise. Let’s take those one at a time.
I just don’t understand the setting. Suletta is going to mech school for the benefit of her home planet of Mercury.
Already I’m baffled. The primary, and perhaps only, focus of the school is mech piloting, with numerous tactical testing ranges available for classes or duels. Every shot we see of the school in operation is either learning about mechs, simulating piloting a mech, and piloting a mech. First question, why mech piloting? How is mech piloting going to bring prosperity to Mercury? I’m reasonably certain we’re not using what are clearly military-grade weapons systems (beam tridents, laser rifles etc) for mining or agriculture or something. But OK, let’s assume that there is a reason why one person piloting a mech well is the key to planetary prosperity. Second question, why is Suletta here? On literally her first day of class she defeats the most talented mech pilot at the entire school with the same effort it would take to blow her nose. If you need to be good at mechs to develop Mercury, then congratulations! You’re now the best at mechs, no need to go to school.
Next up, the characters. Oh boy, it’s the first female protagonist! And she’s… just… so irritating to watch.
It has been a long time since I’ve heard a stammer as bad as this in anime. I’m not talking like a double or triple stammer here, Suletta is also a champion at stammering with penta and septa-stammers that’ll make you wonder if she’s ever going to get to the word. She’s so meek, so easily startled, that it starts to feel pathetic. I get that she’s nervous and in a new place with a lot of new rules to learn, but there’s a way to show that without making it feel like a normal conversation is going to paralyze her.
Then there’s Miorine.
Brash, always angry and prickly, and with not a single skill that can back up her tough talk. She’s justifiably angry at Suletta for ruining her escape, but seemingly won’t accept any attempts at apology. She throws pointed barbs at Guel when he’s acting like a jerk but is defenseless when he predictably lashes out at her. She doesn’t want to Suletta to white knight for her, so she steals Suletta’s mech to fight Guel… but it turns out she has absolutely no skill or training in mech piloting. All she’s really doing is pointlessly throwing away the only chance she has of not marrying Guel while also destroying a very likely priceless mech, the sole hope of Mercury, and which Suletta considers her family. So it’s hard to like her either.
Lastly, we have the premise. This is the most tortured way I can imagine to just recreate Revolutionary Girl Utena with mech duels.
And while that isn’t a terrible concept, the execution just isn’t very good. Instead of the mystery behind world revolution and the purpose of the Rose Bride, there’s just an angry old guy…
…who is using his daughter as bait to determine which company makes the best mechs. It’s just not that compelling. I think I’m going to call this show “Gundam: Boring Utena”.
Then we’ve got the bets. You can’t have duels without bets, and this school is no different. Here, they make clear multiple times, you can duel for any reason and for any stakes. Of course, this means that the protagonist is never going to make a bet for anything interesting, while the opponents are always going to make the most outrageous demands if they win, in order to artificially raise the tension. I hate this, because it always makes the protagonist out to be a fool to the point you’re shouting “oh come on you idiot” at the screen when they agree to ludicrously one-sided bets. Gundam: Boring Utena is no exception with its very first bet. If Suletta loses, she will have to permanently leave the school, throwing away the future she’s been working for her entire life and, we presume, dooming Mercury to remain a backwater forever.
If Guel loses, he has to apologize to Miorine. That’s it. He doesn’t have to repair any of the damage he did to the greenhouse, or agree to stop treating her like property, or leave the school himself. Just a spoken apology. It’s so lopsided it’s comical.
Anyway, I can tell this is going to be a real gem of a show, so come along for the ride with us. At least the mech fights look pretty.