When you hear “Happy Birthday”, tragedy looms in this Gundam story
In my initial glowing praise of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, I predicted that despite the series’ apparent sharp left turn into pseudo-romantic comedy territory, it would not stay that way for long. I just wasn’t quite prepared for how soon this Gundam show would assert itself as a proper Gundam show. And by “proper”, I mean tragic, dark, and brutal.
It’s still funny when it needs to be. That fact remains one of the most impressive aspects of the writing up to this point. Levity does wonders to soften the more emotionally resonant moments of the show. Suletta’s breakdown in Episode 4 after bullies make it impossible to complete her exam is followed immediately by “Good Night Spacian Pride”. Guel’s crushing defeat in episode 3 came after he exercised a fit of personal will. He declares that his fight against Suletta is not for his father’s machinations, or for the corporation he is expected to inherit, but for himself. And this moment was then followed by one of the funnier marriage proposals I’ve seen in anime recently.
So yeah, it’s a Gundam show that manages to be genuinely funny and serious and moving all at once. This is something that you can’t easily say about many of the Universal Century-timeline shows, which are often deliberately grim and serious affairs that may stumble when trying to inject bouts of humor. Even other AU Gundam anime often don’t display this same deftness in their character and plot writing.
All that being said, Episodes 5 and 6 of G-Witch continue this show’s interesting set up for future events with a short arc dedicated to exploring the seemingly emotionless Elan Ceres. Fair warning: spoilers ahead. I won’t transcribe every moment, but I’m going to be discussing some key bits of plot. If you’re at all interested in the show, you really should experience it for yourself. With that out of the way, let’s talk some Gundam.
Episode 5: Reflection in an Icy Eye
This episode can be described as “the setup,” and there’s a lot to process. Beginning with another of G-Witch’s stylish mobile suit battles, Elan Ceres embarrasses a trio of opponents.
Suletta, meanwhile, is still over at the Earth House she joined in the previous episode. Their technicians are flabbergasted by the Aerial’s impressive design. Meanwhile, Suletta gets her fortune told by one of the more… eccentric students. And then, she is unexpectedly called by Elan Ceres for a d-d-d-date in yet another amusing display of her intense social awkwardness.
This opening sequence is another example of just how good the writers are at presenting little character moments. The supporting ensemble outside of the main heroines feels genuinely fleshed out despite their limited roles. Some of Suletta’s new friends encourage her to go on this date. ChuChu expresses her lack of support for the idea, and Miorine’s upset she wasn’t consulted first. We get another heartfelt phone-call between Suletta calling her mother, Prospera, as she reports on her latest checkmark on her list. It’s all just fun exposition, and I’m glad the studio isn’t afraid to let these peaceful moments linger on for as long as they do.
And then the plotting starts in earnest. Mid-call with Suletta, Prospera is visited by a man who reports ominously on Peil Technologies. This is the group that backs Elan Ceres, and they have shown great interest in Aerial’s capabilities.
The bass-drop for any long-time Gundam fan is the reveal that Elan is an “enhanced human being.” This calls back to the disastrous, war-crimey, and human-rights-violation-ridden cyber-newtypes of UC Gundam lore. Peil Technologies has correctly identified Aerial as a Gundam, meaning they have a vested interest in knowing more about how the machine works. Elan believes Suletta might be the same as him: a person “built” to pilot Gundams. That makes his mission to investigate the Witch and her Gundam that much easier for him. And so, the awkward first date for Suletta and Elan must OF COURSE must involve bringing the Aerial.
This crazy set up serves multiple purposes. In-story, Elan admits to being intrigued by Suletta. He clearly wants to believe she has suffered through the same “enhancements” he has. Peil Technologies, his benefactors, are equally intrigued by the Aerial, a machine so obviously a Gundam.
For us in the audience, it serves to evoke empathy and anger all at once. We can empathize with Elan’s disappointment and indeed his annoyance at Suletta. He has suffered to make his company’s own Gundam, the Pharact, the best it can be. Suletta, in his eyes, has not suffered to make Aerial such a devastating weapon. He treats it as a sort of betrayal of sorts, which doesn’t make logical sense, but this isn’t a logical problem. He not only feels deceived, but there is clear jealousy here. To him, mobile suits are machines that double as a source of constant pain. To Suletta, the Aerial is “family”.
Elan’s sudden heel-face-turn on Suletta mid-date after he pilots her machine is almost like a physical blow to her. “How you annoy me” is probably not the most devastating of insults, but it’s enough for the poor girl.
And then comes our collective ire, just in time for the appropriate pilot for said ire, Guel Jeturk, and he goes off to confront Elan and Suletta. It’s another moment where the show got a good laugh at out of me. Guel’s busy lifting weights when his two cheerleaders show up to explain, breathlessly, that Suletta’s on a date with one of his major rivals. It’s enough to interrupt him mid-gains, which clearly means it’s “serious.” You can just feel the kid puffing up as he growls at the messengers where he can find the couple.
When he finds the Witch in tears, he reasserts himself as the loud and angry ace we know he can be, but this time in Suletta’s defense. There’s hope for this goofball yet! And if you like Suletta like I do, you’re just as pissed off as he is. I’m pretty sure making her cry is against the law in a jurisdiction or three.
What follows is Guel and Elan having a duel, and the latter pretty much dismantles the former in suitably brutal fashion. It was honestly distressing to watch, and Guel’s voice actor (Yōhei Azakami) just kills it. There is genuine panic and desperation in his voice as his inevitable third defeat (within 5 episodes!) comes to pass. He’s really one of the biggest highlights of the show for me. As a longtime Gundam fan I see in him shades of Jerid Messa (Zeta Gundam) and THE IMMORTAL Patrick Colasour (Gundam 00). I want this poor bastard to get a W of any sort at this point.
But Episode 5 of G-Witch is not that W. The dueling committee and the show’s audience watch in horror as Elan takes out his frustrations on Guel’s mobile suit. Each beam shot perforating the machine is accompanied by a swelling dramatic soundtrack. After he delivers the coup de grace, Elan’s wish to duel Suletta is now granted. But there is a final twist: if he wins, he will take possession of the Aerial.
Peil Technologies are real bastards for putting Elan up to this whole stunt. I’m chomping on the bit in hopes of seeing this company and the people running it burn.
It’s always been about the people
This Gundam excels at presenting its cast of characters to the audience as vehicles for the various bits of action and philosophy on display. Suletta and Miorine are well realized protagonists, surrounded by brilliant supporting cast members across every major faction we’ve learned about so far. Episode 5 is probably the strongest display of the writer’s commitment to making these characters entertaining to watch. Up to this point, at least.
It’s also a solid continuation of the show’s use of miniature “arcs” to focus in on a given character. Miorine and Guel have both had their time in the spotlight, highlighting aspects of who they are. Importantly, we’re also given ample opportunity to see how Suletta has changed them. She’s been deliberately positioned as a sort of “malefactor” in the world, a challenge presented to the people and systems in power, and a driver of change within the individuals she interacts with.
This repeats again with Elan here, but not necessarily in a positive way. In an earlier episode, we are given a brief hint at what his relationship with Suletta could be like. He offered her kindness (and food) in a time of need, but was enigmatically emotionless while doing so. Episode 5 cashes in these chips now, putting his earlier appearances under a more understandable, sinister, and yet sympathetic light. The dude has had a hard life, and effectively none of it appears to be under his own control. Like Suletta, he’s being used as a vehicle by the adults over him for something that is wildly over his head. Unlike Suletta, his authority figures mostly don’t appear to care much about his well being.
While his sudden wrathful turn on Suletta isn’t “right”, it’s well done and very believable. I think most folks can understand what it’s like to build hope around something, only to have your expectations “betrayed” in some way.
Visually, episode 5 is remains consistent with the quality seen in prior episodes. Elan’s mobile suit duel against Guel also features the expected creative and exciting choreography, giving both pilots a chance to look awesome. Elan’s use of disabling EMP weapons forces Guel to respond in ways that convince the audience, almost to the very end, that he can pull out the win. I was honestly deflated when he didn’t, which speaks positively to the show’s ability to get me invested in the action.
The duel also didn’t rely entirely on the mecha themselves, but rather the clever use of environmental mechanics. Guel’s violent fighting style is shown the kick up regolith dust from the asteroid the dueling field is built into. This plays a decisive factor in the combat. Honestly, many Gundam TV shows have struggled to give fights a sense of location, which in turn has left viewers questioning where, exactly, the cast is on a given battlefield. Gundam 00, in particular, fell victim to having battles take place in open vacuum, which limited choreography to weapon spam, or zipping around quickly over a repetitious starry background. So far, G-Witch hasn’t fallen entirely prey to this, and hopefully it never does.
Episode 6: A Gloomy Song
If you started watching G-Witch on Episode 1, and not the Prologue, Episode 6 is a vicious reminder of what is really going down behind the fun and funny veneer. Based on some of the Crunchyroll comments I read shortly after Episode 6 released, a lot of folks got blindsided in the best way possible.
Episode 6 begins with Consequences. Suletta’s mother encounters Belmeria Winston, an old friend from her days at Ochs Earth, near the climax of Episode 5. This more or less seals the deal that the GUND format, previously “halted” via the purging of Ochs Earth, has likely been secretly pursued by pretty much every single mobile suit manufacturer under the sun. And given the performance of machines like Aerial or Pharact, who wouldn’t want that kind of product? After Prospera drops a hint about the “Vanadis legacy”, she walks off to make a phone call that effectively outs Peil Technologies as Gundam developers. More critically, she asks Bel how many pilots were there before Peil Technologies arrived at Elan.
Meanwhile, Suletta is still trying to piece together with her friends what prompted the sudden change of heart within Elan. Guel is evicted from the Jeturk House, which is probably the start of another growth arc for the best worst boy on the show. The day and location of the duel is set: we’re getting the first six-degrees-of-freedom space duel of the show. As always, the duelists are requested to set their desired wishes after achieving victory. We know what Elan wants, but Suletta is still unsure of herself.
Shaddiq, whom we’ve been kept arms length from all this time, points out something I feel is obvious at this point. Suletta’s arrival has made Guel and Elan “change” in some way. Her presence is disruptive to the order of things at Asticassia likely all according to whatever plans Prospera is crafting.
Of course, the duel location puts the Aerial at a disadvantage. It’s not made for space combat, so the Earth House makes the necessary modifications out of salvage parts. This is a fun little montage, if not necessarily the most exciting. We see that Suletta has grown more accustomed to her new crowd of friends, and they with her. Even Chuchu is all in with support for her Spacian junior, even if it’s primarily to stick it to one of the rich kids.
We cut to Elan awakening from a series of Permet tests in his sleep… just as the real Elan shows up to offer his “respects” to his body double. The Elan we know is little more than a surrogate for the real Elan, who is considerably slimier than the gloomy one Suletta “dated.” During this scene, we learn that the body double was surgically altered to look like the real thing. This calls back to Prospera’s previously vague question regarding “how many” pilots has Peil Technologies run through getting to this point. The answer probably “too many.”
After some routine tests of Aerial’s new modifications, Suletta tries to confront Elan one more time prior to the duel. He initially doesn’t respond to her questions, but then she sings him “Happy Birthday” in her cutely awkward way. There’s an argument to make in regards to how “cheesy” a scene like this is, but I think it’s another strong piece of the G-Witch puzzle. Despite clearly (and unknowingly) being embroiled in the same corporate warfare everyone else at the academy is… Suletta is Suletta. She genuinely believes that offering to celebrate Elan’s birthday, something he claims he doesn’t have, she can patch things up.
The Duel, the Outcome
The battle between Elan and Suletta is the most technical fight we’ve seen in this Gundam yet. The Pharact and Aerial are leagues above anything else we’ve seen at the Academy, and both are obviously Gundams. The EMP GUND-Bits from the Pharact are countered by Suletta’s superior control over Aerial’s own Bits. Aerial’s use of its Bits as additional engines counters the Pharact’s natural speed advantage. The fight rapidly presents “problem/solution” multiple times and in succession. Some of the best mecha-focused anime do this when they need to show a battle of wits. G-Witch nails it here.
Lucky shots remove Pharact’s sniper rifle and Aerial’s primary engines, which renders the latter a hapless target for those EMP drones. Elan rushes in for the win… only for the Aerial to produce another magic trick. In a scene that calls back to Gundam Unicorn‘s “NTD System”, the Aerial emits a field that disables Pharact’s bits. Elan, suffering from the GUND Format data storm , watches as Aerial’s bits surround his machine, childish laughter echoing in his head. And in yet another visual call back to Unicorn, Aerial’s bits brutalize the stricken Pharact, clenching the victory.
I do think there’s some valid criticism of the plot to be made here. If the GUND format is “banned” on pain of violent death for anyone researching it… how the heck is Peil Technologies still part of the Mobile Suit Development Council? The obvious answer is that the GUND Format is basically an open secret at this point. Hell, as the duel starts Elan more or less shouts out to the whole school that his purpose is to pilot Gundams. It paints Delling Rembran’s statements during the Prologue as empty and/or hypocritical at best. That might be the intent, but it does make the whole nonsense about banning Suletta and the Aerial from the school feel especially hollow.
Point aside, it’s another exciting if not predictable duel and outcome. One could dock the show some points for not throwing a real curve ball at the audience, but that isn’t the point of this fight. Elan is someone whose time is running out. He believes he has nothing, is nobody but the body-double to some rich-boy prick who wouldn’t risk his own butt in a real Gundam.
As Suletta reminds him, and as he reminds himself, there are other people in his life. There are people who will celebrate every new year of his life. Suletta happily tells him that she is one of them. That’s what makes the end of the episode such a kick in the gut.
The Gundam-ness of G-Witch
The best Gundam stories have regularly focused on the reality of war and it’s rapid consumption of life and material wealth. The impersonal chaos that can end any life in an instant. No matter how good or terrible you are, no matter what your dreams or ambitions are. Even the political power you may wield means nothing. You’re just another statistic in the making. No matter what other concepts and themes have driven many pieces of Gundam media, the cost of war and the dehumanization resulting from war is consistently part of it all.
G-Witch offers a seemingly light-hearted take on these themes, with a heavier focus on the “corporate” side of things. Gundam has never been shy about assigning no small part of its criticism of war and humanity to corporate meddling. The Universal Century timeline has Anaheim Electronics as one of the greater villains behind the curtain. Not because of any particularly overt military or political moves the company has made, mind you. It’s AE’s willingness to seek profit from all sides in a conflict that makes them terrible. The drive for profit and influence prolongs the suffering endured by the war victims. That is what makes them so reprehensible.
Peil Technologies isn’t quite on the same level of Anaheim Electronics. Not yet, at any rate. But they do show the willingness to dispose of “disobedient” test subjects, despite Belmeria’s plea for leniency. To the strains of “Happy Birthday”, the Elan we know will forever be late to his post-duel meeting with Suletta. Straight up Evangelion shtuff going down here.
The clinical disposal of a failed test subject is as Gundam as this show could get at this point. This is the result of the unbridled pursuit of superior military products, unfettered by the morals that restrain the rest of us. This is the casual death we see in so many Gundam stories, the snuffing of potential just to satisfy a bottom line. Episode 6 is a firm reminder about the world Suletta and Miorine are part of.
An absolute gut-punch of a two episode arc for G-Witch. I haven’t been this stoked for more TV-series Gundam in years. It makes the lack of episode for this week that much more painful.
(Shout outs to the best worst boy Guel Jeturk. He has taken to camping in the forests surrounding the Academy, rather than finding a new dorm. I would watch an entire show about the misadventures of this dumb kid, he’s amazing.)
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury is currently streaming on Crunchyroll, and sadly, on a one week hiatus.