Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 08 – A Better Future Than Our Fathers

Miorine has taken the plunge into entrepreneurship, but finding herself without any kind of labor, she conscripts Earth House to help get GUND-Arm, Inc. on its feet. This starts a stir of dialogue among the Earth House members, who for the first time this week feel more like a motley group of individuals than a monolithic unit.

Miorine also needs to get a better read on just what the heck she just acquired, and that means a meeting with Lady Prospera. When Suletta sheepishly asks her mother why she lied to her about Aerial not being a Gundam, Prospera removes her arm and basically says it’s all about perspective.

GUND-Arm tech has been widely reviled as “accursed” tech—not entirely without merit due to the effects of Permet on humans—while those who dabble in the tech have been regarded as “witches.” Suletta buys this explanation hook line and sinker, but Mine knows a parent appeasing her kid when she sees it.

She wants to dig deeper into what Gundams are all about, beyond both the pro-and-anti propaganda. So, apparently, does Shaddiq, who minces no words (and spares Suletta no feelings) in proposing that not only should Miorine let him run GUND-Arm, but also take his hand in marriage.

Suletta thinks Shaddiq is in love with Mine, but Mine knows better: Shaddiq is after something, and due to his background as an orphan run by the Grassley family, she knows he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Disparate backgrounds are front and center in the first official meeting of the staff of GUND-Arm, Inc. Once everyone sees the dire financial straits the company is in before even officially incorporating, the group starts to splinter into  positions based on their background and circumstances.

Earth House has war orphans and rich kids with high ideals. Developing weapons seems like the most profitable direction for GUND-Arm, but that would create more war orphans. I appreciate how everyone, from Chuchu and Nika to the other Earthians, each have a unique perspective to offer. This leads to conflict, but Miorine calms the seas by agreeing not to commit to making weapons, then delegates the various incorporation tasks to be completed in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, Guel is still camping in the woods (and sadly has yet to run into Space Honda Tooru) and being bullied by his former toadies when Shaddiq arrives and scares them off with his mere words and presence. He tells Guel he’s fond of him and wants them to join forces. Guel refuses, since he’s done being beholden to anyone, but again, this is Shaddiq, and he wants something.

Shaddiq also has a plan, a plan he thought he could leave to Guel, but Guel failed. That plan centers around possessing Aerial, but unlike Guel and Ceres does not intend to take it via a duel. Instead, he’ll rely on his gift of gab as long as he can.

Mine’s fact-finding mission takes her to Bel and Piel Technologies, where she learns more about Vanadis and the “true ideals” behind GUND tech. It leaves her with a lot to think about in her rose garden module. There, Shaddiq meets her and makes another attempt to convince her to give him GUND-Arm.

The two have known each other a while, as evidence by a school project they once worked on together. Shaddiq tells her that people will buy Gundams regardless of the regulations against them. Mine reminds Shaddiq that his dad is “allergic” to Gundams and wants them “erased from the world” but Shaddiq doesn’t feel that way. In private and to Mine, he believes both their dads’ visions to be too narrow, and the two of them can create a better future.

Back at Earth House the incorporation paperwork is proofread and the PR video is choppily edited, but Mine hasn’t been seen nor heard from in days, and Chuchu even posits that she might have flown the coop for Earth. But Miorine disappoints her by returning, and not empty handed.

She plays the Vanadis Institute’s presentation that lays out the true ideals of the GUND format—not weapons of war, but medical technology that will enable people to live better lives, while expanding the human biosphere. A technology of hope, not destruction and despair.

This is the direction Miorine has chosen for GUND-Arm, and nobody at Earth House has any objections. Despite being the rich Spacian princess, she’s appealed to her team and won them over with a convincing and attractive business model they can all feel better about.

GUND-Arm gets a slick new logo, and a not-so-slick but also adorably disarming PR video featuring synchronized movement between Aerial and Suletta. It does exactly what Mine said was needed in a PR video: to show that Gundams are not to be feared.

But all fun aside, Chuchu is legitimately moved by the direction GUND-Arm is taking, since as a miner’s daughter she knows all about the myriad injuries that make day-to-day life harder for her people. She’s grateful to be able to help them while also making money. The Earthians who had been bickering make up. Now they’re all united in purpose.

The episode allows a few moments of peace and romance as Suletta and Mine share a hoverbike back to Earth House, carrying the celebratory takeout dinner. Mine gets to rest her head in Suletta’s back for only a moment before she gets a text notification that threatens to kill GUND-Arm in its infancy.

That potential killing blow comes in the form of new safety verification regulations being drafted into the school rules regarding student startups. It’s the classic “the club’s going to be shut down!” scenario, only instead of lack of members, it’s an abundance of negative PR over what they’re doing, along with a distinct gap in political muscle.

Of course Shaddiq is behind this, and his assembled group of scheming ladies—also with wildly different personalities—each have something to say on the matter, from celebrating to lamenting the downfall of a rival. The way is paved for a hostile takeover, after Shaddiq’s two more cordial proposals were rejected. Now he vows to take over her company and seize Gundam from Miorine’s hands.

Shaddiq had been on the fence for much of this season, but revealing his true colors comes as no surprise, because the show did the work needed to lay out everyone’s background and motivations, just as it dug into how even the members of Earth House have their differences. Will Miorine, Suletta, and their plucky startup manage to weather the storm?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 07 – Gundam Startup

Witch from Mercury has it’s duels down—they’re exciting, fun, dynamic, and pack a punch. But after another episode where not a single character sets foot in a cockpit, I’d argue Mercury’s secret sauce is everything other than the mobile suit duels: the inter-family conflicts and political and economic wrangling. This week it goes full Succession, with a hint of Silicon Valley.

Mine was content not going to the 15th Annual Benerit Group Incubation Event Party, either as a representative of the Rembrans nor as an observer of venture capialist strategies (she’s found past events dull and dusty affairs). But Suletta wants to go in case Elan shows up, so they go.

Suletta hasn’t seen nor heard from Elan since their duel and his standing her up (we know why) and as expected, the death of his clone and the existence of a real, jerk-ass Elan is kept a secret from her. With Elan’s new clone “not ready” yet, the Peil CEOs have a task for the real Elan.

This is a formal event, so Miorine and Suletta are dressed to the nines in elegant blue and red gowns. Suletta learns that Mine and Shaddiq have known each other for years, and from his reckoning, Mine has changed into someone who does things for others’ sakes now. Miorine meets her future mom-in-law face-to-er…mask.

It gets a little awkward when Prospera tightens her grip on Mine’s hand and asks her fiancée if she and her father have always been at odds like that. Prospera then lists all the things Miorine has and can and will be able to do because she’s her father’s daughter, and warns Mine that she’ll have to throw away “that adorable pride” if she truly wants to get anywhere.

When Suletta drops some glasses and her broach, Guel’s brother sneers at the fact his brother fell for such an “oafish woman”. But it’s real-deal Elan who helps Suletta out. Elan plays a more cheerful version of his clone as he explains away his extended absence, then asks if he’ll come with her for an impending presentation.

(We also learn that Shaddiq is in discrete contact with Nika of all people … not sure what that’s about, but it suggests Nika is leaking intel to him. To be continued…)

This is when the scheme that had been cooked up by Peil and Jeturk comes to fruition. Suletta ends up in a trap, answering questions from the four Peil CEOs that end up incriminating Aerial as a Gundam, since the Peils freely admit that Pharact is also a Gundam.

Whether Suletta was aware of this doesn’t change the fact that Gundams are forbidden. So Peil agrees they’ll dispose of their Gundam if their upstart rival from Mercury does the same and disposes of Aerial. Literally in the spotlight, Suletta calls out for her mom to clear up this misunderstanding, but Prospera was drawn outside of the presentation area by Guel’s brother.

With Suletta in the hot seat, what composure she has fading fast, and Delling about to render his judgment, Miorine steps up to protect her fiancee. Having hacked the PA, she takes the stage and argues for keeping Aerial around, as it defeated the best both Peil and Jeturk could develop.

Miorine then gets to show off her skills as a businesswoman by coming up with a business plan on the fly with hand-written notes that will salvage both the Peil research and the Aerial. Her intention is to purchase both Peil and Shin Sei’s developments through M&A and create a new company called GUND-ARM, with the protection of life as top priority.

This, she says, will be the spark that reignites Benerit Group’s flagging profitability. It’s a decent plan, especially considering how rapidly it was put together, and it also diverts attention away from Suletta while demonstrating that Miorine can protect her in her own way.

The only problem is, none of the assembled investors dare make a move to fund Miorine’s venture without the okay from her father, who bluntly tells her to get off the stage as he’s through indulging a willful girl’s whims. While Suletta stood up straight unbidden because she remembered Mine’s words, this time it’s Miorine who hears Prospera’s words about ditching her “adorable pride.”

Realizing what she must do to get funding moving, Miorine kicks off her heels and runs barefoot to her father, bows deeply, and asks him for his support. Delling knows it’s a good business plan that solves a lot of problems and could spell bigger profits, and now his daughter is essentially prostrating herself to show him the deference he believes he’s due.

Delling warns Miorine there’s no shaking the “curse” of Gundams once they’re out of the box, but he still contributes a 3% contribution to her plan. Once Rembran is officially in, the floodgates open and within seconds the plan is successfully funded.

Now not only have Peil and Jeturk lost on the battlefield to the power couple of Suletta and Miorine, they’ve also lost in the boardroom, their gambit foiled as Mine outmaneuvered her by using the tools at her disposal, while also preserving Suletta’s dignity by preventing her innocent words from condemning Shin Sei. Jeturk’s brother can only twist his hair in frustration at the loss.

Lady Prospera once again shakes hands with her future daughter-in-law, knowing Suletta is in good hands. Suletta uses this opportunty to ask her mom to confirm that Aerial isn’t a Gundam, to which Prospera says, no, actually, Aerial is a Gundam, teehee! It may only be a matter of semantics, but this casual revelation hits Suletta like a ton of bricks.

Why, for example, has Suletta never felt any physical or mental ill effects from pushing Aerial—a Gundam—to its limits? Is it simply a matter of her and the Aerial having “grown up” together, or her having just the right collection of genes to prevent damage … or is something more sinister at work? If her mother kept this from her, what else is she concealing?

While these are enticing questions going forward, I really enjoyed the show’s break from piloting and duels in favor of the weapons of the upper crust business battlefield: evening gowns, flowcharts, fancy lighting, funding apps, and, of course, words. This was Miorine’s time to shine and she did not disappoint.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 06 – Scaling the Wall

Lady Prospera has a chilly reunion with her former Vanadis colleague, Bel, AKA Belmeria Winston, who says she had little choice but to join Peil Group in order to survive after the punitive assault on their facility years ago. She asks Prospera why she’s using her daughter as an instrument of revent, but Bel retorts by asking “how many” Gundam pilots there have been before Elan.

While Earth House reconsiders their opinion on Elan in light of his treatment of their new housemate, Guel is thrown out of House Jeturk and cut off from all but the remaining school tuition. He leaves with his head held high, having done what he (and I believed) to be the right thing in standing up for Suletta. She and Elan meet for pre-duel formalities, but she has yet to decide her stakes.

Earth House know theirs: the 2.7-to-1 odds they’ll enjoy if Suletta wins. Led by Nana’s cautiously-can-do attitude, they scrounge around scrap and spare parts to cobble together a flight unit for Aerial. I can only imagine Suletta’s mom didn’t provide her such a unit because she was confident her daughter would make the necessary connections.

Meanwhile, Elan undergoes more lonely testing and his blurry recurring image of a candle is interrupted by a surprise visitor in Elan … the real Elan Ceres. He’s every bit the smug, privileged aristocrat you’d imagine would be heading up Peil House, and is the rightful recipient of a future face-punch from Chuchu, Miorine, and/or even Suletta herself.

The “Elan” we’ve known thus far is no villain, only a pawn and victim, though he apparently volunteered for this with the promise he’d get his “face” back and a citizens ID should he prevail. I suspect the memories of his past life have been subordinated by the Permet conditioning.

During flight testing out in open space, Suletta is down in the dumps, feeling dumb and annoying after Elan’s hurtful words. Miorine is out there assisting with Nana, and gives her bridegroom a bit of tough love, as well as reflect back Suletta’s “move forward, gain two” credo.

Suletta snaps out of it and gets back to testing, then afterwards visits Peil House insisting to speak to Elan. She’s put over house-wide loudspeakers calling out to Elan, asking if he meant everything he said, and then singing him “Happy Birthday.” He only calls her to tell her to go home, saying he has no birthday. But we know better; her singing briefly brought his hazy memory into focus.

But the die is cast, and the next day the duel unfolds as planned, with Suletta announcing that her stake is that if she wins, Elan has to tell her all about himself. This further rankles an Elan already understandably frustrated by his lot in life; from his perspective he has absolutely nothing, while Suletta has everything, and yet still wants more from him, and won’t let him have this victory.

A thrilling space battle ensues, with both Aerial and Pharact’s Bit Control Systems dueling, and the latter suit’s superior mobility creating a long-range disadvantage for Suletta and her jury-rigged unit. Once again the corporate bigwigs—in this case Peil—arranged for unfair conditions. Perhaps they know that they need every edge they can get against Suletta and Aerial.

The entire school is watching, including Guel from his new home—a tent in the woods (I’ll admit to laughing out loud as this uncommented-on development, and part of me hoped Shimarin or Honda Tooru would show up). It looks bad for Suletta, but she has an advantage Elan doesn’t: time.

Elan has to continually up his Permet Score to maintain his edge, which takes a toll on his already depleted body. He even predicted this would be his last duel, judging from Bel’s reports on his testing. He and Suletta trade flurries of beams, and the latter’s flight suit is damaged.

Now a drifting sitting duck, Pharact’s Bits prepare to envelop Aerial as they did Guel last week, but in a development that may even come as a surprise to Suletta, an emergency defense system is activated that neutralizes the Bits and Pharact. The laughter of children can be heard as Aerial’s Bits form a spinning ring around her and then blast Pharact to hell.

Suletta has won, her house has more than doubled their money, which means they eat next month, and Miorine doesn’t have to worry about Elan becoming the Holder and her new groom. Elan drifts in defeat, but his memory finally comes into focus: a mother, his real mother, with loving eyes, presenting him with a birthday cake.

The light of the candle becomes the light of the glowing debris as Suletta stretches out her hand for him, and he takes it. As they drift together in the void, she assures him he doesn’t have nothing, and she and many others will celebrate his birthday.

As Elan flashes perhaps his first genuine smile, Miorine sits in the repair pod with Nana and endures this bit of “minor two-timing”, which extends to a second date for Suletta and Elan, so he can fulfill the stakes of the duel. Miorine leaves Suletta to await his arrival, but the clock ticks by and he doesn’t show.

Suletta cheerfully sings “Happy Birthday” once more as she waits, but she waits in vain. Elan isn’t standing her up; the Peil bigwigs have decided to scrap him. He was never anything other than a disposable tool for them, and with his failure to gain Aerial he’s no longer of any use to them. That they unceremoniously stick him in what looks like a goddamn sci-fi cremation furnace while he’s fully freaking conscious seems inhumane to the extreme.

Just as they did with new Yuru Camp cast member Guel Jeturk, Gundam successfully rehabilitated Elan’s character into someone with whom we could sympathize and root for. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll also have to grieve for him. Will the real Elan replace him in both the cockpit and at school, or will it be another “spare” with his face? Either way, Suletta’s victory is tempered by a bitter loss; the latest casualty in this corporatocracy’s unrelenting thirst for profits.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 05 – A Patch of Black Ice

For those girls (and guys) for whom the fiery Guel Jetark isn’t their cup of tea, they have the apparent opposite in Elan Ceres. They call him the “ice prince”, and long to melt his icy heart. If they only knew. Elan rarely duels, but he’s 7-0 after winning a 3-on-1 affair that was never close.

Elan is also working on behalf of Piel Technologies, but unlike Guel, he’s treated more employee than son to their four-woman leadership group. After winning, he surprises Suletta with a phone call … and asks her out on a date. Her Earth House girls go giddy (Chuchu excepted).

In another demonstration of how different she and Elan are, Suletta calls her mom, who is supportive of her daughter branching out and getting to know others better—the move forward, gain two ethos. But after getting off the phone with her daughter, Lady Prospera gets a report about Peil “making its move”—faster than anticipated.

Meanwhile, Elan hasn’t been talking to Suletta because she’s a friend; indeed, I do not believe he understands such a concept. He’s been pumping her for information and context on Aerial on behalf of the company he serves. We also see that he’s an “enhanced person” created for the sole purpose of piloting a Gundam.

This culminates in Suletta letting Elan into Aerial’s cockpit for a routine survey of the testing area (which is definitely an idea for a date). He observes how easily she pilots Aerial, and she says she’s never felt suffering doing so, but actually always feels at ease.

Elan then asks to pilot Aerial on his own—an astonishing ask but one Suletta happily grants because she thinks Elan’s a friend. Piloting it convinces him that Aerial is the key to “breaking the curse” of the suffering he feels every time he takes the controls of his mobile suits.

When he returns to Suletta, the kindly mask has dropped. Her usefulness to him and the faux friendship he fostered is no longer needed. Now he has the information he needs, and she’s just an annoyance, especially with her entitled belief that Aerial is “family.”

Seeing this honest side of Elan upsets Suletta, and his cold words cause her to cry. That’s just when Guel arrives, sees Suletta’s eyes, and demands to know what Elan is doing, with the answer determining whether they duel. That’s just fine with Elan. Whether he intended to use Suletta as bait or not, Guel’s timing works out perfectly.

While it’s good of Guel to stand up for Suletta, she hasn’t quite turned against the hope that Elan is a good person and a friend, so she objects to the duel, but it’s not her call: Shaddiq tells her if she doesn’t like current conditions, she’s welcome to change them in a subsequent duel.

The stakes are set: if Guel wins, Elan will stay away from Suletta from now on. If Elan wins—and I had a feeling he was going to win easily—he gets to duel Suletta. Guel’s red mobile suit is out of commission, he uses his brother Lauda’s Dilanza, even though their father forbade him from dueling.

That Guel is willing to incur more of his dear father’s wrath speaks to the genuine affection he’s gained for Suletta and his desire to keep others from making her cry. Underneath the bluster he’s an honorable guy.

But honor, like smiling, laughing, birthdays or family, is not something in Elan’s programming. Suletta’s been interacting with a doll designed to learn as much about her for his employers’ sake, as well as his own (lifting the aforementioned curse). Elan surprises all when he arrives at the duel in a new suit—the Pharact. It’s a menacing, bat-like suit with its own drone swarm system.

It looks every bit like the dark sibling of Suletta’s Aerial. Guel is mad as hell, and kicks up a lot of dust in the dueling ground. This unwittingly creates the conditions by which he is defeated: the dust, charged with static electricity, gets into the gaps and joints in Dilanza’s armor.

Elan’s drones create laser-like webs that in concert with the dust Guel himself kicked up, has the effect of an EMP, shutting down Dilanza’s systems and leaving him immobilized. Elan takes an easy win, and the Peil Group’s engineer (and Elan’s minder) confronts Lady Prospera, who concludes there was “another witch all along.” The Peil woman addresses her as senpai, suggesting she was part of the same research group that developed Aerial.

Elan again makes a prompt phone call to Suletta, to arrange another “date.” This time, it will take the form of an official school duel, and if he wins, he will claim Aerial for himself. And this, folks, is why Suletta should have probably listened to everyone telling her to stay away from people from the three branches—including Guel, someone from those branches.

Now, I can’t imagine Suletta will lose to Elan next week—especially if Miorine lends a hand, nor to I believe Aerial will fall into the hands of a rival company. The only question is whether Suletta, who is no doubt still confused and hurt by Elan’s treatment of her, can switch gears and do what needs to be done to defeat her most implacable enemy yet.

As for Elan? I’ll admit to hating him more than Guel now, but I also understand the kid has suffered his whole life, is looking for release, and the only thing in his way is a silly girl who calls a Gundam “family”, a word that’s meaningless to him since he never had one.

In Elan Ceres, Peil created an organic machine to pilot their metal one. But Suletta is, if nothing else, an ordinary human fueled her whole life by love and support. That should prove the edge in this duel.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 04 – New Friends from the Third Rock

Suletta responds to Guel’s proposal, on which he immediately tries to backpedal, as you’d expect: running back into her Gundam and booking it out of there. The next day she arrives at class in the standard Asticassia uniform, but Miorine quickly changes it to her white Holder uni; she should proudly wear it, along with the title of holder and her groom.

After duels and legal hearings, it’s finally time for Suletta to participate in actual practical exams, one of which involves traversing terrain and avoiding simulated mines. Chuatury Panlunch, the giant pink pom-pom-haired Earthian, is sabotaged by slow-acting blackout spray, underscoring the oppression and discrimination of her people by the Spacians.

As for Suletta, she fails before she even starts, because she has neither a mechanic or a spotter to assist her with the exam. When she asks around, she finds no one will help her lest they get on the Jeturks’ bad side. Nika can’t help her either since she already has to assist Chuatury, AKA Chuchu, but introduces her to her Earth house and to other mechanics who can help.

Following Nika’s lead, the other Earthians are nice to her, but when Chuchu arrives she flies into a rage at having a “Spacian turd” in her house, Suletta is forced to flee. Elan later offers to help Suletta, but Miorine arrives and warns her that he’s bad news: just another corporate executive’s son trying to win her hand (which he denies).

Still, Miorine won’t hear of Suletta availing herself of Elan’s assistance; not when she has her. To Suletta’s surprise, Miorine is both willing and able to perform both mechanic and spotter roles, as she’s read the necessary manuals. To get their ducks in a row, Miorine invites Suletta to her makeshift apartment, which was once her dad’s office.

While it’s obvious that Miorine is a bit of a slob (she no doubt grew up with servants cleaning up after her), inviting Suletta to her home is a lowkey gesture of trust and intimacy. But she can see her groom has a lot of studying to do if she’s going to make it. That night, we also see another side of Chuchu, as she contacts her family and friends back home. They’re being cracked down on by the Spacians, but they urge her to worry about her studies and leave those Earthly troubles to them.

Also that night, Miorine wakes up to find Suletta still hard at work studying, and asks her why she’s working so hard. Suletta says she has a dream to start a school on Mercury that will bring more offworlders there. She also mentions how her friends and family there are all counting on her to succeed. Miorine doesn’t see why Suletta doesn’t just live for herself, but Suletta insists she wants to “carry the burden” for her Mercurian people.

The big day of Suletta’s make-up exam comes, and we see that the same two girls who blacked out Chuchu’s windshield do the same thing to Suletta. Chuchu calls Miorine and Suletta “Spacian turds” again but Miorine tells her she’s no different than Spacians who discriminate against Earthians if she’s prejudiced against two people she doesn’t even know.

The examiners don’t allow the exam to be suspended since exterior inspection is part of the exam, so when Suletta’s screens go black Miorine has to be her eyes, upping the difficulty level significantly. She can re-try the exam as many times as she wants, but after failing five straight times, Suletta has a crisis of confidence and bursts into tears.

When Miorine tries to coax Suletta into trying again, she appeals to her obligation to her fellow Mercurians back home, and Chuchu hears this while she watches the two saboteur girls yukking it up. While Suletta may have been the enemy that morning, now she’s someone Chuchu will throw hands for, sucker punching one of the girls and starting a huge fight.

Suletta and Nika break up the fight, and the end result is simply that Suletta and Chuchu will have to take another make-up exam. Chuchu says Suletta’s the reason for her failure, but when Nika officially invites Suletta to join their Earth house, Chuchu doesn’t stand in the way—as long as Suletta calls her senpai.

Suletta is such a kind and gentle soul it was only a matter of time before she met similarly-minded folks at school who wanted to be friends with her. Chuchu definitely has a chip on her shoulder, but sees that with Suletta not all Spacians are turds; some are just like her: someone into whom a lot of people back home placed their earnest hopes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 03 – I’ll Stop the Rain for You

In the third episode, Suletta finally manages to verbalize what she wants, and how marrying Miorine might jeopardize that. It’s nothing so much as a list of normal things one does in high school: making friends, giving them nicknames, lunch on the roof … going on dates. Miorine doesn’t get why marriage would preclude that last part. Miorine also tells Suletta not to worry; the legal age for marriage is 17, and so they won’t get hitched until her birthday at the earliest.

All she needs to focus on is winning the duel, or they’re both finished. On a call with her confirmed mom, Lady Prospera tells her daughter that she didn’t raise no witch. The next day at school, Suletta gets all the attention for the wrong reasons from most of her peers, while Nika proves to be true blue, albeit one a little too into Aerial’s technical specs.

Guel, having test piloted his dad’s company’s new Darilbarde, hides his frustration with it being piloted by AI, with his usual arrogant front and paeans in two. We also learn Prospera blackmailed Guel dad at the inquiry with he knowledge of his assassination plot. Don’t mess with Suletta’s mom.

Suletta is overjoyed to be invited back into Miorine’s garden, but Miorine makes sure she understands that doesn’t make them best friends. Their garden time is interrupted again, but this time by the true-neutral Elan Ceres. He be devoid of outward emotion, but he gives Suletta her first contact from a boy and hopes she’ll fulfill the wishes on her list.

Elan, along with Shaddiq Zenelli, are members of the deulling committee, and bring Suletta and Guel together to go over the terms and stakes and officially approve the duel. There’s another haughty rich girl in the committee, Secelia, who mocks Guel following daddy’s orders. But Suletta scolds Secelia and defends Guel.

Suletta may be pushy with her aw-shucks old-fashioned ideals due to the longtime isolation that galvanized them. But at least in this case (and most cases) she is correct, and Guel acknowledges and appreciates her gesture, all but thanking her when the two are alone in the life after the meeting. He also all but admits to liking her “gaining two” philosophy.

I’m glad these two had this moment together prior to the duel, as Guel has been given a lot more dimension in these last couple episodes. Unlike his father and bootlicking brother, personal honor is important. So he is not coming into this duel in a good place, considering he’s mostly just along for the ride in his new suit.

After a video call from Miorine basically wishing Suletta luck we see that Guel’s dad has made another “arrangement” to assure his son’s victory. His brother tells his dad such “tricks” aren’t needed for his Guel to win.

After Suletta half-heartedly states the dueler’s creed (helped along by Guel), the duel commences. The two mostly just feel each other out, but little does Suletta know that Guel isn’t even at the controls: the joysticks are moving on their own. Such is his dad’s desire to win, his son is merely ballast.

Then the “arrangement” occurs when a false heat error activates the dueling ground’s sprinkler system. The resulting “rain” dissipates Aerial’s ranged beam weapons, making it a close-quarters swordfight. Miorine protests, but Elan says such tricks don’t invalidate the duel, but are a part of it; a part of the duelers’ strength. He believes if Suletta is truly a “witch”, she’ll survive this duel even with the opponent cheating.

With that in mind, Elan also doesn’t stop Miorine from heading out into the dueling ground to correct the error causing the rain, which she learns was caused by Guel’s groupies, as she suspected. With the rain subsided by Miorine, her fiancé shifts into high gear, putting her swarm in play.

Guel protests the actions being taken by his suit’s EV, but his dad warns him to just sit there and let it win the duel for him. But Guel can’t do it; not after he was caught off guard in his first duel, or after hearing Suletta’s credo. Letting his dad decide everything is simply running, which will only gain him one. He wants this win to be his win, so he smashes the autopilot and takes the reins.

Suletta can tell that something has changed, and can also tell that Guel is good as hell at piloting a mobile suit. But she also knows she can’t lose; not with so much left on her school wish list. She takes Guel’s antenna, gains her second win in as many duels, and tightens her grip on both the holder title Miorine’s hand in marriage.

Miorine, or “Mio-Mio” as Suletta attempts to nickname her, releases all her built-up tension by smiling and laughing over Suletta’s victory. Suletta also gets a congratulatory text from Elan (which includes an exclamation point that just seems wrong coming from Elan). She then sees Guel standing outside his defeated suit, and exits her cockpit to meet him.

She first apologizes for underestimating him, saying he really was strong in their duel (Suletta wisely doesn’t say that she’s simply stronger than him, even if it’s true). Hearing those words from Suletta, as well as knowing that even though he lost, he lost with his own will and hands to a superior opponent, stirs something in Guel.

Maybe it’s also the way the dramatic light hits Suletta too, but he takes her outstretched hand with both of his, gets down on one knee, and exercises his will once more, in keeping with the ideals she taught him before the duel. That said, she most definitely did not expect that to result in him asking her to marry him.

Just as rejecting Guel and accepting Suletta as her groom was an act of Miorine’s own will and rejection of her father’s dominance over her life, Guel is also deciding he’ll fight how he wants and love who he wants. I’m glad Guel isn’t just a one-dimensional spoiled rich kid, and thrilled to see how his sudden proposal will make things messier for Suletta and Mio-Mio going forward.

But hey, going forward gains you two, or more!

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 02 – Don’t Touch My Tomatoes

After her decisive win over the overconfident Guel Jeturk, Suletta is now the school’s ace pilot and fiancé to Miorine, heiress to one of the largest corporate concerns in a universe de facto ruled by corporations…Right? Uh, not so fast. The adults cry foul. Suletta’s Aerial is identified as an illegal Gundam, so both she and her suit are swiftly taken into custody.

If the prologue provided the backstory and context for Suletta’s background and legacy and the first episode established the school setting, system of duels, and the pairing off of Suletta and Miorine, this week is all about What Is To Be Done About Suletta, along with her suit that looks, sounds, and smells like a Gundam. We also know What Delling Did, and Aerial represents the ghost of a rival he thought he’d defeated over a decade ago.

While Suletta is interrogated and the old people comb through the implications, life goes on at the school. Rather than hailed as its new idol, Suletta is dragged through the scuttlebutt mud as a cheater, which explains how easily she won. Earthian Nika knows better, and doesn’t rise to the unrelated provocations from Spacians. She just hopes she can see Suletta—and her suit—again soon.

Miorine returns to her garden, her connection to Earth and also the one place where she actually has a measure of control. In true Rich Boy fashion, Guel does not come in person but sends his brother and peons to help clean up the mess he made Miorine accepts the offer, but warns them that if they touch her precious tomatoes, she’ll kill them.

Compare this to Suletta, whom Miorine readily allowed to taste of her tomatoes even when she was just an annoyance. Suletta then fought for her, totally unbidden, and became someone worthy of her hand (unlike Guel, who was merely given that hand). Only now her father is changing the rules Miorine thought she was following: Suletta is to be expelled, her suit scrapped, and he’ll find a new groom for her.

Miorine tries to let out her frustration by tossing the phone with this message, but the gentle tap against the glass accentuates her impotency and sense of being trapped within a birdcage. It’s so bad she can only escape her minders by going to the toilet, where the contractor she hired to smuggle her to Earth arrives to tell her it’s not too late if she still wants to go. The woman asks her to “make a decision she won’t regret”; Miorine decides she’ll run.

Delling once again takes great pains to make clear to everyone that he cares about his daughter less than just about everything else. That backfires here as he didn’t bother vetting the minders she was able to shake off.

Guel is slapped and chastised by his daddy for hurting the Jeturk reputation, but then the representative of Shin Sei, the company that built the Aerial, shows up at his office. Her name is Lady Prospera, presumably the masked “Char” character in this Gundam.

My ears immediately perked up at the name, the feminine version of Prospero from The Tempest: a duke overthrown by his brother years ago, cast adrift in a boat with his baby daughter, and used those years to learn magic. Sounds a lot like what happened to Suletta’s mom, huh!

Suletta is despondent in her cell, but is the recipient of a small kindness from one Elan Ceres, a soft-spoken, unemotional young lad who has “taken an interest” in her. That said, his previous statement about being unable to fall in love makes it seem more like that interest is more that in a fascinating new tool, not a new friend. But we shall see.

The grand inquiry is then held, with all representatives of the Benerit Group in attendance in a dark and brooding tribunal hall, the oppressive darkness a keen symbol that the light of democracy holds no sway there. Lady Prospera is not the slightest bit intimidated being in the literal spotlight, providing answers to all inquiries and pointing out that even if she can’t 100% deny Aerial isn’t a Gundam, they can’t 100% prove it either.

She also removes her bionic arm (more evidence this is Suletta’s mom) saying both her original arm and face fell victim to Mercury’s magnetic field, and that the tech within Aerial will enable the safer mining of Permet, a vital resource in mobile suit production. She merely asks that the group of which Shin Sei is a small but innovative member give them the support they need.

But nothing in this room is ever up for a vote. Delling Rembran sits above all, and his word is law. That word is no. Prospera can mince words and specs all she likes; as far as he’s concerned, Aerial is a Gundam, and both it and its pilot are to be disposed of. No one has the guts to summon even a word of objection.

That’s what makes Miorine’s sudden crashing of the inquiry so righteous. All these powerful people can’t make a peep, but the president’s 17-year-old daughter is more than happy to give him a piece of her mind. Rather than run off to Earth, Miorine had her smugglers take her here instead, which means she owes them a favor.

But no matter, she’s here, and when her dad overwrites his rules and admits that he is a king with all the power, Miorine remembers Suletta telling her she “gains two” by going forward…and challenges dad to a duel. Sensing family friction, Guel’s dad suggests that keeping Aerial around to see what makes it tick could be the boost the group has been looking for to recover their declining market share.

That corporate contrivance would seem to have worked, as Miorine is able to visit Suletta in a lovely reunion with strong romantic vibes—Miorine even gives Suletta a zero-g Wall Slam. Is it just a coincidence that Suletta’s hair is … tomato red? She fills Suletta in: the two of them are to fight her dad to make their betrothal stand. If they lose, Suletta gets expelled and Aerial gets scrapped.

Like last week, Suletta is exasperated, but I imagine she’s not about to lose her fiancée and her metal little sister. Not only that, there’s another Gundam-like suit—a red one—already out there on test runs, slicing and dicing lesser suits. Chances of Suletta and Aerial going up against this red guy are somewhere in the region of 100%.

And just in case there was any doubt that Suletta x Miorine is most definitely A Thing, well … consider the Ship deployed.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 01 – Rich Kids Are Scary

Fast-forward over a decade from the prologue, and Ericht Samaya is now the teenaged Suletta Mercury, pilot of Gundam Aerial, arriving at the Asticassia School of Technology, where she has just transferred. While surveying the giant space station, she spots someone floating free in a spacesuit and executes a rescue operation. The person she rescues, Miorine Rembran, doesn’t want to be rescued.

She was trying to escape, and was about to succeed but for Suletta’s sharp eye and impeccable timing. Now that I know where these two end up by episode’s end, one could call it kismet. I also hasten to add that Miorine is the daughter of Delling Rembran, the man whose actions led to the death of Suletta’s dad and destruction of her family’s home. Obviously Miorine didn’t play a role in that, as she was only four at the time.

Upon arrival at her new school, which is full of rich, stuck-up jerkwards, Suletta is quickly treated like a Mercurian “country bumpkin” and also given the cold shoulder by Miorine. That said, she also meets a potential first new friend in mechanics student Nika Nanaura.

All of a sudden, all of the fake blue sky is replaced by clear windows out to space, and the campus is transformed into the ground for a duel between Guel Jeturk, son of one of Delling’s top business generals, and some nobody who dared to call him “a man with a runaway bride”.

Jeturk, an unrepentant preening jackass of the highest order, is Miorine’s fiance, a decision made not by either of them but by their parents. Her father, however doesn’t even bother to review the bodyguards assigned to his daughter, as he’s too busy financially destroying a business partner who posted too many quarterly losses.

As Suletta learns by following her like a puppy, Miorine would prefer to be left alone with her garden that emulates earth environs, and even lets Suletta sample a tasty real tomato before downloading the map app of the school and sending her on her way. But before Suletta leaves, Jeturk and his clique of syncophants arrives to declare that Miorine will live with him at his family home from now on.

When Miorine protests, Jeturk starts wrecking her garden. When she tries to stop him, he shoves her aside. Suletta, who has a stutter and is clearly not great with social situations, nevertheless knows very well between right and wrong,. What Jeturk is doing is wrong, so she spanks him. She even gets giggles from his patsies when she calls him a “pushy suitor”.

Jeturk doesn’t take these affronts lightly, and suggests that if Suletta has a problem with him, they can settle it with a duel. Despite learning he is the school’s undefeated “Holder” (i.e. Ace) with a 26-0 record, Suletta doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Jeturk tells her if he wins, she’ll be kicked out of the school. Meanwhile, Jeturk’s dad intends to speed up his and his son’s ascension by arranging to assassinate Delling.

When the duel commences, both Jeturk and Suletta are surprised to find that Miorine has commandeered Suletta’s Aerial, having gained access when she had her school handbook. That said, she has no idea how to pilot a mobile suit, let alone a Gundam, and Jeturk proceeds to make quick work of her.

With an assist from Nika, Suletta is able to get to Aerial before Miorine loses the duel, and those observing the duel accept the second change of Jeturk’s opponent back to Suletta. Having been head-butted when they first met, Suletta returns the favor and takes over in the cockpit, asserting that she and Aerial grew up together (indeed, when she was four, she considered her a little sister).

No one can pilot her but her, and as long as she’s piloting, Aerial won’t lose to the likes of Jeturk. She maintains that running away gains you only “one” by not losing, but going forward and rising to fight gains you “two” – experience and pride…as well as trust (so many three?).

Jeturk repsonds to that insult with a charge, but he’s totally out of his league. His beam weapon is reflected by Aerial’s shield, which then disassembles into a swarm of drones that tear Jeturk’s suit to pieces, giving Suletta a clear path to behead him with her energy sword.

As one would expect of a high-class Sunrise flagship production, the battle is absolutely top-notch in design and execution, fast, fierce, and gorgeous, accompanied by Ohmama Takashi’s stirring cinematic score that calls to mind Hans Zimmer with its blend of classical and futuristic electronic orchestration.

After the episode wasted absolutely no time showing what a sonofabitch Jetark is, I was literally cheering and laughing at the television as Suletta effortlessly put him in his place.

Again, Suletta’s timing is impeccable, as she defeats Jeturk just moments before his dad is about to press the detonate button on Delling’s transport. His aid quickly informs him that Jeturk will inherit neither Miorine nor her father’s company, because he was just defeated in a duel for the first time.

To the victor belongs the spoils, so Suletta not only wins the title of Holder of her very first day, but also becomes Miorine’s new fiancé, effective immediately. When Suletta points out that she’s a woman, Miorine tells her that unlike the apparently more conservative Mercury, such things are commonplace here. Suletta’s look of bewilderment says it all: these rich kids are crazy.

The Witch from Mercury follows up its thrilling, bittersweet prologue with an equally impressive opening sortie, establishing Suletta as a meek but determined and clearly immensely talented heroine (the first female Gundam lead), Miorine as her frenemy-cum-fiancée, the current financial and political power dynamics in play, and the system of duels that determine far more than they probably should. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next week.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (Prologue) – Rise and Shine

This prologue for the newest full-length anime installment in the venerable, 43-year-old Gundam franchise is a perfect balance of worlds small and large. In the former, the Samaya family (mother Elnora, father Namid, and their four-year-old daughter Elricht) are just living their lives, trying to make  space more habitable for humans through the development of the newest Gundam suit Ifrith (i.e. Ifrit).

Their asteroid base home’s name has mythic resonance: Folkvangr, the field ruled by Freyja where half of those who die in war go, the other place being Valhalla). It’s a small, tight-knit group, and it’s little Eri’s fourth birthday. But beyond this little haven that may just hold the hope for mankind, the larger world is scheming to eliminate them and their efforts—the classic Ominous Circle of Old Dudes in a Dark Room.

The Samaya family are cought between a council that has ruled that further development of Gundams must cease immediately. To his credit, the leader of this effort, Delling Rembran, believes that merging man and machine the way Gundams do is an affront to the natural order of things. He does not celebrate violence, murder, or war, but insists that human hands do the killing.

Of course, in his condemnation of Gundams as a technology that claims the lives of its users as well as its targets, he kind of elides humanity’s history of necessary sacrifice, on scales both large and small, for the benefit of scientific advancement. Regardless of how lofty his ideals, the bottom line is he’s sugar-coating a plain old massacre of civilians at Folkvangr.

Mother, father, and child are all separated when the siege commences, with Delling’s Dominicus (i.e. dogs of God) units carrying out the slaughter. Elnora, the pilot of a still-in-progress Ifrith, reunites with Eri in the cockpit, where Dr. Carbo Nabo, Elnora’s savior, mentor, and Gundam project lead (as well as Eri’s “granny” had been showing Eri around.

Eri’s dad Namid sorties in a less sophisticated LF suit and is soon followed by Wendy, who wishes to avenge her colleague who was murdered in the Dominicus raid. We see how the GUND tech takes a physical toll on their bodies, and the enemy’s ace mobile suit Beguir-beu is has a power-draining ability that leaves Wendy’s suit powerless before blowing her up.

Delling’s ultimate goal is to blow Folkvangr out of the stars, and with it all of Carbo Nabo’s new Gundam tech. But the raiders miss the most important target: Ifrith itself, where mother and daughter reunite. To her mother’s surprise and horror, her little Eri’s biological signature is able to “awaken” Ifrith to Level 33, enabling full functionality.

Using Ifrith as an escape pod, Elnora sorties with Eri, and the show’s flagship Gundam dazzles the stage. Eri, who considers Ifrith her “little sister” is just happy that sister finally turned in bed woke up—on Eri’s birthday, no less—but once leaving the warm, safe confines of the asteroid, Eri and Ifrith are officially in the crossroads between big and small worlds.

Thanks to Eri’s inadvertent input, Ifrith puts on a show, making quick work of the enemy’s less mobile suits. When Beguir-beu draws in close and starts to do its power-drain thing, Namid comes between them and goes into fatal overdrive to force Beguir-beu away, giving his wife, his child, and maybe the only hope for sustained human survival in space a chance to escape.

It’s the kind of noble heroic sacrifice ordinary people make every single day in our world, even if it will end up robbing Elricht Samaya of her father so early in her life, the alternative would have seen Eri dying too. Namid tearfully singing “Happy Birthday” and Eri singing along, provides a heartbreaking capper to this, the first act of what felt like an epic, operatic film.

A glance at the MAL page shows that the show proper will likely pick up with Eri a woman grown, carrying on her parents’ and granny’s legacy. This isn’t about developing weapons, which the likes of Delling believe are the only good, right, or just use for Gundam tech. Without this tech, Elnora would have died and Eri wouldn’t be born.

No doubt Eri will be the champion of the underdog, the little guy in the little world, the engineer or scientist who just want to make life better, even if the costs are excruciatingly high. And no doubt she’ll butt up against that big yet small-minded world trying to stamp that out to protect their own narrow and ultimately self-defeating ideals. In other words, it’s an all-new Gundam, and I am hyped up.

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