「目一杯の祝福を君に」 (Meippai no Shukufuku wo Kimi ni)
“May All Blessings Find Their Way To You, I’m Wishing It”
Well if there’s one way to sum up this finale it’s fully expected. Oh sure, there were a few surprises buried in the mix, notably Eri surviving (in a sense), Prospera getting whacked by the atonement bat, and of course Benerit effectively doing what Shaddiq was after from the start (just a little more abruptly), but in the end can you say you didn’t see this ending coming? Everyone lived, happy ever afters were had, and we found the time to put some enemies of the moment in their place (both physical and virtual). This episode basically speaks for itself, so you know what means – it’s impressions time!
Out of all recent Gundams, Witch from Mercury is likely to be the most divisive for the fanbase. Outside of a premise which leans towards Utena in space, it’s also a series which, whether true or not, seemingly listened to criticisms of Gundam being too bleak or melancholic and structured its story around breaking from that belief. Couple on this being one of the shorter Gundam series and it’s not hard seeing why audience opinion (particularly Japanese vs. Western opinion) is split. This is one Gundam that aims to please all and doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
The issue which for me hurts Witch from Mercury the most is its pacing, or more specifically, the pacing of specific arcs. Early introductions and establishment arcs are case in point: these did the job of setting up key characters, revealing early (and future) enemies, and overall establishing the setting this series was aiming for. The problem is that this was very much frontloaded, where the time spent here took away from the later, more consequential material, resulting in some very momentous events being condensed into mere minutes. None more showcase this than Guel, the early antagonist later made tragic hero who got a lot of time to shine as antagonist and comparatively little as the hero, resulting in such scenes as his battle with Lauda seeming abrupt and ill foreshadowed. It’s perfectly fine having these plots, more than good to see such characters face off (it’s Gundam’s bread and butter), but there’s a reason they’re arguably remembered and appreciated far more in earlier series: they had the buildup necessary to justify and explain them, especially in the context of the larger story.
Witch from Mercury’s timing troubles bleed into the other key problem of apparent lack of stakes. Although true this Gundam didn’t fully shy away from death or high risk situations, for me they never really felt all that consequential. Guel’s patricide or Suletta’s smash in hindsight come across as checkboxes, only there to straddle the opinion fence to attempt appealing to both audiences and retain interest. Likewise Miorine’s visit to Earth or the Space League’s superweapon finale: events there to give the illusion of tragedy without really crossing over into it. As mentioned such veritable teasing itself isn’t really the problem more so than the time spent in giving reason for both sides of the coin in a two cour limited series. If Guel and his family had longer in the buildup and denouement, if Suletta and Miroine had more time to handle the fallout, if Elan got just an episode more to flesh out his interest in Norea and choice to jump ship, a lot of the complaints here wouldn’t even be mentioned. As many an anime have shown you can have the serious with the school-life, you simply need to ensure it’s written to that effect.
All of that said, however, shouldn’t give the impression that this was an absolute trainwreck of a Gundam. Yes, Witch from Mercury is flawed; yes, it could be better – but outside of pacing troubles or questions on overall plot-related consequences, it was your typical mecha with the budget to boot. We got the fun action, we got the drama, and we got the sci-fi setting giving reason for it – not every new Gundam can rival the titans of the UC series after all, not every Sunrise mecha can turn into a definitive work of big giant robot art. Hell to even get a new Gundam in this day and age which isn’t UC-related (or SEED for that matter *laughs in new movie release*) is a pretty big deal, so some leeway is rightfully deserved.
In the end, for all I may not rank Witch from Mercury at the top of my mecha (or for that matter Gundam) list, it’s certainly nowhere near the bottom, and if it can encourage Sunrise among others to keep on trying at the original mecha series slot machine, I’ll consider that an overall win. After all, one of these series will eventually hit it out the park, it’s simply a matter of enough time before that true diamond in the rough makes its appearance.