As the latest in a very long line of installments to the Gundam franchise, The Witch From Mercury was all but guaranteed to at least begin with a substantial audience. The trick has always been to keep and perhaps expand that audience. Given the nature of the mid-season cliffhanger, I imagine said audience is not only still hooked, but will be ravenous for more when it resumes alongside the Spring 2023 lineup.
The mid-season ending was momentous. There was a bloody attempted assassination, the appearance of witches from Earth piloting their own gundams, the outing of a traitorous spy among Suletta’s friends, a son inadvertently killed his own father in battle, and, for the first time, Suletta’s hands are stained with the blood of someone she has killed. That last has put a rift between her and her beloved Miorine, as the latter sees her, her hand stained red with what’s left of a man she turned into pulp, still smiling, still goofy and clumsy, looking for all the world like she is completely unaffected by the act of killing a man.
There is no other word for it: she looks crazy.
It’s the sort of sight that leaves one wondering what’s wrong with Suletta Mercury, which, I have a sneaking, dread suspicion.
Now, the show has plenty of people who are perfectly capable of cold-blooded murder. The world of this story is clearly run by deranged elitists who talk forever about how much they must value human life, all while they use up and cast aside human lives like so much garbage, which they burn so no one can ever find the proof of their crimes. These are cold-blooded, conniving, ruthless killers who smile and shake hands with the people they are conspiring to murder. And at their command, hidden somewhere up their sleeves, are the witches from Earth, who are clearly, every one of them, unhinged. It’s part of what makes them so terrifying and unsettling.
But Suletta has always been the epitome of innocent and even naive up until now. She’s a clumsy, naive ditz who does not comprehend the cruelty of the world. She has never been malicious, and she’s gone far out of her way to do very unorthodox things because of how much she cares for others.
And yet she has just displayed an extraordinary lack of caring, the likes of which is not typically found in a story’s protagonist. She shows none of the usual human reactions to their first kill. She’s just proceeding on like everything is perfectly normal. Even stranger, this moment, with Miorine shrinking from Suletta’s innocent smile and her blood-soaked hand, it comes right on the heels of another moment where Suletta was the one horrified by her mother, who shot two men dead in front of her without hesitation or regret.
I noticed this seeming discrepancy right then, in the moment, immediately, and it puzzled me. This story hasn’t been one for making things happen just because. For all the intricate complications involved, it has been incredibly coherent and easy to comprehend. So how could it be that Suletta went from shrinking away from bloodshed, such that her mother had to convince her to get in her gundam and go save Miorine, to not caring about it or perhaps not even noticing it, all within a matter of minutes? How did she go from “gentle and sheltered” to “sociopathic killer” that quickly? What happened?
How did she come to resemble the insane witches from Earth so instantaneously?
The witches who also pilot gundams, yes?
Which is exactly what Suletta did between these two moments: she piloted her gundam.
Before piloting the gundam, Suletta balked at killing someone.
After, she thought nothing of squishing a man like a bug.
But how could this be? How could simply piloting her gundam turn Suletta crazy like this?
Well, the story has illustrated that piloting a gundam comes at a cost.
Indeed, it’s not a new thing at all for gundams to demand something of their pilots. That cost might have been more abstract in earlier installments of the franchise, including all the sacrifices made in war, but it’s always been there. Successive installments made their gundams stand out more and more, set further and further apart from normal machines of war, and so they demanded pilots who could be pushed beyond a human’s normal mental and physical limitations. More recent gundam shows have pushed the pilots so hard that their gundams practically consumed them, a little more and a little more with each crisis, until the gundam itself kills them even before their enemies can. Now we have the gundams of The Witch From Mercury, which, it is outright stated that they kill their pilots, and we are shown how.
The GUND format, the system from which these gundams get their name, connects the pilot to their machine in a way which allows them to move it like their own body. It’s a potent advantage in battle, and it was originally intended to adapt humans in such a way as they could survive in space, basically by turning them into cyborgs. The humans who sailed the stars would be bionic, flesh and machine wrought together as one, responding to the brain’s every direction just like normal human bodies.
However, this system has never been perfected before. It may have thus far sufficed for replacing a few parts here and there, an arm or a leg or a pair of lungs, but something about a huge mechanical suit demands far more of the brain and body. As signals pass between flesh and metal, the physiological strain on the human nervous system actually damages the human body. Turn up the level of connection, and the suit becomes more powerful, but the damage grows worse and worse, until the human simply dies, their organs failing, their nerves wearing down, and their brain ceasing to function.
With one exception, or so it seems.
From the start of the show, Suletta is held up as an example of the system’s improvement. After all, she’s a gundam pilot, and she’s achieved a level of connection unheard of for most, and she’s still alive and well. In fact, she’s been piloting her gundam since she was very young.
Starting with when she saved her mother and herself, and killed her first enemies, long before this moment with Miorine.
The prologue shows how Suletta bonded with her gundam when she was barely more than a toddler. In a moment of crisis, when the people around them were being slaughtered in the name of false ideals, Suletta and her mother escaped in a gundam which the tiny girl was piloting. A little child went into battle and shot down the enemy, probably without ever realizing what she was doing. She admired, with the joy of a child, the pretty lights made by their exploding mechs as they died.
Sound, perhaps, a bit like a girl smiling and cursing her clumsiness like she normally does, holding out a bloodstained hand as if unaware of the blood?
Sound, perhaps, like the crazy witches from Earth as they take enjoyment in killing people?
It’s not exactly a unique thing in anime, to have enemies who are psychopaths, sociopaths, or other varieties of lunatic, but it might be more unique if, as I suspect, there is an actual explanation for it, and one which affects the protagonist as well.
In this case, that explanation involves the GUND format itself.
This is a system which interacts directly with the nervous system, ie, the nerves, the spinal cord, and the brain. In every other case, this degrades the body and eventually shuts it down, but what if that’s not all? If it interacts with the brain, then it can directly influence everything about a person: what they perceive with their senses, what they react to, how they react, their personalities, etc.
If her gundam influences Suletta’s brain in some manner, instead of taxing the rest of her body, and has been doing so since her childhood, it would explain why she is the way she is, so naive, so innocent and ignorant… so much less developed than her peers. She is far more childlike than others her age, no matter what she has already endured, and it manifests in numerous ways. She needs lists for everything she wants to do, she is forward and honest like one who hasn’t learned about lies in the first place, she makes strange and erroneous assumptions which cause her to act out, she bulls her way into situations even when she has no idea what she’s doing… the list goes on.
In short, I strongly suspect that Suletta is not so well as she seems to be at first glance. True, her body may be healthy, but what of her mind, her brain? If the gundam not only degrades the body but influences the brain itself, then Suletta has been having this go on since she was very little. She could be every bit as crazy as the witches from Earth, just in a slightly different way.
It would explain how she was able to kill someone without a care in the world about it, just like when she was little, even right on the heels of having been unnerved by the act of killing only moments prior.
It explains the sudden shift in her behavior, and her personality overall. It explains why all the other witches are crazy besides just leaving them at being crazy just because. It even explains how she can be an unexplained exception to the rule of this lethal system, because, in truth, she isn’t. It’s also right in line with the recent trend of the franchise, where gundams kill their own pilots.
Most of all, it sets up what could become arguably the worst and most abiding tragedy yet produced by the franchise, where an innocent girl’s mind is all eaten up by her gundam, even if her body remains.
I could be wrong, of course. I rather hope I’m wrong. But soon enough we will know if I’m right, and if what is wrong with Suletta Mercury is, quite simply, her gundam.
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