Is Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury about the drive for personal revenge through the medium of giant robots? Yes. Is it about the gender dynamics of space exploration defined by economics over environment? Yes. Is it about space lesbians? Hopefully, yes. But right now, it’s also about an anti-capitalist queen smacking the soul right out of rich jerks.
This week’s episode of The Witch From Mercury, “Unseen Trap,” peels a bit away from the Utena-esque politics of duelling at its fancy school for mech piloting corporate scions (the queer vibes between Suletta and her newly acquired fiance Miorine, blessedly, remain) to shine a spotlight on the world the Asticassia School of Technology is preparing its students for in a way we’ve yet to really see in the show yet.
This is driven not by Mobile Suit combat, as the series has been so far, but a much largely conflict between “Earthians”—natives of humanity’s homeworld—and “Spacians”—people who are born and live in humanity’s nascent space colonies. Although it’s been there in shades (much of Suletta’s antagonism from her fellow students is driven by the fact as someone from Mercury, home to a small group of miners extracting precious resources in dangerous, debilitating conditions, is seen as a “country bumpkin), “Unseen Trap” makes this far more explicit on both the macro scale of the world beyond Asticassia and on the micro-scale divisions between the haves and have-nots of the student body.
We see it first at the school, where a student training exam in Asticassia’s “Demi-Trainer” suits sees Chuatury Panlunch (one of Sulleta’s few potential allies at the school) fail when her mech’s viewscreen camera is sabotaged with time-delayed spray. Chuatury, known affectionately (despite her abrasive attitude) as Chuchu, is revealed to be the head of Asticassia’s Earth House, one of many factions among the school’s students that are otherwise dominated by groups formed around the companies that fund and control the school, and the scions of those companies. When Suletta, herself a Spacian—ostracized by her fellow students after her surprising defeat of top duelist Guel Jeturk not once, but twice—comes to Earth House to look for teammates to help her participate in her own piloting exam, we learn that Chuchu’s wild antagonism towards Spacians is due to the horrendous ways she and other Earthians in society are looked down upon.
Chuchu and other Earthians are treated by the Spacians that have turned the solar system into an economic powerhouse as disposable labor, unworthy of inheriting the lavish efforts of space colonization, efforts only made because of Earthian labor. We see it at Earth House in Asticassia, where the Earthian students are given a run-down hangar to repair their suits and live in, rather than the lavish environs where we briefly see other students. We see it in the news reports flashing across their TV, showing mobile suits from some of the most powerful companies in the Benerit Group that controls Asticassia engaging in a violent crackdown on Earthian workers protesting labor violations done in the name of Spacian capital.
Dividing this large sociopolitical conflict into Earth vs. the Colonies is no stranger to Gundam—that’s long been a theme core to the franchise—but making it explicitly about the evil of capitalism, and beyond it the layer of class conflict, is something the franchise has otherwise left on the thematic outskirts, instead of making it as textually explicit as we see here.
All this coalescesin the most brutal of acts of violence in Witch From Mercury so far. When the same Spacian girls who sabotaged Chuchu’s Demi-Trainer use the same trick on Suletta during their re-examinations—not because Suletta is just a “bumpkin” from Mercury, but because she’s deigned to associate with Earth House—Chuchu looks on in fury as Suletta slowly breaks down, attempting to work through her suit being blinded before she sobs her heart out to Miorine over her comms. Noticing the two girls are watching their prank from afar and gleefully cackling, Chuchu leaps out of her own Demi-Trainer, races up to them, and, well...
It’s brutal. That girl’s body just flops, like she’s gotten a mental Blue Screen of Death from a single strike. The fight between Chuchu and the second girl is equally as brutal, catching Suletta in the cross-fire in a horrible punch, and ultimately leading to Chuchu and Suletta bonding, but also in both of them needing to take their piloting exams again.
It’s incredible that a series that has so far given us some excellent, potent action scenes—ones that extrapolate the violence enacted upon the humanoid forms of its mecha to its larger themes of abuse, or as in this same episode the horror of seeing those mecha turned upon human targets— is able to show off its most brutal action yet in a single punch, from one young girl to another, echoing the fury of Witch From Mercury’s larger class conflict.
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