The Witch From Mercury, the latest series in the Gundam franchise, carves its own path in the series in many ways, the least of which involves the introduction of yet another alternate timeline to the already-multiversal-level series. But that doesn’t mean that the series isn’t making its own fascinating connections to some of Gundam’s earliest and most potent ideas.
The fifth episode of The Witch From Mercury, “Reflection in an Icy Eye,” ups the stakes for our hero Suletta Mercury far beyond whether or not she’ll keep her new wife-to-be’s hand in marriage through her new school’s intense mecha duelling tradition. Focusing on a classmate at the Asticassia School of Technology that has quietly supported Suletta so far, dueling committee member and Peil Technologies scion Elan Ceres, the episode calls back to Witch From Mercury’s own prologue episode to explore another fascinating element of its worldbuilding beyond the anti-capitalist sentiments we explored last week.
In the world of Witch From Mercury, Mobile Suit design development radically changed with the creation of the GUND format, a bio-organic interlinking between suit systems and the physical body of its pilot, creating the first GUND-Arms, eventually known as, you guessed it, Gundams. Gundams became outlawed during the events of Witch From Mercury’s prologue episode—due to the GUND format’s controversial side-effects of overloading a pilot’s body if they push their synchronization levels to far—by a conglomerate of rival Mobile suit developers on Earth’s development council, casting out their pilots as “Witches” and attempting to eradicate the construction of Gundams with military force. Suletta, and her mother Elnora, are seemingly some of the few survivors that can now safely pilot a Gundam—in the former’s case, her “sister” suit, the Gundam Aerial.
Or at least, they’re one of the few naturally occurring ones, it turns out. It’s quickly revealed in the latest episode that Elan is an “Enhanced Person,” the fourth of his kind—implied to be some kind of clone—created by Peil as the artificial, experimental pilot of their own Gundam, the Pharact. While the term used in the official English subtitles is a little different, the Japanese in the dialogue, “Kyouka Jinshi,” and the concept itself carries parallels with one of Gundam’s oldest and most fascinating sci-fi ideas: the “Kyouka Ningen,” or Cyber Newtypes.
In Gundam’s original timeline—the Universal Century, and home to most of the franchise’s key series, including the original trio of Gundam, Zeta Gundam, and ZZ Gundam—Newtypes were the natural evolution of human beings existing in outer space, or spacenoids, developing latent psychic powers and enhanced empathic senses. Weaponized over the intent to use these abilities to deeply connect with their fellow Newtypes, these individuals became powerful Mobile Suit pilots in the Universal Century’s many conflicts, using their abilities to wield specialized mecha that commonly used remote-operated drone weapons known as Funnels and Bits. After the first prominent emergence of Newtypes in the original Gundam, most notably its protagonist Amuro Ray, attempts to artificially develop Newtype abilities in people began, creating the dawn of the Cyber Newtype.
Augmented through organ replacement, biotechnological implants, chemical exposure, and harrowing mental conditioning, even successful attempts at Cyber Newtypes were met with debilitating mental instability, making them volatile weapons of war. In some cases, these test subjects were stripped of their former identity in the process—like Zeta Gundam’s Four Murasame, named as she was the fourth of her kind created at the Murasame Research Lab in early Cyber Newtype experimentation. See where Witch From Mercury was going now with making Elan “Enhanced Person Number 4”?
Right now, it’s hard to say, other than the fact that despite being named differently and seemingly operating in strictly non-psychic ways, they seemingly are Witch From Mercury’s answer to the Newtypes of the Universal Century—Elan, Suletta, and Elnora before them all relied on the bio-organic connection to the format, and it’s been heavily hinted that this is still the case even as Suletta seems to show none of the usual side effects of utilizing the GUND format, so there’s not been any hints at psychic shenanigans so far.
But it is interesting that Witch From Mercury is examining these echoes of the original Gundam and its successor’s conflicts—the exploitation of humanity’s future by old ruling powers in the name of war and dominance—through its capitalistic future lens. Among all the new things the series is experimenting without precedence in Gundam—a female protagonist, a potentially queer romance at the heart of its story—there’s something wonderful that it’s willing to engage with some of the franchise’s oldest defining sci-fi ideas in its own way as well.
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