Vrai, Megan, and Maddie return to cap off our retrospective on the tragically short but triumphant run of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury!
Date Recorded: August 4, 2023
Guests: Maddie, Megan
0:01:50 We got Sam-Flam’d
0:11:54 Should’ve/could’ve been 4 cour
0:16:57 *Slaps hood of Gundam* “This baby can hold so much Utena”
0:20:18 The time-out room
0:25:53 Miorine and the princess of peace trope
0:31:36 Space capitalism
0:32:49 Suletta and her family
0:38:02 Disability elements
0:51:07 Suletta and Miroine
0:52:55 LGBTQ+ representation in media
0:57:26 Gay people are Gundam’s past and future
VRAI: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF: The Anime Feminist Podcast! My name is Vrai Kaiser. I am the managing content editor and daily operations manager at AniFem. You can find me on various social medias @WriterVrai: Bluesky, Mastodon, the main instance. It’s technically still on Twitter, but I don’t really use it! And back with me again today are Megan and Maddy, if y’all want to introduce yourselves.
MEGAN: Hello! Once again, I’m Megan. She/her pronouns. A longtime manga reviewer, slightly less longer Gundam fan, and happy to be back!
MADDY: Hi! My name is Maddy. My pronouns are they/them. I am a very longtime Gundam fan. I mostly use Twitter and Bluesky, definitely leaning towards Bluesky these days, and you can find me @hyakushiki0087 on either site. I’m happy to be here.
VRAI: Thank you both for joining me again! Folks at home, in case you are jumping in on this one, we have already discussed the first half of The Witch from Mercury in a separate podcast because I, a fool, thought that this would be a 50-episode series rather than a 24-episode series, and so you will find our discussion of the first half there. And as you come into this one, we will be discussing the entire back half and this will be a spoilercast. So, if you’ve not reached the end of the series, this is your heads-up.
Everybody on the pod and at home, go ahead and raise your hand if you had “Witch from Mercury does a Samurai Flamenco” on your 2023 bingo card, because I didn’t!
MADDY: I did not either. [Chuckles]
MEGAN: I didn’t, because I haven’t seen Samurai Flamenco.
MEGAN: I’m sorry.
VRAI: Go home! Go home and do that, now!
MEGAN: I can’t!
MADDY: [crosstalk] I haven’t even watched it since it aired, so I’m effectively— I need to rewatch it, but that pile is big. That pile of things I need to rewatch is scary large.
VRAI: Well, the reason I bring it up is that SamFlam is like the example from the last decade of extremely gay shows where the production staff said some shit in magazines that completely contradicted the obvious stuff in the material.
MEGAN and MADDY: Yeah.
MADDY: I’m not surprised, at least for Witch from Mercury specifically, because Bamco’s gotta cater to whatever audience it deems largest, which is, I guess, very conservative older salarymen who build Gunpla and that’s it. That’s the “main audience,” in quotes, I guess.
VRAI: Yeah. So, I wanted to address this up top because I feel like it’s fresh on the minds of anyone who is listening to this podcast right after it comes out. For folks who maybe aren’t tapped into the anime news-o-sphere, bless you, you’re a happier person, and I’m about to ruin that. Sorry.
VRAI: So, after the extremely gay, canonically gay, gay-married, lesbian ending of Witch from Mercury, there was an interview in… I have to pull up the name of the magazine because—
MEGAN: Gundam Ace magazine.
VRAI: Yes, in Gundam Ace magazine, where basically there was a question to do with Suletta and Miorine’s marriage. And between the airing of the print interview and the online version of the article going up, the phrasing of “marriage” was removed from the article. And several days later, the official Bandai account put up a statement that this was something that had been missed in editing. It was a gosh-darn slip-up! And what they wanted was to leave Suletta and Miorine’s relationship, where they both wear wedding rings and Eri refers to Miorine as her sister-in-law, up to audience interpretation.
MEGAN: That was their literal words: “open to interpretation”!
MADDY: The shitposting was incredible, by the way.
VRAI: Yeah. I would like it known for the record that Bandai has been doing this for the past decade at least, as a Tiger & Bunny fan. The video might be gone because it was hosted on Blip and that video hosting service hasn’t existed for half a decade now, but back in 2011, the Tiger & Bunny producer Ozaki went to New York Comic Con and at the panel told the fanbase that that show had been structured from the ground up so that Kotetsu and Barnaby’s relationship was equally readable basically as platonic or romantic. And because it was 2011, we queers sort of licked the dust and sort of tasted the homeopathic motes on our tongues as representation. We were all really jazzed about this. But now it’s 2023 and, uh, get good, Bandai.
MEGAN: Yeah, it’s one thing when they say that about Tiger & Bunny, but Tiger & Bunny didn’t end with Barnaby and Kotetsu sitting on a hillside, admiring their wedding rings, while Kotetsu’s daughter calls Barnaby dad!
VRAI: It did in my heart.
MEGAN: This is the level of erasure we’re dealing with. And yes, I do appreciate that Gundam fans reacted as they often do, with memes, because all of them rightfully called it out as BS. But also, the whole thing, I’m sure, gave you, as well, Vrai, flashbacks to the Netflix Evangelion dub and the whole controversy around “worthy of my grace.”
VRAI: Oh, yeah, listen, I’ve got a laundry list of examples of this kind of bullshit. As I mentioned, Samurai Flamenco ends in a marriage proposal from one lead to the other. And then at one point, a member of the creative team did a magazine article where he basically said, “Oh, no, Masayoshi’s just an idiot. He didn’t know what he was saying.” Listen, this child’s not that stupid. There’s fool nonsense and then there’s fool nonsense.
MADDY: This is no-homo levels like we’ve never seen before, and it just keeps continuing. Like, come on. It is, as we were saying, the year 2023. You can do better. Get over it.
VRAI: No-homo levels like I haven’t seen since after Kill la Kill came out and one of the artists just spent the solid next year posting RyuMako art on his Twitter, like a hero.
MADDY: Wasn’t that Sushio, or… [obscured by crosstalk]?
VRAI: Yeah. Uh-huh.
MADDY: That was him.
VRAI: Which, bless you, sir, for posting these lesbiabs [sic]. I support you.
MEGAN: But yeah, whether they’re doing it just to cater to older, more conservative fans, there’s been some speculation that this is maybe done for the Chinese market… Either way, whatever the reasoning, it’s real dumb. Nobody buys it. These girls are gay. Good for them.
VRAI: I feel so bad for Chinese anime fans, especially queer Chinese fans, who are at this point— You know, it’s not untrue, I’m sure, but the Chinese market has definitely become the boogeyman to paper over bigotry in home markets, where they say, “Oh, no, we had to do it because of… China. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
MADDY: Government regulations, and they were airing it on Bilibili for free with ads. It was getting aired over there, so I am not going to assume, but due to Chinese law, not the people or the culture, it’s not out of the question.
VRAI: There was a crackdown recently, from what I understand, in relationship to dramas and danmei adaptations recently, I believe, in response to Word of Honor, that drama. Which means stuff like the Heavenly Official’s Blessing drama, which is completely filmed, is now just sitting in a can somewhere. But this is neither here nor there. The point is… production staff. I feel so bad for the production staff of Witch from Mercury, because it sounds like from start to finish… I mean, this is something we sadly have to assume most times, but it really sounds like things were rough for the Witch from Mercury production.
MEGAN: Yeah, I mean, admittedly, that’s true for pretty much any big anime production these days. But as people rightfully pointed out, there were 90 key animators credited on that finale. That is a lot! That’s more than a lot of anime films have! They were pulling people off of the most recent Hathaway movie, which is still in production.
VRAI: Yeah, and for folks at home who maybe don’t follow animation terminologies closely, that’s not animators, period. That’s what you might call main animators, not the people who are also doing in-between work to smooth scenes together. The people who are doing main cuts, key animators, 90 of them.
MADDY: 94 actually, from when I did reading a little bit earlier. That’s a lot. Remember when anime used to have like 5, 10, maybe 15? 90? Oh, gosh. And the fact that they’re pulling even from past episodes, not even just this finale. They’re pulling people effectively out of retirement. The amount that— Well, he’s not technically retired, but he’s getting older… The amount that Obari contributed is a lot. I’m glad he’s doing more work, but the fact that the amount of people still able to do 2D mechanical animation is getting narrower and narrower is quite scary.
VRAI: There’s certainly been an issue in anime production where, because workers are so crunched, veterans aren’t able to pass on what they know and there is simply no time for industry newbies to receive the kind of training and mentorship that they deserve, so it doesn’t surprise me that there is this widening gap in something as specialized as mechanical animation.
MEGAN: And sadly, this is nothing new for the Gundam franchise as a whole. I mean, going all the way back to the original in 1979, there has always been some degree of backstage chaos, whether because shows had bad ratings, whether they were getting canceled, whether directors left or died partway through production, whether they were fighting with Sunrise or the leadership at Bandai. It’s really hard to think of a TV-level Gundam that didn’t have some problem like this to some degree.
VRAI: I remember one of my first brushes with awareness of backstage chaos was as a teenager watching the DVD extras for Gundam 00, where they would do the little omake videos with Allelujah crying in the corner over DVD sales.
MEGAN: [Chuckles] Yeah, and of course 00 is famous for being the first one where it’s like, they had an idea for the first season and they wrapped it up and then they started the second season and they didn’t have quite a clear plan what to do. And thankfully that didn’t happen with G-Witch, but as we mentioned, there are other issues.
VRAI: I feel like the issue with G-Witch is like my cosmic punishment for constantly saying that 00 was a really good 25-episode anime.
MEGAN: We’ll get into the details. I feel like G-Witch… it was a pretty good 24-episode show. It would have been a fantastic 36- or 39-episode Gundam.
MADDY: That’s what I was thinking. Or at least 30 flat. There were a few things with the end that could have been less squished. But I think 36 to 39 was ultimately what I was hoping for. I was ultimately hoping for a callback to Utena with the episode count, but we didn’t get that.
VRAI: Yeah. Watching the second half of G-Witch sort of— We’re about to dive into just complete baseless speculation because there is not, as yet, a lot of information about what the production staff was told outside of the limited hints we’ve gotten from animation crush, but it reminds me of when OK K.O. was canceled and they strung together all of their plot-related episodes at the end. And they got through it all, they checked off all the main ones, but there was this notable lack of breathing room to build up tension between them.
And it also reminds me of when Stars Align (bless its heart, Akane is still trying to get the other half made) was told two years into production that their episode count had been halved, and he was given the choice to either try to cut down what they had planned out narratively or just air the unfinished first half as it was. And of course, Akane, being a brave motherfucker, went with the latter half. It feels to me like G-Witch got an order that it was being cut and tried to condense what it had done.
MEGAN: Yeah, I had a feeling it was running up against whatever shows are still in the docket over at Sunrise and it’s just like, “We can’t go any further than this. This is your hard stop.” Speaking of Utena, the Utena references did continue throughout season 2, which made me very happy.
VRAI: Yeah. We’ve frontloaded a lot of production woe stuff. I fucking love Witch from Mercury. I think it is an amazing anime considering all that it’s struggling against. It was a weekly highlight of just feeling a real sense of community with other anime viewers that you don’t get to often with shows that aren’t yet another fucking Shounen Jump battle shounen that I’m not watching, and I really enjoyed that experience.
MEGAN: Yeah. Suletta Sundays were a communal experience that we haven’t had since the likes of Yuri!!! on Ice.
MADDY: Yeah. I haven’t bothered to get up at seven in the morning to watch an anime as it effectively drops. No, I was not going to get up at five in the morning in my time zone to watch that. No way. I got up at around 7:30 to 9:30 to watch it, and it was great! I mean, anime church is how you could put it, since it was on a Sunday morning in the United States.
MEGAN: Plus, it’s a really good testament to the power of weekly viewing and how good that still is and how some companies could learn from that. [Pretends to clear throat] Netflix! [Pretends to clear throat]
VRAI: Yeah, I will be interested to see how people receive G-Witch now that it is finished, especially because the second half… In the AniFem Slack, Dee sort of compared it to Vision of Escaflowne, where it’s just everything happens so much! Really, there is no time to breathe in the second half, and I wonder what trying to watch that back to back to back is like.
MADDY: Yeah, that, I wonder. I’m gonna have to give it a rewatch when I do. And I wonder if it’s going to hold up to Escaflowne in my opinion, because IMO, Escaflowne… despite everything happening so much in the second half, I think Escaflowne is perfect!
VRAI: Escaflowne is wonderful. It is all emotions, lots of big, stupid plot, as somebody who’s watched it in the last couple years.
MADDY: That’s why it’s perfect. It’s not perfect despite those things; it’s perfect because of those things, in my opinion.
VRAI: G-Witch has so much ambition. And I’ve said this before on other podcasts: I will always, always prefer a show that swings big and ends up kind of messy—something like Fairy Ranmaru was a recent one; more people should watch that show—than a show that is well executed but kind of boring and by the numbers. So, I really respect what the G-Witch crew went to do here, Utena references and all. Like, it really needed at least that other 12 episodes to really get all of its ideas out of the way, but… I don’t know. It’s good.
MEGAN: But yeah, I still remember losing my mind in the middle of that one episode where Secelia sets up basically her own Black Rose elevator confessional with a Haro, and they emulate it almost right down to the camera angles! I was literally like the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme, like “Oh my God!”
MADDY: There was no way that wasn’t deliberate. The camera angles were the same with how they kind of shot at the walls and how more and more frantic Marco started looking. Marco or Marcus. I forget his name.
MADDY: Marco. So I was correct. But yeah, how frantic and more frantic, and then how all of a sudden it just basically all stops. And Haro is a cop, I guess.
MEGAN: But yeah, there’s also a lot of it actually at the end. Admittedly, I was not the one who made this observation. I wish I could remember which Twitter poster did, pointing out that Quiet Zero is itself basically coffin shaped and you could regard it as basically the coffin in which Eri and Prospera confine themselves, because coffins are big imagery in Utena for reasons that are too complicated to explain here, or the fact that Guel and Suletta literally have a sword duel, and Suletta uses one of Utena’s finishing moves!
VRAI: It’s so much. I love that end to their subplots. From beginning to end, Guel truly is Saionji, speedrun.
MADDY: He also made some slightly healthier choices by the end. Thank you, Okouchi, for the food.
VRAI: In hindsight, it is a little weird that he has multiple episodes just focusing on him when so much of the cast gets kind of put in timeout. I think those episodes are very moving, but when you’re looking at it as “Oh, no, we have 24 episodes” and not “Ah, yes, this is part two of what will be our three-to-four-part series,” it’s an odd-shaped detour.
MADDY: I have a feeling that they got the call for the— If the episode chop did happen, they probably got the cut midway through the second season, or… or… The one— Okay, let me talk about Okouchi’s writing real quick. The main reason I absolutely despise Code Geass is that it— I mean, first of all, I just don’t like its writing. Sorry, for people who like Code Geass. But Okouchi tends to introduce so many ideas all at once, and sometimes he doesn’t do anything with half of them. He’s done better here, but all this focus on Guel and kind of pushing away everybody else and some other subplots… it’s a good example of how his writing can tend to be and why I sometimes have a distaste for it. He’s gotten a lot better as time’s gone on since Code Geass, but tidbits of that habit is still there.
MEGAN: Yeah, like the whole side episode where Guel encounters the Earth terrorist group. It was a really good episode on its own and a really important one for Guel’s emotional development, but they also never really return to that group ever again. Or late in the series, when his younger brother Lauda basically has a heel turn for no good reason other than losing his mind. Or the fact they basically shut Elan 5, Norea, and Nika in a room for like half the season.
VRAI: They’re in the timeout room because if you let them out, they might be too effective on the plot.
MEGAN: I mean, admittedly, Elan 5 was just having the time of his life just poking at Norea until she lost it while Nika’s just there on the sidelines. But yeah, it turns out when you let him out, he’s just like, “Nah, eff this shit. I’m not getting in a Gundam again. I’m fixing this.”
VRAI: Elan and Norea’s subplot is one of the many things in part two where I get that feeling I mentioned before of “Oh, I see why this works, but it needed time to breathe.” The sense that these two are drawn to each other because they feel like they’re disposable and they decide, “Nah, fuck everybody, we’re gonna go off and see the world,” but then, ah, nah, she dies and that’s sad, so he’s gonna go off without her. All of those are beats that I buy. But it just runs through it so quickly that there’s really no time for it to hit.
MEGAN: And there’s other little details with him that I don’t think were ever really explored. There’s a couple of times, when he was in the Pharact— and I can’t remember if this was in this season or season 1, as well—where he’s doing ballet foot positions. At one point he’s attacking where the robot is clearly en pointe. They’re clearly hinting that whoever Elan 5 was before he got face-swapped was a dancer, but they never really do anything with that.
VRAI: And then OG Elan is in the finale, just like “That sucks actually! I’m gonna hit the bricks!”
MEGAN: [laughing] Yes!
VRAI: It’s amazing!
MADDY: He’s so good.
MEGAN: That was amazing. [Obscured by crosstalk]
VRAI: “I was not a character, and now I’m peacing out! Bye!”
MADDY: By the way, the en pointe stuff… I think it did happen in Season 1 but it happened again in Season 2 way more clearly, because I know with the first season, it was displaying more of the foot guns that were going on, because the Pharact has guns on its feet, but it was definitely way more clear that Elan 5 was en pointe in Season 2. But they didn’t do any other ballet positions. That would have been cool, but oh well.
VRAI: And poor Earth House. Chuchu gets her arc in the first half, but everybody else just had to sit on the sidelines, which is sad because I think they’re all charming and I love them.
MEGAN: I mean, they were all good characters and they’re all there to support Suletta when she needed it, because oh boy, did she need it this season. But I kept waiting through the whole season like, “Come on. Chuchu’s going to have a big moment again. She’s gonna go out into space and she’s gonna punch somebody in a Gundam or she’s gonna snipe them again,” and it never really happened and I was kind of sad.
MADDY: This is me thinking that Okouchi, again, introduced… I don’t want to say “too many characters” but too many ideas again to just not go back to them, because from my perspective, this is a habit that he has and it kept showing itself. And the thing is, I felt like, initially when I finished it, that he did it way less; and then going back to it for this podcast, while he still did it less, it wasn’t as less as I initially thought upon finishing. The afterglow of the series ending has worn off on me, and while I still think G-Witch is great, I am definitely seeing a lot more flaws with another look over, I would say.
VRAI: I think, of the subplots that got cut down, Shaddiq’s is like the one that suffers and therefore the series as a whole suffers the most.
VRAI: Guel— The finale clearly puts so much emphasis on this relationship between them. And Shaddiq is such an important character in terms of how his relationship with his father figure mirrors both Miorine and Suletta. And at the end, he has this— His scenes at the end are clearly where they wanted him to land, but there’s just this big old hole in the second half between him pulling off his coup and deciding that he’s going to take the fall for all of this, and thematically the show kind of suffers for putting him on the sidelines.
MEGAN: Yeah, it felt like there’s more they were trying to develop between him and Miorine. He’s got this weird, almost-purity idea behind her. He doesn’t want her to be involved in the politics or the business or anything like that, to basically keep her hands clean. But again, it never quite went anywhere with that until he’s like, “I’ll just take up responsibility for all of it. I’ll go to jail! Okay!”
MADDY: I feel like he’s definitely more of, like— He’s not exactly one to one, like how Guel is with Saionji, but he’s definitely more of a Touga type, I would say, for sure. However, with them putting him on the sidelines, they also effectively put that entire development on hold, and even though they reintroduce him later where they were going to put him anyway, the fact that they just kind of sidelined him and effectively, since he kind of represents what Dawn of the Fold and what a lot of Earthians want—as they are an oppressed group in this particular Gundam series, unlike many others—that whole “Oh, what about the Earthians and what they are doing and how they are going to be affected by all of this” was also put on hold. And so, it’s a mess.
VRAI: I will give them kudos that I did get the shape of Shaddiq’s relationship with Miorine being like, “I want you to be all the things that I can’t be, both because I care about you and because you have this inborn privilege that I don’t have as an Earthian.” And, boy, I sure wish somebody would pitch us an essay about the racial implications of G-Witch and Shaddiq and Suletta. Neither here nor there.
But I think, also, Shaddiq’s subplot is a little bit a victim of the fact that this show wants so badly not to be pat and condescending about the Earthian struggle and come down on “And then peace talks solved terrorism and guerrilla tactic resistance. And we all just needed to learn to converse with each other through Newtypes.” And I really respect the show for not wanting to do that, because I think a lot of well-meaning anime about resistance fighters ends up coming down there. But, so, because they wanted to leave that subplot on the kind of hopeful but ambiguous “We don’t have an answer for everything” ending, like with the Green Room characters, we couldn’t have too much time for Shaddiq. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough time to get all the way through all the nuance that we wanted to develop, so it was better just to touch on the base points, if that makes sense.
MEGAN: Oh, that makes perfect sense. I mean, they basically spend that one episode where Miorine goes to Earth to underline just that, because she goes down thinking, “I can fix everything with peace talks,” and then it all blows up in her face, mostly because Prospera blows up lots of things.
VRAI: Lots of things. Poor Miorine! She’s trying so hard! And that doesn’t— I both— Hm. I really respect how the show wants to be about how the sins of [the] previous generation shouldn’t necessarily be the fault of the next generation but the next generation still has to clean up the mess, as it were. I am a little bit frustrated with where they ended up on the whole late-stage space capitalism thing. And I see what they were going for, ultimately, because like the issue of peace talks and resistance and the fact that all of this is just a mess of imperialism and colonialism, it wants to go towards “We’re working together to try and fix this.”
But I couldn’t— All the way through the first half, I could see these threads building of “Ah, well, in this 39-to-50-episode series, obviously, Episode 24 will end with Miorine becoming president of the Benerit Group and being like, ‘And now that I’m in a position of authority, I can fix it’.” And then the second half, you dismantle that with “Oh no, I cannot fix from within the system. The only thing to do is to dismantle or reject the system.” But the show didn’t have time to get to that step.
MADDY: Like I said, once again, Okouchi introducing many cool ideas and either not having enough time to do anything with them, not doing anything with them at all, being restrained by something or other like a large corporation… I mean, it still touches upon those ideas, at least, that neoliberalism isn’t going to solve corporatocracy. But it could have been a lot more, and I think it needed more runtime and more time to breathe in general.
MEGAN: And had it gone in that direction, it would have actually been a really interesting commentary on the whole princess of peace character type that the Gundam franchise has been developing basically since Wing and Relena. And you see those sorts of characters pop up over and over again—you know, Lacus Clyne in Seed, Kudelia in IBO… Oh, what’s the one in 00? Vrai, you would know.
MEGAN: Marina. …And basically saying, you can’t just solve it all with a pretty girl saying, “But what if we did peace instead?” But yeah, I was okay with it for the most part because I like that the writers acknowledged, “Okay, we do not have the solution to late-stage space capitalism. Nobody has that. But what we’re going to do is we’re gonna at least try to dismantle this horrible quasi-corporate government system that our parents established and try to make things right from there.” It’s not a perfect solution. But it’s a good step.
VRAI: Miorine’s subplot in particular feels a little like Okouchi running up against “Oh, no, Utena was a metaphor. So when Utena said, ‘You can’t revolutionize the system or other people; you can only revolutionize yourself,’ it didn’t have to deal with the real-world fallout of that, because it’s all a metaphor! Oh, no!”
MADDY: Yeah, I really wish they did more! Again— I remember somebody accidentally compared— I think it was an accident or a joke, where they accidentally compared Miorine, especially when she got in her little politician outfit, to a much more well-meaning Hillary Clinton, which I thought was hysterical.
[Chuckling, with a dark tone]
VRAI: [Obscured by crosstalk]!
MEGAN: [crosstalk] I mean, it was very power suit–esque.
MADDY: Oh, I know. And the thing is, it’s just like, yeah, neoliberalism isn’t going to solve everything. But the fact that they kind of went so hard in those very first episodes with “Space capitalism kills” and then they kind of reel it back a little bit, I was like, “Hey. I mean, I get why you probably had to do that. But why did you do that?” You know, that’s how I felt. I was a bit more forgiving of it because I understand the constraints and who knows what happened and possibly Okouchi’s bad writing habits again—I will keep mentioning that ‘til kingdom come.
MADDY: But yeah, I get it, but I’m also like, why?
VRAI: Yeah, it’s the plot thread where I’m ultimately okay with where they landed but I see why it’s a sticking point of frustration for folks, you know? Because it was sort of set up as the major thematic conflict, was this idea about corporatocracy and the— Why is my brain coming up with “absconding”? That’s nothing. …The taking over of medical assistive technology for military purposes, which does and doesn’t come back around. I feel like the reason— We haven’t talked about Suletta and Eri and Prospera all that much up to now. I think that’s partly because they are the story that got to be what it was meant to be.
MEGAN: Yeah. Plus, a lot of it was kind of on the backburner for much of the first half of Season 2, as Suletta was in kind of a bad place after finding out her backstory, that she is literally a clone and she was basically just the only backup that survived, and Mom and Eri both reject her and she has to deal with that for a bit.
VRAI: It’s a lot. God, Prospera is such a good villain. We deserve more Prosperas. I love her. I support women’s wrongs!
MADDY: I was about to say… Thank you. In this podcast, we support women’s wrongs, women’s war crimes… Chef kiss.
VRAI: Except for— Not so much the child abuse, I guess. But, uh, you know. Ah! We don’t get to see very many really complex, layered women antagonists who are well developed, who have a lot of layers, who aren’t sexualized or fanservicey. And it’s interesting in that, when you break it down really to its core elements, Prospera is motivated by both her status as mother and wife, and yet the story doesn’t feel reductive around her, right? And I would need more time to think with my brain meats about what it is about the execution that really makes her feel like a fuller character than a lot of female antagonists who are like, “And now I am sad and broken because I failed as a mother.”
MADDY: Yeah, it’s not even about her so much failing, I guess. I guess the way I would put it is more like— How do I put it? Like it’s the backbone of her grief, but her grief is what drives her and not her failure.
MEGAN: Right. That’s what keeps her from just becoming a lady Gendo.
MADDY: Very true. That’s a great— Yeah, because people compared her to him at the beginning of the series. I mean, it’s hard not to: you know, bad parent with a mask or sunglasses or whatever that obscures their face that’s in a leadership position. Kind of hard to not draw that comparison, I would say. But then she very much becomes her own thing, and nothing is inherently misogynistic about where she came from and what she became. Everything just “is,” and it’s great. She feels like her own person that she’s not like— She is weighed down by her grief and her lost husband and effectively her lost daughter lost in the Data Storm, but (how do I put it?) her grief is what drives her rather than anything reductive, let’s say.
VRAI: And maybe it’s— I think what we talk about a lot here on AniFem is because there are so many women in the cast who are well written and varied, you can do these tropes without it reducing the character to “This is what women are like,” because you’ve got— I think one of the critiques you can levy at G-Witch is that the women of the Benerit Group are a little bit like “Villainous women looks scary.” But overall, there’s all sorts of shades of antagonistic versus heroic versus self-centered women with a lot of different drives, whether those are career or family or power, [so] that even though these are tropes that are often associated with stereotypical depictions of women, it becomes just a part of her character. And I think that’s cool to see.
MADDY: On to really great villainous women, even though these women are not the main villains, other women who I think are written pretty well are the three ladies that run Peil. They are out for power and out for complete control, and it kind of sneaks up on the viewers and the cast both, and they are just evil through and through, and they don’t need a motivation other than greed and power and desire.
MEGAN: For me, I think—
VRAI: Peil! That’s what I was thinking of with the “These are the women who are irredeemably evil, and also they’re bald and not drawn cutely compared to every other woman in the cast.”
MADDY: I mean, I understand they were older, and I believe they were already in those leadership positions when the Vanadis Incident happened.
VRAI: Maddy, you wanted to talk a little bit more about the disability elements of the plot, which, like some of the other stuff in G-Witch, started out really strong and then kind of got shelved for a lot of the second half.
MADDY: I wanted so much more with that. As a disabled person, I was so excited! I was like, “Oh my gosh! We’re gonna cover disability more, whether it’s physical or anything else.” And especially as the show kept talking about the company they were making and, like, “Oh, how can GUND-ARM technology be good?” and all this sort of stuff. And then it never was really explained why specifically what they were doing was bad. It was just kind of shelved. And I felt like we had a really good running start, and then things started to pace themselves, and that’s fine, and then it just kind of fell off. I was looking forward to having so much more. And we got some, sure, with some people’s prosthetics later and as people were healing from Data Storm infection, I believe is what they called it. I think that had to do with it. But the fact that it was just kind of off in the corner… We could have done better. We could have done much better.
VRAI: It’s like… So, they decided to revive the GUND format. And this time, we’re going to do it in a way that it was originally intended and not allow it to be co-opted for war machines. And then they did. And that was the end of that subplot. [Chuckles] And it’s really cool, in the finale flash-forward, to see all these assistive devices normalized and around with so many characters. It reminded me of how well Eizouken (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!) really normalized diversity and accessibility in its setting without commentary on it. But yeah, it was kind of like you reach the end of Season 1 where they put out their promo video for how they’ve achieved this prosthetic technology, and you’re like, “I can’t wait to see what complications there are with this!” and then there aren’t any.
MADDY: Yeah, it’s not even explained as to even just putting it in the ground of “This is why we really can’t do that, but we’re still going to try anyway.” And it’s different if it’s introduced at the start as something that’s normal and never touched upon later, because it doesn’t need to be, like in the case of Eizouken. But it’s introduced as a key point of development, not just for Suletta and Miorine but the entire Earth House and how they bond together. And then that’s just kind of put away, and I was like, “Hey. That sucked! Can we have more of that?” And we never got more of that.
MEGAN: I mean, it’s better than none. But yeah, they could have done more with it.
MADDY: That’s where I also just insert my “Hey, Okouchi, you introduced a great idea and you ran with it for a little bit. You could have made that into at least a kind of conclusive subplot,” like something more tied together instead of— It felt snapped off early, like you’re snapping a green branch off a tree. Kind of felt that way.
VRAI: It struck me as [if] it hit a resting point at the end of Season 1 and maybe as they were pruning, they looked at it like “We can open this back up and sort of half-develop it in the second half, or we can kind of leave it off where it was,” and that was the choice that they went with, which, while disappointing, I think I prefer to it being half-developed and unresolved. But I don’t know. It’s sort of interesting, like you mentioned, the stuff with the Data Storm poisoning, which I feel like is where they wanted to go with the complications of assistive technology in the second half and then just… “Uh, we’ve only introduced this at the very end, because Eri’s—”
MADDY: Yeah, it felt very rushed.
VRAI: Uh-huh. Because Ericht is a Newtype. Because it’s not a Gundam without Newtypes! I know this much.
MEGAN: I mean, yeah, kind of? I mean, she’s basically a magical data fairy at this point. I mean, she literally dissolved all the opposing suits and Quiet Zero and everything, and admittedly that was really kickass, but also, I’m kind of okay with it, which is surprising for me because generally I do not really take with a lot of the franchise’s Newtype BS, because a lot of it just tends to get in the weeds: very high-minded but doesn’t really go anywhere.
MADDY: I felt like this one worked at least. I am okay with how it initially started with the Tomino bullshittery, because it was kind of pulled out of his ass and even though this is not Tomino’s work, it’s evolved from it. I’m okay with it and I felt like it was fine, but also it kind of felt like it was all kind of cobbled together. That’s what I was thinking of. But it’s still alright. It was alright.
MEGAN: Eri did become kind of a magic wand, just like “I’m going to fix all this! And now I live in a cute little keychain.”
VRAI: Which, the number of jokes I have seen, just tasteless but very funny jokes about “Being keychain Eri is suffering,” you know, being forgotten in a room while her sister makes out with her wife!
MADDY: The jokes go from tasteless to raunchy, and I love it. It’s heinous! And I’m like, “That made me laugh. Please give me more of that.” [Chuckles]
VRAI: I do wonder if part of the reason— And part of what I think is really smart about the decisions that G-Witch made in regards to the franchise lore is— You know, we talked a lot about the Utena nods, but it’s also got a lot of literary references to The Tempest, obviously. And because it exists in that— Eri as magic wand for me works in the area of “This is kind of working on an emotional level and you have set up the stakes this way.” Nominally, we’re doing sci-fi with the prospective technology and weapons of war and medical technology. But this is soft sci-fi; this is social sci-fi. And so, Eri using the power of nanomachines, basically, Hideo Kojima–style, to dissolve all of the weapons in the world is like “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s because she’s Ariel.” And so, we’ve reached the end of the story where Prospera breaks her staff on the rock and Miranda and Ferdinand are reunited and married because they’re gay and in love. And I think maybe that has a lot to do with it.
MEGAN: Yeah. That sounds about right. Although speaking of Eri and Prospera and Suletta, I knew a lot of people towards the end who were real mad about how Prospera lived, because they were furious at the idea of Prospera basically not getting her just deserts for basically emotionally abusing and using her child for 17 years!
MADDY: I get it, but also Prospero survives in The Tempest. That’s what I feel like they were trying to pull from. But also, I feel like media does not need to constantly give people the moral “This is what should happen. Bad deeds are punished.” Sometimes bad deeds are not punished. And that’s… you know, it’s bad. But that’s what happens in that.
MEGAN: Also, it would be so out of character for Suletta because Suletta does not have a vengeful bone in her body. She’s not the kind of person who would take revenge on anyone, much less the only mother she’s ever known.
MADDY: Right. And she’s like, “Oh, I don’t want this or that to happen. I want to try to make this better ending happen for everybody.” And that is effectively what happens. She got what she wanted. Prospera dying would be very out of character for what Suletta desires.
VRAI: And obviously, this is a very fraught and very personal issue because abuse looks different to a lot of people and people heal in wildly different ways. But I wonder if, at least for some people, there is kind of an element of best-case-scenario wish fulfillment in how Suletta’s storyline wraps up, because she retains this twisted— She still loves her mother and wants that connection with her. Prospera clearly still loves her daughter, even if she also viewed her as a means to an end, and unquestionably what she does is abuse. And so, the story ends with Suletta’s partner and fiancée stepping in to say, “I am setting these boundaries, and you can’t hurt her anymore. I will stop you if you do.” And Prospera seemingly accepts those boundaries and [Suletta] has the support of her sibling now and is able to tentatively begin rebuilding that relationship on her terms.
And I think not every— I know why people get frustrated, because there are a lot of (especially Western) media, because it’s so influenced by societal Christianity, about how you need to forgive your abuser because that’s what’s best for you. And fuck that, no. You don’t necessarily need to do that if that’s not what is healthy for you. But I think there is value in being able to say there are circumstances where you can be supported and you are not minimized and your suffering is not minimized, but you can salvage that relationship.
MEGAN: I mean, there’s also the fact that at the last minute, it’s like “Oh, and Prospera is not an issue anymore because something, something, nanomachine brain cancer.”
MADDY: It’s that Data Storm infection, very similar to what Suletta ended up having and that she’s healing from, but because Prospera had it for so much longer, I think she’s effectively terminal. I think that’s what it is.
MEGAN: Certainly the implication.
VRAI: She’s certainly paraplegic, and we could certainly talk about how…
MADDY: Her eyes are shut the entire time. I’m assuming she’s also really starting to fade.
VRAI: We could certainly talk about physically arresting disability as effectively a punishment for our villain character, but I am not the one who is qualified to do that.
MEGAN: I was gonna say there’s at least one other Gundam series I could think of doing that, but that requires getting to deep, deep Victory Gundam spoilers and this is not the place for that.
MADDY: [Chuckles] That’s funny. I personally didn’t consider this punishment. I actually— I think it was the consequences of her actions because, I mean, she had been suffering with that very quietly and that just would have happened anyway. But I still consider this not as Okouchi and others pointing at the viewer, going, “You need to forgive your abusers.” This is more like sometimes relationships can be salvaged, and this one just is. There’s no moral reading that the writers are trying to give the viewer. It just is.
MEGAN: At most, maybe it’s how revenge can destroy someone. She was just so committed to “I have to preserve my daughter and kill Delling and do all this so I can preserve Eri forever” that it literally destroyed her.
VRAI: And I think there is a crucial difference in that Suletta never says “I forgive you” or “It’s okay that you treated me like this.” Her line, beginning to end, is “I still love you. And fuck you for doing this. You can’t still be doing this!”
MADDY: Exactly. Exactly. She never becomes a doormat. At the very end of it, she eventually rises above it. Despite her being gaslit into oblivion at the start, she eventually rises above that and doesn’t go back down to be like, “Oh, I forgive you. Hee-hee!” None of that.
MEGAN: Yeah. Her position was always not even about punishing her mother so much as “I want to save Eri. I want to save everyone, because I still want this family, as weird and broken as it is.”
MADDY: Yeah, sometimes just because you have a dysfunctional family doesn’t mean you don’t love that dysfunctional family. People may not have that experience, but in this case, Suletta does. It is what it is.
VRAI: And I feel like it’s assisted by the fact that so much of the narrative is spent talking about, validating, and supporting Suletta through, like, “Hey, this is gaslighting and child abuse. Hey, this is fucked up! Someone should help this kid!” And I think Suletta’s narrative and relationship with her mother is, from beginning to end, the strongest element of the show.
MEGAN: Oh, absolutely.
VRAI: I do, before we kind of have to wrap up, want to— Aside of the screaming about how nice the finale is, I do want to spend some time to shout out just how genuinely wonderful Suletta and Miorine’s actual relationship is. It did disappoint me that functionally they have to spend a lot of the second half apart because they’re growing as different people and that’s important before they can come back together and reforge their relationship. They have to grow separately before they can grow together. Traditional romance tropes. But they give me feelings and they’re supportive and I love them and she took her hand!
MADDY: [crosstalk] The hand-holding. The intimate hand-holding.
MADDY: Forever in my brain rotating like a rotisserie chicken.
MEGAN: [Laughs] And little details, like people pointing out like, oh, they have different-colored rings! And Suletta’s matches the colors of Miorine’s mother’s ring that we see in the opening because Miorine gave Suletta her mother’s wedding ring for her wedding ring, and oh my God!
MADDY: The thing is, I cannot wait for the inevitable… whatever that jewelry brand is in Japan to release those two rings, and I cannot wait to buy them. I can’t wait. I’ve never done that before and I’m going to buy them. They got me. They got me in a chokehold.
VRAI: I legitimately choked up twice. First when Suletta loses the duel and she’s like, “We’re gonna wear rings and we’re gonna wear pretty dresses!” But you know, they didn’t get married canonically; it’s up to interpretation. And then when she takes her hand and they talk through the door! [Squeals]
MEGAN: Yes! Oh, God, the thing when Suletta helps Miorine out of her PTSD funk. Oh my God!
MADDY: [crosstalk] The wilted ahoge that becomes unwilted. Ah!
MEGAN: Ah! It’s so good! I know, some people were disappointed that there was no literal kiss. But as we learned afterwards from Yuri on Ice, it is very, very, very hard for any creator to get that kind of representation on screen.
MADDY: It’s still representation. Kisses are not required. They are married. You don’t need to have a wedding ceremony. They are married. They are wearing rings. Eri refers to Miorine as the sister-in-law. If you feel like you need more than that to confirm it to yourself, please get yourself some media literacy.
VRAI: I mean, it’s a catch-22, right? Because on the one hand, we shouldn’t need to— God, I’ve been watching—
MADDY: You don’t need to dance around it, I agree, but still… It was still nice.
VRAI: Yeah, no, by all accounts, by all reasonable standards… they’re the center of the relationship, they talk about getting married, they’re both clearly attracted to each other, they have multiple talks about the relationship and how important they are to each other. Were this the old standby, were this man and a woman, you would never doubt it for even a second. And then they got married and they talk about themselves in these familial terms. This should all be fine. But also, because of what happened after this aired, you can see why people get anxious and pissy about explicit love confession, explicit on-screen kiss, because it feels like this constant anxiety of uncertainty where we can be erased at any time. We ourselves, the audience, are being gaslit about our own existence! How fucked up is that?
MADDY: It’s awful.
MEGAN: I was gonna say: you cannot fool us, Bandai Namco! We saw what we saw and you cannot take it back, and now you need to give us lots of promo art with Suletta and Mio in wedding dresses!
MADDY: Yeah, some of those character designers are going to come in and then draw some stuff just like Sushio did. Just watch. But the thing is there’s also so much context, not just subtext, just text throughout the show that you can’t just chop it all out; it’ll make no sense! And the thing is, even a lot of people that I follow on Twitter that are Japanese dudes who build Gunpla that typically do not make commentary on this sort of stuff, they were making commentary on this sort of stuff! I hit “Translate Tweet” on a lot of what they were saying. They all saw it. So, what they would probably consider conservative older Gundam fans… I honestly think that large group largely may not give a shit.
VRAI: Yeah, there will always be shitheels, but I feel like—
MADDY: They are not the majority, even though [obscured by crosstalk].
VRAI: [crosstalk] You always hope that there is this market that’s underestimated by conservative media groups. Like, they wouldn’t necessarily seek it out, but when it’s put in front of them, they’re okay. They deal.
MEGAN: Yeah, I don’t think Bandai Namco really counted on just how much queer audiences, and particularly those who are newcomers to Gundam, really respond to that show, so they maybe need to rethink some things if they want to continue retaining that audience for future Gundam shows and for buying future Gundam merchandise!
VRAI: Yeah, I doubt that they will comment on it further.
MADDY: Yeah, it made me buy kits again. They better rethink, because I hadn’t built a Gunpla in like four years. It convinced me to build one. They can get gay people to build model kits. They can do it. They just have to try.
VRAI: I don’t know. I guess at this point… I’m cynical but I love to be proven wrong, right?
MADDY: I hope to be proven wrong.
VRAI: My heart is still just broken about, in the Yuri on Ice fan book, when Sayo Yamamoto talked about how she really put her foot down to get the Episode 7 kiss through, even in the kind of the obscured state that it was, and we haven’t seen her in seven years.
MEGAN: Free Sayo!
VRAI: I don’t know. I really want to vocally applaud animators, writers, artists who are doing their damnedest to get out work against this system that is so clearly stacked against them, even when we don’t necessarily see it in front-facing spaces, especially in English-language ones, while also trying to thread that needle of continuing to push for “We deserve more.”
MADDY: The thing is, gay people and people who love queer media built Gundam from the very beginning. I mean, people have been drawing Char and Amaro, and Char and Garma, since 1979 and 1980. I have old doujins from those years sitting on my shelf right behind me. And I feel like this is Gundam’s legacy continuing in, honestly, an even brighter and more obvious form, and I love that.
VRAI: I mean, isn’t [there] a Tomiko article where he talks about how women—?
MADDY: Char and Amaro were meant to be seen as homoerotic, and he basically said if you didn’t see it that way, you need to watch it again.
VRAI: [Chuckles] Good ol’ Char’s Counterattack. I was talking about how women saved the Gundam franchise, not dudes.
MADDY: That, too!
MEGAN: That was an NHK documentary.
MADDY: Yeah, that was like, what, 60% of people watching 0079 at the time were women and like older women? They weren’t kids; they were adults?
MEGAN: Something like that. But also, this show has proven so successful that no longer is it controversial to say, “But what if the Gundam boy was a girl?” because right in the middle of airing this season, they announced a brand new One Year War spinoff series starring a female character. And as exhausted as I am with stories about, oh, another ace pilot coming out of nowhere with a super duper special Gundam in the middle of the One Year War because that’s been done a bazillion times, it’s a little bit of progress!
MADDY: We’re getting there.
VRAI: Yeah, I really want to believe, even as hard as it had to struggle and as compromised as the final project ended up being in some ways, that G-Witch has kicked open some doors. I want to believe that in my heart. And I want people to watch it, even— Now that it’s over, these criticisms will be out there. And that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t make them, because it’s fair, especially when something is dealing with issues as weighty as G-Witch is. But I hope people continue to find it, even if they didn’t get to have the week-to-week experience of it.
MADDY: I’m excited to try to see it again but without the week-to-week instead of the back-to-back. I wonder if it’ll be better in twos, threes, fours, all at once—which would be terrible, but we’ll see.
MEGAN: It is not a perfect Gundam, but it is a good Gundam. It is a very consistent Gundam. It is a very interesting Gundam. And because of that, I think it is generally one of the strongest of the AU Gundams in the entire franchise.
MADDY: I completely agree. As much as I will dig into it and dig into Okouchi as a writer and even though he’s improved a lot, honestly, this is in the top three for AU stuff, for sure. I mean, technically this is an AU but it can be but it is and it isn’t. Not everything is Turn A Gundam. But G-Witch is up there, and that made me stop. I was like, “Whoa! This continues to be pretty good.” Not that good, but extremely good and extremely enjoyable. I wasn’t not hooting and hollering and grinning at my screen for every episode of G-Witch for no reason. No, I had so much fun watching this.
MEGAN: Yeah, and it’s really going to be a landmark. I think it’s going to have a similar legacy to the likes of Wing or IBO as far as, like, this is a lot of people’s first Gundam, and some of them, at least, I think are gonna stick around.
VRAI: And prayer circle that because it’s on Crunchyroll it gets a slightly cheaper Blu-ray release than most of the Bandai Gundams. It won’t, but prayer circle.
MADDY: I’m pretty sure it’ll get a better Blu-ray release. Bandai tends to be pretty on top of that—or Nozomi, really, which is technically now Crunchyroll, but…
MADDY: Yeah, I think they would be foolish, considering how much they sell those sets for and how people buy them, how I buy them— I think it’d be foolish for them to not release it. I am not going to pay Japanese prices for the show. Knock on wood!
VRAI: Any last thoughts before we wrap this up besides “Gay”?
MEGAN: Gay gay homosexual gay.
VRAI: Love these funky little space lesbians. Very into it. Alright! Thank you to both of you for taking the time and being our Gundam experts. And thank you at home for joining us! Please, if there are— Because this series is so much, even taking an hour, there was definitely stuff we missed, so feel free to chime in in the comments with your own thoughts.
If you liked what you heard, you can find us on our website, animefeminist.com. If you really like what you heard, consider tossing us $1 a month on Patreon or Ko-fi @animefeminist. Those help us pay the bills! And Ko-fi [pronounced “Koh-fye”] in particular, Ko-fi [pronounced “coffee”]—I still don’t know—is helping us to raise funds to be able to pay our writers and editors more, because inflation keeps on going up and, you know, people need money to live.
That wraps us up for this time! Thank you so much, AniFam. And go be gay at someone today. I love that for you.