Crunchyroll, which has long underpaid its employees, has currently declared its intent to recast the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 rather than even consider meeting with SAG-AFTRA representatives to discuss unionizing their dubs—this would help actors gain access to things like health insurance, and help make up for lack of residuals. People continue to pressure Crunchyroll to change their stance on social media; we encourage readers who are able to take part.
Content warning: Gun violence, mass death, blood
What’s it about? Suletta Mercury’s first day at the Asticassia School of Technology is an eventful one: she rescues a girl floating in space, who immediately chews her out for doing so, and then she ends up in a giant robot fight with the school’s biggest blowhard to defend that same girl’s honor. What kind of school solves all its problems through dueling, anyway?
Do you want to see Revolutionary Girl Utena with a mecha hat?
I am not joking. Nobody you’ve heard this from is joking. The premiere of Witch of Mercury echoes the beloved shoujo masterpiece not just in premise but down to character details and even a few direct shots. The main difference is that Suletta is painfully anxious and an instant target for the cruelest students around her, and mystery girl Miorine is free to be openly contemptuous of the students trying to use her as a stepping stone to political clout. Considering that series composer Okouchi Ichiro not only wrote two Utena light novels but also served as composer for both DEVILMAN crybaby and Princess Principal, I’m even semi-confident it’ll follow through on being queer.
If that alone isn’t enough to sell you, give me a minute. Apparently ten minutes of mumbling “holy shit” to myself wasn’t quite enough.
I’m not a Gundam expert. Despite absorbing a bit about the mainline Universal Century titles through my partner’s nostalgic love of Gundam Wing and sometimes–contributor Megan’s love of the franchise, and despite my enduring fascination with Okada Mari, the only title I’ve managed to sit through was Gundam 00, a poignant 25-episode tragedy that then felt compelled to continue for another 25 episodes (I hear there was a movie, but not even walking ball of gender feels Tieria Erde could keep me on board by that point). This experience does not, as I gather, give me much on what most Gundam fans are into, .
What I do know is that Gundam has a notoriously terrible track record vis-a-vis women, something I can certainly attest to from Gundam “every woman who pilots does so because she’s somehow broken” Double-Oh. This is the first time in the franchise’s 43-year history that it’s had a female pilot protagonist, a fact that has a hollow “better late than never” quality to it and leaves my inner cynic all the more surprised that the series looks as breathtaking as it does thus far.
To be fair, it’s not just Suletta in the lead. This first episode features a lot of prominent women among the students and staff of the academy. The episode 0 prologue has even more, informing us that Suletta’s mother was a pilot herself, that her brilliant scientific mentor was a woman, and so were a good chunk of the crew on the ship where she was born. The character designs also have a nice range of ethnicities, ages, and to a lesser degree body types, and they’ve all been outfitted with the traditional Extremely Stupid Wordsalad Names. It speaks to a degree of thoughtfulness beyond slapping a single girl (with or without flotation devices for safety) into a pilot chair and calling it a day with a congratulatory back-pat.
Speaking of that prologue, you don’t strictly need it to have seen it if you just want to jump into the first episode. The characters are all introduced as new, and the action is cohesive on its own feet. Probably the most important things to know are that in this continuity Gundams originated from assistive medical technology before being bought out for military use, and that Miorine’s politician father ordered an attack on Suletta’s home as part of his rise to power. Those two tidbits are bursting with narrative and thematic potential, and I’m hopeful that future episodes will include discussion around assistive devices and disability as naturally as Miorine normalizes queer romance at episode’s end.
With themes this potent there’s always a chance of dropping the ball, and I’m both excited and slightly nervous to think about this series running for a franchise-traditional 50 episodes. The original Utena was only 39, after all. Although truthfully, as fun as this premiere was, it’ll be good for the show to branch outward from that shared starting space. Unlike Utena’s allegorical dreamscape, where part of the horror is an endless cycle of growthless existence, the stakes of Witch from Mercury’s world are immediate and very high indeed. They bleed, die, and face the looming threat of war; schoolyard duels are going to seem small fairly quickly. Whatever it decides to do, I’m on board. In a thus far unwaveringly impressive season, this gem is already fixing to be the crown jewel.