Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury Sings The Saddest Happy Birthday In 'A Gloomy Song'

This might be the single most action-packed episode of "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury" yet. I know that may seem absurd considering the feast that we have been given each week. But consider this week's bounty: Guel is abandoned by his family and goes camping in the woods! Earth House builds Suletta some cool rocket boosters out of scrap! Elan's powerful Gundam Pharact goes up against Suletta's Aerial in a space duel! These are the kinds of absurd, melodramatic events that certain folks pejoratively call "anime." "Witch of Mercury" proves that this kind of storytelling can also be fun and addictive, so long as the pacing is just fast enough, and the characters endearing enough, that you suspend your sense of disbelief for another week.

If this week's episode is a big wrapped gift, though, the gift has a bomb inside. This is the meanest and most depressing episode of "Witch From Mercury" to date, as well as the most entertaining. A major character (probably) dies. We learn the secrets of Peil Technologies, and just a hint of what might be powering Suletta's Aerial. Worst of all, the conspiratorial fan theories I linked in the addendum last week are one step closer to being confirmed. What does that mean for us? All in due time, my friends.

Elan's fate

Elan has a lot of ground to make up this week. After all, he took Suletta out on a date the last episode, beating Miorine to the punch. He swears on that date that he will take Suletta's beloved Aerial for himself. He even makes Suletta cry. It's enough to make anyone root for Elan's demise. So of course, this episode teaches the viewer why they should care about him, just as it did for Guel earlier in the series. We learn that he is one of many substitutes for the real Elan Ceres, who farms out doubles to pilot his family's robots for him. We learn that he only has one battle left in the tank before the Pharact begins to seriously affect his health. We learn that while his "mother," the scientist Belmeria Winston, supports him, the rest of Peil Technologies would gladly dispose of him the moment he ceases to be useful. He doesn't even have a proper birthday.

In the battle with Suletta, Elan shouts that she has everything he lacks: friends, family, a past, and a future. Suletta has a birthday, or at least knows people who would celebrate her birthday. Yet she has the temerity to sing "Happy Birthday" to somebody like him. The irony here is that Suletta's origins aren't that different from Elan's. She spent many years alone on Mercury with nobody her age to talk to. She lives her life as the tool of a woman with her own ambitions. The difference is that Suletta made friends at Asticassia just by being herself, rather than being given them by somebody else. She reaches that same hand out to Elan at the end of the episode, who learns that he himself is worthy of love.

Suletta's cruelty

Elan is right about one thing, though. His life is forfeit if he loses the battle. "Why can't you spare me this victory?" he asks Suletta. "Otherwise ... it's just too unfair!" At that moment, Suletta is having none of it. "It's absolutely wrong to say you have nothing, Elan!" she yells. But at the end of the episode, it is Suletta sitting on a bench outside in perfect ignorance, waiting in the sunlight for her friend Elan to appear. It is Elan who is strapped into a device that will blast him into ash and space dust. So long as the Benerit Group exists, ordinary people will continue to be sacrificed so that the powerful remain comfortable.

Suletta's naivete is both her greatest strength and weakness. She is sincere and single-minded at an institution where these qualities are rare. She inspires loyalty and love in Guel, Elan, and perhaps Miorine because she is so different from their peers. But while her opponents control the battlefield, rigging each environment in their favor, the battle itself will always belong to the Aerial. Those fated to lose to Suletta face consequences; Guel is disinherited and Elan is erased. Suletta herself is ignorant of these punishments even as she happily hands them out. She's similar to Utena, the heroine of "Revolutionary Girl Utena," in that way. "Utena" became a tragedy in which broken high schoolers threw themselves against Utena's sword to assert themselves, only to be destroyed. It remains to be seen if anybody can successfully defeat Suletta, or if she is condemned to ruin the lives of all of her friends.

Wind spirit

The robot duel was once again a highlight this week, with plenty of great moments for mecha lovers. We see Suletta's funnel drones transform into jet boosters, and even defend each other independently. We see the full force of the Gundam Pharact's stun devices deployed in three-dimensional space. I was happy to see the Aerial's psychedelic unveiling at the end of the episode, which I found reminiscent of the haunting imagery in director Hiroshi Kobayashi's earlier series "Kiznaiver." Even so, I have to ask: what does this mean for the Aerial and for Suletta? There's been a running fan theory that the Aerial has a person inside of it. That the Aerial manifested this week as a girl of light running through space would seemingly confirm this theory. Even worse, we know that the Aerial's funnel drones can operate independently. Could each of those funnels have a child inside? What is Mercury up to?

The most shocking moment this week came at the very beginning of the episode. Belmeria calls out Lady Prospera, Suletta's "mother," for pursuing a "21-year-old revenge." This timeline simply does not line up with what we witnessed in the prologue episode of the series, which depicted a young Erict Samaya alongside her mother Elnora. Before this point, I assumed that Erict had taken on the pseudonym Suletta to attend Asticassia. But Suletta is younger than 21 years old. Could the real Erict be inside the Aerial, and Suletta her clone? Could Lady Prospera herself be Erict? Are we dealing with clones all the way down? It could be that our friend Suletta does not have a birthday at all.

This week's addendum

Suletta's Other List: Suletta and Elan confess their love to each other, but Elan is summarily disposed of. Suletta's track record isn't looking great, here.

The Suletta and Miroine Power Hour: Miorine decides that she can tolerate "some minor two-timing" from Suletta because she is "an understanding bride." The legendary "Witch From Mercury" polycule ending grows closer by the day.

The Utena Corner: Other than Suletta's similarities with Utena discussed above, I like how the constantly changing dueling arenas mirror the shifting scenery in "Utena." Plus Guel loses his spot in the student council and must camp in the woods, just like Saionji.

The Robot Watch: The Gundam Pharact has little boosters that unfold when Elan is gunning for speed. A nice little detail.

Friends of Gundam: This piece of fan-art eradicates Elan even more thoroughly than Peil Technologies ever managed. I hope the fandom continues to thrive after Twitter goes under.

Wait a Minute: Wow, "Witch From Mercury" is great. I can't wait for...what do you mean that next week is a recap episode?!