'What They Wish For' In Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury Is Violence

The storm has come to "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury." Dawn of Fold terrorists Sophie and Norea broke into the Rumble Ring, killing one student and badly injuring Guel's half-brother Lauda Neill. Shaddiq kidnapped his adopted guardian during the chaos, and now is a step closer to ruling the Benerit Group. Nika nearly confessed her guilt, but is now being hunted by security forces. Chuchu and her other Earth House friends grappled with PTSD after the attack on Plant Quetta. Elan confessed that Norea reminds him of his earlier face (who was seemingly killed in episode 6.) Sophie pushed herself to the limit in order to defeat Suletta, only to die after realizing what Lady Prospera finally confesses in this episode: that the Aerial contains the body or spirit of Prospera's daughter Ericht Samaya. It's all part of Quiet Zero, a plan begun by Miorine's mother Notrette to end war by controlling machines remotely through Permet links.

It's remarkable just how much plot is packed into this episode. Any one of these twists and turns could have been the focus of just one episode from the first season. Instead, all of them are deployed here to beat the viewer into submission. It doesn't matter if the viewer might have predicted these twists in advance. Viewers have guessed for many episodes now that Ericht is inside the Aerial. The series left plenty of hints, actively courting audience speculation. The big reveal is satisfying exactly because the audience already knows the truth. The surprise is that the staff of "Witch From Mercury" chose to reveal this now, rather than earlier or later. Knowing when and how to let the viewer in on a secret is how the series maintains its sense of speed.

Post traumatic stress disorder

Violence is a recurring theme in "What They Wish For." Sophie and Norea are both infuriated by the cynicism of Asticassia School of Technology, which builds its technological wonders on the backs of oppressed Earthians. (It should be said that occupation is a recurring theme in scriptwriter Ichiro Okouchi's work, although the occupied countries are versions of Japan more often than not.) Norea coldly observes her surroundings, treating corporate heirs like Elan with disdain. But Sophie is direct by nature. During the attack on the Rumble Ring, she tells Suletta that she wants games, comics and a family to call her own. She is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve these things, even if it means killing other people. Suletta is disgusted by this, but in reality, Asticassia's duels aren't so different. They're simply a formalized way for those with power (and giant robots) to take what they want.

The other students at Asticassia are processing this reality in their own way, too. Lillique breaks again in this episode after witnessing the death of a student in the Rumble Ring, following her experiences at Plant Quetta. Nika is driven by guilt to confess her crimes to the Benerit Group, only to be stopped by Shaddiq's forces at the last minute. Even Chuchu, who we know is tough by nature, experiences a moment of fear during the battle. Aiming her gun at an enemy robot, she realizes for an instant that what they are doing is simulated killing. Later, she comes to the brink of murder herself, only to prioritize protecting a wounded Lauda Neill from Sophie and Norea's drones. Her first instinct is to save lives, not take them.

True power

Suletta's relationship with the Aerial lets her share the burden of violence, offloading the weight of killing onto her sister Ericht. She alone evades the curse of Gundam that breaks even a headstrong pilot like Sophie. That is the true power of the Aerial, rather than the strength of its weapons. "Revolutionary Girl Utena" does something similar with its heroine. Utena is a powerful duelist not because of her physical skills, but because she has been chosen. The students of Ohtori Academy challenge her in the hopes that they can take that power for themselves, only to be defeated again and again despite their best efforts.  Utena's purity (as well as her youth) allows villains like Akio Ohtori to manipulate her as needed. Similarly, Lady Prospera uses Suletta as a tool to achieve her ambitions. In a way, it is Suletta that is the machine, while Aerial (and Ericht inside of her) is the pilot and Prospera's real daughter.

It's not quite as simple as that, though, because Suletta isn't heartless. While Prospera talks her into murdering a terrorist in the 12th episode, she can't help but wonder in the 13th if there was another way. She realizes in the 14th episode that both she and Sophie have hurt others to achieve her goals, although Suletta insists that she would only do so in order to protect her friends. Norea claims after Sophie's death that because Sophie died by her own actions, Suletta managed to avoid responsibility. But Suletta still cries in the cockpit of the Aerial, even after Ericht's voice insists that there was no other way. Some part of her realizes that she bears responsibility for others, even if the forces that control her life repeatedly absolve her of that responsibility.

Those who are chosen

Suletta has always loved school. Asticassia unites students in pursuit of knowledge and teaches them how to build a community with each other. Few others see Asticassia in this way. To folks like Guel and Shaddiq, the school is a means of consolidating power. To Miorine, it's a prison. But as a child on Mercury, Suletta lived without any children her age. "The child dreamed of going to school," Lady Prospera said to Miorine at the start of the episode. Asticassia represented the best opportunity for Suletta to pursue her dreams. It also meant accomplishing Lady Prospera's goals as well, but those were the terms of the deal.

We learn in this episode that Nika's feelings are very similar to Suletta's. As an orphan, she grew up unchosen and unloved. Dawn of Fold gave her an opportunity to make something of herself. At Earth House, she found a close-knit community of friends for the first time in her life. But nobody attends Asticassia for free. Just as Suletta has trained the Aerial over the course of the series, Nika has served as a double agent for Shaddiq. Nika says to Suletta that she thought they were the same, but was mistaken. But I think that Nika is incorrect. At the end of the day, she and Suletta are scared of being alone, of being unchosen. School gives the two of them something that violence cannot, even if that school is rotted by corporate power. I think that is the path to a happy ending here. But then, we're at the very top of the rollercoaster. Who knows what will happen before we hit bottom?

This week's addendum

Suletta's Other List: Elan keeps trying to take Suletta out on a date, but Sophie and Norea continue to interfere. Sophie tries to adopt Suletta into her family but cannot measure up to the power of the Aerial.

The Suletta and Miroine Power Hour: Miorine spent this episode conversing with her mother-in-law. I'm curious to see how this relationship plays out, although I'm frustrated that Miorine remains sidelined from Asticassia at this point.

The Robot Watch: This episode we meet many drones utilized by Sophie and Norea as Aerial-style funnel technology. I don't know how I feel about them: they feel distinctly "wrong" compared to the other robots we've met, but they also have less personality (on purpose?) than the likes of the Demi-Trainer and similar robots. It's funny that a series cribbing from "Neon Genesis Evangelion" has now found an in-universe substitute for dummy plugs, though. I wonder how much more "mad science" GUND technology we'll see by the end of the series?

Earth House Watch: They offer goat milk in this episode. Perfect, no notes.

Where is Guel: Where is he?

Friends of Gundam: "Giant Robot FM" released an episode of their "Radio Free Mercury" subseries covering the first episode of the second season of "Witch From Mercury" for free. Check it out! Also, have some more Gundam fan art.