The mobile suit Lfrith employs the GUND Format, an advanced system that connects pilots intimately to their MS units such that the duos operate more closely as one than in any other type of technology. However, use of the system comes at a cost: if they push themselves too hard, pilots can become disabled or even forfeit their lives. Yet, in an attempt to make progress toward peace, a group of Earthians are pushing the boundaries as quickly as they safely can, including Elnora, a talented pilot with a mechanical arm that employs similar GUND technology. She’s joined by her husband, Nadim, also a researcher and pilot, and their young daughter, Eri, aboard the development center in space. However, their deadline for completion, already too close for comfort, has been rushed even nearer by the Mobile Suit Development Council, and particularly by a dangerous ex-military man named Delling, who announces that the council will be shutting down the program and keeping these Gundam (GUND-ARM) units from being mass-produced. But as his announcement goes out to the universe, the council is using violent means to close the doors on the program forever, with Elnora, Eri, and the rest caught in the vicious assault.
Aside from watching some of Iron-Blooded Orphans, Turn A Gundam, and the original MS Gundam series, I have little experience with the franchise, which seems to be a perfectly fine starting point for The Witch from Mercury. “New” is the word to use here, as in a new universe (AD Stella) and a new type of hero, a female lead for the first time. There’s been plenty of chatter online for the show, too, which must certainly be in part because of Ichiro Okouchi’s (Code Geass) return to the franchise as writer. And the writing in the first episode is sharp indeed, as the prologue episode nicely introduces the heart of the show: a group of scientists and others who are trying to do good, particularly the heroine, Eri, who is just four years old in this episode. We get a sense of their heroism, optimism, and integrity as they fight to keep their work alive, and themselves too. The villains are also introduced, and are marred by a deep desire for control, as well as political ineptitude, if not quite outright corruption (at least not yet). Delling also holds the belief that weapons are made only for killing, even though the Gundams in this series seem (in more ways than one) to be developed to preserve life instead. The prologue’s storyline sets the foundation for the series proper, explaining the events that will create the context that Eri is living in and presumably fighting against. All this is accompanied by exciting fights, well-animated action, and, as Okouchi is known for, some gut-wrenching scenes, particularly one in which Eri is being used desperately in a very non-childlike way. I’m only occasionally an Okouchi fan, and I don’t necessarily have faith that the end of the series will be as good as the opening, but there’s no doubt that the prologue is excellent, and he and the rest of the staff have earned our attention, even in a season where there’s so much to divert it.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is streaming on Crunchyroll.