"Delling is going to die." So begins the end of the first half of "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury." Every piece placed on the board in earlier episodes is making its move. Guel's dad Vim Jeturk wants Delling dead. Sarius Zenelli of Grassley Defense Systems hedges his bets. Shaddiq maneuvers to take control of the situation on his own. A new boy wearing Elan's face tries once more to seize the Aerial for Peil Technologies. Delling himself travels to Planet Quetta, where he meets with Lady Prospera. Her own plans are, as usual, a mystery.

The success of any one of these plots and counter-plots could change the future of the powerful Benerit Group. Whether this is simply another skirmish in a long battle for control of the solar system's economy, or the moment that the Benerit Group collapses into a civil war between dueling companies, is besides the point. This is a battle fought outside the dueling arena. Shaddiq goes as far as to say that "duels won't determine the next president." Suletta might be the talk of Asticassia School of Technology, but her power only extends to what Sarius calls "the dueling game." The real battle is now being fought in the stars, by forces that long-isolated Suletta has yet to understand. Even a skilled robot duelist like Guel Jeturk, reduced to a simple worker by his father, is now no more than a pawn in that greater game.

Another School

In the addendum to last week's write-up, I wrote that I was excited to learn more about Nika. I got my wish this week, as we learned exactly what she has to offer a boy like Shaddiq Zenelli: connections to the Dawn of Fold, an Earthian terrorist cell. The Earth we see in this episode is a post-apocalyptic landscape of overgrown buildings and wandering deer. Leader Naji practices subsistence farming, while foot soldiers Sophie and Norea watch the silly GUND-ARM, Inc. promotional video on their phones. "They're making a joke of it," Sophie says.

Dawn of Fold works out of a high school, but a very different one than Asticassia. The walls are crumbling or gone, glass litters the ground, and the technology is far behind what we've seen in space. Even so, this is a lived-in space rather than a wholly desolate one. Sophie's filled her bed with stuffed animals, and Norea passes the time sketching in a notebook. There are plenty of people wandering around outside, and even (not especially animated) children. There's the internet. The effective background art and use of lighting makes for one of the more visually stunning sequences we've seen recently in "Witch From Mercury." We don't know yet where the series will fall on Dawn of Fold, whether they are portrayed as villainous terrorists or something more nuanced. But the care the series takes in depicting their circumstances, and their lives outside of work, makes me hope that they are treated as people rather than dramatic devices. Considering the gulf between their surroundings and Asticassia's riches, they have good reason to be angry.

The Agony Of Suletta

The title of this episode, "Circling Thoughts," clues the viewer into Suletta's recent struggles. On one hand, everything is going well for her on the surface. She makes her friends at Earth House laugh with a bad joke, crossing a bullet point off her special list. Miorine trusts her enough to give her access to the greenhouse during her two-month absence from Asticassia. Meanwhile, the GUND-ARM, Inc. prosthetic testing is going well. The sequence where Suletta tests a pair of big robot legs by piloting them around an obstacle course is another highlight of this episode. Belmeria (another character I wanted to see more of last week, natch) admits that her current work with GUND-ARM, Inc. is what she's always wanted to do. Everything is coming up Suletta.

Or is it? This week sees the introduction of another student wearing the face of Elan Ceres. This Elan is unfortunately closer to the cruel original than the one that briefly befriended Suletta early in the series. He plays on Suletta's connection with his predecessor, and her fears that Miorine might one day abandon her, to try and stake his claim on her. Suletta resists, but is clearly rattled. This scene wouldn't be out of place in "Revolutionary Girl Utena," with its cynical depiction of sexual politics. Frankly speaking, we're creeping closer to the nuttiness of earlier Okouchi scripts like "Code Geass" and "Valvrave the Liberator," which might either delight or terrify you depending on your preferences. I'm leaning more towards Kim Morrisey's stance that the show's melodrama is working for me for now, with exceptions.

Miorine's Thoughts

For me, that exception is Miorine. In the two months she spends away from Suletta, she becomes wholly absorbed in her work. She buys her own ship, pays workers to take care of her garden rather than Suletta, and even requests that Suletta date Elan to strengthen the ties between GUND-ARM, Inc. and Peil Technologies. It's a sudden turn that agonizes Suletta, who wants more than anything to give Miorine matching cellphone straps and cross another goal off her list. Personally speaking, I can't help but wonder if this sudden turn is too convenient. The previous episode saw Miorine terminate her connection with Shaddiq in favor of trusting Suletta's abilities. Reversing momentum so abruptly to drive a wedge between the two fits with the brute force plotting of "Witch From Mercury," but doesn't feel wholly organic.

In other ways, though, it's a reminder that Miorine herself has a long way to go. As this Tweet suggests, Miorine still has plenty in common with her father even as she tries to escape his shadow. She was born and raised in a world where her peers are all rivals or future employees. Miorine might take her fellow students in Earth House seriously, and she might trust Suletta to care for her personal affairs. But she may never be like Suletta herself, who was raised since birth to treat even robots as personal friends and allies. Despite their experiences together over the past ten episodes, Suletta and Miorine remain on opposite sides of an ongoing battle. A battle that, as of this episode, may very well escalate into full-scale war. As nervous as I might be about harm coming to Suletta and her friends, I'm excited to see what comes next.

This Week's Addendum

Suletta's List: Suletta makes a joke, and Chuchu laughs so hard that she coughs in the process. Suletta isn't so successful in giving Miorine a matching cellphone strap, though. Is Nika jealous here that the cellphone strap isn't for her?

The Suletta and Miorine Power Hour: RIP.

The Guel Report: This week, Guel is taken hostage by Earthian terrorists. Whoops! I can't figure out whether Shaddiq took this action knowing that a child of Vim Jeturk is on board, or if Guel's presence was a coincidence. Either way, if Vim decides to expend Guel's life as a bargaining chip rather than fight for his safety, I wouldn't be surprised.

The Callback Corner: The folks who Miorine paid to smuggle her away from Asticassia in the second episode reappear as the pilots of her new spaceship. We also learn that they are representatives of the Space Assembly League, yet another faction to worry about in this show.

The Robot Watch: We're introduced this week to the big and bulky robots appearing behind Delling in the opening for the very first time. Their glowing green eyes and headpieces look oddly similar to the Aerial's.

Translators of Gundam: How do you translate "Suletta…wasureta?" You get creative.

Friends of Gundam: I made an appearance this week on the podcast Giant Robot FM, which has been covering "Witch From Mercury" on their Patreon feed! Other guests include Russel Latshaw, thaliarchus and even Waypoint's Renata Price. Go check out their coverage of the first episode and the prologue, which are available to the public. Anyway, since Twitter isn't dead yet, here's some fan art.

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