Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury Review: Revolutionary Girl Suletta.

The Mobile Suit Gundam series is an anime well known for its war commentary, explosive fights, and traumatic deaths.
My first exposure to the series was Iron Blooded Orphans, which I highly enjoyed and definitely met the criteria I just laid out.
Initially, this appeared to be the same for the latest Gundam series, The Witch From Mercury, with the prologue having plenty of war commentary in regards to corporations, quite a few well-animated Gundam fights, and a tragic death that the series is so well known for.
Imagine my surprise when the first few episodes of Cour One for The Witch From Mercury set this anime up as something more akin to Revolutionary Girl Utena than a Gundam series. 

The Witch From Mercury starts off quite differently from other Gundam shows, making it unique.

Directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi and written by Ichirō Ōkouchi The story follows Suletta Mercury (Kana Ichinose), a socially awkward girl sent to the Asticassia School of Technology, along with her Gundam, Aerial.
After defending the honour of fellow student Miorine Rembran (Lynn), the daughter of Delling Rembran (Naoya Uchida), the head of the powerful Benereit Group, in a duel, Suletta unwittingly finds herself engaged to her and must protect this engagement through dueling her other suitors.
Sounds very similar to Revolutionary Girl Utena, right?

This is how I imagine some Gundam fans reacting to this show’s set-up being different.

Well, despite this, the anime is still very much a Gundam series, with plenty of dark moments scattered throughout the first cour.
As for the slice of life moments that dominate a lot of the episodes, they were very welcome, delivering a lot of great humor and also endearing the characters to the audience.
Suletta and Miorine are both fun and relatable characters with great romantic chemistry that is interesting to watch grow.
The other characters are just as fun, from the Earth House kids, like ChuChu (Miyu Tomita) and Nika (Yume Miyamoto), to those in power at the school, like the emotionless Elan (Natsuki Hanae), shady Shaddiq (Makoto Furukawa), and Miorine’s previous fiancee Gue (Yōhei Azakami).
Guel, in particular, was a surprise because he started off as such an unlikeable character and yet, by the end, he is one of the most sympathetic characters.

Poor Bob.

Speaking of the end, boy, does it get dark, showing that the next cour will probably be much more in line with the grim tone of other Gundam anime.
There are also many questions raised in this first half that I am interested to see answered, like just how the prologue relates to everything that is happening, what exactly is going on with Suletta, and how her incredibly suspicious mother, Lady Prospera (Mamiko Noto), ties into that.
This and the seemingly inevitable darker tone Cour Two will have has me very excited for it but also dreading it because it is all bound to be tragic.

The ending of Cour One does not bode well for the light-hearted tone seen in much of the anime, previously.

The first cour of The Witch From Mercury does a fantastic job of setting up its story, getting us attached to the characters and mysteries, while also providing plenty of excellently animated Gundam fights.
Prepare for Cour Two where our hearts will inevitably be crushed under a Gundam’s hand. 

Vinland Saga Anime Review: A Brutal, Viking Epic.

So, I’d been wanting to watch Vinland Saga for a long time but had a hard time finding it online.
Then, when I got Amazon Prime to watch the adaptation for Wheel of Time, I was delighted to see that the anime was there, so I could finally watch it.
And it did not disappoint.
Adapted from the manga by Makoto Yukimura, directed by Shūhei Yabuta, and developed by the great Wit Studio, Vinland Saga tells the tale of Thorfinn (Yūto Uemura), a young man from Iceland, looking to avenge the murder of his father, the former Jomsvikings warrior, Thors (Kenichiro Matsuda).

The first season of Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn’s journey to avenge his father.

However, this is not your typical revenge story because, while most stories of this nature would have the main character tracking down the antagonist to get their revenge, Thorfinn does not do this.
No, instead Vinland Saga goes in a completley different direction from any revenge story I have seen, with Thorfinn actually accompanying the man who killed his father, Askeladd (Naoya Uchida), in the hopes of dueling him to the death one day.
This makes none of our central characters good people, as they’re all the type to do the raiding and murdering commonly associated with the Vikings of history.
Speaking of that history, it’s interesting to note how many of these characters are interpretations of real people, with creative liberties taken.
The best example of this is Askeladd, who is based off a folk tale character, and is also by far the best character in the show.    

Askeladd is fascinating from the beginning of the season to the end.

He is whitty and charming, despite being an absolutley terrible person, and how his backstory is woven in and expanded upon is excellent, especially with how it ties into his actions at the beginning of the story.
Even the conclusion of his character for this season is amazing, making his overall character seem like both an antagonist and an anti-hero, while being neither at the same time.
Make no mistake, though, Askeladd still regularly commits atrocities, despite him being the best character in the show.
Thankfully, his horrific actions and those of the other characters are never glorified.

This leads to some pretty bleak episodes, like Episode 14, “The Light of Dawn.”

Episode 14 is a real gut punch, reminding us just how cruel our main characters can be.

I am going to remember many scenes from Vinland Saga, both the uplifting and the bleak, with many of the stories’ characters developing from these scenes, not just Thorfinn and Askeladd.
Most notably we have Canute (Kensho Ono) and Thorkell (Akio Ōtsuka), both historical figures who have great importance to the story, especially Canute, who goes on to serve as a fantastic parallel to Thorfinn in the manga.

Caunute is my favourite character of the season, next to Askeladd.

Speaking of the manga, the section that the anime adapts is actually a prologue to the true story of Vinland Saga, with the final episode literally being titled “End of the Prologue.”
The manga then goes in a direction that I honestly was not expecting, yet still quite enjoyed.
I do perfer the story telling of the first season, though, primarily because of Askeladd’s excellent development as a character.
The entire story of Season One is also aided with some fantastic animation and music from Wit Studio and composer Yutaka Yamada, tying everything together into an excellent adaptation of the manga.
Vinland Saga is an amazing anime, and I will soon be reviewing the manga and then Season Two, whenever that releases.