Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury creator Bandai Namco Filmworks is now under scrutiny for possibly erasing queer representation in the popular anime.
The Witch from Mercury is a mecha anime that follows a Gundam pilot named Suletta Mercury who attends an ultra-elite military school for mecha pilots and mechanics. In the early episodes of the show, she defeats one of her classmates in a fight and wins the hand of a girl named Miorine Rembran in marriage. The show follows the two as Suletta fights to keep Miorine’s hand in marriage and navigates the internal politics of the school.
Since its release in 2022, fans have heralded The Witch from Mercury as a new touchstone in LGBTQ+ anime. The anime’s popularity led to widespread acclaim and has broken records for a Gundam franchise. To many fans, the show clearly depicted a sapphic love story, but a new statement from showrunners has called the queer representation into question. According to a statement from Bandai Namco Filmworks, the relationship shared between Suletta and Miorine has an “interpretation up to the perspective of each individual viewer,” according to Holy Mother of Yuri. Now, fans are calling bullshit online.
The scrutiny started when the September 2023 issue of Gundam Ace published an interview with the Japanese voice actors for Suletta and Miorine, Kana Ichinose and Lynn (who just goes publically by Lynn). In the original print version of the interview, Ichinose mentioned that Suletta and Miorine are married when discussing an epilogue scene shared between the two. However, as a Gundam fan translator pointed out, the quote was edited to remove the mention of the marriage in the digital version of the article.
The change was confirmed by Bandai Namco Filmworks when the studio issued an apology for the interview. According to a translation of the Bandai Namco Filmworks statement from Holy Mother of Yuri, a site dedicated to the study of girls’ love manga, Bandai Namco Filmworks attributed the discrepancy to editor speculation.
In the article, there was a statement based on the speculation of the Gundam Ace editor, and despite requesting revisions during proofreading, the corrections to the passage were not reflected in the July 26 release.
This statement shocked fans, as it appeared to walk back what fans see as a clear romance shared between two girls. Girls’ love manga and anime don’t always depict explicitly romantic relationships between women and girls, and certain stories can just be about two women or girls who are close friends. However, the storyline of Witch from Mercury appears to explicitly depict a love story shared between two female characters. Miorine calls Suletta her fiancée, and the two remain engaged for several episodes. They wear matching wedding bands on their left-hand ring fingers in a time skip, and Suletta’s sister calls Miorine her sister-in-law.
Polygon reached out to Bandai Namco and the show distributor Crunchyroll for comment. We did not hear back from Bandai Namco, and Crunchyroll said a representative would circle back someone from the company would be available to comment.
As a viewer, the statement elicits mixed emotions for me. On one hand, it is very obvious that the two are romantically involved, and no corporate press release can change that. On the other hand, it’s yet another example of queer representation being relegated to fans’ “interpretation.” Canon interpretations confirmed by creators don’t define a piece of media or its legacy with fans, but it does take the glimmer off of what appeared to be an unabashedly queer show.