This article contains spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury in its discussion of Lady Prospera and anime mothers.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a time when children pay respects and give thanks to the mothers that raised them. While there are plenty of famous mothers in the world of film and television, there aren’t really that many amazing moms in the world of anime. With some notable exceptions, I think there are four types of mothers that usually appear in anime, most of which feel slightly underdeveloped.
You have moms that are more background characters, mostly serving to cheer on our protagonist or offer some sage motherly advice every so often, like Delia Ketchum from Pokémon and Inko Midoriya from My Hero Academia. Then you have the dead mothers who serve to motivate our protagonists, like Trisha Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist and Kyoko Honda from Fruits Basket. There are also the badass moms that are more known for their action heroics and everything else besides being a mom, most typified by Dragon Ball Z’s Android 18. Finally, you have the moms that are defined by motherhood, but that element is only a single facet of their character.
While most anime moms tend to be a mix of the first three categories, like how you can define Kushina Uzumaki as basically all three, the moms that are not defined solely by motherhood have me the most curious. The best moms in anime are the ones that feel like fully developed characters that just so happen to be mothers. Usually, motherhood does play a significant role in how they are perceived, but they have clear dreams and aspirations that go beyond supporting their children. Hana from Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children springs to mind, as does Oshi no Ko’s Ai Hoshino. However, those mothers are the exception rather than the rule.
May I then present to you a mother who is a fully developed character who goes beyond just being a mother, cares deeply for her child, and is inside of a series that is one of the most popular shows airing right now? And it’s a tragedy when I say that she will not receive any love or attention on Mother’s Day, not even from her own daughters. Ladies and gentlemen, this Mother’s Day, we should toast Lady Prospera from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, a true mother of the year if I’ve ever seen one.
Now I know what you may be thinking: “Isn’t she a reprehensible woman who is clearly in the wrong and has committed unspeakable crimes that are too mortifying to explain? Isn’t the show presenting her as the ultimate antagonist, one worse than the military-industrial complex that is stoking aggression and civil wars throughout the galaxy? Wouldn’t she be seated at the table of all-time worst anime parents like Fullmetal Alchemist’s Shou Tucker, Made in Abyss’s Bondrewd, and Evangelion’s Gendo Ikari?” Yes, yes, and yes. All of that is true. She is indeed a heinous monster, and yet she is a mother who cares deeply for her child and is almost single-handedly elevating The Witch from Mercury into one of the best shows of the spring season.
Lady Prospera is known in the Gundam franchise as a “Char Clone,” based on the antagonist of the first Gundam series, Mobile Suit Gundam. Char was a highly charismatic primary antagonist in that series. He was also defined by his mask, which allowed him to keep his identity a secret while fulfilling his hidden agenda and manipulate others as necessary in order to eventually emerge as one of the main antagonists in a later Gundam series. At this point, it would have been a shock if there weren’t some kind of a Char stand-in during Witch from Mercury’s run, so seeing any character that even vaguely resembles Char or dons a mask is an immediate red flag for longtime fans.
So she’s an obvious antagonist, but then throughout the series, she’s shown as being nothing but supportive of her daughter Suletta Mercury and her dreams of attending school. On the surface, Prospera is a mother who seems to want what’s best for her daughter. She offers up motherly advice, always listens to her daughter’s problems, and does what she can to have Suletta enjoy her life at Asticassia School of Technology. For the first half of the series, we see that life in school is everything that Suletta wanted it to be. She makes friends, tells her mom about them, and is developing a deep relationship with a girl named Miorine Rembran. And all the while, Prospera is happy for her daughter.
And that’s where the story would theoretically end if we were basing things off of the first season that aired in fall 2022. The series was a light-hearted spin on Gundam that was mixed in with elements of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The tone was admittedly lighter, something that seemed to be intentional when the show began so that the ultimate shift toward darker and more serious topics would be all the more notable. This is Mobile Suit Gundam after all. It wouldn’t be a proper series of the show if some war crimes weren’t introduced. And Lady Prospera Mercury spurs most of the most significant crimes against humanity.
Lady Prospera may love Suletta, (The jury is still out on that.) but even if she truly does, her love is superseded by her desire for vengeance against the Rembrans and what they did to her. Miorine’s father, Delling Rembran, was responsible for the execution of all of Prospera’s colleagues for developing a Gundam that syncs with their hosts, which also included the death of her husband. Since then, her desire for vengeance has grown to an absurd degree, going so far as to basically turn her daughter into a doting pawn, and her other daughter was experimented on to the point where she no longer has a physical body and is only a mind inside of the Gundam that Suletta pilots.
Prospera is a vile monster, but you can’t deny her motivation. The prologue goes to great lengths to establish just how monstrous Delling Rembran and the conglomerate of businesses he leads are, as they function as a corporatocracy that persecutes anything he deems as dangerous and engages in warfare to preserve his business interests. To that end, Lady Prospera uses Suletta as a tool to further her goals. Prospera planted the desire to go to school in Suletta’s head and has gaslit Suletta to such a degree that she’ll basically do whatever her mother says. It’s to the point that Suletta openly murders someone in cold blood and is fine with it because her mom said it was a good thing. It’s chilling to witness, and you can’t tell if Prospera’s affirmations to her daughter are genuine or not as long Suletta is still doing what Prospera needs.
It’s Prospera’s machinations that make Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury so entertaining week after week. She’s the grand manipulator of all of the events in the plot, and people either have no idea that she’s behind all of the suffering or they’re fully aware but are complicit in it for one reason or another. Every time she pops up on screen, you feel a chill go down your spine as you wonder what she has up her sleeve. The same was true for Shou Tucker, Bondrewd, Gendo Ikari, and all of the other villainous anime parents.
Like it or not, people will remember a good villain, especially one that commits atrocities towards their children. There is no denying that Prospera has done this. She turned one of her daughters into a Gundam to further her revenge and allowed her other daughter to be emotionally, psychologically, and physically destroyed in the most recent episode to help ensure her revenge on Delling can be fulfilled. But there’s such a theatricality towards it all that I can’t help but be impressed by it. She fully commits to the depravity of her actions while putting a pleasant smile on her face and assuring Suletta that mother knows best. You want her to be taken down so that she can receive karmic justice for the crimes she committed, but that would also mean that we have less time to hear her Shakespearean villain speeches.
So this Mother’s Day, if you’re spending time with your mother, take a moment to remember that there’s a mother who probably (and rightfully) won’t be receiving any love from her daughters this year. Prospera Mercury is a mother who has entertained many through her speeches on the injustice of the military-industrial complex and is working tirelessly to create a world without war. And she is getting no love from her daughters! To make up for it, you should declare a toast for Lady Prospera, anime’s mother of the year!