This Week in Anime
Crackin' the Shell of Wonder Egg Priority

by Monique Thomas & Steve Jones,

Easily one of the most dense anime series airing this season, Wonder Egg Priority examines the thorny world inhabited by teen girls, their insecurities and traumas, and the desperate bid to save them all. The series has been so far been compared to the works by Revolutionary Girl Utena director Kunihiko Ikuhara. It presents big ideas but can it stick the landing?

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
Nicky, I think we both know what time it is. It's egg time.
Nicky

Wonder Egg, That is.
Horimiya is sure to be here in the near future, but right now, it's time to talk about the show that's been ruining my Tuesdays for the past six weeks. Ruining in a good way, but ruining nonetheless.
It's definitely been one of the most tense week-to-week watching of an anime I've had in a while. So let's go ahead and crack these babies open!
This is Wonder Egg Priority.
And like, to get this out of the way, this darn egg show is far and away my favorite thing airing this season, and maybe the most artsy-fartsy "me" thing to air in quite a long time. Writing up episode reviews each week has been really fun and rewarding! But gosh is there a lot going on here, and trying to collate it all in my head always leaves me feeling—for lack of a better word—scrambled.
I've seen it compared to "watching someone juggle flaming chainsaws" and that's a pretty adept description of watching it every week. It's a fantastic and strange spectacle, one that could either end beautiful or mortifying, yet is mesmerizing regardless.
Yeah another fun exercise has been coming up with a new metaphor each week for how thin a tightrope it's walking on (hey, there's another one!). It's dealing with a lot of really sensitive and/or triggering issues, and there's no telling if or when it might fumble one of them completely. Or maybe it already has! And I don't believe that's necessarily a bad place for a show to operate in. It's thrilling in its own way, and it's certainly not lacking ambition. But damn, if this explodes, it's gonna be visible from orbit.

And I suppose some of that danger is inescapable when the main thrust of the narrative revolves around girls who committed suicide. Not exactly a light and friendly premise.

It's definitely treading some dangerous waters and it's not a show that holds back despite it's laid-back, cute, and whimsical styling. We first start with Ai wandering the streets in the dark by her lonesome. She finds a dead bug and gives it a burial, but the bug springs up back to life and leads her down an Alice-like rabbit hole that'll grant her "the thing that she wants".

And of course the "thing" refers to an egg! Because who doesn't want an egg? They're delicious and nutritious, and you can prepare them in so many different ways.

Biting directly into the shell wouldn't be my recommendation tho. Jokes aside, I do like that WEP doesn't waste any time getting surreal and immediately throws weird stuff at the audience like talking bugs and magic eggs and nightmare high schools.
I was just surprised the first episode wasn't just a repeat of a CERTAIN episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena (that may or may not be about menstruation).
Nanami will always be the #1 Egg Girl in my heart.
But yeah, from the get-go the line between the dreams and reality are immediately blurred as Ai is transported into her dreams trying to save a girl hatched from her egg and running from lil' guys that remind me of the Censors from Psychonauts.

But within that it just hits you with a face-full of commentary as well.
Egg is many things, but subtle is not one of them. And appropriately, the premiere also leans into graphic violence to make its points about the dangers of this dream world and the severity of the trauma the series is going to be dealing with.

Because this whole system revolves around our heroes "hatching" the spirit of a girl who killed herself, and then fighting the metaphysical manifestation of her trauma with their dream weapons, magical girl style. If that sounds more than a little messed up, that's because it is!
Even though it's a dream, and most things aren't going to kill you immediately, the stakes always feel pretty damn real. Besides, there's also something about it that's "too good to be true". Being sold something for free at first is usually just a tactic to getting you hooked on things such as drugs, or gambling (like the gacha machine the eggs come from). And anyone who's played games on their phone can tell you the dangers of that.
From the get-go, WEP expects the audience to distrust the surface of this whole egg thing. Look no further than the creepy guys who apparently are in charge of it.
Their names are Acca (right) and Ura-Acca (Left) which basically translates to "Main (SNS) Account" and "Alt (as in personal) Account".
Great character designs, but I would not trust these mannequins any farther than I could throw them.
It's a great pun on how someone isn't exactly how they seem as they're both just different faces of the same person alternating with each other, even if they argue.
Yeah, they especially play up the whole "good cop/bad cop" dynamic in later episodes, where they straight-up start laughing about manipulating the girls into buying more eggs. I mean, they sure know how to run a gacha game, but that ain't a good thing for the players.

Also, their scheme is a fair bit more insidious than your garden variety gacha. Instead of promising an SSR, they're promising a reunion with a deceased loved one.
Saving sad girls that killed themselves is just the path to saving Ai's very own sad girl, her former (only) best friend Koito.

Ai feels partially responsible for her death because she knew she was being bullied and was too weak to do anything about it. She's dealing with a lot of heavy stuff her child-mind can't comprehend, like just why her friend would decide to make like an egg and go "splat" instead of relying on her, and it's one of those mysteries that immediately makes the show so engaging.

We watch Ai as we question whether she would really be able to bring her friend back or if she could somehow find something resembling the closure to move on. Ai hasn't gone to school since the incident. She was bullied before, and her school counselor and her mom are shown to be very concerned about her in her turtled-up emotional state.
And FURTHER complicating matters, said counselor Mr. Sawaki was also at the very least adjacent, if not involved, with whatever made Koito kill herself.

Also he's gonna be dating her mom now. Ai has a lot going on.
Yeah, these are all really difficult issues on their own while also being smack-dab in the middle of puberty. Ai feels like she has nowhere to go other than her dreams. Her friend that supported her is gone, and she doesn't want to worry her mom. Previously, Koito was harassed because the other students thought she has some sort of "relationship" with Sawaki. The show implicates him as a possible villain in all this but there's too little to know from Ai's lone perspective.
This is definitely one of the thorniest parts of this show's briar patch, and due in large part to us being in the middle of this plot development. I mean, this week's episode ended on a big note that had Ai affirming to Sawaki that she'd be going back school, in a scene that was intentionally framed to misdirect the audience into expecting a love confession. Like, wow, that's either extremely shitty or brilliant, and not knowing the follow-up, I don't know which yet!

It also doesn't help that WEP is EXTREMELY aware that we as an audience expect Sawaki to be bad news from context alone. Rika goes as far as detailing the worst possibilities in lurid details. I don't think this is complete misdirection, because Sawaki's vibes are still rancid, but I'm definitely curious what his role in this narrative is.

I also just do not trust the way this guy wears a bolo tie.
And with good reason, as one of the "game mechanics" is the "Wonder Killers", the enemy of the egg-girls and the major source of their trauma. They're mainly represented by caricatures of TERRIBLE ADULTS. From abusive gym coaches to train perverts, they certainly run the gamut of showing how awful adults can be.
As an ardent fan of Kunihiko Ikuhara's works, I'm certainly no stranger to the "Adults Suck" school of thematic development, but it is plastered alllll over Wonder Egg. And not just relegated to the cartoonishly monstrous Wonder Killers either. Even the girls' normal conversations are layered with stuff like this.
Oh yeah, there are other girls buying eggs to bring back THEIR very-own sad girl as well. Ai meets a few of them along the way and attempts to get acquainted with them. The scrappy, fun-loving, former-junior-idol Rika is one of them and her opposite, the more stoic and serious Neiru is another one, and later the body-conscious and tomboy presenting Momoe is the last one to be introduced.
Yep, quadruple the Egg Girls means quadruple the trauma. Fun for everyone!!
Like Ai, they all seem to be carrying their own baggage. Neiru is literally seen stocking a suitcase full of eggs before being immediately sent to the hospital (because the damage you take in the dream can affect you IRL), and they all react to situations according to their own ideals and worldviews.

As an audience member, I really want to see all of these girls become true friends through their shared experiences, but I'm also wondering whether their insecurities will ultimately be too much for each other to handle. Even after we see them talk, hang out, and have fun with each other, their abrasive aspects still brush up against each other.
And from a writing economy standpoint, I think WEP has really excelled at making each of our four main heroines feel distinct—to the point where, like you said, they fight among themselves in ways that feel like natural extensions of their personalities and pasts (that we know of). No small feat juggling that character work alongside all of the surreal magic egg dead girls stuff.

So far, personally, I'm most partial to Neiru and her penchant for cheesy one-liners, which runs counter to her serious countenance.

She also has maybe the most complex relationship with this egg system, not interested in resurrecting her sister (so she says) but just doing this because it helps her forget the pain of her own trauma. Like, she's cynical enough to understand what this game is about beneath its surface.

Neiru's general cynicism is something I'm not exactly a big fan of; I'm more partial to the sweet Ai, the fun Rika, or the confused Momoe. But I do enjoy her and Ai's budding friendship, and she points out that the reason Ai is able to so-easily sympathize with them and egg girls they have to save is because she's so trusting.


It's lines like that that make me want to have faith in the show's overall "heart." I really want to believe in Ai's trust and that there's even a slim possibility of her saving someone else, rather than just being hurt again.
Yeah this is a really good interaction! Like, it's explicitly the jaded Neiru telling Ai that she wishes she could be more like her, and that self-awareness endears me to Neiru even more lol. I also think this might get at what Wonder Egg's overall arc might be about, but we'll have to wait and see on that.
Let's move back to Rika. First of all she's obnoxious, has zero tact, and a runaway. Her personality is also an obvious way of coping. Idols have to perform, right? Her and Neiru don't seem to get along.
Rika rules. She just does not give a shit, to the point where she will blurt out ideas that would take other anime entire seasons to work towards.

Like, damn Rika, it's only episode 5, you can't be calling out the whole system like that until AT LEAST the penultimate episode.
Yeah, Rika is VERY RUDE, but she's still a genuine victim, jaded by adults, and therefore she knows how to be honest even if her views are less than generous sometimes. Like buying into gender essentialism, fat-shaming, and internalized misogyny in order to deal with what's been done to her.

She's also petty and one for gossip and leeches off Ai for food and money.

Pobody's nerfect. And I don't blame people for recoiling from Rika's prickliness, but I do think WEP makes it clear that she's a good egg underneath. She just knows too well what one has to do to get by in the adult world, and most of that just happens to suck real bad.

I also like to think her refusal to buy eggs with her own money is her way of sticking it to the Acca bros. Even if it's not the best way.
To me it just emphasizes how broke she is, poor thing. Another quirk is that she's also seen constantly eating or looking at food which could hint that she's simply indulgent, lacks self-control, starving, or has some sort of eating disorder. Given that she's also seen to have been self-harming, none of these would surprise me. She wants to save one of her former dedicated fans, Chiemi, after Rika had told her off for shop-lifting in order to afford her hobby.
No doubt Rika is carrying a ton of pain on her shoulders. And I believe the episode going up today features her mother, so I'm sure there are plenty of terrible details we don't know about yet. But she's a really rich character, and I'm glad she has some egg comrades-in-arms now.
Again, I'm unsure whether this quartet will lift each other up or bring each other down with their own hang-ups. Momoe, for example. She's a tall and stocky girl who's introduced deceiving her egg-girl that she is a boy. She uses masculine pronouns, lies about her given name, and dresses masculine because she doesn't feel that feminine clothes suit her body-type. This also leads her to be pretty confused about her own sexuality in her relationship with girls as they keep flinging themselves at her. But on top of that, she's also the niece of Ai's counselor.
I know I've been saying that this show has a lot going on a lot, but Momoe really has a lot going on with everything from gender performativity to sexuality to confused feelings about her dead friend that are also entwined in all of that. As a consolation prize for being a big gender mess, at least she gets the coolest weapon: an umbrella lance.
Oh yeah, I also like that Ai is always seen as having to receive an object from the egg-girls in order to defeat their trauma before they go poof. It makes their short meetings seem more meaningful. And it's really cool seeing a pen or glow sticks turned into cool magical weapons.
It's one of the more straightforwardly magical girl aspects of the show, and it unironically rules.
Fight by wotagei!
Momoe also instigates a scene where we can see some of Ai's aforementioned hopelessness and loveliness in action, where she cheers up Momoe simply by confirming that she sees her as a girl. Ai has no clue about any of the confusion paining Momoe, but her natural kindness shines through that darkness.


Maybe she shines a little too strongly, but that's okay.
Note, Momoe also switches from the masculine "boku" to the more traditional "watashi" here, indicating how she wants Ai to see her, after Neiru and Rika pretty cruelly misgendered her.
Yeah, they all make up later, but the show definitely isn't shy about showing how easy it is for them to hurt each other, especially inadvertently.
Sometimes, advertently too. Later while Ai is still trying to process her mom and Mr. Sawaki dating, Momoe doesn't want to hear anything bad about her dear uncle, and Neiru accuses Ai of secretly having a crush on him herself. This comes off as deeply hurtful to Ai as it's clear she's not being listened to.
And, perhaps not uncoincidentally, when Ai gets mad, she gets very good at killing Wonder Killers.

It remains to be seen whether or not this is a good thing, but she sure looks cool when she does!
I think that particular Wondo-Kill was especially meaningful since Ai was initially fighting an enemy she couldn't see. She can't comprehend what the problem is, and no one around her believes her or listens to her.
Yep, but the tides turn when she's finally able to look at the enemy head-on, and she finally believes what her egg ward had been telling her about her own trauma the whole time. Consequently, I'm taking Ai's return to school to mean she's ready to confront whatever painful truths are behind Koito's suicide, but, again, we'll have to wait and see.
The enemy, and the elephant-like nature of her, is also a reference to the Rashomon effect, based on the Kurosawa film of the same name, which is where eye-witness account and speculation can often create several interpretations of the same event.
Ugh, this is why this show scrambles my brain eggs every week. That's a really cool reading of symbolism I hadn't even considered! Another reason why I think Wonder Egg Priority is such an uncommonly rich anime, and I feel like it's going to be a lot of younger viewers' gateway into weirder, headier series like it.

Anecdotally, my own circle of anime friends and writers haven't been this lit up about a single show in quite some time, and it's been really cool to be a part of that.

Yeah, again it's definitely something not to be missed if you love keeping up with the discussion of what's hot. The egg is sizzling, but will it explode under all the heat? I've seen a lot of similar anime where I've been burned or disappointed before by dealing with themes that were, in hindsight, too big for it to handle. We don't get a lot of anime that deal with social issues with such boldness or kindness, and it's that kind of unflinching nature that makes egg feel "real" to me.

It's also plenty tropey too, like the recent episodes had magical-girl style pendants and pets, the introduction of "Antis" and the character designs have a moe-appeal to them.
See? It's just a normal magical girl anime after all, with familiars and everything! Just ignore the whole "they eat nothing but pure hatred" part.

I don't think I'll stop being wary of Wonder Egg's probable failure until the final second of the finale—and perhaps even beyond then—but barring an unfathomable disaster in its back half, I can't bring it in me to completely dismiss an anime this ambitious and this beautifully realized. Every week so far I've been stunned by at least one thing per episode, and it hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

Yeah, like Ai. I sometimes feel like I'm ready to turtle-up the second things go down or I get hurt, but part of watching anime every week is also about being brave, throwing caution to the wind and being willing to trust what you're watching will eventually deliver. As a fan and a reviewer, I want the shows I watch to succeed!!

And, if it doesn't? I think that's okay too.

I think even if the show fails, I'll be okay. I'm having a lot of fun right now, and that's what matters to me. When shows I like flop, I can't always hate them. I still remember the good things I see in them, and there's always lots of anime out there that one show doing bad isn't going to kill me.

Agreed, but I'm still directing as much positive energy towards the staff as I can. Stay strong, Egg. Stay strong.
Anyways, the me-living-in-the-moment rates Wonder Egg Priority as :

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