Wonder Egg Priority – Episode 2

Hello everyone, and welcome back. Today we’re exploring the second episode of Wonder Egg Priority, 2021’s most intriguing production so far, as Ai Ohto works to save her friend Koito. Of course, it’s questionable whether Koito can truly be “saved” at all; Ai watched her die, and though the mysterious overseer of her current task claims that salvation is possible, we have no reason to trust their words.

But while Ai’s narrative destination is still far from clear, Wonder Egg Priority has been proceeding with absolute confidence so far, making me feel confident in turn about its eventual structure. I’m not a fan of mystery for its own sake, as I feel that generally, mysteries tend to exist apart from what a show is “trying to say,” as a purely narrative hook. On the other hand, when a show’s “mysteries” are baked into the ambiguity of its themes and imagery, I’m a huge fan. Rather than distracting from a show’s thematic and emotional content, mysteries like this actually spur investment into the show’s ideas, while simultaneously aligning the audience with the protagonist’s perspective. This is the grand trick of shows like Madoka or Utena, and I’m delighted to see Wonder Egg Priority pulling it off so well. Without further ado, let’s dive into the second episode!

Episode 2

We open on a beautiful park scene, though the subdued color scheme gives it an inherent sense of melancholy, while the repeating piano line introduces an element of tense expectation, as if a killer is lurking in the forest

Wonder Egg Priority is a gorgeous show, but I particularly appreciate how it’s willing to severely limit its color palettes, to the point where the whole world feels sapped of color. It’s a very effective way to convey the veil of depression hanging over these characters

Ai is attempting to make friends with her fellow egg-saver, but this other girl’s having none of it

More sunflowers on the wall. This show is pretty heavy on the flower imagery; fortunately, Emily’s on the job once again

Great shot of them on the banks of this river, staring at their reflections. Reminiscent of that Tamako Love Story sequence

At last, the new girl asks a question: “who are you fighting for?”

“For Koito, my friend.” “Are you sure it’s not for yourself?”

“You don’t like who you are now, so you go. You want to change the self that you hate.” There is very little distance between Ai and the girls she is rescuing. Ai herself is profoundly isolated, removed from school and possibly suffering from suicidal ideation. She wanders at night without purpose, and has readily agreed to a task that is more likely to kill her than to actually save her friend, even if her taskmaster isn’t lying to her. The kind of person who’d accept these egg-saving tasks is also the kind of person who must be saved from their egg

“I’m not like you. I love myself.” “Then why do you do it?” “For my sister. I let her die.” Whoof, what a title drop

Oh wow, this opening sequence. We begin with live-action eggs on the cinderblock edge of Ai’s apartment, a shot conveying a great sense of fragility, as well as the mundanity of Ai’s world. And then, over this tender vocal melody, all these partial shots of Ai’s private world. This is basically what I’ve wanted ever since I started following Kyoto Animation specifically; their magnificent set of aesthetic tools being applied to stories that acknowledge the true harshness of life, digging into the darkness to find the light

Her journey is complimented by a collage of more live-action stills, emphasizing the mundane beauty of a walk in the park. Wonder Egg Priority seems insistent on conveying the world as no more beautiful than it actually is, perhaps to argue that this much beauty is enough to keep living for

Two girls we haven’t met up also get focus shots; presumably our last two leads, as well as the other two eggs represented on the balcony. The OP further emphasizes that Ai and her companions are also potential eggs

I like how the episode continues directly from the OP’s narrative. Also, Ai’s quiet “tadaima” is heartbreaking, and should feel familiar to anyone who feels unwelcome in their parents’ home

When this presumed child services official shows up, Ai crunches herself into a ball, using the hood of her raincoat to complete her defensive shell. She’s actually taking the form of an egg, somewhat

Hm, that definitely seems like an intentional effect. The girls start out existing in shells, where they are relatively safe, but cannot engage with the wider world. By cracking these shells, they become vulnerable to suffering, but also open to experience. And this show takes place at one of life’s premier egg-cracking thresholds, as adolescents are forced to contend with painful self-awareness and the pressure of society’s judgment

Gah! Just watching this after catching up on some other shows is both thrilling and frustrating. So much anime has such terrible writing quality, even when its other aesthetic attributes are actually quite strong. But shows like this demonstrate it’s not just some impossible expectation on my part – there are good writers out there, capable of writing thematically rich stories and vibrant, convincing characters. I just wish they scripted more seasonal anime!

The new girl has a friggin’ business card? I guess she takes her work seriously

The new girl, Neiru, wants nothing to do with Ai

This show is very good at capturing one of the more mundane facets of deep depression and isolation: how boring it all is. Ai spends most of her time just wandering around and staring at things, lacking the positive energy to actually affect change, or the confidence to return to society’s model. When you’re too depressed or anxious to play along with society, there’s not much alternative beyond lounging listlessly in place; eventually, you get very good at finding ways to make hours go away

This time, Ai cracking the egg is an accident. Lots of very good, playful character acting for Ai here; she actually still has a sense of humor, she’s just very uncomfortable with others, particularly in the context of school

This new girl doesn’t actually know what’s going on, and of course panics immediately. Some very ambitious panning cuts here, integrating CG and traditional animation. That’s a good way to take advantage of the CG minions; because they’re CG objects and the school itself is a sequence of simple hallways, only the main characters have to be redrawn for an energetic panning cut

Ai has leveled up a lot! She actually beats up a bunch of minions herself this time

The new girl is Minami Suzuhara. It doesn’t really seem like Ai has much social anxiety in her interactions with these girls, which is a big change from her behavior prior to befriending Koito

“I’ll protect you to save Koito.” Perhaps it’s the thought of saving Koito that lets her push outside her comfort zone. “You need to go back to school” is ambiguous, indefinite, and cruel, a return to all the trauma of the past, with no hope of a better future. But “save Koito” is clear and definite, and something she desperately wants to do

Again, it’s so nice to write about something and think “why would the character do that,” as opposed to “why would the author make the character do that.” Characterization!

Minami doesn’t have any friends, and was in the gymnastics club. “The coach was always yelling at me to maintain my figure”

Minami admires Ai’s “spirit and guts,” in that she actually made the choice to stop going to school, rather than just continue to suffer

I like how distinct Minami’s situation is from Ai’s. It turns out society has no shortage of ways to alienate and abuse young people

“To free the captured maiden, you have to defeat the Wonder Killer.” Ah. So presumably the “Wonder Killer” is the embodiment of whatever made these girls choose suicide – literally the antagonistic force that sapped the sense of wonder from their lives. With the first girl it was that classmate with the knife, and for Minami it will presumably be her gymnastics coach

“How is just running away supposed to solve anything? Stand and fight, young lady!”

“A Wonder Killer is the embodiment of a maiden’s trauma. They are drawn to each other.” I like how this sort of apes the mythology of a “final girl” from a horror movie, the last survivor, who frequently has some strange link with the killer

Yeah, it’s the coach. The incredibly detailed animation of her teeth is terrifying

But of course, Minami has been traumatized by this coach in a way that makes her believe everything is her own fault. And so she actually agrees with the monster

Flashbacks to Koito’s harassment. Apparently she developed a plan, to have Ai capture the abuse of the others on video

But she failed then, just as she’s failing with Minami. A clever way to combine her growth with more revelations about her relationship with Koito – using flashbacks of their relationship to echo her current conflicts. We’re certainly getting a clearer picture of where Ai’s guilt comes from

“What’s so strong about you?” “Shut up. I’m going to change.” She won’t let it happen again

“It’s my fault! I don’t have enough spirit or guts, and I’m ugly and timid.” Minami’s abuse follows a classic pattern, where the abuser is “only doing this for your own good,” and the abused internalizes that belief

“What you really mean is that you want someone to find you and love you!”

I feel like we’re focusing too much on overt battling here, but I do like how this fight is facilitating Minami’s “rescue from herself,” as she begins to believe in Ai, and support her against her coach

I also like how the true “monstrousness” of this coach emerges more over time, an accurate metaphor for abusers

Oh wow, these final cuts as she’s flung around the gym are terrific

“I wish I’d met you earlier, Ai.” Jeez, this show can really cut

“Will you remember me sometimes?” God, it’s heartbreaking. All of these girls are just desperate for one person who unconditionally values them, and yet they disappear the moment they form a bond with Ai

At the hospital, Ai sees Neiru pass on a stretcher. The scars they bear evoke a kind of self-harm, an emblem of their burden, but also a kind of solidarity

The egg assholes propose that rather than wanting to save her sister quickly, Neiru is just trying to die

With Neiru stuck in the ICU, she can’t really avoid Ai’s aggressive friendship

I love how none of these girls have any idea what friendship means beyond “going to get burgers, I guess???”

And at last, she gets a smile!

And Done

God damn this show is good, folks. Every once in a great while, we run into one of those shows that exemplifies anime’s unique strengths as a narrative medium: its delicate focus on character interiority, its remarkable cohesion of worldbuilding, aesthetic, and narrative, its ability to integrate the fanciful and surreal into deeply human stories, and everything else that defines the very best anime has to offer. I love anime because I love those shows, the Utenas and Evangelions and Monogataris that capture everything I care about in art, and build grand, devastating statements about our collective humanity. Any show can fall apart, but Wonder Egg Priority has given me no reason to distrust it’s the real deal. Once again, please please stay this good, Wonder Egg!

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