Wonder Egg Priority – Episode 3

Hello all, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we are absolutely continuing our journey through Wonder Egg Priority, as this show kicks all the kinds of ass, and I’m frankly tired of being behind on its weekly discussion. I know, Nick Creamer caring about ongoing anime discussions in the year twenty twenty-one? It’s a shock to me as well, but Wonder Egg Priority is just that kind of show; a story that feels instantly essential, and which provokes the long-slumbering dragons of anime blogging to once more raise their feathered quills, and rise together in praise for a show that’s Genuinely Really Good.

Wonder Egg’s second episode held relatively closely to the model of the first, introducing a new egg girl for Ai to save, and establishing the beginnings of a friendship with fellow egg savior Neiru. We also received a bit more context regarding Ai’s relationship with Koito, as well as the parameters of her egg-saving missions. Given all that, I’m expecting the show to soon disrupt its episodic model, but we might be in for another episode or two of monster-of-the-week missions, if only to integrate the other girls from the show’s OP. Alright, that’s enough speculation from me; let’s dive right back into Wonder Egg Priority!

Episode 3

A dramatic cold open this time, introducing us to the third heroine from the OP in the context of one of her own egg-saving missions. An efficient introduction that hints at the broader context of this system, much like how Madoka Magica used its incidental witches. Inexperienced storytellers frequently want to tell you every single thing about this world they’ve invented, but great fantasy writers understand that fantasy feels richer when it cannot be tamed. The sense that we will never know everything about Wonder Egg Priority’s world is amplified through scenes like this, where we only get a light brush of context for the situation unfolding

“Your palms are sweaty. Gross.” This girl seems very defensive, refusing to express an honest sentiment even to this motionless statue

“I might look good in a garden like this, but not a fatty like you.” Oh damn, so was this girl actually one of the people who inspired the suicide of her stone friend?

This show has already proven itself quite sharp in terms of capturing the cruelty inflicted on girls regarding their body image. Last episode’s villain was ruthless on that front

Ai takes two eggs from the vending machine, then the new girl collapses behind her

She claims her ribs are broken, and then that she’s fine. So she’s either used to overacting for reactions, used to hiding her pain, or both

She’s Rika Kawai. “Like ‘kawaii,’ cause I’m so cute.’” It’s true that the group needed a spunky member; Ai’s too insecure to be anything but nice, while Neiru is clearly our cool loner

“Cool idea, mixing colors. It might go viral.” Rika is more preoccupied with appearances than our first two leads

And now she’s trying to grift Ai for change in order to buy another egg. Through that, we learn that she actually just came back from her first mission, yet is somehow already accustomed to this system – or at least putting on a brave face to that effect. She’s clearly more socially adept and less sincere than either Ai or Neiru

“Come see Rika again, okay?” She’s even affecting a third-person persona, like she’s selling her personality in the way an idol or streamer has to

Neither Ai nor Neiru’s chat icons are actually images of them; Ai’s is a cat on the ground, while Neiru’s is the fence around the hospital rooftop. Ai is extremely cat-themed already, while Neiru longs for escape

Rika somehow follows Ai to her house. She asks “what’s your nickname,” but of course, with no close friends, Ai is only ever called “Ohto-san”

Neiru’s smile at seeing Ai is wonderful. She really does want a friend

The doctor’s “don’t put too much confidence in youth” is nicely charged in the context of this show. Anime on the whole puts a great deal of confidence in youth; it is a youth-oriented and nostalgia-drenched artform. Wonder Egg Priority is in part here to say, “you know what, childhood can be really bad for a lot of people, and a lot of its ugliness gets swept under the rug – except for those who never escaped”

Rika used to be a junior idol, which explains a lot regarding her presentation

She uses that canned “kawaii” intro for everybody she meets

The man visiting Ai’s house is Mr. Sawaki, her school counselor

Rika immediately assumes Ai is skipping school for attention. She’s mostly just been a blunt jerk so far; clearly suffering from her own pain, but redirecting all of her feelings outwards as snark

Rika’s frozen girl is “not my friend. She’s my fan. My little wallet.”

“My daddy says a beautiful woman doesn’t need a wallet. Of course, he got divorced.” Well, that tells us a lot! So Rika’s faith in relationships, as well as her views regarding how people present themselves, were heavily informed by her misogynist, likely philandering father. She’s learned to treat relationships as transactions and self-presentation as a duplicitous front, because that’s what her own family taught her

Chiemi is her frozen girl. “I’m gonna save her and get my wallet back.” She frames this in totally mercenary terms, but it’s hard to believe anyone would participate in these Wonder Egg trials if they didn’t desperately want to save someone. Of course, there’s also the possibility the overseer proposed – that some of them are simply trying to die

“Chiemi’s ugly and a real fatty. She has gross, sweaty palms, too. Way too embarrassing to call a friend, right?” God damn. Anime is so rarely willing to articulate quite how mean kids can be, but Rika is just absolutely going there

Ai’s not having any of it, though. As someone who was bullied specifically because of her looks, she can’t just laugh off Rika’s cruelty

Rika’s not oblivious, though. She realizes Ai is actively starting to dislike her, and so asks Ai about Koito

She has so much pride, though! Even this just leads into her accusing Ai of just liking Koito for her looks. She puts on an unconcerned face, but she’s constantly antagonizing the world around her, propelled by some combination of fury at the world and personal self-hatred. Cruelty is her coping mechanism

“Girls who flirt with adult men are scary.” Rika’s such a jerk that she even prompts Neiru to talk shit

Rika’s wrists are covered with razor scars. As expected, she’s totally unable to articulate her self-hatred, except possibly by intentionally making herself a target of others’ hatred

“Have you called your parents?” “Who cares about her? Scratch the surface, and she’s all slimy. Everyone is.” Yep. It seems like some combination of her broken home, her training in idol work, and whatever else happened to her has convinced Rika that everyone is secretly monstrous. And so she spurns the world before it can spurn her first

Another flashback, to Ai witnessing Koito crying in Mr. Sawaki’s arms. It seems she has some solid reasons to distrust Sawaki’s guidance; a sequence like this can only imply that he was abusing his own students, given that threatening look he sends her at the end

By falling asleep at the same time as Rika, Ai falls into her dream – a field and a beach, rather than a school. Unsurprisingly, each character’s dream terrain seems to echo the source of their trauma

Ai was pulled in because Rika’s feelings were stronger. Yet another sign that Rika is fiercely suppressing her pain

Their eggs are a matched set: Miko and Mako, two idol fans

They were fans of Yu-Yu, an idol who committed suicide, prompting them to do the same. Wonder Egg just casually strolling more deeply into the ugliness of idol fandom than any anime this side of Perfect Blue

Just realized that Rika’s weapons here are likely the razors she used on her wrists

Ooh, I love these wild, thick-lined impact frames for Ai smacking a minion. Good integration of traditional art with these CG creatures

And now another great cut, as we follow Rika’s blade across the field. We’re getting some excellent action highlights this time. Action director Yusuke Kawakami is very good at evoking a sense of three dimensionality in his fight scenes; there are lots of ambitious shots that drag characters or objects across the battlefield, like that sequence with Ai getting pulled on the ribbon last episode

“Okay, show’s over.” Rika immediately gets defensive when Ai notices her scars, though even here, she attempts to play it cool. “Being defensive about revealing you’re being defensive” is some high-level repression

And Ai’s had it. “Tell me about Chiemi for real”

Absolutely terrific character acting for Rika throughout this sequence. Literally and figuratively pushed against the wall, you can feel the weight of fatigue in her every movement

Rika wasn’t a popular idol, but Chiemi showed up for her hundreds of times

“I thought I had a rich patron. Then one day I saw her shoplifting. She’d been selling what she took!” Rika says this last line as if it’s a funny punchline, but Ai just responds with an understanding nod. Incredible sequence of expression shifts here, as Rika is caught off guard by this response, and then sinks solemnly into herself, reflecting on her genuine feelings about Chiemi. She consistently uses humor and cruelty to deflect her actual feelings, but Ai’s not letting her do that here

“I didn’t want that. So I told her I’d never be friends with a fan.” The false intimacy of idol fandom likely reminded her of her father’s “lessons.” She wanted actual human connection, but then realized what she was doing was actually a burden to Chiemi, and not truly a relationship

“This isn’t Chiemi.” Chiemi developed an eating disorder in response to Rika’s words, and died. But Rika didn’t really want her to change – she wanted her to be free. Rika’s father left her a set of interpersonal tools that could never create a real relationship, and so all Rika has is artifice and anger; she can only make people love a fake her, and only push people away from the real one

This explains her earlier framing, as well. “Chiemi wasn’t my friend, she was a fan” was a true statement, and also Rika’s greatest regret

Absurdly good use of reduced shading and voluminous scale in this climax sequence. This feels like the highlights of Yozakura Quartet, or Flip Flappers

AND RIKA TURNS TO STONE!?!?

And Done

Hot damn, this show just doesn’t stop, huh? As expected, we’ve already begun to mess with the initial monster-of-the-week structure, with this episode focusing far more on Rika’s story than the struggles of its two victims. This was all for the good; Rika’s story felt ugly and poignant and true in the way all the best character dramas tend to. Rika is a veneer of pop idol glamor stretched thin over a vast sea of self-hatred, a girl whose parents taught her to see sincerity as weakness, and all relationships as transactional. Even when she realized she wasn’t actually getting closer to Chiemi, her method of breaking it off was informed by the cruelty she’d been taught, leading her to hurt the one person she wanted as a friend. I was hoping for a thornier heroine, and I certainly got one; here’s hoping that Ai can somehow unfreeze her new acquaintance, and possibly make her a new friend.

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