Wonder Egg Priority – Episode 5

Hello everyone, and happy to have you here at Wrong Every Time. Today we’re returning to Wonder Egg Priority, as the veil begins to lift on the true nature of this egg-saving operation. It’s been pretty obvious from the start that we can’t trust Acca and Ura-Acca. Even if we set aside their mocking tone and the clear genre precedents for characters like this (Madoka’s Kyubey, Penguindrum’s Sanetoshi, etc), they’ve been consistently withholding key information from our leads, luring them into situations they’re unprepared for, and ridiculing them for their various traumas. They might be managing these egg trials, but it’s clearly not because they’re sympathetic to the girls involved.

Last episode made their antagonism even more explicit, as they essentially reiterated the reductive, misogynistic attitudes that informed these girls’ initial trauma. You could easily imagine one of the nightmare abusers from the egg worlds echoing Acca’s thoughts on how “women are easily led astray by their emotions.” This obviously isn’t the show’s own perspective; though the director stepping in was a nice gesture, every episode of Wonder Egg Priority has been consistently screaming “adolescents are driven to suicide by societal forces that breed alienation, and by society’s willingness to overlook abusers who play within the rules of its system.” That Acca and Ura-Acca don’t understand this, and in fact agree with the system oppressing these girls, is now clear. But what can you do, when even your theoretical saviors are complicit in your abuse?

Let’s find out.

Episode 5

We open on a Neiru egg battle this time, as she charges across a suspension bridge in a hail of gunfire. Like with Flip Flappers, Wonder Egg’s psychological landscape premise means it can embrace a wild flurry of unique monster and area designs. Ai’s school, Rika’s field, Momo’s train, and Neiru’s bridge are all distinctive and atmospheric in their own ways

I assume this mean’s Neiru’s sister jumped off a bridge

The animation of this monster’s vaguely humanoid face is fantastic. The monsters themselves allow Wonder Egg’s animators to embrace a wide variety of animation styles. This creature’s overall profile looks a lot like a clumsy sentai monster suit, while the actual face is a grotesque exaggeration of cartoonish human features. There’s no sturdy continuity to its bone structure; it’s free to contort its face into horrible, impossible expressions, using the freedom of this dreamscape premise to let the animators go truly wild

“It’s always hard to understand how you girls think.” It makes sense that Neiru would have difficulty relating to most of these girls. Unlike Ai, she hasn’t isolated herself from society, and her pain has nothing to do with a desire for friends. She seems more like a natural loner, bringing a professional attitude to her sister’s rescue

The show’s really playing up how this monster is like an old-fashioned kaiju or sentai costume; this low panning shot circling the monster in its field of destruction is a staple of the genre

“You got scared and ran back home, but there was no place for you there, right?” Yet again, one of these situations was largely instigated by a girl’s ostensible guardians failing to support her. Just like Ai’s parents or Acca/Ura-Acca, this world’s adults offer no support, and then condemn girls for failing to succeed in a rigged game

Neiru’s weapon is a sniper rifle, perfect for her clinical, distant personality

“It made me happy. Having someone protect me.” “Is that so?” Neiru keeps her cards extremely close to the vest, and seems distrustful of friendship or relying on others. She’s the biggest mystery among the four leads at the moment

Now that all four leads have arrived, we can see the coloration of the eggs in the OP echoes their signature piece of apparel: Ai’s hoodie, Rika’s jacket, etc

In spite of her generally cold affect, Neiru is clearly the most nervous about visiting Ai’s house. She uses emotional distance as a shield, but Ai has broken through that shield, and thus Neiru has all the nerves of someone trying to impress their first friend

Momo is the school counselor’s niece. This is going to get messy

Rika, in her brutal, uncompromising way, is able to articulate the ideas everyone else is either too timid or high-minded to mention. She’s the one who wonders whether Koito was actually dating Mr. Sawaki

Sawaki actually arrives as they’re meeting, and gives her closed door that same cold look. All of Sawaki’s appearances are robbed of color, desaturated to a scene resembling a funeral wake

“Maybe he only checks on you once a week because he thinks you’ve got some kind of proof.” Rika’s generally wild, unkind conjectures here seem to be exactly on the money

Ai can’t ask her mom about Sawaki, because “my Mom really trusts Mr. Sawaki, and I’m always making her worry.” Articulating a point that’s been pretty textually clear up until now: Ai can’t rely on her parents for support, because they trust her counselor more than her. It’s clearly not Ai’s “temperamental, womanly emotions” that are failing her – it’s the people she’s supposed to be able to trust, and rely on to respect her feelings

Instead, the girls actually take a kind of pride in keeping their trials a secret. It’s something that binds them, and something that makes them unique. “A story… that no one else knows about”

Now Sawaki is lightly probing at the connection between Ai and Momo

Back when Ai was attending school, Sawaki made a drawing of her to submit in a competition. It’s clear Koito saw this as her “stealing” Sawaki – her commentary on the situation is dripping in venom, telling her “if you’re not confident, you should drop out. Sawaki’s future is on the line”

God, the direction of these flashback sequences is so damn good. I love the transition out of that scene, from an intimate shot of Ai’s hand as she stammers a response, to this lonely shot of her standing in the vast white school hallway, utterly isolated by her friend’s anger

Rika describes her mother as “awful and toxic,” someone she was sure didn’t actually want to be a parent. There’s no love in her home life, only obligations and transactions

Ai believes her dad left because her mom was “too perfect,” something Rika readily understands

And Neiru calls Rika an “anachronistic fool.” Neiru is particularly disdainful of the patriarchal gender framework Rika has learned to accept, as she made clear in her anger at Acca and Ura-Acca’s speech

Oh wow, this transition is so good – a wild shift from them hanging out to the gathering monsters, tethered by the continuity of one laughter fading into another

“Isn’t my hair pretty? I’m at my prettiest right now. Nothing can replace youth.” Is the system specifically tormenting Neiru with girls she can’t relate to, who embody the parts of social pressure and assumed femininity that she’s always rejected? After the idol fans that Ai and Rika had to save, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume the arbiters might be actively choosing girls who will trouble their saviors – and then there’s Momo, who keeps getting girls who fall in love with her. The egg quests might be more of an elaborate form of torture than I’d realized

“Girls become adults. The miraculous beauty of a butterfly emerging. A brief moment.” Like Madoka, Wonder Egg twists both anime and society’s obsession with youthful girls into an interrogation of how they are commodified and dehumanized

This monster even seems more like a Madoka witch than the usual nightmares

As ever, this battle maintains a clear sense of three dimensional space, framing shots from among the struts of the bridge to convey Neiru getting slowly cornered

“This is basically a kind of group therapy.” Along with being close to our first “Neiru episode,” this episode is balancing the action with some lovely naturalistic banter across the whole group. We needed an episode like this, to make them actually feel like friends, rather than being simply forced together. Watching them rally together to demand a round of bowling does more work to build genuine affection and rapport than a shared fight could

I knew we couldn’t make it this full series without at least one Yamada Strong pose

Haruka, Momo’s lost friend, was “the one who was willing to see me as a girl.” But when Haruka actually confessed to her, Momo didn’t know how to respond, and pushed her away

Interesting. We’re actually getting some contrast in the perspectives of Acca and Ura-Acca here, though I can’t really trust that they’re operating from meaningfully different positions

Neiru accuses Momo of being “half-hearted” for at times enjoying her popularity. Neiru clearly thinks in very binary patterns; she can relate to Momo’s feelings of separation, but sees the difference between them as a “failing” of Momo’s, rather than a reflection of her own obstinate, antisocial mindset

Acca keeps yelling at them to go home, but in this episode, they’re finally receiving the community and emotional support they’ve each been denied in their own lives. The secret they share binds them, and allows them to overcome the natural differences in their personalities. They each desperately need this, even if not all of them are willing to admit that

“How about we just stop buying eggs?” Once again, it’s Rika who proposes the bold, hanging possibility. They’ve found friends now; do they really need the eggs to prove they deserve to exist?

Rika is wonderfully expressive here. She knows what she’s saying is mean, and you can tell she sort of resents having to be the one to say it, but she’s ultimately trying to protect her friends

Rika basically pleading with Ai to stop putting herself in danger is so good. Rika works very hard not to show a hint of kindness, but she’s willing to make herself the bad guy to protect Ai

“My sister stabbed me, then she ran away and jumped off a bridge.”

“When I try to forget her, my scar aches, like a curse.” Unsurprisingly for Neiru, it’s not some passionate emotional investment that drives her to fight – it’s a lingering physical discomfort, something her subconscious won’t allow her to forget

And after all that, we only get this slight softening of her expression as she glances back at her friends. Neiru is a tough egg to crack

And Done

I mean, what can I say at this point? Wonder Egg Priority is doing everything right so far, and this episode was once again precisely what the show needed. Having at last introduced all four of its leads, this episode did an absurdly efficient job of building them into a genuine group of friends, balancing the harsh contrasts of their personalities with lots of light, naturalistic scenes of convincing palling around. The theme of both family and society abandoning these girls, or forcing them into shapes and roles they never wished to occupy, is being hammered in consistently yet gracefully, through a combination of outright thematic monologues (like in Neiru’s egg world), and subtler real-world contexts, like how Ai, in spite of loving her mother, is incapable of going to her for help. And with sequences like Neiru’s bridge fights still spoiling us with visual spectacle, Wonder Egg Priority continues to excel in all aspects as it approaches its halfway point!

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