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Wonder Egg Priority review: (Not) finished

Wonder Egg Priority

Review

Wonder Egg Priority review: (Not) finished

Wonder Egg Tuesday.”

Next to “Dynazenon Friday,” that was the most hyped day of the week for anime this year thus far. Wonder Egg Priority got 2021 off to an incredible start, exploring grim subject matter with a film-level presentation. Several friends with who I shared the show couldn’t tell it was a TV series and not a movie. For the most part, that quality is consistent throughout.

But was the story good enough to match that visual adrenaline ride? For a good ten episodes, I truly believed it was, but then I started having doubts. Firstly, I started rewatching early episodes with friends whose criticisms made me question if I’d taken an honest look at the show. Then, episodes 11 and 12 took the story in an unexpected direction going into the final episodes.

But after a full season-long wait, the final 45-minute long finale, titled “My Priority” released. It was marketed as the conclusion to the story. I’m genuinely not sure if that is an accurate assessment of what the episode accomplished. Is it what people were expecting? Probably not. Is it what they wanted? Most assuredly not. Is it flawed? Absolutely.

Did I enjoy my time? One hundred percent. Absolutely.

Wonder Egg Priority is about Ai Ohto, a shy girl with heterochromia who used to be teased for her appearance. She had one friend, but no longer. A girl named Koito took her own life. Later, as Ai finds herself staying home from school, Ai is guided by a mysterious voice to a capsule machine one night. Inside the machine is an egg.

The givers of this egg are Acca and Ura-Acca, two mannequin-like beings who preside over the gateway to an alternate world where a great game is played. A dream world to be precise. Inside the dream world, she breaks open the egg to find a girl inside.

After a frantic battle against strange creatures called Seeno Evils, Ai discovers the “game” at play. If she keeps breaking eggs and defending the people inside, she can bring back her friend Koito. Participating in this game with Ai are three other girls, each with a girl of their own to save.

Neiru Aonuma is a quiet and reserved but wealthy girl who frequently takes on too much work in a race to complete the game. She’s hesitant to make friends with Ai and less so with the other girls. One such girl is Rika Kawai, an admittedly vain girl at first but much of her shallowness is a facade to hide a lot of self-hatred within. Finally, there’s Momoe Sawaki, a boyish girl who is self-conscious of her looks and how she is perceived by others.

All four of the girls have people who were in their lives who had a profound impact on them. Whether out of guilt for how they treated them or a desire to rekindle the joy of being with them, they fight to bring their friends back to life.

Yes, the girls being saved have all died. To suicide nonetheless. The show deals heavily with suicide and explores in almost every episode why the characters have taken their own lives. The eggs contain the souls of people who completed suicide and the main characters protect them until they can rest in peace.

Usually, this means fighting and defeating some kind of monster that manifests as the reason the person in the egg killed themselves. Every week, the girls face a new threat; a new trauma. Some episodes focus on the victims in the eggs while others spend more time on the main girls and how they relate to that week’s trauma.

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying, abuse from authority figures, cult mentalities, and even fanatical devotion are presented. I say “presented” because not every topic or character is given a lot of time to truly be dived in-depth.

For instance, in a two-parter, Ai and Rika fight together in the same dream protecting two fangirls who completed suicide in order to die with a singer they both admired. Their trauma isn’t explored. In fact, they don’t ever seem to acknowledge how terrible the thing that’s happened to them is.

The B-side of the same story, following Momoe in another story, feels more nuanced. Momoe constantly meets girls who have been assaulted or abused sexually. Being something of a bi-shounen (pretty boy) in their eyes, Momoe is like a prince who helps them. In the end, they always confess their love for Momoe, a girl.

But not being a lesbian, Momoe cannot reciprocate their love. It’s the same unrequited feeling that leads to Momoe’s classmate taking their life and therefore causes Momoe to play the game to save her. I’m not saying that one of these stories is objectively better than the other, however, one could argue that one is more nuanced.

The toughest part about discussing Wonder Egg‘s story, barring the obvious spoilers, is that while lots of topics are addressed, it’s hard to say if anything meaningful was said about them. Shinji Nojima wrote a story that very pointedly addresses the death toll brought about by inadequacies in society.

When important topics like these are brought up, there’s an expectation of a discussion to be had within the meta. A call to action or a lesson to be taught. If something is merely used as a background, it can seem tasteless. However, the representation of these issues itself can be seen as valuable.

In episode 10, I was very tempted to call the show a masterpiece for its fearless and direct representation of a trans character. An FTM (female-to-male) trans boy emerges in an egg. The entire episode reminded me of why I fell in love with the show.

In a way, Wonder Egg is a show about acknowledging victims and punishing abusers, both physically through action spectacle, and verbally, by tearing down their ideologies. This is what made the show so appealing to me for the longest time. Each of the girls becomes stronger as they fight in the name of victims who couldn’t take the cruelties of the world. And in the meantime, they confront their own problems in the present.

I like to think of it as learning from the past to protect the future. They see the victims and understand how they were hurt so they can fight to make sure what happened to them never happens again. When I say that, I’m fully aware of how unrealistic it sounds.

What I mean is that these girls aren’t going to let these kinds of abuses go quietly. In fact, I wished that the show had the girls witness more drama in the real world to show them become heroes in both worlds. There could have been moments where the characters broke the cycle of abuse and suicide.

At its best, this show feels like a pointed wake-up call, pointing out the casual and frankly gross excuses made for the ugliest practices in everyday life. Ai’s shout of “NOW I’M MAD” feels like a catchphrase analogous to the current generation’s impatience for entrenched practices of abuse.

There are two problems, however. Firstly, there is a lack of real-world progress made outside of the protagonist’s personal stories. As I eluded to earlier, I wish we’d gotten to see, say, Momoe calling out a molester or Ai defending a bullied student. The episodes of them connecting with victims in the dream are nice, but they can’t be saved. They can only be properly put to rest. It’s a hollow victory.

The second problem likely explains the first and pertains to the story. at a certain point, notably towards the end, the narrative was moving farther and farther from an analog to the real world. It descended further into a world of fiction. Because of that, the rest of the show in retrospect started to change for me.

Acca and Ura-Acca say in an early episode that boy suicides and girl suicides are different because boys are logic-driven and girls are emotion-driven. A friend of mine – also male – who had struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past thought this notion was complete bullshit and for good reason. I wondered why I hadn’t been enraged by it before. It’s a pretty antiquated view of gender roles.

Maybe I dismissed it as Acca and Ura-Acca being inhuman and somewhat antagonistic spectators. I could have sworn they would end up being evil and while I wasn’t necessarily wrong, they aren’t the main antagonists. Episode 11 explains their pasts and the lapses in judgment and morality that set the series in motion.

But in doing so, the show tries to create a narrative reason for the suicides other than the obvious, tangible, real-world reasons for why people kill themselves. Why? I think that’s the biggest question this show elicits from me towards the end. Why?

There’s so much going on in the story and you only realize it once it gets to the end. Suddenly, everything gets cluttered. Neiru’s friend explains the possibility of parallel worlds, which comes back just enough to be relevant but lacks enough explanation to feel earned.

But the final episode itself is where most people will either double down on what they love or write off the series. “My Priority” is a 45-minute episode, but half of it is a recap. A recap, might I add, on top of the full recap episode we already got halfway through. So in reality, we only got one more episode to wrap things up.

There is no major battle or epic conclusion. However, I’m not going to call this an inherently bad thing. A story doesn’t need to blow things up for the ending to have merit. However, this finale most certainly doesn’t bring everything to a close.

There are antagonists who are still out there, somewhere, who traumatized the girls. Acca and Ura-Acca still haven’t achieved closure. This final episode isn’t conclusive. But is it good? Actually… I think so.

Forgive the rather bold comparison, but I think that – to the people who loved this show as it was airing – this finale is just as divisive as the 26th episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It forgoes what was surely the planned conclusion in favor of a slower, abstract, character-focused episode where the protagonist’s biggest conflict is one of introspection.

The resolution is one of newfound resolve. Wonder Egg’s finale, in particular, ends with the promise of further journeys to come. Whether we will see them is another story. Evangelion was controversial because it ended without feeling like it truly ended. Narratively, it left certain things unfinished, but as the decades have passed, the thematic importance of that ending has only resonated more and more.

Now, having just recently finished Wonder Egg, I have no right to claim that this show will be remembered as fondly. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m willing to look past the flaws of this finale and remember just how wonderful the experience of watching this show has been.

Trust me, this show has flaws. As the curtain pulled back on Ai’s relationship with Koito and Mr. Sawaki, I’m still confused as to what actually transpired and Ai’s thoughts on both of them. The truth behind the dream world and the suicides feel like it didn’t have to be so complicated. You’d think if they wanted to mimic the Persona series they’d at least make it as simple to understand as those games.

Perhaps in the future, we will get the End of Evangelion to Wonder Egg‘s NGE, but even if we didn’t, is this show a failure? No. “The ending is paramount,” sure, but I also don’t think that the ending was without creative and thoughtful execution. No doubt budget and time restrictions prevented CloverWorks from giving this a “proper” ending, but the abstraction and emotion feel far too raw to call this a failure.

Maybe I’m making excuses out of love for what this show had been at the start. After all, this show has every claim to the title of the “best animated show of 2021” thus far. At the very least, it deserves a nomination once the year closes. If not for the animation, at least for the soundtrack by Mito and DE DE MOUSE.

10 straight episodes of near-perfection (9 discounting the first recap), two well-produced but narratively dicey penultimate episodes, and an incomplete ending. There’s no shame in acknowledging that a promising show fell from grace. There’s even less shame in admitting that the flaws didn’t detract from an experience.

For nearly three months, I waited with bated breath for a new episode of this show each week. I waited for its unmatched, fluid character animation. I was won over by heavy subject matter, captivating performances, and an enchanting score. This show was a sensation and a great omen of what was to come this year.

Still, to address the flaws and cap it off with “eh, I still dig it” is such a niche mindset that I may as well have not even bothered with a review. Why should you – someone who may very well expect a satisfying story with closure – give this show a chance?

I’d remind frequent readers of my content that I am a lover of sakuga and all things related to the glorious minutia of the animation process. I am also a fan of musical scores and the audio/visual essentials of storytelling. I am a passionate advocate for diversity and people of all creeds being seen in some way.

Above all, I love shows that transcend their own flaws through sheer passion and execution that sticks with you. If you share even a little bit of that madness and can foresee yourself loving an imperfect and incomplete show, then you owe it to yourself to watch Wonder Egg Priority.

And if you’re unconvinced, wait and see if that “true ending” ever gets made. Rest assured, I’ll be here to review it whenever it comes to be.

Wonder Egg Priority is available for legal streaming through FunimationNow in Japanese and English.

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