Wonder Egg Priority – Episode 8

4 months ago 63

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m frankly a little hesitant to return to Wonder Egg Priority, as the show’s last episode came pretty close to emotionally destroying me. Rika’s experience of self-hatred and depression felt uncomfortably close to home; the cheerful outward affectation, the flashes of uncontrollable frustration, and most crucially, that sinking, ever-present feeling of weight on top of you, weight that you cannot simply exist under, weight that you must fight and fight every day, without any real hope of relieving it. When Rika at last submitted to her fatigue, and asked if it truly can be easier, I felt that exhaustion in my bones. If life is this painful, surely nothingness must be a relief?

Fortunately, Rika had just enough of a support system to dampen those thoughts, and fight once more for a better tomorrow. Just as her submission to her demons felt poignantly true to life, so too did her defiant declaration at the end. “I’ll leave you one day, but not today” – to those suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies, and mental illness more broadly, that rallying cry feels like the most we can earnestly hope for. There’s no guarantee things will get easier, and no guarantee we’ll be able to fight forever – but at least this day, I am declaring that the darkness will not win, and that I will see tomorrow.

It’s a genuine victory, and should be celebrated as such; in a show covering topics as charged as Wonder Egg, to simply declare that Rika is “solved” would be a betrayal of her substance as a character, and of Wonder Egg’s general ability to evoke the genuine, felt experience of depression. I tend to like the shows that rip into my chest, grab hold of something utterly true to my experience, and explore it in all its beauty, ugliness, and undeniable humanity. Wonder Egg has the lived experience of depression in its clasp, and however this story turns, I’ll remain profoundly grateful to it for illustrating such a difficult experience with such frankness and compassion. This show can hurt me, but it’s a good hurt, a hurt that reminds me I’m not alone in the struggle. Among art’s many goals, that sense of connection and common humanity feels like one of the most noble of all. I’m ready, Wonder Egg. Let’s return to the fight.

Episode 8

Neiru is inviting the other girls to her place. Her personal life is still the biggest mystery remaining within the main cast, and at the moment is stretching the audience’s suspension of disbelief more than any other component of the narrative. Audiences are generally okay with embracing one impossible conceit for the sake of a narrative, whether it’s “witches are real” or “the wonder egg system exists” or whatnot. So far, Neiru’s home life has felt like a second impossible assumption, and with no direct connection to the wonder egg conceit, it somewhat undercuts the general grounded, relatable nature of their mundane lives. The show absolutely has some explaining to do here

Really nice casual banter across the main group, as they all take shots at Neiru for actually revealing something about herself. If you want to convey that a group of friends are or have become close, having them roast each other is a pretty sure bet

Unsurprisingly, Rika’s the one who gives Neiru the hardest time for acting unexpectedly, while Ai is simply happy to be invited over. Rika seemingly can’t help but scratch at points of friction or irritation in others, daring them to challenge her, and therefore taking control of a conversation’s pace. Ai is close to the opposite – it is her considerate nature, and ability to walk softly around the discomfort of others, that allowed her to connect with the reserved Neiru in the first place. Though she’s clearly suffering through plenty of her own pain, Ai still acts like an ideal ally to those in need, remaining mindful of their trauma as she tries to help them love themselves more

“This is a recording of President Aonuma’s brain.” Alright, so now Neiru’s company can actually record her egg fights. Sure, fine, please continue

Aw, this cut of Momoe sadly looking down at the takoyaki machine she brought. Momoe just wanted to have a nice time with her new friends, not receive this weird science fiction lecture

It is hard to express what a consistent joy it is to be watching a show with characters this convincingly sculpted. I have difficulty caring about a character just because the author has asked me to – I need to believe in that character first, to understand their experiences, their worldview, their joy and their sorrow. Grant me that, and I’ll sob alongside them – deny it, and I’m just watching a bad writer tell me I’m supposed to be sad. At times I almost feel jealous of people who can invest in lightly sketched characters – but from Evangelion’s emotional autopsy of Shinji onward, it’s always been the most human characters that inspire me in fiction, and it probably always will be

Neiru is a member of Plati, a group of high-IQ individuals

She was born via artificial insemination of a member of the group. So she’s just the collective child of a society of geniuses?

Neiru’s room is in the medical wing. It’s as cold and function-driven as she is; many books, few personal items, and a generally metallic, impersonal look

Oh good, they got to use Momoe’s takoyaki machine after all

As usual, Rika gets a little insensitive in her praise for Neiru’s situation. Ai notices that Neiru seems about to genuinely express her feelings on her situation, but then Momoe interrupts first, lightening the mood and distracting Rika. Both Ai and Momoe are keenly aware of how Rika tends to upset Neiru, and ready to jump in to defuse the situation

“I think I’d like to be a dietician.” Details this specific really help make characters feel human

While all the others have dreams, Neiru thinks “I’ll probably stay like this forever”

In the back of her private chamber, there’s an incubation bed with a girl inside. “Kotobuki Awano. She was born at Japan Plati like I was.” Presumably this is the “sister” she mentioned earlier

Kotobuki is albino. As usual, Wonder Egg’s script is about ten years ahead of the pack in terms of its sensitivity here, as this fact is embraced by a group of girls who have particularly good reasons to embrace the differences of others

“She was performing near-death experiences, and eventually didn’t come back”

Neiru recently met her in an egg dream. Their rapport is established with extreme efficiency – it’s clear that Neiru looked up to this girl, who now comfortably pokes at Neiru’s stern nature. Kotobuki’s design also makes for a vivid contrast with Neiru’s egg world – Neiru’s own darker tones sort of sink into the reddish-brown background, whereas Kotobuki is practically glowing. This seems appropriate, given this is Neiru’s mind – she doesn’t really think much of herself, but thinks everything of Kotobuki

“Will you save me? Or would you like me to save you?”

Kotobuki has a relentlessly scientific mind, finding her own egg dream more fascinating than frightening

Her enemy is a bird-like creature in a lab coat. Clearly someone from Plati, or perhaps an amalgam of them

“I was right, Neiru. Parallel worlds do exist!” Oh shit. So did Kotobuki essentially break through to the “wonder egg reality” through her experiments? I’d figured the show would maintain a clear separation between the mundane and egg realities, but if we’re introducing scientists breaching into parallel worlds, then our leads could theoretically “fight back” in ways outside of the egg system

“That may be true, but I can never see you again.” Neiru is genuinely angry at Kotobuki, for choosing her experiments over Neiru’s friendship

“We’re not some couple that can’t handle long-distance.” “I can’t be so philosophical about it yet.” Compared to Kotobuki, Neiru is actually the passionate, emotional one in this relationship

“At stage four Thanato, there was a sweet smell like honey. I felt like an insect being preyed upon by a carnivorous plant.” Thanatos is another term for Freud’s “death drive,” the instinct that drives us towards self-destructive actions. A playful reference in this show, which is so centrally concerned with all of the external factors that contribute to seemingly “senseless” self-harm – and a perfect framing for Kotobuki, who seems to see her own self-destruction as a natural step in her research

It’s a terrible thing Kotobuki’s asking of her – to accept her death, and turn off the incubator herself. To give up her hope of ever being reunited. But Neiru, if you’re meeting her here, then she’s already gone

“I’m Doctor Seki! You stole my job as chief of the medical center!” So rather than this man abusing her into suicide, perhaps he just directly meddled with her experiments, prompting a dive she couldn’t come back from

“Oh, the guy who was obsessed with my body. So this is my trauma, huh?” Kotobuki’s certainly got a unique personality

Seki’s a pretty common archetype: the male intellectual who feels uniquely threatened by women jockeying for his position. When it’s proven that these girls actually are smarter than him, he actually destroys himself – his identity is built on his superiority

Back in the real world, Neiru is actually the one trying to be strong and accept Kotobuki’s wishes, while Rika can’t accept it

It seems clear Neiru actually brought her friends here for emotional support, but they’re not prepared for the magnitude of this task. Rika and Momoe are both against it, while Ai has retreated into her defensive hoody form

Ai wisely returns alone. Rika and Momoe can’t really help Neiru; they can’t put their own feelings aside, and consider things from her perspective

Alright, so this really is how the narrative is going to resolve itself. Neiru’s subordinate outright admits that Kotobuki was drawing closer to the truth, while in a conference with friggin’ Acca and Ura-Acca. No wonder Neiru’s backstory felt the most fanciful out of any of them – she’s the bridge, connecting the egg trials to their mundane reality

Not only that, Acca and Ura-Acca also admit they’re the true enemies – and Momoe and Rika overhear them? We are leaping into narrative overdrive here; it’s certainly abrupt, but I suppose we had to shift towards the endgame somehow

Frankly, it does feel like these revelations should have taken place over a greater amount of time – perhaps, before the recap became necessary, this information was supposed to come out over the course of two full episodes

At the same time, I actually really like how this “the secret behind the egg system!” stuff is just being tossed off incidentally, only for us to immediately return to the important stuff: Ai helping Neiru deal with her feelings of grief. The nitty-gritty mechanics of this world’s fantasy construction are almost irrelevant to its emotional and thematic goals; this is not a story about make-believe systems, it’s a story about individuals, their trauma, and the world that inflicted this on them

As expected, Ai is the only one who can truly reach Neiru. Upon hearing Kotobuki’s own reasons for wanting to be disconnected, Ai assures Neiru that the others would understand too, if they only knew the truth. Ai is an incredibly empathetic person, which makes her a wonderful friend, but also opens her up to a lot of second-hand emotional suffering

“With the two of us, it’s fantasy.” And thus she does the kindest thing she could: shoulder responsibility as well, and press the button alongside Neiru. An affirmation of Neiru’s choice, and a defusal of the blame

And Done

Whoof, yeah, this show is murder. In narrative terms, the full reveal of Neiru’s circumstances ended up doing far more than simply fleshing out the main cast. We now essentially understand the scope of the narrative – that Acca and Ura-Acca are specific agents working in collaboration with Plati, and that the egg system is deliberately manipulating the psychology of these girls, and somehow integrating them into parallel planes of existence. Rather than the fantasy-based “this system is just an immutable fact of the world,” it seems Wonder Egg Priority is embracing a science fiction model – though ultimately, it seems like we’re still moving towards a Madoka-esque “the suffering of youth is harvested as energy” conclusion.

But regardless of its fantastical trappings, this episode’s core story of saying goodbye to a dear friend felt painful and sincere, while Ai once again proved she’s the best friend any of these girls could ask for. In an episode brimming with fantastical inventions, I thoroughly appreciate that the conclusion rested on a gesture of simple selflessness, an act of love for a dear friend. For all its creativity, Wonder Egg Priority never forgets what it is celebrating: the profound value of these girls and their bonds, regardless of how the world sees them.

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