Content Warnings: Visceral depictions of bullying and suicide; violence and blood splatters.
What’s it about? Bullied at school and reeling from the loss of her best friend, shut-in Ai is given the chance to “get something she wants” via a mysterious gachapon machine that produces eggs. Inside each egg is a person who needs help—and if Ai can protect them from the nightmares of their shared dream-world, she may just be able to get her best friend back.
Whatever you thought Wonder Egg Priority was going to be based on its odd name, vague description, and super-brief promo video, you were wrong. Don’t worry: I was wrong, too. I kinda think everyone was.
Wonder Egg is fabulism meets horror/suspense meets character drama. It is fantastical and grounded in equal turns (and sometimes simultaneously), with a raw emotionality that pulls no punches but also doesn’t revel in suffering. It is surprising, tense, and stunning to look at, and I am beyond psyched to watch more of it.
Wonder Egg wastes no time pulling the viewer into its strange-yet-familiar world, enveloping the audience in a tone that hovers between awe and terror. A locust leads Ai to a cave containing escalators and an egg-pulling gachapon… and then we wake up to a home grounded in mundane touches and a protagonist realistically depicted with social anxiety, from the hoodie she tightens around her face whenever she goes out to the way she consistently curls her knees to her chest when she sits… and then we’re back in the dreamscape again, with girls hatching from eggs and knife-wielding monster hordes.
It’s disorienting, but intentionally so, to put the audience in Ai’s shoes and feel the same way she does. Wonder Egg also does a smart job of dropping organic explanatory dialogue throughout to keep you from feeling completely lost. The episode asks you to pay attention, but by the end of it you’ll have a firm grasp on the premise and characters—although whether Mr. Locust is telling the truth or not is still up for debate, I suppose.
Any show that looks this striking and deals so heavily in the fantastical runs the risk of focusing on style at the loss substance, but so far Wonder Egg is blending character development and theme with action and mood exceedingly well. At the heart of this other-worldly tale is a complex story about trauma, grief, and trying to undo your past mistakes.
Ai’s dreamscape is haunted by the faceless grinning girls who bullied her in school. The creepily jerky “Seeno Evil” monsters hunting Kurumi are a clear manifestation of the school announcement to “pretend not to see people getting bullied” that sends Ai into a panic. A statue of Ai’s friend Koito, who committed suicide, hovers on the edge of the dream-school’s rooftop in the pose of someone just about to jump.
It’s intense and visceral to the point of being genuinely triggering, so I would ask readers to please take the content warnings for this one seriously. That said, it’s also sympathetically handled, artfully staged, and feels like it’s leading someplace meaningful… or at least, I sure hope it is.
If I have any real concerns about Wonder Egg, it’s that the painful but ultimately triumphant struggles of this first episode will devolve into pointless suffering and tragedy porn. I’m worried that Ai’s adventures in eggland aren’t as straightforward as she’s been told and that there may be a heavier cost to saving Koito’s life (if that’s even possible) than she realizes.
Even if that’s not the case, this is definitely going to be a series that deals with heavy subject matter, as Ai will likely continue to hatch eggs and literally battle the traumas of other trapped (dead?) teenagers. The series will need to find ways to balance the sorrow and tension with joy or humor, otherwise this could get exhausting in a hurry. This first episode features enough lighter moments (like Ai and Kurumi’s chat or Ai’s exuberant final attack) that I’m optimistic, but we’ll see how the next couple weeks shake out.
And speaking of things to keep an eye on, there are a couple other noteworthy points for AniFem readers. First is the introduction of another egg-venturer, Aonuma Neiru. Her name is Japanese but she’s darker-skinned than Japanese characters in anime are typically depicted, so she may be coded as mixed-race. That’s pure speculation though, since she hasn’t had any lines yet. We’ll have to wait ’til next week to learn more.
The other point of note is that there’s a fair bit of queer-coding with Ai, first in some of the intimate flashbacks with Koito and then when she blushes and exclaims that Neiru has an “amazing figure.” Based on the way this premiere keeps centering the importance of “best friends,” I don’t really expect Wonder Egg to feature any canon romance, but there’s likely to be plenty of subtext for those looking for it.
I could keep talking about this premiere, honestly—about the naturalistic performances of the voice actors; or how the focus on body language gives the characters more depth in one episode than a lot of anime get in a whole season; or how the nightmare sequences are legitimately creepy and unsettling, using broken motion and CGI uncanniness to magnificent effect—but then I’d be keeping you from the experience of actually watching it yourself.
So instead I’ll shut up for now and encourage you to go forth and stream. It’s not always an easy watch, but if you can handle the content warnings, then this Wonder Egg premiere is an absolute must.