“An Adult Child”
Ai ventures inside the Accas’ house in search of answers. There she meets Ura-Acca, who explains his and Acca’s shared past, and what the two of them have been searching for all along.
They did it. They did the thing. They went full anime. And you know what? I don’t hate it.
OK, that’s a statement that requires some serious explaining and has some fairly major disclaimers attached too. But the core point here is that I think that this episode managed to maintain the atmosphere and thematic direction of the show, while at the same time giving us a much more defined (and, ultimately, familiar) narrative framework to work from for the upcoming finale. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with the pivot they’ve chosen to go with, but it’s a fairly impressive achievement on a purely mechanical level.
The core thing which makes this huge change in style work is that the show remembers that at heart it’s a character drama and that its strongest moments have all been around its characters. By having Ura-Acca explain the two scientists’ backstory from his own personal viewpoint, it invests it with a level of personality and emotion that you wouldn’t get from a straight exposition dump. The writing here is also smart and economical with the limited time that they have. Why do the Accas decide to create a person? Ultimately the answer doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they did it, so the story wisely decides that it doesn’t need to spend any time on it. Instead, we get to spend more time observing the actual relationships at play. Of course that includes the relationship between Frill and her ‘father’ figures, but it also encompasses the relationship between Acca and Ura-Acca, between the two of them and Azusa, and of course between the pair and Himari.
The great strength of the episode is how it charts the tangled web of these relationships forming and breaking. A Wonder Egg strength throughout the run has been how strongly it’s adhered to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule, and how it’s leveraged the ambiguities that are sometimes inherent to that method into rich grounds for speculation and interpretation. Take for example how we find our scientific duo at the beginning of this episode – they’re obviously research partners, but the level of domesticity and interplay between the two suggests something deeper. Are they romantically involved? The show doesn’t go out of its way to confirm or deny (even Frill’s ‘husband’ comment can be taken sincerely or ironically), leaving you to draw your own conclusions, but it certainly adds an important subtext to what transpires. Two men in a relationship could never hope to have a child through natural means, so does Frill represent their desire for a daughter to call their own? If so that adds another layer of poignancy to what unfolds. The use of Ura-Acca here as the viewpoint character is important, as he’s both intimately involved enough to have major stakes in the story, yet far enough away to be effective as an audience proxy.
Frill’s story also acts as a thematic culmination to the most important ongoing theme in Wonder Egg – that of adult figures abusing their power and responsibility over the young girls they’re meant to be responsible for. We’ve seen girls physically and sexually abused, gaslit, manipulated, and used for their unique talents. Acca and Ura-Acca’s actions here are the ultimate example of this – they create life, effectively just for fun, without realising the duty which comes with such an action. Ura-Acca even admits they chose the age of 14 because it represents a uniquely unstable time in a person’s life, poised on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, all because that would make her a more interesting specimen to observe. In a way it’s barely even Frill’s fault that she is the way she is – brought up under intense scrutiny by two older men who aren’t exactly models of progressive social integration, and burdened with minimal life experience, all of it wavering back and forth between childhood and adulthood. She has all of the neediness and poor impulse control of a child, but the intelligence and occasional piercing insight of an grown-up. Her murder of Azusa is classic toddler jealousy and impulsiveness, but married to the ability to act and manipulate of a young adult.
The Frankenstein parallels are overt and impossible to ignore, and very much like that story, the episode is constructed as a classical tragedy. Acca and Ura-Acca created a monster without thought or consideration of the consequences, and in return that monster took everything from them…seemingly. In return, they’ve devoted their existences to undoing whatever it has done, even going beyond physical form in pursuit of their mission. The show has gradually been depicting the Accas as more and more sinister as time has gone on, but this episode splits the difference somewhat. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel for them after the suffering they’ve been through, or to be warmed by their happiness with Frill, Azusa, and Himari. Yet at the same time their ‘work’ is still deeply immoral, and they carry on either blithely unaware of the moral issues, or simply not caring about them. While it’s partially understandable given the circumstances, Acca’s beating and caging of Frill is still a deeply disturbing scene, as is the implication near the end that Ura-Acca burned her to death. The violent content in this episode is generally much more explicit than in previous ones, most notably Himari’s bloody death scene. I’m OK with this, since it’s used narratively to impart maximum possible impact at important moments, but I’m sympathetic to those who think it might be a bit much. The continued butchering of the animal buddies is less defensible and feels uncomfortably exploitative for a show which has generally been good at avoiding violent content purely for shock value.
I’ve deliberately left the biggest and most important issue for last, because it’s both the most critical and the most contentious. As we thought it might, this episode strongly suggests that there’s an outside factor to the suicides we’ve been seeing, with the implication being that Frill somehow has gained the power to influence suicidal thoughts in teenage girls. This is the part of ‘full anime’ that we were all scared of, and how it resolves will be critical to how the show will be remembered overall. One of the things that we’ve most praised Wonder Egg for is its nuanced and sensitive handling of the very difficult subject of suicide. The show has consistently been very good at articulating that the choice to take one’s own life is a complex, deeply personal decision which can be affected by any number of things, not all of which are obvious or simple. Needless to say, a conclusion which swept all of that aside in favour of ‘they did it because of anime magic’ would be absolutely calamitous and basically invalidate all of the good work done up to this point, quite aside from being deeply insulting to those who struggle with such thoughts in real life. The writing clearly tries to hedge by saying that it may only be a ‘contributing factor’ but that’s a cop-out and won’t do anything to mitigate the damage should they go through with this.
On that other hand, the alternative would be shocking in a completely different way. If this all turns out to be a red herring then…that means Himari really did take her own life, and Acca and Ura-Acca have once again utterly failed to protect the woman they cared about. All of their work since that day has been a wild goose chase, and all of their manipulation of Ai and company has ultimately been for nothing. I would honestly be a little amazed if this is the route they took, so astonishingly bleak it is, but it’s also in my opinion the only thing they could do to maintain the thematic integrity of the show. Suicide is a terrible tragedy that can strike unexpectedly, feel completely arbitrary, and is cruel beyond belief. Any ending that fails to understand that would be a betrayal of both Wonder Egg Priority’s moral core, and of all the good work which has been put in up to this point. A bad ending can’t retroactively make previous episodes bad of course, but a failure to successfully reconcile the climax with everything that came before would cast a long shadow over the show’s legacy. For better or worse, the path has been set, and now we’re all going to have to find out where it leads by walking it together.
- One thing which is notably completely absent from this episode is any resolution to the Ai/Sawaki cliffhanger from last episode. Given Ai seems calm and in control, whatever answer he gave was clearly satisfactory to her. Under the circumstances I’m leaning more towards him being innocent of any involvement with Koito, but I’m sure we’ll find out next week.
- The beautiful overhead shot of Ai walking under the trellis towards the front door is later repeated with Frill, reinforcing the connection between the two girls.
- Himari’s unsettling sort-of come-on to Ura-Acca is a clear echo of Sawaki and Koito, and of the other inappropriate adult-child relationships we’ve seen throughout the show, providing another thematic link to ideas that have spanned across the story.
- The episode wisely keeps the actual timeframe of the flashback completely ambiguous. Even the earliest scenes give no indications of being set at any time before the present day. That makes it impossible to gauge how long Acca and Ura-Acca have been working at their task. Long enough to need to discard their human bodies at least. What is time in a dream anyway?
- The table Ura-Acca and Ai sit down at still has a birthday cake on it. Himari died on her birthday, and clearly for the two men time stopped on that day.
- Notably, at no point does Frill claim to have actually done what she is accused of, and killed Himari. She offers to tell Ura-Acca what actually happened, but that’s not the same as saying she was the cause.
I think Zigg and I generally agree the turn we took in episode 9 toward the anime conspiracy meta plot was not the best move for the series, but I have stronger negative feelings about it. At best, it is information that is thematically irrelevant and distracts from the individual struggles of the main girls. In fact, I almost laughed out loud at how silly and out of left field some of the plot points were, like the Accas just creating a human because they were bored. Add this to the fact that they are dropping these plot bombs too late to give them proper development and I would say I have some serious concerns about the ending.
If that’s the best outcome, the worst case is if they stick with this concept of a magical external force driving the girls to suicide. It kind of implies that the abuse they’ve suffered should have been perfectly normal and manageable otherwise. That would undermine everything the series has been telling us up to now. It would also feed into the theory that there has been internal conflict about what Wonder Egg Priority is trying to say, or the creators not having a clear idea of how to say it.
Fortunately I do see a path out of this. I think it is still very possible that Frill had nothing to do with the deaths of the other girls. I am particularly thinking of how she tells Ura-Acca he’s quick to jump to conclusions and no actual connection to her is made. It’s just his hunch. In fact, revealing that everything the Accas thought they knew about women, which has already included some outright wrong statements, WOULD support everything else the series has been trying to tell us. Will they actually go that far, or can they even pull that off in one episode? I’m leaning toward no, but it’s probably the only ending I would accept.
One more thing I do want to mention, I think both episode 10 and 11 crossed a line on their graphic depictions of abuse, specifically scenes with Kaoru and Frill. It made me extremely uncomfortable, and more importantly I’ve heard of others who have had experiences with abuse that basically had to turn it off. I had heard similar things from the episode with Rika and her experience with self harm, but this seemed to go even further than that.
I understand you have to show abuse sometimes to bring awareness to it, but I don’t think showing as much on screen as they did was necessary to accomplish this. I’d give the creators the benefit of the doubt and say they were not just going for shock value, but following up with the grotesque scenes of the cute mascot animals getting murdered and eaten does not help that argument. Maybe they could have at least added a warning to these episodes?
For me, Wonder Egg Priority continues to be just short of true greatness. Even if they somehow get the ending right, there are other nagging issues I’ve had since the beginning. I don’t think they can change my overall opinion at this point. Regardless of my hang ups though, the series is always fascinating to watch and analyze. I have my popcorn ready for the final episode.
- I normally don’t do these, but Neiru is probably an AI, right? And Frill is her sister? You could loosely match them to the Accas’ initial design sketches. But what if all the girls are AIs? I mean, one of them is literally named “Ai”. What if we are ALL just AIs???? OK, this show needs to end.
- (Euri’s note: It’s more likely that Ai’s name is a pun in the form of a homonym. Ohto Ai = Odd Eye, alluding to her heterochromia. But hey, why not both?)