Not like this. Please, not like this.
You know, I am someone who likes to write a lot, who likes to take his time getting to the point. But sometimes, you have to put that aside. Sometimes you have to cut the crap and go for the jugular.
This was awful. This sucked. This was disgraceful.
Words cannot even begin to articulate how disappointed, how utterly crushed I was when the credits rolled on this ‘special’ episode. Everything that was good about Wonder Egg Priority, everything that I found enjoyable, or meaningful, or relatable, this episode grinds to dust. It is a failure on every conceivable level. It doesn’t work as a conclusion to the plot. It doesn’t work as a resolution to any of the characters’ arcs. It doesn’t work as a thematic summation of the show. It doesn’t even work as a self contained coherent narrative. Worse than all of these though is that it actively seeks to propagate dangerous, harmful ideas that are the exact opposite of the empathy and compassion that the show once preached.
Let’s start with what this episode is not though. What it is not is 46 minutes – more than half of that runtime is a recap with no original footage, meaning what we end up with is actually slightly shorter than a normal episode. What it is also not is finished. Animation is clunky and limited, action non-existent, backgrounds very obviously filtered photos. Since the initial TV run ended more details have filtered out about just what a complete disaster the actual production of the show was, and it’s clear things have not improved in the three month gap. Again, it shouldn’t have to be said, but no cartoon is worth the kind of insane crunch the production crew were putting in. No art is worth putting your staff in hospital for. Between this and The Promised Neverland season 2, Clover Works is beginning to look like a studio that has a severe problem with higher-level management, and I hope for the sake of both their output and especially their workers they can course-correct that ASAP.
There are so many problems with this episode you could talk for hours about it, yet there’s no doubt what the worst is, the rotten core at the centre of all of the awfulness. It’s the Koito stuff, no contest. One of the reasons I’ve been drawn to Wonder Egg throughout its run is the compassion and understanding it has shown towards its young teenage cast, especially the many who have suffered some form of abuse. Often the show has had points to make about how abusers are protected by their positions of power, or how society is conditioned to downplay or ignore young womens’ trauma.
To turn around from that and say ACTUALLY Koito was the temptress and it was HER preying on Sawaki, not the other way round, is beyond wrong. It’s disgusting. It’s absolutely unforgivable. Do you have any idea how many real-life abusers have hidden behind such claims? Any idea how damaging and dangerous the idea that children can ‘seduce’ adults is? To paint a fourteen year old girl as some sort of crazed maneater is an idea so totally fucked up it beggars belief. There’s also a false rape claim thrown in there, just to really hit all of those ‘bitches be crazy’ nails squarely on the head, and have Sawaki come up smelling like roses, despite his long history of extremely sketchy behaviour. I can’t fathom a reason for this creative decision other than the desire for a big WHAT A TWEEEST! moment, and the corroding effect of it poisons the rest of the episode, and indeed the rest of the show, thoroughly. There’s mileage in the idea to inject a little darkness into the reality of Ai’s ‘perfect’ friend, but literally any other way would have been better than this.
Beyond such crassness, this episode is also just terrible in terms of actual storytelling. There were so many loose plot threads dangling that even had this episode run a true 46 minutes there was no chance of getting to them all. The best we could hope for was closure on one or two important ones. Indeed, the writers appear to have chosen to focus on the Neiru subplot, but they’ve delivered such a limp-wristed resolution that you kind of wish they hadn’t. Neiru ups and disappears, rescues her ‘sister’ (offscreen of course, battles are hard to animate) and then it turns out Neiru was actually an AI clone of her sister? Then Frill shows up to tempt Neiru into becoming a real girl…and that’s it. Everyone just kind of gives up on doing anything and goes home. Ai gets a call from Neiru and just throws her phone away, for no reason I can fathom. We’ve had so much buildup on Ai as someone determined to fight for her friends no matter what that this utter capitulation is shockingly out of character. There’s definitely a universe where this works, and the idea of Neiru finding solidarity with Frill because they’re both artificial humans has some legs, but it all happens so suddenly and so free of context that it’s hard to react with anything other than confusion.
At least Neiru gets some story about her though, which is better than pretty much everyone else. Remember how Rika and Momoe were deeply traumatised and living in fear after their animals were brutally slaughtered? They’re fine now! Also their friends came back to life but don’t remember them, but that’s OK because….I got nothing. The ‘resolution’, if you can call it that, to their character arcs is so casually tossed off it’s insulting, and the pair of them basically disappear from the narrative without a second thought. All we get is a brief aside from Ai about how she ‘drifted apart from everyone’ and that’s it. Oh and Ai quit her school, despite her return to said school being one of the huge emotional climaxes of the series. It’s just all so…perfunctory, so devoid of any depth or emotion. I’m not insisting that we have a happy ending, but the idea that these girls would just casually stop being part of each other’s lives after such an experience makes their entire relationship feel like it was meaningless and shallow. The same goes for their relationship with their resurrected friends – Ai at least gets a few moments to confront Koito, but the others just cheerfully recount what should have been huge personal moments for them. It just adds to the feeling that everything is so rushed and hollow. We’re told things happen, but none of them have any weight because they’re just a few words and then we’re on to the next thing.
Amazingly, one of the plot threads that the show is content to leave dangling is the actual, core mystery which the entire story has been built around. We get absolutely zero closure on the Frill/Accas/Himari stuff, it’s not even mentioned once and as I noted, Frill herself only shows up briefly to chat with Neiru. I think it’s fair to say I’ve had mixed feelings about this aspect of the story, but to just abandon it with no hint of closure or resolution is so slapdash it borders on comical. What’s even worse is the very end, which sees Ai decide to go back to egg buying, presumably months after the fact, and finds everything pretty much exactly as she left it. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a stupidly optimistic tease for a Season 2 or just a misguided attempt at a ‘the adventure continues’ style denouement, but both options are equally baffling and unsatisfying. There’s no reason to wind the plot down and then start it up again, except now without most of the characters we care about, when you know there’s no chance of it going anywhere. It’s just a cop-out to prevent you needing to actually provide any form of resolution.
‘Cop-out’ really is the perfect overall description for this episode, which ends what’s aimed to be a deep, complex story in such amazingly slapdash fashion. To be clear, I feel this was always going to be a untidy, imperfect way to conclude the series – contrary to popular belief, troubled productions tend to result in troubled works – but I had optimism that the core strengths of the show would allow it to find a conclusion that was emotionally resonant, if imperfect. Clearly though the rot ran deeper than anybody could have expected, and what we’re left with is a cobbled-together mess which barely counts as a coherent episode, let alone a satisfying conclusion to such an ambitious artistic statement. It brings me no joy to castigate Wonder Egg, as nobody wanted this finale to be successful and meaningful more than I. But it isn’t, and most damningly, the show would probably have been better off had it never existed.
- How can Koito even be in the Egg world if her death was an accident, rather than suicide?
- I will say Ai singing the ending theme (very badly) at karaoke is cute, as is the animation of her bobbing up and down on the balls of her feet.
- What’s with the weird scene where Ai thinks about starting to smoke?
- What is Ai so upset about? The dialogue makes it sound like she’s suffered another traumatic life event…but is it just about her smashing her phone?
- So did Ai’s mum and Sawaki keep seeing each other or what?
- Why is Kotobuki even here? She doesn’t do anything at all which affects the plot.
- Most glaringly of all, since the Egg game appears to be really, genuinely able to return people from the dead, why do the Accas not simply run the game themselves to resurrect Himari?
Some shows are good. They’re easy to write about! Some shows are bad, and they’re even easier! Most shows live in the fuzzy ground in-between, where good and bad are matters of subjectivity, and they tend to be the toughest to analyse. Wonder Egg Priority exists in a level beyond even that, where what you get out of the show is inextricably tied to what you bring into it, and every person watching will see something different. As you can probably tell if you’ve read my ongoing coverage of the show, I was mostly positive on Wonder Egg, and up until this finale I might even have called it a great anime, though not one without its flaws. The question then is whether this finale is bad enough to poison the well and retroactively damage all the good work that came before it.
The answer, I think, is no….but only barely. Honestly, this finale is so bad that it goes a fair way to erasing much of the copious goodwill that the show built up beforehand. A great deal of that is tied up, as I previously mentioned, in the resolution to the Koito mystery. The show has done a great job throughout its run of holding the reason for Koito’s supposed suicide as a sword of Damocles above our head, a largely unspoken but dangerous and tragic secret that threatened to upend the narrative once revealed (it, er, certainly succeeded on that last bit). It’s also been really good at showing how the fallout from that death has ongoing ramifications on our characters, particularly in Ai’s struggle with her survivor’s guilt and especially in building the atmosphere of danger and unease around the seemingly benign Sawaki.
The pivot, then, to Sawaki as innocent angel and Koito as devilish honeytrap, is not only in bad taste but also damages the integrity of the show by seeming to align itself against the prevailing narrative that has been pushed throughout. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed Wonder Egg is that it’s spent much of its runtime digging into the difficult subject of why teenagers choose to take their own lives, and how that’s often tied to the malignant effect of adult abusers in their lives. Where Wonder Egg goes further than the average show is that it also seems to understand that sometimes these abusers are driven not only by their own impulses, but that they are protected and often even encouraged by entrenched systems which favour them over the children they are supposed to be protecting. Think back to Minami’s gymnastics coach, or Yae’s doctors, or countless other examples – these are cases where the system not only protected abusers, but it made them believe that the abuse was actually the only way to get results.
The Koito twist then is so damaging to the narrative as a whole because it inverts this throughline entirely, encouraging us to blame Koito for a man’s death and reinforcing the dangerous myth of women crying wolf about abuse allegations. Again, I will emphasise – children cannot seduce adults, adults can only allow themselves to justify their abuse of children. It retroactively makes the scenes throughout the entire show that feature Koito and Sawaki painful and embarrassing to watch, because we now know that none of the many, many red flags surrounding the teacher will ever be followed up on, and nor will we ever actually get a chance to hear from Koito herself. The sincerity of the many, many storylines and moments which recognise the difficulties that young women face are thrown into doubt because of this one tone-deaf creative choice.
Even leaving aside the dubious finale, I think it’s fair to say that the second half of the show is weaker than the first, mostly due to the decision to backload much of the more plot heavy elements. It’s hardly a revelation to say that pacing is one of the things the largely untested staff struggled with, given that the show had, you know, no ending, but that also manifests itself in some less obvious ways. In general, the more heavily science-fiction aspects of the show sit uncomfortably alongside the fantastical, magical ones, and while I think the marriage can work with enough good writing, perhaps some judicious editing would have been easier and more beneficial. I don’t think that the parallel worlds stuff brings much to the narrative, while the animal buddies are equally puzzling, an awkward remnant of more traditional magical girl stylings. It’s very hard to say what direction the Frill plot would have ended up going in – I liked the episode that focused on it, but implying that some outside force was causing the suicides was always going to be playing with fire. The fact that it is of course completely unresolved is another mark against it.
That’s a lot of mistakes to make, and I cannot overstate the bad taste that this final episode left in my mouth. Yet I still think that the strong parts of Wonder Egg were so strong that they’re worthy of commendation and celebration. The macro-scale story might have been clumsy and misguided, but the show excelled at telling the smaller, more intimate narratives that focused on personal trauma and struggles. That starts with the core four girls, who are a terrific ensemble. The show does a great job of giving the interactions between them space to breath and nails the natural excitement and awkwardness of growing into a new friendship. It also does a great job of distinguishing them from one another and letting them bond over the similarities and clash over the differences which naturally occur. Final episode aside, their actions and responses always feel perfectly in keeping with their established personalities, and you feel genuine attachment to them, and a desire to see them triumph over the things which trouble them so.
If I had to pick I think it’s Neiru who gets the short end of the stick a little, which is partly an inevitable by-product of being the cold, calculating one. She’s still great though, and Momoe and Rikka are both delightful. I’ve definitely got a special love for Ai though, who is a wonderful protagonist. and an important anchor for all the crazy stuff happening around her. The pain and damage she’s endured are obvious, but they never define her, and her gradual journey back into life is richly rewarding to follow along with. The script makes sure to emphasise that she’s capable of petty childishness as well as strength beyond her years, and it never objectifies her or reduces her to a prop, painting a rounded portrait of a girl caught on the cusp between immaturity and adulthood.
That sense of nuance and relatability carries through to the girls who our heroes are fighting to save. Given it’s about teenage suicides you’d expect this to be an unbearably bleak show, but while there are definite moments of darkness, the writing is good enough to balance the tragedy with moments of friendship, hope, and even humour. It’s a difficult balancing act to do this and yet still retain a sense of emotional weight and heft to the events which happen, but it’s something which at its best Wonder Egg is able to accomplish with aplomb. It’s also great at making our weekly victims memorable personalities in their own right, despite the very limited time we spend with them. They never feel like they’re just milestones for our heroines, but rather unique characters who are just passing through.
Finally I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the often remarkable visual presentation of the show. This is a double-edged sword, because it’s definitely something which was often only achieved at punishing cost to the production staff, and even then only some of the time. When it’s firing on all cylinders though this is a remarkable achievement in design and animation, its day-glo monsters and surreal landscapes providing the perfect visual compliment to the unfolding stories. The direction understands the need to sometimes saturate the screen with movement and mayhem, and sometimes to pull back and hold still or silent. The natural movement of the characters, their nervous tics and habits all add to the impression of life that leaps off the screen at you.
Where does that leave us then? In a difficult place, no doubt. Wonder Egg Priority is a brave show, one which has interesting and meaningful things to say. That’s important, and the difficulty of producing art which speaks to viewers on such an intimate level shouldn’t be underestimated. On the other hand, it’s a statement which is at best totally incomplete and at worst is guilty of speaking out of both sides of its mouth regarding the issues it tackles. The very real damage it did to its creators shouldn’t be discounted either. The result is a frustratingly contradictory show, one which is clearly, massively flawed, yet also one which has style, soul and substance almost to spare at times. My hope is that director Shin Wakabayashi and his crew can take the bitter lessons they’ve no doubt learned from this production, and go on to much greater heights. For now though, it’s hard to escape the fact that, despite all of its great moments, Wonder Egg Priority ultimately failed at telling the story they wanted to tell. It really, truly breaks my heart to say so. The thing is though, to have your heart broken, you have to have been in love to begin with.