Wonder Egg Priority Review: Anime Excellence, But at What Cost?

Wonder Egg Priority Review Cover

The first episode of Wonder Egg Priority impressed us so much, we published our review with the subtitle ‘Wonderin’ How They Pulled This Off.’ With each successive episode of Wonder Egg at least as lavishly and emotionally impactful as the first, we wondered if the sorcery CloverWorks conjured to ‘pull this off’ would ever wear off; It didn’t.

From episode one to episode twelve of Wonder Egg Priority, the show earned the moniker of ‘the biggest surprise of the season’ over and over again via dancing through themes of struggle and suicide with a shockingly nuanced and unfiltered touch. While the magic never wore off on the surface, the rumors that began to seep out online with each successive episode revealed that said ‘magic’ was another word for yet another troubled production.

In this Wonder Egg Priority review, we’ll contend with the fact that the most ambitious original anime ‘pulled it off’ by utilizing extremely harsh labor conditions.

Wonder Egg Priority screenshot
Ai put herself through the wringer every episode… and so did the animators.

Wonder Egg Priority almost sounds like a ‘magical girl deconstruction’ on paper, certainly owing some creative debt to Madoka, but the only transformation sequences found in the anime feature small animals turning into big animals. Instead, a group of high-school-aged girls fight off monsters in their dreams in hopes that they can resurrect friends of theirs who’ve previously committed suicide. The wounds they sustain in the dream world remain when they awake, raising the stakes quite high.

The show explores why the four protagonists all choose to fight: Ai, a recovering hikikomori-light shut-in; Momoe, who wants to be recognized as a girl despite her not-stereotypically-feminine appearance; Neiru, a child-genius CEO; and Rika, an indie idol with a troubled past. With a plot set-up like this and character personalities like that, the taboo territories and harsh realities are brought onto the screen with reckless abandon, achieving great results at the cost of both in-show and in-animation-studio human suffering.

Wonder Egg Priority screenshot
We got an all-time great in Rika, but it’s hard to feel good about it.

Over the course of its twelve-week run, Wonder Egg Priority won devotees through word of mouth alone. During that stretch, producer Shouta Umehara was hospitalized from fatigue twice, saying in a now-deleted tweet that he was glad he had something more important than his life to work on. Every Wednesday during the Winter 2021 season, Wonder Egg Priority delivered near-film quality animation to the delight and bewilderment of fans across the world. Often, these episodes would be finished within hours of their air-time, with work being out-sourced last minute to all-corners of the globe to get them done.

The show succeeded in conveying the complex and all-too-common frustrations of young women with absolutely zero sugar-coating dulling its realistic edge. Any Wonder Egg Priority review you’ll read would call its bluntness, a scarcity in the modern anime landscape, a strength. When that edge was honed through large swathes of people practically chained to their desks for many sleepless nights, you can’t just called WEP an ‘epic must-watch anime’ without a second thought.

Wonder Egg Priority screenshot
We should have known animators were being pushed to the limit when the one-off characters were as well-designed as the main ones.

OTAQUEST‘s always passionate but thoughtful Alicia boldly declared that ‘The Anime Industry is Broken’ in her recent Farewell, My Dear Cramer review, largely touching on the pervasiveness of these troubled productions. It’s hard to disagree with her when concurrent seasons have concurrent messes, though one might argue that ‘The Anime Industry’s Always Been Broken’, ever since Osamu Tezuka nickel and dimed his way into animating the first-ever TV anime Astro Boy back in the early 1960s. He might have lacked options then, but unfortunately, it set a production precedent that would color the industry to this very day.

Who’s to blame *specifically this time around*? Tezuka? Maybe first-time director Shin Wakayabashi, extremely talented yet inexperienced at the directorial level? Inexperience might have contributed, but certainly, producers above him should have taken that into account. Is this on CloverWorks for taking on three different shows in Winter 2021? Or how about Aniplex, who largely funded the show in the first place? This Wonder Egg Priority review doesn’t have the answer, but one could blame the vampiric legacy of placing profit and production before all else and the work culture it facilitates.

Wonder Egg Priority screenshot
Really hits our conflict.

Boycotting shows with productions like this doesn’t feel quite right to us either. Doing so would just throw away the sacrifice and the art these animators made in the garbage. Apparently, this art was more important than their own lives, according to some of them. Truth of the matter is, Wonder Egg Priority’s incredible, because these creators unnecessarily put their bodies on the line. All you can do is to be consciously aware of these practices and be accepting of delays and setbacks. Moralizing aside even, animators won’t be able to make your anime if they drop dead in the middle of production.

We’ll do a proper Wonder Egg Priority review when its finale drops in June, allowing for the team to have some much-needed rest in the meantime. For now, you can watch the show on Funimation.

CloverWorks / Funimation
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