(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

Just like how there’s too much TV to watch it all, trying to catch up on seasonal anime is a daunting and impossible task. With so many shows, you can’t know which ones will be good, especially if they aren’t based on any previously released material that gives off a hint as to what the story is like. This column has covered new shows before, but usually, it’s reserved for shows that are ending their first season, or a handful that are so special, you really should get in before they explode in popularity. Make no mistake, Wonder Egg Priority is one of those shows.

First of all, be aware that this show comes with a boatload of trigger warnings, including self-cutting, body shaming, survivor’s guilt, and suicide, which acts as the core of the story.

The first episode starts like something out of Alice in Wonderland, with a young girl being led down a mysterious subterranean tunnel by a talking animal. Except rather than a rabbit, Ai Ohto finds an egg, one that is still there when she wakes up from this dream. When cracked, the egg reveals another young girl, the soul of a victim of bullying and suicide. If Ai manages to defeat the monsters chasing after this girl, and every girl after her, then maybe, she can earn enough points to bring her friend Koito back to life — or so she hopes.

From there, the show starts playing with everything you’d come to expect from a magical girl anime, from other girls becoming allies, power-ups, and familiars — except it doesn’t exactly play like Sailor Moon. The focus here remains on building a complex, beautiful, harrowing exploration of depression, trauma, bullying, and more. Somehow, this show manages to make it all work. It may be a bit early to talk about the anime of the year, but Wonder Egg Priority makes a strong case for calling the race bright and early.

What Makes It Great

Ask any anime fan to describe Wonder Egg Priority and they’ll probably list about 10 entirely different anime directed by a weird amalgamation of Satoshi Kon, Kunihiko Ikuhara, Makoto Shinkai, Hideaki Anno, and Masaaki Yuasa. While they are not exactly wrong, and there are clear influences ranging from Revolutionary Girl Utena and A Silent Voice to Paranoia Agent and even the works of David Lynch in the show, it also does the sheer ingenuity and talent of the team behind Wonder Egg Priority a disservice.

This is not the work of recognizable icons like Ikuhara or Anno, but newcomers (kind of). Director Shin Wakabayashi is a veteran key animator with experience directing a few episodes of big shows like Attack on Titan, but this is the first time he’s given free rein to helm a show by himself; writer Shinji Nojima has worked for decades, but he’s mostly done live-action; most of the episode directors are first-timers being given a chance, and they are all excelling at it. Any given episode feels like part of five different shows all at once, going from exhilarating and dynamic action with fluid animation reminiscent of Yuasa’s work in Devilman Crybaby, to quiet moments of meaningful conversation, to horrific and mind-bending imagery blending dreams with reality in a way that would have made Satoshi Kon extremely happy.

Where the staff really excels, however, is creating convincing characters both in the moments of action and in intimate moments. Each of the main characters feels like a genuinely distinct person, and much of what we learn about them is communicated through subtle body language, like how Ai cocoons herself in her hoodie at first sight of conflict or tension, but also how she stops and hesitates before making a decision. You can always tell what the characters are thinking just by following the slightest shift in facial expressions, which helps navigate the audience through the bizarre and symbolism-laden world of Wonder Egg Priority.

What It Adds to the Conversation

Before going any further, you should know that if you have any interest in watching the show, you should go in as blindly as possible. Skip this section, check out the first episode, then come back for this. You won’t regret it.

Wonder Egg Priority is many things, but subtle isn’t one of them. It doesn’t take very long to figure out that the army of little critters armed with knives called Seeno Evils, who are all trying to kill the egg girl Ai is tasked with protecting, represent those who ignore bullying, and how they bring just as much harm to the victim as an actual bully. The show is not afraid to go dark, and not just in its central premise of having the monster-of-the-week be a manifestation of a trauma that drove a girl to suicide, but in the explicit mention or even portrayal of suicide cults, sexual assault, and self-cutting.

Of course, not everything is gloom and doom. Beneath the twisted imagery, the cute and detailed backgrounds, and all the egg-based-metaphors lies a powerful message about the importance of friendship and empathy. As Ai starts meeting other girls fighting to protect eggs and bring back someone they lost, they all start learning to save themselves by saving each other. This show may get very dark and heavy, but it stays grounded in Ai and her newfound friends, offering hope that things may turn out okay.

What makes the show so engaging is the way it wraps this raw exploration of mature and very heavy subjects with colorful and exciting magical girl tropes. The comparisons to Madoka Magica are not hard to see, as both shows use the genre to tell suspense thriller stories. It remains to be seen whether Wonder Egg Priority will be remembered as fondly as Madoka, but in just a handful of episodes, this newcomer has made one hell of a first impression.

Why Non-Anime Fans Should Check It Out

If you didn’t grow up during the golden age of magical girl anime in the ’90s, never shouted “I am champion of justice!” while watching Sailor Moon, or bought the entire Cardcaptor Sakura Clow Card book set, then Wonder Egg Priority is a pretty great place to start. The subject matter can’t be more relevant, the animation is stunning, and it pays homage to everything from Revolutionary Girl Utena to the more obvious Madoka Magica.

Whether you want to use this as a jumping-off point before diving into the magical girl anime genre, or as a standalone piece of entertainment with lots to say about being a teenager in today’s world, Wonder Egg Priority quickly becomes a weekly priority, and a strong contender for best anime of the year.

Watch This If You Like: Perfect Blue, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Madoka Magica, Flip Flappers, Paprika


Wonder Egg Priority is streaming on Funimation.

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