This guest post was written by longtime support and contributor to our ministry, Bob Aarhus. I encourage you to also read his excellent article about Kimi no na wa (Your Name).
If you have not yet watched at least the first episode of Wonder Egg Priority, stop reading now. Even if you have no intention of ever watching the show, just close your browser and walk away. I guarantee you, you will learn nothing of the series from this discussion, because the context will be unintelligible; even if you read between the lines, you may come away with the wrong impression. This anime doesn’t deserve that. So, I will assume you have seen the series so far—four episodes as of this writing—and will drop you into the middle of the conversation, but I know you’ll have a map to find your way out. Here be spoilers. For the rest of you—why are you still reading this?
I’m at a loss to identify another 12-episode production that is so equal parts beauty and horror as WEP. The animation is far above the norm, the symbolism deep, the action scenes frenetic yet well-choreographed, the soundtrack mysterious and engaging, the voice acting believable and well-tailored to the characters. The themes and topics of each episode are devastating: alienation, bullying, child abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, rape, suicide. Why would this combination ever work? And why would a Christian ever watch it?
We need to watch this, because we don’t talk about these things.
Or perhaps we do. But not enough. Or not in the right way. Or not with the victims in mind.
This series doesn’t pull punches. Like a typical Coen Brothers movie, no one is clean. Ohto Ai betrayed her best friend. Aonuma Neiru let her sister die. Kawai Rika sent an adoring fan into a fatal tailspin. Sawaki Momoe did something that drove a girl to jump in front of a train. And those are just the “good guys.”
The fact that we actually like one or more of the four main protagonists lets us know we still have a soul in there, somewhere. I dread to think what would happen if any of these girls went public with their stories on Twitter. They would get hammered. Maybe it wouldn’t matter: They are constantly hammering themselves.
There’s a word from the classic anime Haibane Renmei: 罪憑き, tsumitsuki. Sin-bound. Guilt-haunted. In that anime, the condition prevents the person suffering from it from receiving the blessing of the town and moving on spiritually. In WEP, the girls are driven to try and bring back their dead friends by putting their lives on the line fighting for others who, as far as we can tell, committed suicide. In both cases, the implications are clear: Escape from the prison of your own making, or die.
So thoroughly are the girls imbued with this condition that they cannot flee even in their dreams: Ai is back at school and on the rooftop that Koito leapt from. Momo is on a train, perhaps the train that brought her friend’s life to an end. The symbolism for Rika has not yet been discussed, but she is drawn to the vast plain night after night.
Maybe you have already walked a mile in her shoes. Maybe you have changed someone else’s life for the worse, have driven them to despair, and are acutely aware of your sin. Maybe you had no clue you did it. I’m not here to judge you, because I’m sure I’ve done the same. I suppose it was good that Jesus came at a time before social media, otherwise the woman caught in adultery would have been stoned into oblivion by a thousand boulders all marked ‘anonymous’.
Like I said, we don’t talk about these things. Even in the first episode we learned the proper response to bullying was, “Pretend not to see!” Perhaps we are afraid of the social implications of bringing wrongdoing—that of ours, or that of others—to light. Maybe we lack confidence in our senses and don’t want to be incorrect in our assessment of a situation. Or maybe it is more fun to let the chips fall where they may and enjoy the ensuing circus at no cost to ourselves.
These girls are willing to make things right for their friends. Their crosses to bear involves the saving of strangers from the bully, the coach, the obsessed fan, the pedophile, and the legion of “seenoevils” that often appear. You might figure that the girls have already suffered enough—for example, Ai has been picked on because of her heterochromia—but there is deeper learning and self-realization going on here. Remember Ai’s confession on the lighthouse stairwell.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He follows it immediately with another statement: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” That doesn’t just pertain to preaching the Gospel. When you stand up for the oppressed, the widow, the orphan, the alien—when you are living the Gospel in your life—you are to expect insults, untruths, and persecution as part of the deal.
In their own way, these girls are doing just that, or at least trying to learn how. We see Ai’s development even through the first four episodes, from hikikomori to hero. She was too scared to record the girls abusing Koito, too frightened to accompany Kurumi on her flight from the axe-wielding administrator. But her early victories have given her more confidence and determination. She’s in active pursuit of her goal: save Koito. And in the process, she’s becoming more ready to Talk About Those Things. Because she’s going to have to: There is a collision coming that the series has telegraphed from the first episode—the teacher, Sawaki, and how he fits into the puzzle. You can bank on it.
It’s always risky to fawn over an anime that hasn’t yet finished its first season. This series could go off the rails in dozens of different ways. But for the moment, for these first four episodes, the series has people talking, myself included, and I see openings on a number of fronts, to carry on conversations with friends and strangers alike. Let’s talk about These Things, because their victims (and, for that matter, their perpetrators) are the substance of the broken world that Jesus died for.
On average, Bob Aarhus finds an anime worth obsessing over every five years: NGE, Haibane Renmei, Madoka Magica, Kimi No Na Wa and, most recently, Seishun Buta Yarou (don’t judge, just watch it beyond the first eight minutes). Otherwise, he retired from the military and is now a full-time PhD student at George Mason University in northern Virginia.
Wonder Egg Priority can be streamed through Funimation.