“He is risen.”
Christians will make this proclamation across the world today as they commemorate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, giving second life to those who would put their faith in him. Count me among the faithful who will worship today in thankfulness for this miracle. This Easter, however, is a bit strange for me—besides the obvious, I’m a bit thrown because while I continue to connect the cross, empty tomb, and yes, Easter Bunny, to the holiday, the symbol of the egg has me thinking of something else entirely. Every Tuesday for the past several months, I’ve tuned in to watch Wonder Egg Priority, a creative and moving anime which not only uses “egg” in its title, but heavily features this common good in both its OP and throughout its plot. Though the story is yet unfinished, the final episode of this season (12) continued to emphasize the symbol as protagonist, Ai, discovers that the girl who hatches from her egg this time is none other than an alternate universe version of herself.
What an interesting development! For those new to the series, the general concept is that Ai and three other girls are given eggs which when hatched, “birth” other girls who had committed suicide and thus are are dead outside of a special space or dimension. Ai and the others must protect the hatchlings and fight against fears personified as terrifying monsters. With each hatched egg, the four young women get closer and closer to once again meeting their own friends who committed suicide, though the reason for this entire experiment and the result of it have proven to be far more sinister and complex than they had anticipated.
So while eggs are symbolic of new life when used at Easter or in other cultures and religions, it’s not so in Wonder Egg Priority. They are, instead, symbols of old life, of regrets, of young women needing protection from the evils of those around them. AU Ai fits precisely into that model. When she hatches, the difference between our Ai and AU Ai is quite prominent. The hatchling version never met Koito—the young woman who changed Ai’s life before committing suicide—and although our Ai ultimately judges their friendship to have been disingenuous, the presence of her AU self demonstrates that their relationship was enough to steer her toward a path away from suicide and onto this journey that helped her grow immensely in confidence and gratefulness.
Yes, gratefulness. Several times in episode 12, Ai whispers, “Thank you”—toward Koito, her mother, even “herself.” All those she says it to or about, however, repeatedly demonstrate themselves to be imperfect. So why would Ai be grateful to them, particularly when all three have also hurt her?
I believe the answer is connected to grace, the concept of loving someone selflessly even though the object of affection does not deserve it. Ai has been hurt terribly in the past by bullying, and even though her mother patiently loves her, AU Ai cannot find enough reason to endure the pain. Our Ai has Koito in addition to her mom, and apparently that was enough to help her survive. Ai knows her imperfections well, and thus she can experience grace from the two women she admires, who love her no matter what, even when she is unwilling to listen to one and doesn’t support the other.
Armed with those relationships as models, Ai becomes the great giver of grace in this series. She befriends single-minded Neiru, self-centered Rika, and disheartened Momoe, drawing them all to her and to one another by bringing a fierce love and friendship to them when they’d rather—and in a number of cases try to—chase such kindness away.
A grace-impacted life causes such a natural outpouring of love. As Ai is given grace, she gives it in return. Grace also births thankfulness as an appreciation for those who have loved us and for those that need love, in turn causing a desire in us to do good. In Ai’s case, she makes the decision to become a warrior of Eros and fight to protect others, including her literal self. AU Ai, having now received grace from our Ai, completes an unexpected circle, doing what would seem most improbable to her just moments before—she jumps in front of her protector and loses an eye while facing the terrifying Kirara Rodriguez Matured XVIII Evening Star SS Plum (that’s a mouthful!).
Confronted very visibly by the results of grace while protecting (and being protected by) AU Ai, our Ai decides to fight against the murderous evil of Frill and the temptation of death, in turn revealing that maybe the egg isn’t as ugly an image in this series as it first appears to be. After all, the illustration of the eggs representing Ai, Neiru, Rika, and Momoe are physically pretty, as presented in the opening song. They, in fact, look rather like Easter eggs.
The opening song also shows another important facet associated with eggs: the cracking of the shell. In fact, the OP always closes on a shot of one egg cracking.
Although a cracked shell usually leads to messiness, it also reminds me of a quiet truth: Eggs are quite useless until they’ve been broken.
In Wonder Egg Priority, this is literal. The ordeals in which Ai and the others fight to “save” girls within eggs begin in earnest once an egg is cracked open. In episode 12, a belligerent Ai tries to fight against the enemies without opening her egg, but eventually capitulates, leading to AU Ai’s rebirth.
But there’s something more substantial to the idea of a broken egg as well.
During Easter, the story that the egg has come to symbolize isn’t about a shiny, beautiful ovoid—it’s about one that is fractured, about a savior, whose body was broken, and a “hatching” that revealed the second life as Christ rose from the grave and left the tomb behind. It’s about a people who are sinners, broken by our own deeds and by a humanity and world full of evil, but who may now be born again, breaking free of our shells—be that shells of sin, anger, self-doubt, or all and many other kinds—to find life anew and forever. That life begins now through Christ, who was broken physically as we are broken spiritually, but who breathed again, and in turns gives us breath as well. He is our Ai, one who broke through evil and pain and chose love, as she saw the broken AU Ai and shared love with her, rescuing that soul from the self-doubt that played into her tragedy and presumably in the next episode, in a more permanent fashion.
Ai’s story is our story, of grace given to us in all our brokenness so that we might be reborn.
A broken egg? Yes. And love, too, that sets us free.