Wonder Egg Priority (2021) has already received a lot of praise in multiple areas, from its incredible staff lineup to its intriguing narrative – I would think that this is the sort of positive reception that almost any team would ask for. This is an anime I also feel quite passionate about too, so I thought it would only be appropriate to add to the growing pool of positivity by sharing my thoughts on the show’s strengths from a visual point of view. My aim in this article is to briefly explore why its large focus on character-acting harmonises so well with the story it puts forward that concerns the challenges of youthhood, trauma and of course eggs.
WEP has been able to prove to us how vital character-acting animation is for understanding the emotional nature of humans. I have really enjoyed referring to this area of animation as the ‘dialogue of the body’ (I am sure I am not the first) as it not only implies that details are being offered to the audience in a rather subtle fashion but also because it suggests that we have a chance to decode it for ourselves. The anime is quite mysterious, but thankfully character-acting gives us a starting point for analysing what these characters are all about beneath their multiple layers.
Why does character-acting play such a big part in WEP and animation as a whole? To me, it is due to its ability to resonate with us on a basic human level. Within our own social lives, we constantly try to infer the intentions of others through their body language – it is for this reason that character-acting is a language we are largely fluent in. We may not be on the same page as Ai, Koito or anyone else, but this type of animation allows us to get a sense of who they are when they are at their most vulnerable. To put it another way, this anime discusses the internal struggle with past traumatic experiences and the tribulations of adolescence and WEP provides us with a universal language we can all tap into to make sense of it a tad bit easier.
I have spoken about this type of animation on a very theoretical level, so let us think about this much more practically. Character-acting is useful due to its ability function as a bitesize visual shorthand for the audience. On its own this sounds rather obvious, but it is in fact critical when one considers how WEP is constructed. The anime’s reliance on non-chronological storytelling and flashbacks for contextualising the emotions in play means that character-acting animation becomes key for relaying feelings in short spaces of time.
Episode 3, titled “A Bare Knife” (裸のナイフ), directed and storyboarded by Yūki Yonemori gives us an opportunity to explore this type of animation in a bit more depth. From the small, subtle hand movements to the sharp reactions towards physical and emotional threats, Yonemori teaches us that animated characters have the capacity to feel fear, joy or any other emotion you can think of. Wonder Egg Priority in itself is a reminder that humans are fundamentally emotional beings; loading this episode with character-acting helps us get to grips with the fact that we are partially driven by our impulses and concerns. Ultimately, it is our fixation on the irrational that makes us human.
The idea of maintaining our balance with the irrational becomes pretty important when discussing this type of animation and its presence in WEP. As I previously mentioned, these irrational notions are an indispensable part of the human experience, whether it is the fandoms we construct for ourselves (as shown in Episode 3) or the belief that we can save a friend we once lost. Character-acting helps one to grasp how convinced the cast members are by these ideas and concepts.
For me, there has been a nice contrast between Neiru’s ‘muted’ mannerisms and Ai’s impulsive-based actions. Neiru’s stronger relationship with what is “logical and correct” (Episode 7 & 9) fits comfortably into this view of character-acting as a method of understanding how the cast interacts with their own emotions. In short, WEP explores the two-way flow between how our emotional make-up influences how we act and what we react to. This is bleeding into another topic that I should probably reserve for another article, but I have enjoyed thinking hard about the prominence of ‘irrationality’ in this anime and how it has informed the way it has been animated.
Even the smallest of actions reflect who we are as people and director Shin Wakabayashi puts this very idea at the heart of the anime’s visual identity. One of the greatest things we can take from Wonder Egg Priority is that ‘great storytelling’ does not exclusively derive from ‘world-building’, ‘character-development’ or any of these writing processes. I think it is about time we put more emphasis on how memorable stories are told in animation through the use of its most basic component: movement. As humans we are natural storytellers; we convey our feelings, showcase how we perceive others and essentially reveal who we are through movement and the animated characters of WEP do the exact same thing through character-acting.
Although I have made the case for character-acting’s value in this article, the unfortunate reality is that this type of animation is constantly overlooked and sometimes met with a ‘not that deep’ attitude. I am writing this to tell you that it is ‘that deep’. It may not be the only way to get to grips with the relationships, traumas and mysteries within the anime (I am looking at you flower language analysts) but it allows us as audience members to become a bit more immersed in its commentary on finding balance and navigating through the strange period in our lives we call adolescence. I do hope that Wonder Egg Priority will work as a step in the right direction for the analysis and appreciation of character-acting animation.