If you were wondering why a shut-in haunted by her past trauma like Ai Ohto was represented by the natural positivity of a sunflower, the second episode of Wonder Egg Priority has the answer.
Sunflowers carry various meanings but the vast majority of them are overwhelmingly positive. In Japanese flower language sunflowers can mean loyalty, longevity, and adoration as well as a passionate love and brilliance. When we meet Ai, she’s anything but brilliant — a shut-in following her close friend Koito Nanase’s suicide.
Wonder Egg Priority‘s premiere threw Ai into the world of Kurumi Saijo, Kurumi was already aware of what was happening. She groans to Ai that Ai could have found a better place to hatch the egg, and has to explain the rules of the world to Ai. Presumably, Kurumi is someone who committed suicide and has a friend trying to save them, just as Ai is told she can save Koito. Kurumi has experienced others coming to her world and fighting for her. Having someone like Kurumi as Ai’s first otherworldly charge is necessary to introduce both the audience and Ai herself to the initial rules of the game.
“You want to change the self you hate.”
-Neiru Aonuma, Wonder Egg Priority, Episode 2
Before Ai dives into another world, she tries to talk to Neiru Aonuma — the girl who was buying a carry-on’s worth of wonder eggs — who cuts straight to the point. Ai isn’t necessarily doing this for Koito per se, she’s doing it because she feels guilty and responsible for Koito’s death. It’s telling that instead of denying this, Ai simply asks Neiru, “You too?” She’s already accepted her culpability and the eggs are a path to atonement. This is a dark place to be mentally and is supported by Ai becoming a shut-in.
(As an aside, although Neiru claims to love herself, she also says that she’s doing this for her sister, who she “let die” hinting that she’s lying or at the very least, feels a similar responsibility.)
When Ai is talking to Neiru, she’s shown against a backdrop of sunflowers, but almost always in the shadows. In fact, she stops walking to stay in the shadows for longer as she peppers Neiru, who has already walked ahead into the light, with questions. While others may have seen Ai as a sunflower once, it’s hardly how she sees herself. This is why the sunflower on her hoodie and her interaction with sunflowers even as a painted backdrop are shadowed or perverted in some way (stained by blood in the first episode).
It’s fitting that the second episode of Wonder Egg Priority delves into the world of Minami Suzuhara, a gymnast who, unlike Kurumi, has no idea what’s going on. While Kurumi’s egg was tough to break — presumably because she’s been through multiple “rescue” attempts — Minami’s rolls off a counter and cracks without much force. When Ai gives up on ignoring Minami and tries to protect her, Minami immediately runs through a cloud of seenoevil monsters because she doesn’t know the danger they represent or the rules of the world.
Minami sees Ai as a hero, not only because Ai protects her by fighting the monsters but because of who Ai is. When Ai says that she’s a shut-in, Minami says that Ai has spirit and guts — Minami is unable to defy even the smallest of rules that break her routine.
This not only shows a difference in perception — Ai perceives herself as a failure, Minami sees her as a hero — but also what Ai can be to others. Taking this one step further, it shows what she could have been to Koito: a sunflower despite her many flaws.
The most powerful scene of this second episode is a flashback where we see Ai actively fail to help Koito when she asks. Ai hides in a locker, presumably at Koito’s request, to film the bullying that Koito has been enduring. She finds herself unable to do it because she’s afraid of retaliation. Like the seenoevils, the girls only attack Koito, not Ai. Again, Ai is culpable but in a way that’s easily understandable. She’s afraid of what she’s seen others deal with — or has dealt with the same in her own past — and opts to be a part of the system rather than actively fight it.
By contrast, in the worlds of others, she both plays at and then actively becomes someone who takes on the system by fighting others’ demons (Wonder Killers). However, it isn’t until she stops playing at being the hero and starts caring about what is happening to Minami as opposed to being a strong figure in Minami’s eyes, that Ai is able to defeat Minami’s monstrous gymnastics teacher. Alongside Ai’s actions, there’s the important shift in Minami’s own thinking from leaning into unfair punishment to helping Ai defeat her teacher.
This episode comes full circle, back to Ai’s developing relationship with Neiru. Although she denies it, Neiru appears to be in a similar situation to Ai. Neiru takes this on recklessly, buying a suitcase full of eggs and ending up in the hospital because of it and when the two egg arbiters in the garden point this out, Ai is quick to defend Neiru.
With Neiru, we see Ai at arguably her most genuinely heroic: trying to forge a new friendship.
If Wonder Egg Priority follows a similar path to its influences from Ikuhara and Yamada, the relationship she develops with Neiru will be one of the most important parts of the series.