The system of Wonder Egg Priority

All Aca and Ura-aca do is play go and lie.

Let’s talk about gacha games.

With the booming popularity of Genshin Impact as the latest in a long line of gacha games the inevitable discussion of whether gacha games are “good” or “bad” was recently revisited once again on various social media platforms, most of which don’t have a format that encourages nuanced discussion.

Gacha games deserve nuanced discussion because they are so manipulative and predatory. It’s easy from the outside to tell someone that they should stop playing a game because it’s rigged and they’re spending too much money. Part of the issue with saying this is that it places the burden solely on the player in a system designed to exploit them even before they begin to play the game. That isn’t to say that we should absolve people of personal responsibility, but all too often people are blamed first rather than the system that capitalizes on them and their perceived “weakness.” Selling the idea that getting caught up in something is always a weakness on the individual’s part allows for unfair systems to thrive because the backlash almost always falls on the individual, not the system designed to keep them at a disadvantage.

(As unfortunately necessary aside, I’m not passing judgment here whatsoever and I hope my writing conveys that.)

In looking at the influences of Wonder Egg Priority, it’s apparent from the first episode that the not-so-coincidentally-framed-as-a-gacha-game system is rigged. The question isn’t whether it’s a scam, but what type of scam is it? Aca and Ura-aca reiterate that the first egg is free, but the rest of the eggs will cost you. In that same first episode Kurumi Saijo tells protagonist Ai Ohto that nothing costs more than a free gift.

The most important part of a toxic system is the illusion that you can somehow win. This mechanic is what draws people in to not only trying to play the game, but upholding the unfair ruleset of said game. A victim can also be a perpetrator and a perpetrator can also be a victim. This is a remarkably tricky needle to thread. For this series to tell the story it presumably wants to tell, it needs characters like Rika Kawai, but it’s hardly incomprehensible why a viewer would be completely put off by her. (Again, to point at one of Wonder Egg Priority‘s directorial influences, it’s not a surprise that two important characters in Sarazanmai were cops.)

There has to be a hook and the promise of a reward. It can’t be bad all the time otherwise people would immediately see how insidious the system is.

For Ai and her fellow fighting counterparts, the reward seems obvious: saving people close to them who committed suicide. And yet, as early as Wonder Egg Priority‘s second episode, Neiru Aonuma points out the real impetus for Ai to save her friend Koito Nanase. Ai is struggling with her own feelings of guilt and is lured by the idea of saving Koito for the sake of absolving herself. Similarly, Rika wants to save her fan Chiemi because Chiemi starved herself and died due to Rika’s words. Regardless of whether those words were spoken in a backhanded attempt to help Chiemi (who was shoplifting to give Rika more money) they directly led to her death. Rika’s intention is worth mentioning in light of the toxicity of the system, but it doesn’t absolve Rika from personal responsibility.

This brings us back to the two mannequins in the garden: Aca and Ura-aca, who take a more forward-facing role in the fourth episode. They are the arbiters of the system, responsible for luring young women into this unwinnable game with free eggs and keeping them there with the promises that they can save their friends. The last time I personally saw such defined arbiters of a toxic system was the Judgmens of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Yuri Kuma Arashi — three men (the only men in the series outside of one young boy) who were responsible for approving or rejecting whether women could enter other relationships with women with multiple caveats and terms.

Wonder Egg Priority‘s fourth episode makes it abundantly clear where Aca and Ura-aca’s loyalties and thoughts lie with insulting commentary towards Momoe Sawaki and women as a whole. The most important part of it is that Aca and Ura-aca’s thoughts begin with a grain of truth (suicides are different between genders) but warp it into a poison that helps uphold their system. Suicides for various people are different due to the way that society treats them, but this nuance is lost with the way that Aca and Ura-aca brush it off alongside gendered statements that they want these young women to take as fact. Societal context is important and the words of these two mannequins allow for little to no context by design.

Again, this a really difficult needle for Wonder Egg Priority to thread and I won’t blame viewers for being turned off by the fourth episode. However, if there’s one comfort above all others in this series, it’s Ai herself.

In every episode, we see Ai cutting through societal bullshit and befriending people simply because she wants to. She pushes past Neiru’s quiet exterior easily. Despite Rika’s brash nature and bullying tactics, Ai calls on her to be truthful about Chiemi and makes an effort to understand her. Ai comforts a crying Momoe, and compliments her immediately, making her happy.

Ai is truly heroic in the way that she rushes to befriend and help others — not in the way that the system tells her to, but simply because that is who she is. As Neiru says, “You’re hopeless and lovely that way. We need someone like that sometimes, or we’ll never be saved.”

There’s a lot going on around these girls, and it’s inevitable that the system will further pit them against each other now that they’ve grown closer. If they’re going to push past that — especially with deeply personal tie-ins like Momoe’s family name being the same as the suspicious teacher that Koito was seen with — it’s going to be by genuinely befriending each other.

6 comments

  1. The gacha approach of interpretation sheds an interesting light! It’s there but because I don’t play such games I couldn’t connect the dots.

    I’ve been thinking about the arbiters that they are something between strawmen and crash test dolls -both loaded with meaning. They could also be a nod to Coralline like Ai’s outfit. They’re both male, one preppy, another hipster. They just sit in a lush garden in front of a villa, playing go and gossiping. The fact that we have this impeccable, rich set up and the egg machine is in their backyard, but they do nothing but comment without empathy, is probably a class commentary.

    Their input in this episode is so conflicting, spitting sexist rhetoric then calling the girls out on discrimination… A Tumblr user pointed out that Uracca in Japanese stands for a secret account, so I wonder how much this could explain any juxtaposition.

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