Daisies/Asters, Camellias, and how Wonder Egg Priority frames Shuuichirou Sawaki

The most contentious character in Wonder Egg Priority continues to be Ai Ohto’s teacher, Shuuichirou Sawaki. Outside of what exactly is going on with Aca and Ura-Aca’s seeming quest for immortality, who is on what side, and (in my opinion the most and only important part of this) how young women’s pain is exploited by a variety of people in powerful positions, the most spirited discussion of the series has revolved around Sawaki. More specifically, whether Sawaki is a benevolent, perhaps a bit too-involved but still well-meaning teacher. Or if he’s predatory and trying to forcibly insert himself into Ai’s life.

In my other post on the series’ tenth episode, I mention that Momoe Sawaki’s induction into the group of egg fighting girls introduced two specific wrinkles to the series. The first was a discussion of gender, which Episode 10 — pointedly titled “Confession” — returned to as a framing device for Momoe in her own focus episode. The second was that of Sawaki and the fact that she’s his niece and therefore has a positive opinion of him, going as far to vehemently defend him to Rika Kawai when Rika insinuates that he could have taken advantage of Koito Nanase by potentially impregnating her, indirectly leading to her suicide.

Despite being firmly on the side that Sawaki is, at best, someone who is unintentionally predatory due to his place in society relative to the young women he teaches and at worst, a legitimate predator, it’s important that he remains ambiguous, especially if the truth trends more towards the worst. After all, most predators aren’t always bad, even to their victims, during every moment of the day. In most cases, part of the manipulation is that they will express genuine concern or love, casting doubt over any overtly predatory actions that they take.

Observing Sawaki’s actions in a vacuum, without paying attention to any floral language, body language, or Wonder Egg Priority‘s cinematography, he hasn’t done anything technically wrong. The most overtly off-putting thing without considering context would be the fact that he draws her after school in an art studio where the two of them are presumably alone.

However, the visual framing of Sawaki is specific and sinister. He’s initially presented as an outsider, in tandem with Ai’s mother. The series makes it a point to present them as a unified front, even while he insists that he’s only dropping off print-outs in Episode 1. He goes as far to show up and comfort Ai’s mother when Ai is in the hospital at the end of the same episode, and by Episode 2, the two are united, as pictured above. Many of his shots include him looming over Ai, presented in sections not entirely within the frame or as specific body parts, often through something like a doorway or window.

(As an aside, others in various community discussions have mentioned that his broach is a bird of prey, which could be another visual nod towards him being a predator.)

In addition to the visual framing and his actions against a very specific backdrop of a young woman having committed suicide — a young women whom he embraced in a classroom which is wildly inappropriate even if he had the best intentions — there is also the flowers that the series specifically chooses for Sawaki in Episode 10.

The first is a vase of daisies on his desk when Ai goes to see him. Purple daisies in western flower languages can mean pride, beauty, or fascination. Daisies typically represent a return to innocence or childhood and in Japanese flower language symbolize faith. I’ve already spoken at length about how Sawaki follows the Kunihiko Ikuhara mold set by men like Revolutionary Girl Utena‘s Akio Ohtori of characters who work in a school being trapped by some (usually traumatic) event in their childhood, or a longing to return to their own childhood. The daisies on Sawaki’s desk support this theory.

2021/03/19 UPDATE: A few commenters have said that they identified the flowers on Sawaki’s desk as asters instead. I’m going to update the post with their meaning here (which is also some interesting framing). I didn’t initially identify them as asters given the leaves and spacing between the petals, but whichever flower they are, the meaning is actually pretty interesting. In Victorian flower language asters symbolized a dainty nature, unique charm, and patience. They were given as gifts to promise patience and or advise being patient (presumably in that relationship). This is particularly off where Sawaki is concerned since it could point to him waiting for Ai. Purple asters specifically can point to a royal/noble beauty and a rare charm (like Ai’s heterochromia which Sawaki has mentioned multiple times as her charm point).

Yet, the coup de grace is Sawaki’s painting, which Ai goes to see at the end of Episode 10. It features an aged-up Ai surrounded by red and white camellia flowers.

Sawaki has never been subtle in his pursuit of Ai. Even if his end goal was only an innocent model for his painting, he purposefully sought her out and drew her while commenting on how he wants her to embrace her beauty — particularly her heterochromia for which she was bullied in school.

First, there’s the fact that he aged her up in the painting all while making comparisons between Ai and her mother and speaking about how much he loves Ai’s mother. It’s no coincidence that in these shots, Ai looks more like her mother than ever with her hair pulled back in a similar way and a longer dress rather than her tomboyish sunflower hoodie or school uniform. Coupled with his pursuit of Ai as a model, this scene is remarkably uncomfortable to watch. It grows even more so with knowledge of what camellia flowers mean.

White camellia flowers were featured prominently in Violet Evergarden by another Wonder Egg Priority directorial inspiration, Naoko Yamada. There they painted a backdrop for the love story between a fourteen year-old princess who is being married off to an older man that she met when she was a child. In Japanese flower language, white camellias carry a message of waiting or divinity. Like many white flowers they can also mean purity and additionally have symbolism around the love between a mother and child. By contrast, red camellia flowers represent romantic or passionate love and desire. The combination of the two, against the backdrop of the older Ai in the painting and Ai’s dress could easily carry the meaning that Sawaki is waiting for Ai to become of age to pursue her romantically. He tells her specifically that it’s her when she grows up and even draws the comparison between Ai and her mother for Ai, telling Ai that soon she’ll be a strong and beautiful woman like her mother.

Even if Sawaki isn’t waiting for Ai in that way, his actions as framed by the series are at best, ambiguously inappropriate.

12 comments

    1. I, too, immediately thought they were asters, not daisies. Having said that, I still love these essays. They’re truly wonderful.

  1. Hey, Emily!
    I recently came across one of your posts, totally by chance, and since then have been reading your blog and feeling my thoughs and feelings about wep really echoed and developed! Thanks a lot! Specially for the flower language analysis – it’s a really big part of WEP, and I was really puzzled by it.
    I loved your comparison between Sawaki and Akio, hadn’t thought of it. I love how they’re constructing the narrative about him – making it uncomfortable thought his “gentleness”, showing his abusive behavior in a sort of ambigous manner (but still full of red flags). This last episode certainly was the biggest moment for this narrative yet, and he one where he showed the most overly abusive behavior – with everything you said, and the fact that Sawaki didn’t invite Ai’s mom to the exposition.
    I’m really looking foward to understanding Ai’s thoughts and feelings about it all next episode. To see her crying and immediatly after confronting Sawaki about Koito made me really eager to see how it will play-out, and really admire her bravery.
    The way she dressed up more adult like is of course brought to the scene, in one hand, to make the painting and sawaki’s perspective more uncomfortable. On the other hand, thinking about the comparison you’ve made with Akio and their longing for childhood, this scene really intersting on Ai’s part. I feel she’s dressing up more adult like to gather up the courage to face Sawaki – the abusive adult who delegitimazes her feelings as childish.
    In regards to Momoe, I was thinking yesterday about the fundations of her passionate defeding of Sawaki (an her mom, and other moral views) – and I think it’s partially because of her uncomfortable conforming to the “prince” role that’s been forced upon her, where’s she’s stuck, in a way (as I’ve talked a little about on a tumblr post after the 10th episode: https://sealguemjativeressenome-meh.tumblr.com/post/645841289478373376/all-messed-up-things-in-this-episode-aside-kaoru). I think one other possible reason, reflecting on the last episodes’ confirming of her as a trans girls, it’s that sawaki (and her mom) accept her as a girl and cherish her – and their accepting has been very important to her. I don’t really think they’ll get into this on the show, but it really addS to the “abusers aren’t bad at all times” narrative, it’s really interesting.

  2. Amongst all the disturbing implications in this episode, I found it funny and maybe telling that Ai’s mother wasn’t attending the opening of her new boyfriend’s first gallery of his new dream job as an artist after quitting his stable teaching job.

  3. A hundred years ago, it was always the Butler who did it. In Anime today, its the teacher who does it. Sawaki’s picture of Ai is creepy as all hell! She is literally pushing up Daisy’s underneath all that foliage, and her face looks like she is lying in state. Sawaki is a psycho-path which is someone completely disconnected from emotion who is capable of doing anything to anybody. Listen to his voice actor, and how he reads the lines. It is almost a monotone with little or no emotional inflection. THIS IS NOT A SPOILER. I have no foreknowledge of what the next two EPs will bring to the table, but I think Sawaki killed Koito, and he is pursuing Ai because he thinks she knows about it. Haruka’s and Kotobuki’s eventual fates show that Wonder Egg Priority is not a Fantasy, but rather a realistic murder mystery.

  4. and I mean, the name of Sawako’s exhibition is (according to the subs, anyway), “Latent Heat”…

  5. I didn’t want to believe it a first, but in my rewatching of the series and reaching this episode it’s extremely sus to say the least. Besides the symbolism, the greatest alert is how Sawaki’s face turns super serious when there is suspicion about him, not angry but serious. In episode five he makes an almost villanic face when the girls are in Ai’s room talking about his possible involvement. Also, look at the face he’s doing when Ai asks him why Koito died, it’s so different from his usual calm expression, those are possibly the only expressions that guy has, but never overtly emotional, which gives even more credibility to him being a psychopath, always keeping his exterior in check. Earlier in the same scene as well, the camera avoids his eyes when Ai asks if Sawaki loves her mother.

    1. Very much agree with your analysis, and it’s very well stated. But there is a very big difference with Egg. If you were a detective looking at the evidence, you would come to certain conclusions. But Wonder Egg is a story, and authors have been known to drop intentional false clues. That cannot be dismissed in this case. So many clues point to Sawaki as possibly being psychopathic, that it could very well be a setup to misdirect fans of the story. Really hate this about some authors because its not playing fair with their fans. A murder mystery cannot be solved if the clues are false. Just read that this up and coming final Egg Episode will be an hour run.

      1. Everything that’s implicit points towards him being a predator while in the surface it’s even more complicated. The clues are conflicting. I don’t know if it’s okay to say it here since it’s a post about episode 10, but while Ai dismisses boss Sawaki admitting he’s evil, why would he become Ai 2’s trauma without the whole deal with Koito? Because he must’ve done smth. But if he’s really a sob, Ai 2 would’ve said something. But with og Ai’s big moment in that episode, I don’t see the reason to or how they would fit Sawaki as a villain with such little time, so the truth must be something in between.

        1. Really excellent points there and some I have not considered. Looked at from your point of view, would mean that Sawaki is a loss leader and a plant. One little bit of evidence that might run synchronous with your view is the scene where Ai walks into the classroom and it appears that Sawaki is embracing Koito. But if you study that scene closely, Sawaki’s hands are on Koito’s arms which is not the way one would embrace or hug someone. But it is how you would keep some distance with someone who rushed up to you. But he is still objectively creepy. Were I to meet someone like this in real life, he would raise the hair on the back of my neck, especially the possibility of he becoming my Step-father! So I can go with ambiguous signals where “…the truth must be something in between.” In any case we will have to wait for Summer to find out how the story tellers will wrap this all up (if they intend to do that!).

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