Wonder Egg Priority is a show that knows its flower language. The series has used specific flowers to introduce it’s second and third episodes in previews as a framing device for the events of that episode.
Naoko Yamada’s influence throughout the anime industry, particularly with various directors’ use of flower language, continues to impress me. In Shin Wakabayashi’s Wonder Egg Priority, flower language is front and center throughout the entirety of the first episode as running visual commentary alongside Ai Outo’s journey to save her friend, Koito Nanase.
A list of things I enjoyed over this past year includes Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Isao Takahata’s critically-acclaimed film Only Yesterday.
This is not a coincidence.
In a world where I couldn’t leave the confines of my apartment, I turned to starting over on a new island and building a community in Animal Crossing. When I lost my job later on in the year, I turned to Stardew Valley, where the impetus for a drastic job change and move to the countryside is summed up beautifully in a letter: “If you’re reading this, you must be in dire need of change.” Only Yesterday, a love letter to and advertisement for pastoral Japan (specifically Yamagata Prefecture), fits within the same ongoing pandemic coping mechanisms. Protagonist Taeko Okajima leaves Tokyo, to escape city life and visit a farm in the bucolic countryside where her brother-in-law’s family harvests safflowers on an organic farm.
If I had the means, I would escape to a rural farm tomorrow.
Yet, Only Yesterday differs from the other two pieces of media I mentioned — and not because it’s a film while the other two are immersive, community-building video games — in that it both revels and wallows in Taeko’s past. Her past isn’t something to escape from, but something to cherish, even when it hurts.
It’s impossible to describe the plot of Children of the Sea beyond this: a girl named Ruka Azumi goes through puberty. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t make sense — in a way it’s one of the most visceral visual representations of a young cis woman going through puberty that I’ve ever seen — but that it’s more symbolism than action. What begins as a simple coming-of-age story for Ruka ends in a beautifully-animated barrage of visual analogues. I personally loved Children of the Sea, but can certainly see why viewers would be completely turned off by it, especially as the movie progresses. In many ways, Children of the Sea has a lot more in common with the imagery-heavy first half of Hannibal‘s third television season than it does with other anime movies or series.
One of the most used visual shortcuts in Japanese animation is flower language and imagery. Children of the Sea is no exception, using the hibiscus flower as an emblem of Ruka’s adolescence and a wilting sunflower as one of the film’s final images.