This season’s latest critical darling, Shin Wakabayashi’s Wonder Egg Priority, has been described as, if Kunihiko Ikuhara (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum) and Naoko Yamada’s (A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Bird) respective animated series had a love child. This is a fairly apt description based on the first episode, and although many upon first hearing this will wonder what exactly that looks like and how two styles that seem fairly incongruous would go together, those styles do work and the result is Wonder Egg Priority.
If you want to be particularly meta about it, the result is the description comparing two existing directorial styles and the description is also the result. It’s something new, born of known visual languages.
Nearly all high school slice-of-life stories – K-ON!, Yuyushiki, Hidamari Sketch, Azumanga Daioh, even Free! immediately come to mind – pit the looming implications of graduation against the every day life of series participants. High school is a perfect fishbowl setting that allows for exploration in friendship group dynamics while the audience puts on their rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and celebrates their personal youth through a happier framework.
Graduation becomes something often dreaded by in-universe characters, as it will inevitably tear them apart. While they scramble about organizing their future plans, graduation to the viewer becomes the final curtain that closes across the stage, effectively ending the narrative.
As the audience is presumably watching a slice of the characters’ lives, the implication is that life goes on after that series or manga volume, just as their life continued – or will continue – following high school. It is this structure that School-Live! plays with.
Late August of this past year, I was informed that my presence was required at a weekend-long business trip in Oklahoma. Without delving too much into my day job, the majority of my peers are in Texas. Prior to these meetings, they did not reach out to me, a remote member of their group, preferring to stay within their own, impenetrable clique.
“Really gives you that ‘new life’ feeling, doesn’t it?”
-Mio Akiyama to Ritsu Tainaka on waking up to their first day of college, K-ON! College, page 4
An odd social experiment was conducted in my third year of college. Notorious for its faulty internet services – registering for classes became an all-day activity beginning at 5:00a.m. involving constant browser refreshing and oceans of tears – the servers experienced a significant crash for the first two months of the 2004 autumn semester. I was on the school newspaper staff at the time, and one of the more interesting articles written on the subject involved the social effect on incoming freshman that year. Past classes of wide-eyed, confused, and lonely first-years had relied on the likes of AIM or other varied internet messaging systems to stay in touch with their high school friends, as cell phones were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are now. These options were not available to what would become the graduating class of 2008, and their safety net of existing friends and family was further from reach than it had been for previous classes.