Usually there is always that one Anime that everyone says you should watch and tells you how potentially awesome it is. I try to avoid that often, because 90% of the time I will go into something with high expectations only to be disappointed in the end. There have been various shows that I watched based on suggestions and was happily surprised with them (Noragami, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Himoto Umaru Chan, just to name a few).
Then there is the occasion few that I’ll watch because it’s plastered everywhere for various reasons (especially one of those reasons being high praise), and eventually I get around to watching said show after finishing off something higher on my list. So I decided to finally watch Darling in the Franxx. Even though this show was from the spring 2018 season, I didn’t get around to it just now. It took me about two weeks to get through 24 episodes, finishing the last two this weekend. While the show is beautifully animated, it is not without it’s flaws, especially with it’s plot and it’s similarity to another Anime that I watched in the 90’s that is far superior to this one.
Here is my review of Darling in the Franxx.
*WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU PLAN TO WATCH THE SERIES.*
In the early 21st Century, human civilization accelerates due to findings in mining technology, especially for the use of magma for energy. The scientists who make the discovery form the organization APE, and gain global and political influence from it. Magma is used for practically everything, including becoming the source for human immortality. Immortality comes at price, as human reproductive organs lose their function as a side effect.
Years after the discovery of Magma energy, beings called “Klaxosaurs” come to the surface and attack humanity. Humans leave the surface, and use their new technology to create mobile cities called “Plantations,” and robots called “Franxx,” to fight the Klaxosaur invasion. Franxx’s can only be piloted by children or “Parasites” as they are refereed to, long lost since Immortality became the rage. Children are now cloned and raised in “Birdcages,” being tested and trained in hopes of piloting one of the robots.
The show begins with Squad 13, a group of pre-teens chosen like so many before them to pilot the Franxx, as commanded by “Papa,” the leader of APE.
One of the squad members, Hiro, fails his synchronization (see where I’m getting at with the reference) with his partner Naomi, and may not be able to pilot a Franxx with his squad. Later he meets (a very naked) girl named Zero Two, who claims Hiro is her “Darling,” and tells him she wants him to pilot her Franxx. But rumor has it that if a pilot flies with her three times, they die.
Both opening sequences for this show are absolutely beautiful and fantastic. Both openings include remixes of the same song, “Kiss of Death,” sung by Mika Nakashima, and was produced by the J-Rock star Hyde. The colors alone make them pop, even though most of what was used was just blue and red.
Sequence one is in red and shows a good introduction of what is in store for the viewer. The red focuses mostly on the representation of Zero Two and her connection to Hiro.
Sequence two is in blue, and covers most of the changes to the teens of Squad 13, plus the implication on Hiro’s transformation due to Zero Two’s “Kalxosaur” DNA.
For anyone who has seen an Anime from Studio Trigger and/or A-1 Pictures, you’ll know that it will look colorful, clean, detailed and just overall amazing. There is minimal CG usage (mostly for battle sequences), and is hand drawn. Colors pop, especially in reference to Zero Two and Squad 13. Backgrounds are well detailed, especially that of Squad 13 home on Plantation.
Even the robots are well detailed, especially in close up battle shots. All of the robots have unique designs based on the pairings of Squad 13.
Coming of Age:
One of the only plot lines I really liked in the series it that of it’s “coming of age” storyline for Squad 13. Squad 13 is unique and is treated special, unlike previous squads before them. Dr. Franxx (creator of the Franxx and it’s operating system), makes sure that the APE organization does little to interfere with their emotional growth. Things do get complicated, especially when it comes to feelings and the discovery to them that humans many years ago used to give birth to children, throwing a wrench in their views on where they actually came from. And there is also conflict with Squad 13 when they question if they’ll live to be adults. Adults in this world live separate to the “Parasites” in deep Magma powered cities inside the Plantations, and one of the squad has dreams of living in the city when he is an adult. Most of their aspirations get squashed as they realize they could die in battle in their robots, and “Papa” does not give an absolute answer on whether or not they’ll survive to adulthood when questioned about it.
Of course, as with most Anime shows, there is always that one popular character that will be a type of Trope or a fan service driving force to get people to watch the show. Of course, this show is no exception with it’s main female lead, Zero Two.
Zero Two falls into the “Trying to be Human” trope, which has been seen in plenty of Anime (Chobits and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon maid come to mind). She spends years trying to find her “Darling,” as other pilots die after she flies with them three times. When she meets Hiro, she starts her path in what it means to be human. She does fall on the wayside halfway, as an incident causes Squad 13 to ban her from the group for “not being human.” “Papa” even makes her an empty promise, that the more Klaxosaurs she kills, she will eventually become human.
It is then found out that she is a product of cloning due in part to Dr. Franxx, and it is eventually revealed that she has Klaxosaur blood running through her veins. Even though she will never be fully human, her emotions and connections make her so based on her interactions with Hiro and Squad 13. You cannot help but feel sorry for her, as through flashbacks you see the horrendous torture she goes through at the hands of Dr Franxx.
While it seems to have somewhat of a plot, Darling in the Franxx is all over the place. The only plot line that seems intact in the interactions and feelings among Squad 13. You never get any type of backstory as to why “things are the way they are” until almost the end of the series. The episode that is designated as a “flashback” comes up as 19, which is six episodes from the end. I think it would’ve been better to have this episode somewhat in the middle, when things start to go array. Or at least have the flashbacks intermingle when certain situations occur, like Squad 13’s question why humans stopped producing.
The show also throws a wrench in the last few episodes, by adding a new villain alien race known as VIRM, who are enemies of the Klaxosaurs, but decide to make humans their enemies as well since they want to destroy Earth. It’s like they’re “fashionably late to the party.” They try to tie it in by making “Papa” a traitor, having merged with a VIRM a long time ago. It makes things confusing, and rushed as all of the sudden the Franxx’s and Klaxosaurs team up to try and destroy them.
“Evangelion” Tribute or Clone?:
While numerous Anime shows have small tributes of shows that inspired them or directors shamelessly plug their own work into a piece (exp. Paprika), it’s hard to tell if Darling in the Franxx is paying tribute, or blatantly ripping off the 90’s classic, Neon Genesis Evangelion.
First comes the Franxx’s operating system. While initially it sounds different by having a pair pilot the robot, one being the “Pistil” (female), and the other being the “Stamen” (male) (get it, like flowers, eh); the fact that the pair has to initially pass a synchronization test is one red flag. In Evangelion, children are tested on whether or not they can synchronize with their Evas so they can pilot them. The fact that only children/teens can pilot both of these similar robots is too convenient.
Also, the way the cockpit is arranged looks like the inside of the cockpit of an Eva.
Even the arrangement of the controls look like they’re in similar positions. Just minus a companion. They also have their version of “plug” suits, though in less detail than those of the Eva children.
Obviously the pairs are arranged in such a way to give more fan service than we asked for (reference above doggy style photo). Maybe we should just watch some Ecchi or Hentai instead…
Second is the reference to the Franxx’s “Stampede” mode. In Episode 11, the Franxx Genista goes into “Stampede” mode due to “insecurities” between it’s two pilots. The design looks too similar…
It’s basically identical to this:
or even this with that hideous grin:
The sad part about it is you only really see this happen in one episode. Zero Two’s Franxx goes in “Stampede” mode as well, but at least they make it look like a Zoid:
Adults are Emotionless Dicks:
Nuff said on that one.
As a whole, while the show does look clean and beautiful; what it lacks in plot and similarities to other shows makes it a one trick pony of sorts. If you’re into teen angst, space battles, and giant robots, this may be worth a look.
While I may reference the show in terms of art style, I probably won’t revisit a watch of this show.
Darling in the Franxx streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu and Funimation. Funimation has set a release for home video with part one coming out later this month on the 26th. Happy viewing.
2.5 Stars out of 5.