Darling in the Franxx: Frankly Ambitious, Frankly a Mess

It won’t be the best show of this year, nor will it be the worst. It has great highs and extremely low lows. It’s got probably the most infuriating late-game plot twist ever seen in Anime. It has characters who have an interesting dynamic and chemistry, and it has the main relationship be pretty lifeless and over around halfway through its story. It can be seen as both an homage to classic mecha shows of the past, and a cynical attempt to copy their success.

It talks about interesting themes related to its country of origin, and it also has doggy-style piloting systems. Most of all, no show this year will be probably be looked over, talked about, argued, and then ultimately forgotten as this one. After the cut, let’s take a Shallow Dive into Trigger and A-1′s pictures Darling in the Franxx.

Darling in the Franxx (2018)
Cutie in the Cockpit

Franxx is, to put it bluntly: A hot mess.

There is far too much dedication and love to call it lazy, but there is too many sloppy mistakes and baffling decisions to call it finely crafted. This is probably because it is the directors first ever anime, and the growing pains, but also potential is just simmering underneath almost everything. Franxx is nothing if not ambitious, and it is nothing if not a love letter to the mecha shows of years past.

Evangelion, Eureka Seven, Mobile Suit Gundam, Gurren Lagann all can be seen in the veins of this show as if the writers put them all into a blender and hit the on-switch. For many that will be a criticism, but in many ways, it seems like something any anime fan might make: taking everything you love and combining it together in your own story. How many of us didn’t write or imagine stories that were just stitched together amalgamations of our favorite shows? Anime is known for following trends, and you can’t blame them for trying to do something that has had proven success before.

Zero Two | DARLING in the FRANXX Wiki | Fandom
Zero-two and Hiro have a good relationship, but their character development pretty much stops halfway through the story.

My first reactions and my final reactions to this anime were so different, while I first rolled my eyes at the silly piloting systems, I found that by the end I had grown attached to the characters, and was going along with the insane logic that this world had tried to set. If you had told me after those first few episodes, where I could swear I was just watching Eureka Seven again, that things would end up the way they did, I would have called myself insane.

There are frankly (heh) too many things to talk about this show. Like Sword Art Online before it (and soon to be after) it has a laundry list of ideas, themes and storytelling choices that will either enthrall or enrage the viewers. Videos tearing down this series have been cropping up at a lightning pace, and even now over two months since it ended, there still seems to be a decent buzz around the show. If anything, it left fans something to chew on, which again was probably not the view people had when this first started. So I’m going to instead talk about what I thought the theme of Franxx was: Stagnation vs Reproduction.

Image result for zero two cockpit | Darling in the franxx, Anime ...
Now spank me hard, and I’ll say ‘daddy’ to get the engine started – Gigguk

It is almost impossible to look at this show as a whole and not think about Japan’s birthing crisis, a very real problem that is currently gripping that country with no real clear-cut answers to the problem. Franxx, while probably not trying to comment directly on this issue, clearly presents itself as a very much “pro babies” sort of story, and that in turns leads into the theme. On one side you have APE, whose magma energy has given humans immortality but also rendered them infertile, and the other, you have Hiro and his friends, who are experiencing puberty and everything that comes with it, but with none of the support systems, we have in place to help them through it. The story they go on, especially between Mitsuru and Kokoro (who I would argue are the real heroes of the piece) clearly thinks that the idea of creating new life and passing things down to your children and the next generation is more important than living an endless life that never changes or grows. They believe that humans must reproduce and that life must cycle through birth, life, and death. While APE wants to only freeze life in one place forever, even if that leads to stagnation. That very much seems to be the conflict that A1 and Trigger were trying to go for, and I admire their courage and ambition to do so.

Seriously, they should have been the leads. Or their plot should have been given to Hiro and Zero-two

Yet Franxx does not handle this theme effectively, and any Tumblr post will tell you pretty much why. Sex, Gender, and Sexuality are a very “raw” nerve in our present time, it was clear what Franxx was selling was going to go over like a lead balloon to some people. Japan isn’t at the forefront of “woke” (ugh) politics, and any anime fan for more than ten minutes would have figured as much. It gets even worse when episode 21 rolls around and the writers decide to toss everything they were building away in what is probably the dumbest twist in the last generation of the genre. Even though the story turns back to this theme at the end, the damage has already been done.

Image result for ff9 necron
Anyone who has played Final Fantasy IX will know what I mean with this image.

Darling in the Franxx is…a show. It’s both good and bad, daring and lazy, political and fun. It wasn’t what people were probably expecting, and I don’t think we’ll ever see something like it again for some time. Despite the myriad of flaws, there were times when I couldn’t help but be excited for what was going to happen, and I would be lying to myself if I wasn’t deeply touched by several moments in the final episode, especially when viewed in a vacuum from the rest of the series. Overall it is probably the most divisive and interesting anime of the year, if only because it created so much discussion.

Also, the opening theme is just fucking killer.

Goro | DARLING in the FRANXX Wiki | Fandom
The god of bros, master of the friendzone. Goro.

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