2018s Darling in the Franxx is one of the series that, while not the best of the year, was absolutely one of the most talked about and discussed. Ambitious, Derivative, Flawed, Touching and Infuriating. Franxx is the sort of anime that can only come for creators who truly believed in their work. Its legacy past this year is still to be determined, but out of all the shows this year that I’ve watched, Franxx remains one that still has me coming back to think about.
Today I want to take a look at the two main leads of the story, their relationship and how it represents in my view, a pure example of naive teenage romance. So after the cut let’s take a character dive into Darling in the Franxx’s Hiro and Zero-Two.
If I could sum up Hiro and Zero-Two’s relationship throughout the entire run of Franxx, then it would simply be this quote from the 1989 movie Say Anything…
“I can’t figure it out tonight sir, I just wanna hang out with your daughter.”
That quote pretty much encapsulates the entire romance of Franxx’s two main leads. Hiro and Zero-Two are both teenagers, experiencing the wonders (and horrors) of puberty and growing into adolescence. Their love, while it is given a history that connects them both is, very much the kind of love that all teenagers face. We’ve all gone through this. Your first relationship in school, perhaps the first relationship with the girl or guy where you engage with sexually. Those feelings of love are overwhelming and they can drown out almost every other thought or idea in your mind. For many teenagers in high school, your first “serious” high school girl/boyfriend is the most important thing that has ever happened to you.
But do you love them? Or are you simply in love with the feeling of being in love?
For Hiro, it was very clear, especially in the latter half of the series, that he views his relationship with Zero-Two through the lens of a teenager (because you know..he is one). In the last half of the series with their major character development done, all Hiro wants to do is just “be with Zero-Two.” There are so many scenes in the last part of the series where Hiro and Zero-Two are just together making googly eyes at each other, kissing, or just enjoying their company, basking in the fact that they are in love and how awesome that feels. The struggles of the world, or of the rest of the cast are not important to them. So much so that in the climax of the story, after Zero-Two sacrifices herself to save him, despite the fact that the earth is dying, and the rest of his friends are trying to basically rebuild civilization on their own, all Hiro cares about is “being with Zero-Two.” So much so that this leads to Goro, who up until this point had always been in their corner, is pretty much 110% done with Hiro’s bullshit.
Hiro’s selfishness is that pure selfishness that can only come from the high of being a teenager in love. The world? His friends? The future of humankind itself? None of that matters to him, all he wants is to be with Zero-Two, the one who makes him happy and gives him those feelings of love. Even if that means abandoning his friends, humanity and going off to certain death, that is all secondary to the need to be with his girlfriend.
Now if you are probably thinking ‘wow this kid is a fucking idiot and I wanna punch him like Goro did” then I agree…and that’s the point. Hiro’s actions, despite being set in a science fiction anime, are something that is completely understandable. I found Hiro to be a selfish piece of shit, but I got it. I understood why he is acting like this because that is how all teenagers react. Hiro is a slave to his hormones and changing body. You have to ask yourself, would you not have done the same thing if you were in his shoes at that age? At that age, do you have the emotional armor and mental fortitude to accept that sometimes you can’t always get what you want, that sometimes you can’t just be together with someone? I know I didn’t, and I am damn sure Hiro doesn’t either.
This view of teenage romance also plays into the overall theme of Franxx: stagnation vs reproduction (or it would have been if they hadn’t fucked it up at episode 21). While the rest of the cast is focused on rebuilding the world, and most notably how Mitsuru and Kokoro’s unborn child represents a forward look in the future. Hiro and Zero-Two do not have that, they don’t have any plans, any dreams, or any hopes for the future. All they want is to just “be together” that’s it. In a sense, they are the mirror image of APE and VIRM whose goals were to basically keep existence in a single state of being. This also helps with the (valid) criticism that both characters are pretty much “done” after the halfway point of the series make sort of sense. They both got what they wanted: each other. There is no more development needed for them because they are pretty much “done.”
It is understandable that the Hiro and Zero-Two romance was grating for many people, but if you look a bit deeper, put yourself into their age and shoes, then you can understand what it is trying to be. They are teenagers and their relationship is a teenage romance with all the good and bad that entails. Are Hiro and Zero-Two truly deeply in love? Probably, but I have to wonder if they had actually stayed together on earth and lived their lives if those feelings would have just ended up like so many other teenage romances: In love with the feeling of being in love.
Darling in the Franxx had as many highs as it did lows and there have been MANY people who have torn this series apart because of it. Yet when I look back at the series and the main relationship, despite how much it annoys me, I get it. I get what Hiro and Zero-Two are to each other and I understand their feelings. They represent the purest and rawest form of love: teenage love. It’s powerful, explosive and almost all too fleeting. It is something that people are supposed to grow out of and look back at with humor and melancholic nostalgia. As bullshit as it is (and it always is), it is something I think all anime viewers have gone through or will go through. So yeah…. in the end.. I get it.