DARLING in the FRANXX「ダーリン・イン・ザ・フランキス」was an anime I was greatly looking forward to since it was done by one of my favorite anime creators, “Studio Trigger「株式会社トリガー」“. I even ended up writing a small breakdown of what I think the symbolism within the anime meant in my editorial titled, “DARLING in the FRANXX — What Does it Mean to be Human?” which covered up to the first 18 episodes.
Those who enjoyed the anime while it was still going versus those who thought it was just a cheap ploy were nearly split down the middle; especially when you had things occur such as they did in Episode 15 — Jian, which prompted me to write the editorial “[CODE 015] Ichigo — A Victim of Blind Hatred“. Now that the anime has ended, there are yet even more people who are split on whether the anime in its totality was worth the time to watch it. I myself have had my ups-and-downs with the series, so I want to breakdown my thoughts for each of you as I review the genius minds behind Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, and Neon Genesis Evangelion most recent work.
This story takes place on Earth, yet sometime within the future with mankind defending itself against the “Klaxosaurs”. Mechas known as “FRANXX” (hence the title of the anime) are piloted by children in male and female pairs who have good resonance with each other (the male being the stamen and the female being the pistil). These children are the key to finally ending this long war, though during the time, many things are discovered; why are children piloting these robots and fighting on the frontlines? How did the world and humanity arrive at this state? What is the true goal of the powers-that-be that control everything from above? Exploration of human nature and this world comes over the series of 24 episodes.
For me, this anime started off quite thrilling by quickly putting you into the action and introducing the characters and the world around them. You are introduced to both the male and female protagonist rather early, and you quickly realize that somehow they are intertwined with each other by the opening cinematic as well as their circumstances making them need one another. Despite how many romance animes are cheesy and are completely one-dimensional, you are constantly wanting to know more about why the connection is there and what makes Hiro so drawn to Zero Two in the early stages. The execution in this sense is done extremely well as you feel their immense love for each other, this makes the editorial I did about Episode 15 all the more fitting since you are completely enthralled by the story woven by the creators up to that point. Next thing you know, they begin to open up the world to you and explain its lore, and everything falls perfectly into place piece-by-piece as we are drawing near the end of our journey. Unfortunately, to put it short, they simply ruined the entire anime once we hit episode 20.
The problem with how things inevitably played out was the “larger-than-life” and woefully convoluted plot twist that the creators decided was a good idea to add more flavor to DARLING in the FRANXX, when in reality it was already perfectly seasoned without it. Something that Studio Trigger is quite fond of is making something so big it affects the very fate of the entire universe and this theme is present within this anime as well, however it does not work so great in this anime as compared to Neon Genesis Evangelion or in Kill la Kill. In fact, this plot twist is so terribly horrid and the remainder of the anime after this fact is so rushed that it effectively destroys any hype built up to that point and turns the anime on its head entirely; this series goes from “I cannot wait to see what happens next, the suspense is killing me!” to “I’m already this far into it, might as well watch to the end and get it over with”. Many, including myself, have openly voiced their disdain on social media and in streaming service’s comment section on how poorly the ending to potentially great anime was handled.
All-in-all, the plot in itself gets its point across that love is suppose to transcend everything and we all need to work together in order to make the best of what we have. That in the end, we only have each other and if we have nothing at all we can still rebuild from the foundations our love and friendships are built upon. Regardless of that and the clear emphasis the series puts on the importance of
This anime was solely driven by the characters, and while I feel that is true with most anime it was one the one thing heavily pushing the plot forward. As the characters within DARLING in the FRANXX began to experience new events and realities, changing themselves ever so slowly once their eyes were opened to their own desires and wants, it created an atmosphere of self-discovery. We watched as the members of Squad 13 began to question their very purpose, what was the sum total of their existence worth, what was it going to cost to breakaway from the status quo and have some iota of control over their lives which was predetermined before they were born? All of these questions were given answers and allowed us to take part in the process it took to satisfy those curiosities.
Real world thoughts are clearly shown, from questioning your self-worth based upon what those around you consider value, to having to figure out how to deal with unrequited love or knowing you are different than what is supposedly “normal”. Moreover, we see what it is like to question who is in charge despite having no power or suitable way to change the hierarchy, but press forward nonetheless to set into motion a campaign for awareness and contemplation.
The complete selling point of this anime was the relationship between its characters and how they played out over the series. However, I feel like even though we were given individual episodes and moments of true self-reflection amongst the cast, we did not visit some of them after their initial introduction; a great example happens to be a character who is homosexual being rejected yet we see nothing else about them and their feelings afterwards. Another good example of this is how someone who was previously in a love triangle managed to finally get their person, but it does not go over how exactly that happened or why those feelings changed. Do not get me wrong, I am 100% in agreeance with the outcomes for the characters at the very end despite the lackluster way the anime wrapped up, but I would have liked more in the way of explanation on the totality of actions it took to tie some of these loose ends.
Still, this anime had great character development from the beginning to the end. We got to see what it takes to really be human and the amount of courage and uncertainty that comes with figuring out your own self-worth and path in life. The pain that comes from rejection and the feeling of uselessness that makes you feel as if you were dead or have no significance as far as your ability to contribute to those that you love. How it feels when you are different than those around you and want so badly to fit in that you would nearly die for it, only to miss the fact that it is those differences that make you special and it only takes one person to acknowledge that to alter your perspective on what “fitting in” truly means.
STRENGTHS — Great character development, Interesting characters, Lore is great up until episode 20, Amazing build up, and the opening song “Kiss of Death” and its cinematics are great.
WEAKNESSES — Episodes 20-24 ruin the entire anime, Some relationship loose ends are not fully played out, The ending is very cliche and does not help the already aggravating plot twist.
IMPRESSIONS — DARLING in the FRANXX had mixed reception coming in, mostly because some people hated the characters while others did not like it was more drama-oriented than action-oriented. I felt like the anime was good and was displaying a hidden message, something I have found to be common in anime produced by Studio Trigger. However, I feel like the entire anime falls flat and all the hard work it took to build up to the final episodes was thrown away by the horrid plot twist and hurried change-of-pace after episode 20.
Well I would normally give something like this a “Half-&-Half” rating because it was only four episodes that were pretty bad, they are bad enough to justify regretting watching every single episode up to that point and making it feel like the time and emotionally investment within the characters are not worth it. Hopefully Studio Trigger will focus on something else next time and leave the insane plot twists to anime more over-the-top like Kill la Kill or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.