Original Run: January 13, 2018 - July 7, 2018 Number of Episodes: 24 Genre: Action, Mecha, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Darling in the Franxx. Reader discretion is advised.***
In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity is in constant war with creatures known as klaxosaurs. To fight these gigantic beasts, humans rely on their secret weapons: the Franxx.
Franxx are giant robotic battle machines that require a two-person team – a male and a female – to pilot them. These specialized pilots, better known as Parasites, are children, and they are kept separate from the “adults.” Most Parasite units are rigid and uniform, but there is one that is special.
Squad 13, for unknown reasons, is allowed a lot more freedom than other teams. Among this group is Code: 016, a.k.a. Hiro (voiced by Yuto Uemura), and he has reached a breaking point. No matter how hard he tries, Hiro is unable to find a partner he can fly a Franxx with. As far as he is concerned, he is worse than useless. That all changed the day Hiro met her.
Code: 002, a.k.a. Zero Two (voiced by Haruka Tomatsu) is an ace Franxx pilot with a frightening reputation. None of her partners have been able to survive three flights with her. It is as if she is more monster than human. But one look at Hiro and Zero Two knows she has at last found her one and only darling.
Sure enough, Hiro and Zero Two become the best Franxx duo there is. However, the rumors surrounding Zero Two are proving to be true — a fact Hiro couldn’t care less about.
The fight for humanity’s future goes on. But with each passing battle, Hiro, Zero Two, and the rest of Squad 13 feel something is off. Unfortunately, the only things these children have ever known are the things the adults have told them. And the adults have said a lot to ensure that the “righteous” mission gets done.
One of the foundations of Anime Hajime is openness. I will review any show from any genre – except for straight up hentai. Speaking as an anime fan, doing this has allowed me the chance to come across countless gems that I would have otherwise, missed had I been finicky towards certain types of stories. Although I may have my favorites, I prefer exploring than I do staying within a comfort zone.
Despite this, I will be the first to admit that there is one genre of anime I have never been able to get into: Mecha. I’m talking giant fighting robots; series like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, and others like them.
This site is not free of mecha series, but at the time of writing this review, they are underrepresented. It is hard for these shows to peak my interest.
Nevertheless, when you tell me my favorite studio’s newest series is going to be a mecha anime, not only does that secure my interest, such a series will instantly become one of my most anticipated of the year. And that’s saying something for 2018, a year filled with anticipation.
In case you are new here, I am a massive fan of Studio Trigger. This company has given us the shows Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, and Kiznaiver. While Trigger may not currently have the largest filmography to its name, based on what it has done, in my eyes, this studio has been building a reputation founded on amazing animation, great stories, and interesting characters.
Therefore, I get a little excited whenever I start a Trigger series. For Darling in the Franxx specifically, things were even more exciting since this was a collaborative effort between Trigger and A-1 Pictures. Unlike Trigger, A-1 Pictures has a lot more anime to their credit. To give you a small idea of what they have done, A-1 is the company that produced greats such as Anohana, Your Lie in April, and Boku dake ga Inai Machi.
Since I am a marathon viewer, it was a difficult six-month wait to get to this series. With that wait now over, was Darling in the Franxx even worth it?
How should I put this?
I liked this show. And by that, I mean I really liked this show. And by that, I mean I loved this show. And by that, I mean Darling in the Franxx was so god damn awesome and utterly outstanding. Wow, this was good.
I suppose the best place to start is with something I pretty much knew was going to be the case long before I sat down to watch this series. Since this was a Trigger and an A-1 Pictures production, regardless of how the actual story ended up, this show would look incredible. And it did.
Regarding A-1 Pictures’ influence, Darling in the Franxx had excellent uses of color. Not only that, there was a style to this show, particularly during the more emotional moments, that felt very artsy, and I mean that in a positive way. Without focusing too much on the story itself at this moment, whenever this series got a bit heavy or dramatic, it was the visuals that said everything which needed to be said.
Keep in mind, powerful and meaningful are things Trigger can do, too. However, this level of visual storytelling is, without a doubt, A-1 Pictures’ forte. This company has proven time and time again that this is something they know how to do, and few do it better than them.
While this was a huge reason as to why Darling in the Franxx was great, Studio Trigger’s fingerprints were all over this show. This was their series. You could see Trigger’s handiwork in two critical areas:
The first Trigger staple was this show’s character designs. These were Trigger characters, and I’m not only talking about the human ones.
One of the reasons I don’t care for the mecha genre has to do with the giant robots. More often than not, and I think I’m about to make a lot of people angry, regardless of what show they come from, most mecha robots look the same. There is not enough visual personality to these robots that allow them to stand out.
To put it another way, if you were to give me a bunch of pictures of mecha robots from a bunch of different shows and you tasked me with differentiating them, I would one-hundred-percent fail. There are only two series where I can instantly identify their type of robot. One is Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the other is now Darling in the Franxx.
With Darling in the Franxx, these giant fighting robots were a lot more than just giant fighting robots. More so than any mecha anime I have seen, these robots weren’t merely humanoid battle tanks. These were actual extensions of the characters who piloted them; almost becoming characters onto themselves.
Hiro and Zero Two’s Squad 13 was the only squad to have unique and personalized Franxx. This individuality made Squad 13 feel more human. Whenever they went into battle, they weren’t just dinging up their rides. Squad 13 was taking actual damage. They were getting hurt, and since their Franxx could convey facial expressions, there was a lot more life to each fight.
AND SPEAKING OF FIGHTS, that was the second Trigger staple.
The action in Darling in the Franxx was badass, and all of Trigger’s calling cards were at play. These scenes were loud, over-the-top, and extravagant. These were spectacles. This series took the phrase “go big or go home,” and ran with it because when this show went big, it did not mess around.
Do I have one favorite fight scene? No, they were all fantastic, and I can’t possibly convince myself into thinking one was better than another. There wasn’t a single instance where this show was boring.
However, these were just moments, and although Trigger knows how to create great moments, this studio also understands that a show needs a lot more than that. If remarkable instances of action, comedy, drama, or what have you exist in a story that is bland and forgettable, then there really is no point.
But when you have a story like the one seen in Darling in the Franxx, then these standout moments become a lot more epic.
For a twenty-four episode anime, this series sure didn’t feel like it was twenty-four episodes long. While it may have taken me two days to get through the entire show, that time flew by. This story was well-paced, and it found a healthy balance between progression and development.
Darling in the Franxx had stretches where it was non-stop action and forward momentum. This story would go a hundred miles an hour with no signs of slowing down. Nevertheless, this series did slow down to flesh out its world and the society living within it.
When this happened, the narrative never came to a screeching halt nor did things ever feel dragged out. This mix of breakneck build up and methodical establishment came together to create a story worth remembering.
There were a lot of great episodes that demonstrated this show’s brand of storytelling mastery. But unlike the action in this series, there was one episode that clearly stood above the rest.
Episode thirteen, The Beast and the Prince, was phenomenal. I don’t intend to discuss what happened. What I will say, though, is that thirteen was something I’m not going to forget.
I was already enjoying this show by the time Darling in the Franxx got to this point, but when it comes time for me to think of the best anime of 2018, this series will be vying for one of the top spots on my list.
The Characters – Squad 13
There was one critical element that was the lifeblood of this show. Without this, Darling in the Franxx would have had no chance of being as good as it was. I am, of course, referring to this show’s characters, and more specifically, Squad 13.
This was a team. This was a family. By the end of this story, there was a real concern for all ten members. We followed this group from the very beginning all the way to the very end; they were always here. Squad 13 never became a secondary idea. When something happened to one of them, it affected all of them.
Although I don’t plan to give details for each member of this squad, I have to at least mention everyone’s name since they were all positive points to this show.
Starting from the bottom and working our way up, let’s begin with Code: 214, a.k.a. Futoshi (voiced by Hiroki Goto). I have the least to say about Futoshi because he was the member of Squad 13 that didn’t get a lot of focus. However, he was a constant presence, and he even managed to have one or two moments all to himself.
Next, there was Code: 196, Ikuno (voiced by Shizuka Ishigami). I won’t lie, although Ikuno had more development than Futoshi, her development came out of nowhere. But like Futoshi, there would have been a noticeable hole had Ikuno not been around.
Then there was Code: 666 and Code: 390, Zorome and Miku (voiced by Mutsumi Tamura and Nanami Yamashita). I’m pairing these two together because that was what they were. Zorome and Miku were a good match for each other, and where ever one went, the other was never too far behind.
That said, Zorome did have an episode all to himself. I mention this because Zorome’s solo adventure was a dark and revealing moment for this show, and it wouldn’t feel right not to bring it up.
After Zorome and Miku, we start getting into the heart and soul of what made Squad 13 what it was.
Code: 056, Goro (voiced by Yuichiro Umehara Ep: 1 – 22 and Daiki Hamano Ep: 22 – 24), was the most level-headed of this group. Although he did succumb to his emotions every now and then, he was the voice of reason and could remind everyone of the much bigger picture at hand. In fact, Goro’s biggest fault was that he was occasionally too understanding. It would have helped if he had put his foot down once or twice. Regardless, he was the anchor that kept this squad grounded.
Code: 556, Kokoro (voiced by Saori Hayami), went from a forgettable wallflower to one of the main pillars of this group. It was her caring nature that led her to be the most progressive of the squad. She became a symbol of something humanity had lost many years before this series took place. She was at the center of one of the most harrowing and uplifting storylines of Darling in the Franxx. But she was only one side of a coin.
The other side of that coin was Code: 326, Mitsuru (voiced by Aoi Ichikawa), who went from my most despised character to one of the people I was rooting for the most. Of everyone in this show, it was Mitsuru who had the most complex character arc. At first, he was kind of a prick, but later on you learn he had a very valid reason to be one.
That leaves us with our final three.
Code: 015, Ichigo (voiced by Kana Ichinose), had one of the most unfortunate roles in this series. On a few occasions, she had to play a sort of antagonist. She was the leader of this squad, and thus, had to make some tough calls. Unfortunately, that also forced her to go against the wishes of the people she cared about.
However, whenever Ichigo was an obstacle, it was impossible to hate her because she never did anything for the wrong reasons. She always had her team’s best interest in mind, and the other members of Squad 13 knew this. That is why when things got really bad, it was Ichigo who was the person everyone could rely on to lead the way.
Here at the final two, there was Hiro. The best thing I can say about him is, Hiro was the undisputed protagonist of this story. He may have been comparatively bland when up against some of his other squad mates, but he was a main driving force behind this show. It wasn’t hard to understand why so many people looked up to him.
I will admit that Hiro is not my favorite character of Darling in the Franxx. Hell, he isn’t even in my top five. However, no one could have replaced him.
Finally, that leaves Zero Two, and she is my favorite character of Darling in the Franxx. Despite that, I’m having trouble thinking of anything to say about her. All that is coming to mind are simple words like hot-headed, arrogant, in pain, desperate, violent, and alone. While all of those terms describe Zero Two, they don’t tell the full story. To really get an idea of who Zero Two was, you’re going to need a long time; about a twenty-four episode anime’s worth of time.
Luckily, such a thing exists.
This is not going to take nearly as long.
There are things I can and will mention regarding the negative aspects of Darling in the Franxx. But let me make this clear, none of what I’m about to say did anything to dent this show’s armor – minus one important exception.
To start, the finale of this series was indeed out there. In retrospect, I can see how this story was destined to end up where it ended up. That notwithstanding, this show still took a pretty hard turn to get there.
Think of any time you are riding in a car, and the driver makes a sharp, unexpected right. Anything that wasn’t secured in the trunk definitely got tossed around. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything back there that was fragile enough to break, but a head-ups next time would be appreciated.
Also, as I hinted at, some of the members of Squad 13 had almost no development to them. Considering how critical everyone was to Darling in the Franxx, that leaves behind a giant what-if question. What if everyone had their fair amount of screen time? Was this really all these characters could have been or was there more?
Moving on to something else, this series split everyone into two groups. The relationship between these two groups played a vital role in this story. Darling in the Franxx never really resolved the fate of one of these groups. This series had enough clues for you to come to your own conclusions, but I would argue this was something that should not have been left to ambiguity.
And that’s all the small things I have to say. Personally, none of these points affected my enjoyment of this series. They were all elements I could easily tune out. They were in no way distracting from the much more significant, far more exciting story.
However, there was something to Darling in the Franxx that I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around. I wish I were a lot more familiar with the mecha genre. For you see, the way this show implemented this detail was so absurd that it reached the point where experience is telling me this was meant to be a parody.
But in case I’m wrong, and I very well could be, then this is definitely a point against Darling in the Franxx.
The sexual overtones in this show were ridiculous.
Why beat around the bush more than I already have? How can anyone look at how the Franxx were piloted and think to themselves, “I see nothing wrong with that?”
Each Franxx was co-flown by a male and a female pilot. The female would be the power source, and the male would be at the controls. The thing is, the female was on all fours presenting herself with the guy standing over her. If you see this and start to feel a little uncomfortable, I don’t blame you.
Now the reason I think this ridiculousness might actually be this series’ way of poking fun at the mecha genre is because of some of the lines that were said during fights. There were winners like “I feel you in me,” or “I am going deeper inside you.” I’ve seen ecchi anime with more subtlety than this. This was so deliberate, but this show was only at its most WTF in the beginning.
There was an episode where this piloting arrangement came to a head, because why would it not? Once this episode resolved itself – and it resolved itself in an incredibly meaningful way, I will add – Darling in the Franxx toned itself down.
Also, there was a part in this show where two males piloted a Franxx, and they kept saying the same exact innuendo-filled lines as before. Upon seeing this, I felt a bit more confident that this show was being very tongue-in-cheek with what it was doing.
Again, if I am wrong, this is a big enough reason for someone not to want to watch this show. A person who might feel this way would be missing out on a lot of great stuff, but their concerns would be valid. After I sit down with a couple dozen more mecha shows, maybe then I’ll have a real answer.
With all that said, I still have nothing but praise for this series as a whole.
In case you didn’t pick up on it, I kind of liked this show – a lot.
It was absolutely fantastic and well worth the wait for this series to finish. This is yet another win for Trigger, as well as a mecha anime I can actually get behind.
The animation was brilliant. The story was enthralling. The characters were incredible. This is a long show to get through, but it goes by so fast. And all throughout, there is just moment after moment that are both insanely fun and unbelievably powerful. What more do I have to say?
Darling in the Franxx is a show I one-hundred-percent recommend.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Darling in the Franxx? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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