The Internet went abuzz about the ending for DARLING IN THE FRANXX, the show completely pulled the drag shoot, and left people wondering what they saw. Many thought “They did this before, it was called Kill la Kill.”
Shinji Ikari…I mean Hiro, is a member of a military academy and is part of a group of students calling “Parasites”, who pilot Evas…I mean Franxx. In a unique twist, simultaneously intriguing and disgusting, the mechs require two people, one male and one female. The way the female is positioned however, is very disturbing, and brings up questions of irony. The Franxx’s purpose is to defeat giant monsters called Angels…I mean…Klaxosaurs.
Anyway Hiro doesn’t have a female partner. Even his best friend, Ichigo (no, not the one you’re thinking of) has a partner. Until he meets 002, a hot headed, quirky pilot who tends to suck the energy out of pilots. She’s widely regarded as a “project” and under strict scrutiny from the defense force called APE. Anyway, 002 wants Hiro to be her “Darling”, to the obvious disdain of everyone.
On first impression, the series appearing to be directly ripping off Evangelion. You have a wimpy protagonist, wild red-head, calm female support character, a mysterious organization with shady goals and fighting eldritch abominations with bizarre names. However, the execution (in the A-1 Pictures episodes) feels more akin to Aldnoah.Zero than Anno’s masterpiece. The Trigger episodes resemble something like Gurren Lagann meets Evangelion, with the best parts of both mixed in. Studio Trigger never seemed like a studio who thought out their ideas, which shows often, and it adds a childlike quality to their thought process.
The characterization is relatively solid. 002, comes off as a cross between Asuka from Eva, a cat, and a succubus. Goto is the most levelheaded out of all the male pilots. Hiro still feels blander than blank printer paper. Yet all the solid characterization and decent storytelling is overshadowed by the rampant sexualization.
(This paragraph involved the rampant sexualization in Darling in the Franxx, has been censored for the sake of humanity. We apologize for this oversight. -The Management)
Still despite the sexual awkwardness; there is a decent amount which works here. For example, the animation is top notch.
The show was produced by three studios: Trigger, A-1 Studios (of Aniplex), and CloverWorks (a division of A-1 Pictures). Not surprisingly the animation is crisp and clear. The trademark of an A-1 Pictures anime. Trigger’s work is instantly notable, with insanely fluid action scenes (Hiroyuki Imaishi, the director of Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill fame is listed as “action director” for the series), making up for the angst ridden drama.
However, the fact there were three production companies leads to a big problem: episode consistency. The series waivers on the tone. The A-1 episodes seem to have been created in a world, where the concept of levity is something to be ashamed of. The Trigger episodes are created in a world, where the concept of angst, is ashamed of. There are two conclusions to be drawn from this. One, infighting between the studios. Two, inconsistency in story structure. Since the structure itself, isn’t problematic it is safe to assume the former is the most correct conclusion.
Which brings us to the music. In the A-1 episodes it’s noticeable and seems to overpower some of the scenes of dialogue. This is also something which happened on Aldnoah.Zero. It was a bit problematic there too. In the Trigger episodes, the music is there, yet it’s not distracting, i.e. doesn’t overpower dialogue, so it’s a B+, if nothing else.
In conclusion, DARLING IN THE FRANXX is a mecha show, which shows a decent amount of potential. However, the tone waivers between who is producing which episodes, the trap of “Trigger Syndrome.” It gets a PASS but this one could go downhill later on fast.