Anime Review: Darling in the FranXX - Part One

By Drew Hurley 19.06.2019

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Darling in the FranXX - Part One (UK 15)

The Jian is a bird incapable of flight. With only one wing, the only way it is able to fly is by finding a partner to support it. A male and a female who works together to take to the skies. The reality of this creature is seen drastically differently by the two partners at the start of this story. A pair in a similar situation. To one, the birds are something profoundly beautiful. To another, they're pitiful creatures, having to hide in the leaves, only able to dream about what should come naturally, with a potential that they may never get to fly at all. This creature is the metaphorical base for the premise of the show, where boy/girl pairs of children must work together to man huge Μecha in a fight to reclaim a dystopian world from terrifying Kaiju. Coming from Manga Entertainment, this first part contains episodes 1-12 and is available from May 27th.
Darling in the FranXX takes place in a dark dystopian future. Beings known as Klaxosaurs have slaughtered mass amounts of the population, and the remnants are forced to hide away in huge moving fortresses known as Plantations; something that looks like a cross between the Technodrome and a Roomba. To try and combat the threat children are taught to do one thing, to learn how to pilot the titular FranXX. Much like the Jian birds, Franxx cannot fly on their own. Each requires a male and female pair who are perfectly in sync to operate a Franxx. The male is known as the Stamen and controls the actions of the Franxx. The female or Pistil acts as the connection between the pilots and their Franxx.
The children who pilot the Franxx are created in a lab and raised in an orphanage, indoctrinated that, unless they can become pilots or "parasites," their lives are worthless. This mindset ruins a young boy who is unable to learn how to become a pilot. Each child is given a three digit code, and the young boy at the heart of this tale is codenamed 016, though he has named himself Hiro. Hiro is part of a class of students training to protect Plantation 13. While all the other kids in his class are finally reaching their goal of becoming pilots, Hiro and his partner have failed. He's depressed and trying to accept his fate. That's when he has a serendipitous meeting with a very special Pistil.
This girl is code 002, a Special Forces pilot of legend and infamy. A psychotic, pink-haired, beauty who is rumoured to be not quite human. To contain the blood of the creatures she fights. Rumoured to kill any pilot that partners with her three times by draining his blood. She makes a big impression Hiro with certainly a unique introduction. Skinny dipping in a lake, she bursts out of the water right before his eyes, snatching up a fish in her teeth at the same time. She seems instantly drawn to Hiro, saying she'll unleash the power within him, if he becomes her "Darling."
She gets her opportunity quickly, as the ceremony for the rest of Hiro's class is interrupted by a huge Klaxosaur assaulting the 13th Plantation. 002 heads out with her partner against the gargantuan creature, but only manages to stun it before her partner is unable to continue. Hiro gets to try out at being her Darling, The pairing of the two ignites the Franxx back to life just in time for the Klaxosaur to recover, it transforms into a whole new form and explodes through its enemy with signature Trigger style.

Despite Franxx being centred around huge Mecha against gigantic Kaiju, the battles are all classic Trigger, filled with fast action, impressive effects, and truly dynamic moments. Also, being Trigger, there's more than a little innuendo. The pilots are posed within the Franxx with the female member bent over on all fours, directly in front of the male, and the camera angles make the most of that. It's nowhere near Kill la Kill, but it knows what it's doing. The parasites' phrasing doubles down on it with comments like "It feels like I'm deep inside of you," and "I can't tell where I end and you begin." Not to mention the suggestive moaning when they "connect," and at one point the girls complaining if the guys go too hard or fast.
The majority of the remainder of this first part sees the group of Parasites from Plantation 13 undertake missions, learning to work together, and especially developing relationships between them. Hiro and 002 are the focus and heart of the story, as they're repeatedly kept apart by superiors and friends. The fellow trainee Parasites are terrified their friend will die and the superiors have numerous ulterior motives which are not explained, just hinted at.
The standard kids go out and kill monsters, the Klaxosaurs ranging from Metroid looking creatures, Dune style sandworm, and lumbering Dinosaurs. As they head out on missions, they mature and grow closer, dealing with a coming-of-age type tale atop this Kaiju-slaughtering backdrop. But there's more to this story, and those paying attention will find hints to the real story lurking in the background.
The kids meet up with a platoon from another Plantation and find there's is abnormal, and this other group whispers secrets behind their back about the strange unique Franxx they have, the weirdness of having multiple teenage code members. Why is Platoon 13 so different? Why is it okay that a Special Forces member is working with these amateurs. There are so many unanswered questions in regards to not just the characters, but the world too.
These hints to some darker story elements and themes are prevalent throughout. Even in the innocuous and light-hearted episodes. In the obligatory beach episode quickly transforms from a showcase of the girls' assets into an investigation into a ruin of what was once a city, these children having no frame of reference as to what the world was, suddenly stumbling on the truth of their history. Setting things in motion for these children, and by proxy, the audience, to discover the truth around the world's society. Similarly, a silly episode centred around the kids hitting puberty and arguing over the boy's perviness, seems to be a standard "we live together but we're splitting the house in half with a line, don't cross it!" episode. However, it starts to look at how the kids yearn to become respected adults in their society. Only, that can't happen. There are no relationships. No sex. The students don't even know what a kiss is. There is no growing up. Children do not get to become adults. Adults are forever.
On the extras front, there are two episode commentaries available with the cast of the English dub, in addition to a handful of the promotional web preview videos for the series, the Textless opening theme for "KISS OF DEATH". This slamming theme couldn't be avoided around Tokyo a few years back and it's easy to see why. Performed by repeated chart topper Mika Nakashima, and produced by J-Rock legend HYDE. Finally, there's a 3-part series of pre-broadcast specials. These were used promotionally to introduce the series before it began in Japan.
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
This is Trigger's take on Evangelion, and just like that inspiration, there's a lot more going on here than kids being forced to fight giant monsters. What's going on with the creepy adults? Why can't kids become adults? What's the deal with 002 and her having the Klaxosaur blood? Why is Hiro special? So many things to find out and the hooks this series have sunk in, have sunk deep. This coming of age tale offers up a lot of promise for its second part. Not to mention the glorious art and animation that helped elevate Kill la Kill translates wonderfully to the grand scale of the Mecha.

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