Anime Review: DARLING in the FRANXX - Part Two

By Drew Hurley 13.08.2019

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DARLING in the FRANXX - Part Two (UK Rating: 12)

DARLING in the FRANXX - Part One showed just why Trigger has built up its cult fanbase. Their signature style and presentation are absolutely unmistakable, and each new original story they have brought about has topped the "must-watch" lists for each anime season it debuts in, and within this oversaturated industry, each series stands out as being remembered. That first part delivered a familiar setting, a dystopian future where children are forced to utilize giant robots to battle against huge monsters, while a shadowy group controls their lives and minds from the darkness. Coming courtesy of Manga Entertainment, this second part contains the conclusion to the story, consisting of episodes 13-24, and is available from July 22nd.
DARLING in the FRANXX - Part One introduced a world where humanity is reduced to living in little cities, hiding away from huge monsters known as Klaxosaurs that have slaughtered the majority of the population. The only way humanity is surviving is by using lab-bred children known as parasites to pilot huge mechs in boy-girl pairs. One such group of these parasites, raised together in a lab, and headed up by a high ranking child, are the stars of that show. The children don't receive names. They receive numbered designations, the lower the number, the more promising. The leader of this group of parasites is #016. He's a peculiarity. He thinks for himself. He asks questions. He even names himself, wanting to be known as Hiro, and he names the rest of his squad too.
When the story picks up, the squad members are struggling to complete their transformation to become full parasites. Most of them are succeeding... except for Hiro. He's failing horribly, and it seems he will soon be unable to stay with his team, forced to leave as a failure instead. That is until a naked girl. If #016 is impressive, that's nothing compared to her. She's #02. She's a Special Forces pilot of legend and infamy. A psychotic, pink-haired, beauty that is rumoured to be not quite human. It's rumoured she is part Klaxosaur herself, and that she drains the blood from any pilot she is partnered up with. She makes a big impression on Hiro. Bursting out of the lake where he's brooding, completely naked, with a fish between her teeth. He's obviously drawn to her, but she seems just as drawn to him. Getting very close and whispering promises to him. How she'll unleash the power within him. If he becomes her "darling."
Over the course of the first 12 episodes Hiro's squad - Squad 13, develop as parasites, taking on missions and growing as friends together. There are dark undertones peppered throughout as the truth to the story is hinted at. There are some comments how children never get to become adults, some other groups of parasites who seem to know the truth but can't say in front of them, and even a point where one of the kids meet with an adult and is shaken to their core because of what he's told.
On top of the kids growing, Hiro and #02, now known as Zero-Two are developing a special relationship. There's a budding romance between the two, and a potential love triangle thanks to another member of Hiro's squad, Ichigo. The rumours of Zero-Two killing her partners seem to be true, and the squad is terrified for their friend - a fear that's shown to be well-founded, when at the end of the series Zero-Two, almost kills Hiro while they are paired. Choking the life out of him literally.

The series was split at just the right point, as the very first episode does a wonderful job in snatching back the attention of the audience. Taking a step back in time a glimpse into the horrors of the life the Parasites had to endure; living in a sterile, clinical nightmare; forced to undertake test after test, following constant commands. Hiro stands out again, thinking for himself, not just accepting his world, constantly asking questions - and, while it hasn't been mentioned until now, Hiro and Zero Two have met before. Back when they were very young. While in this lab, Hiro stumbled on a room with Zero Two in; a little, red-skinned, horned monster-girl. Yet Hiro felt sorry for her, seeing her having her blood taken, and experiments performed on her. First chance he got, he smashed her window, stole her away, and tried to save her. The powers that be would never allow it. The pair are captured, with extreme prejudice, and their memories both erased. This shows a sweet relationship between the two.
Jumping back to present day, the squad are determined to keep Zero-Two away from the critically injured Hiro in his sickbed, promising they'll stop her from ever seeing him again. However, keeping the two apart proves dangerous as Zero Two starts getting Feral, her demonic nature re-emerging, and Hiro's memory returning made him realize that he has lost what made him himself, what gave him his fight. He stopped asking questions, he stopped fighting.
The two have the chance to be reunited when Squad 13 is sent on a mission which seems impossible to win, also on that mission is Zero-Two, her Franxx, a mindless berserker, tearing apart and devouring every Klaxosaur in her path. Hiro risks his life to be reunited with her, not knowing if their partnering will kill him or not. Their past is again explored, their link and the humanity within Zero-Two again brought to the fore. A wonderful reunion, climaxed by a dynamic battle scene and the story feels like the conclusion of the first season at the close of episode 15. Especially with the huge cliffhanger as a monstrous arm reaches up out of the earth.
The close of episode 15 saw the Plantation that the children live on ravaged, thanks to a self-destruct from their adults. Now in episode 16, the team are all reunited at their home again. Zero-Two once again back in the fold and the kids are now suddenly having to deal with things themselves. Their caretakers have vanished, there's little food or water. A group of teenagers having to fend for themselves, the only thing to help is a weekly delivery of basic rations, which may soon stop too. They decide to teach themselves to survive on their own, learning to fish, to cook.
It seems like the kids are actually finally getting to live their lives, but really there is a sinister intent to the whole situation. What happens next needs to be seen to be believed. Living up to the work of their progenitor in TTGL from Gainax, the story goes out there - really, really out there. The final four episodes especially could have been a whole series in themselves, and honestly, they deserve to. There is a ton stuffed into this that would have really benefited from many more episodes to explore. It's easy to see how it could be divisive though. The story takes some weird turns, the pacing issues make for some rough episodes, but even so, the transformation of the series is fascinating and watching it in one go makes for compelling binge-watching.
While this is a Trigger production, it's actually also a collaboration with A-1 Pictures, specifically A-1 Pictures Cloverworks team. This is a whole studio that broke away from the A-1, name and became its own entity, though it was an unknown when it delivered FRANXX. It has since put out a mixed bag of work, including the highly disappointing Persona 5: The Animation, and the beautifully dark A Promised Neverland. The style looks all Trigger though, and classic Gainax Trigger. From the character designs, to the sexual themes, to the sleek Mecha. The battles get even more outlandish in this part. Huge blossoms of vibrant colours as the animation flows like butter. The humanised female Mecha feel original, and work well with the sleek style of the whole production.
On the bonus feature front, the first disk contains an episode commentary with the English dub actors, while the second disk holds a host of very special bonus features. There's another episode commentary, the usual opening and closing, but also two featurettes that aired in Japan, with the cast and crew of the original creation talking about the production. These are entitled Playback Episodes and chronicle from three years before the production all the way up to during the close of the series broadcasting in Japan. Of particular note is the collaboration between A-1 Pictures and Trigger. It goes a long way to explain the strange mixture of tones through the series and something fans will really appreciate.
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
This second half delivers a finale and a conclusion it's impossible to see coming, and one that is truly memorable. Though the entire collection is plagued with pacing issues, it's more than made up for by the absolutely insane ending that is truly reminiscent of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. A truly crazy amalgamation across numerous genres and styles that shouldn't work, yet it does.

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