Spoilers might show up at the very end with no reason.
I’ve been self-sabotaging myself from watching anime. I will try to watch a show, and by that I mean I will put it on my queue and then avoid watching it because who has that kind of time. That’s when I end up in Montreal’s own ComicCon and Otakuthon to find everyone cosplaying and talking about characters I don’t recognize. To be honest, I was warned against watching this show but that just made the more curious. In retrospect I can say now that as long as you strap yourself in for a bit of rushed crazy anime twists, and this one is not the first series to do that, you’ll probably not throw your streaming device out the window. Probably.
Darling in the Franxx is a co-production of CloverWorks and Studio Trigger directed by Atsushi Nishigori and Toshifumi Akai and written by Nishigori with Naotaka Hayashi. It’s the distant, dystopian, future. A group of children grown up in a lab are groomed to become pilots of the FRANXX, giant mecha that require both a male and a female pilots to control. Their task is to protect their home, a giant mobile city that roams the deserts called Plantation 13. Their team, called Squad 13, must face off bio-mechanical monsters called Klaxosaurus. The children all have numbers instead of names with smaller numbers considered better.
Enter 016, who has named himself Hiro and has given actual names to his squadmates. Hiro’s partner has left and the very same day, the city receives the visit of a girl who is supposed to be a hybrid between humans and Klaxosaurus, Zero Two. Yes, unavoidably you’ll recognize a certain Evangelion-esque flavour to the show. The story is also riddled with very recognizable character tropes: the tsundere-like girl that wants to pilot just to kill enemies, the suicidal-like depressed lead male, the loudmouth annoyance, the squad leader that secretly loves the lead male but he will not realize this in a million years, etc.
All that being said, I have to say that it hooks you up from the get go. Yes, the show can be kind of trashy with its innuendo. You won’t agree with this when you first see it until a few episodes roll by where it becomes kind of blatant and then goes back to mecha fighting. There are some developments that will make your head spin as it goes from serious to comedic to really, really serious. We can talk about the changes in tone all you want (saving the last ones for last), but I think it does this in somewhat successful fashion it keeps you watching.
The series is really engaging and draws your attention with each episode surpassing the last. It does sink its fangs into you and doesn’t let go for the most part. I’m not that inclined to go full exposition here, because one of the things that the anime does very well is slowly reveal the world to you. That is, again, for the most part. In other words, it’s a very promising anime in style although it borrows from other creations but the character creation and the production are really high end until… Yeah, ok. Let’s talk about that final arc.
The change in style starts with a tonal shift where the character development switches to secondary characters, the combat stops and we suddenly seem to go slice-of-life for a few episodes. Then the show goes into some heavy handed exposition (courtesy of Dr. Franxx himself) that changes the entire plot and produces another antagonist out of the blue (or, should I say, pink). Besides the literal plot whiplash, the series does return to combat (which is what we expected and wanted) but it does so by moving the whole engagement to… space.
Yeah, in the space (sorry…) of a few episodes, Darling changes the scenario. I want to believe that the careful planning and the layered exposition of the first fifteen episodes were supposedly going in the direction of a satisfactory payoff with the confrontation against APE (the SEELE-like organization that funds and runs everything). Then something happened and suddenly an idea that was probably only half-baked for a potential second season was brought out too soon and too fast to end the show. I wish they’d left themselves an opening to continue instead of fast-forwarding to an epilogue and a conclusion. Despite all that, I don’t think that completely writes off the show.
Recommended with some reservations. It’s not like this is the first anime that jumps the shark at some point. Most of the episodes are pretty solid, although I cannot defend some of the choices made but then again, anime tends to have some weirdness non-pc mixed in. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it was enough of an anime “thing” to be considered watchable. Then again, I kinda avoid the big three top shows in popularity so take what I say with a grain of salt. Watch it for the mistakes, watch it to know what people are criticizing, but most of all watch it because it’s kind of awesome and engaging at first and although some of the developments are downright laughable, they still very much belong to a long tradition of anime stories that shift from awesome throughout most of their run to an over-the-top ending that makes you go: What the Franxx did I just watch?
That will do for now.