Hoo boy! Another giant fighting robot series. I keep telling myself not to watch them, as my take on the whole feel and approach to it is flat-out ludicrous. Also, I am still smarting from my decision to catch “Gundam Seed Destiny” a genuine waste of time for me and that was a bunch of years ago. However, when this show came up on the schedule, there was nothing else on tap to view and I would rather be pushed, screaming, from a plane at 10,000 feet, over a seething cauldron of lava with angry wolverines in my shorts than watch a pick-up show like “Tokyo Mew-Mew”, so there you have it. And now, we will have a level-headed discussion about “Darling in the Franxx” (“Dārin In Za Furankisu”).
It is the future. Forget hover boards; it is a fight to merely stay alive, as the world fell under some post-apocalyptic disaster that has turned the surface of the planet into a massive vast wasteland. Our grouping of humanity spend their days defending themselves against Klaxosaurs, giant creatures that are going to destroy all in their path. Humans live in moving cities, called “Plantations” and try to figure how to eke out a living while they try to figure out how to eradicate the Klaxosaurs. To this end, we have the “Franxx”.
Since we no longer have annoying things like ‘sex’ and ‘relationships’ (and if this is the future, you can keep it!), children are created artificially and bred to pilot these ships. They are referred to as ‘parasites’. (Look, I had kids and there were times I felt they were parasites, but I would never call them as such, right?). We still need genders, however, as it takes one guy and one gal to pilot these ships, or, as their official titles are, stamen and pistil. For a world that doesn’t have sex, there are certainly a lot of sex terms being flung about, eh? And compatibility is the key. If you lose concentration and cohesion, your Franxx isn’t much better than a bootleg iPod.
Our hero, Hiro, (guy in center, hand over heart), is going to be removed from the program, as he can’t bond and can’t sync and can’t commit to his partner (gee, isn’t that the very definition of a relationship?) and has failed in the latest round of tests to find Ms. Right. Hell, he can’t even find Ms. Right Now!
He does come under the watchful eye of Zero Two (yup, that’s her name, far right). She is certainly not human, as she has Klaxosaur blood and horns and red eyes and tends to damage her partners to the point that if you have a ‘third date’ with her, you die. Hiro will be her partner, or her ‘darling.’ The series looks at how this world operates and all the secretly secreted secrets that are kept from all but an elite few.
Initially, it felt like a sideways version of “Chrome-Shelled Regios”, as it has much of the same elements: moving cities, inhospitable landscape, vicious beasties, robots to fight them and the endless struggle between men and women. The only real difference is HOW they pilot their ships.
The men, as the pilot, sit in the chair. The women, in their oddly bizarre suits, get down on their hands and knees, proffering their derrieres to the men. They also have a harness on their hips, which is the piloting mechanism as well as steering. Again, for a culture that doesn’t do sex, this ritual is highly sexualized, but since they know nothing of the birds and the bees, it’s just the way things are done. They probably don’t even know about the Sharks and the Jets! (“From your first cigarette/To your last dying day!”)
But since the parasites are kept in a ‘birdcage’ (an environment that is isolated from the rest of the colony) and know only what they have been taught, most of this stuff is meaningless to them. Do they even have carnal thoughts? Zero Two might, and is it learned that Hiro is made of sterner stuff and is the best partner for her, despite how physically and emotionally beat up he is. There is also an implication that they may have met about 10 or so years earlier, but those memories are fragmented at best and potentially implanted.
And then, and then, and then, the most horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day arrives and we learn the most horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing about everyone and everything and it is a genuine game changer. And the most horrible, terrible, no good, very bad clue shall not leak out, as that is the entire nubbin of the show.
I felt that they could have done a lot more with things; instead, it comes off as a very rough trade version of “The Dating Game”, to see how compatible you are with your partner, especially on those days that you want to feed them to the wolverines. Shorthand is don’t trust nobody. All the adults lie and they lie about the lies they are lying about.
However, it is not all hopeless and potentially a brave new world is offered up and we can leave behind the shackles and coffee stains of the past for the bright, white linen of the future. Have I been drinking too much again? What IS in my coffee? A fly?
My problem is that absurdity is built upon absurdity to the point where it wasn’t much better than “GSD”. It was nice that we were left with a kind of happy ending, but the whole thing came off as forced. I can’t give high marks for the show itself, but certainly the character design (especially for the robots) makes it a series to see for those designs. As for the story, meh.
And that ‘meh’ approach affects the show, as it turns into endless fighting, both out on the flats and in the Ready Room, to the point that it seems these people have limited emotions. It works better towards the end of the series, when it makes a big jump and the string works better all tied together; otherwise, events work against it as flaws and problems move to the forefront.
You want to binge? Knock yourself out, but don’t expect a lot from it.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Good design all around)
Plot 6 (Faded as time went on)
Pacing 7 (Frantic for fights, tepid for intimacy)
Effectiveness 7 (It works for the show, but not overall)
Conclusion 5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 5 (A similar show would be “Maburaho”)
Bingeability 5 (It doesn’t hold up that well)
Overall 7 (It’s been done better elsewhere)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Darling!