Darling in the FranXX

Darling in the franxx

Darling in the FranXX generated quite a bit of buzz, even prior to celebrities drawing fashion inspiration from it. Many hoped it would take the Mecha genre by storm and be noted in time as one of the greats like Neon Genesis Evangelion, or even Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

On paper—it should have.

The original animated series follows a group of children bred and raised for the sole purpose of piloting mechas to defend humanity from beasts called Klaxosaurs. It was co-produced by A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Your Lie in April, Erased), its subsidiary studio, CloverWorks (Persona 5 the Animation, Slow Start), and Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, Inferno Cop).

Director Atsushi Nishigori (IDOLM@STER) was tasked with bringing the vision to life. He was joined by series composer Naotaka Hayashi (Chaos;Child). The two worked very closely with script writer Masahiko Otsuka (Little Witch Academia, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) to produce the screenplay, while Masayoshi Tanaka (High School of the Dead, your name) handled character design, Shoji Hata (Ancient Magus’ Bride, Fairy Tail, Log Horizon) mastered sound design, and Asami Tachibana (Haikyu!!) produced the music.

Given some of the names and studios involved in the production, it’s easy to see why expectations were high. Unfortunately, Darling in the FranXX stands as a case in which the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

The primary fault is the narrative itself. In the podcast, Shawn mentioned that he read A-1, CloverWorks, and Trigger simply could not agree on what kind of series DarliFra was to be. That is exactly how it feels watching events unfold. One week, Darling in the FranXX feels like a dystopian sci-fi mecha thriller with themes of mystery and sex. The next, it’s a teen romance drama about kids learning to interact with one another in the absence of parental support. Each ideology carries its own distinct tone and mode of storytelling, but rather than complement each other, the two compete in a metaphorical tug-of-war. The final act then transitions to an interstellar war story with spiritual overtones.

DarliFra does have a couple of things going for it. Namely, the audio and visual components. The music/sound design is pretty good overall, and while there may be some small changes in model consistency throughout the series, it’s pretty well-animated regardless of which studio produces any given episode; I think the battle scenes are particularly stunning.

Much like with Record of Grancrest War, DarliFra benefits from a rating scale that grants all four categories equal weight. Still, the AV production quality isn’t enough to save this show from its poor narrative execution. Maybe it was too ambitious a vision. Maybe it never should have been a multi-studio co-production. Whatever the reason, I have a hard time recommending it to anyone who isn’t desperate for another mech series and/or really into (literally) horny girls.

Story/Characters – 5

Art/Animation – 8

Music/Sound Design – 7.5

Enjoyment – 5.5

Overall – 6.5/10

 

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16 thoughts on “Darling in the FranXX

  1. I have friends that LOVED this series (like, ordered custom headphones with Zero Two etched on them kind of love) but it lost me right at the episode where we delve into Zero Two’s past. That point lost my trust in the narrative—so I definitely agree with you on the narrative being the issue. My feelings were unfounded, because the writers owe me squat, but I felt like the writers breached some sort of contract with me. I felt like I couldn’t get invested because they twisted the path the story was taking into something that didn’t feel earned. But to each his own, I s’pose.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, I actually thought the second half of the series was stronger than the first. I think writers, and everyone involved in a production DO owe the viewers, too. We’re the ones spending our time (and money) on their product. It’s not unreasonable to expect that they try their best to make it good.

      It is pretty wild, though…It’s the same few main writers/series composers, but there were multiple episodic directors, and it’s like you can still sense which studio is producing which episode because it has its own distinct feel and flow.

      The entire first half is A-1 and Trigger arguing over how sexual, comedic, and dramatic things should be. Then, CloverWorks jumps in for much of the second half, where we get the big push of the Zero Two/Hiro storybook motif. The show begins to feel a little more consistent at that point, but never truly settles into a rhythm because Trigger and A-1 both chime in again a couple more times before the finale.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, I think if I picked up at the second half and just ignored the first, I would’ve felt better about it. I’m backwards. At the point when people felt like the show was getting to the good bits, I felt the opposite simply because of the change in direction. The inconsistency drove me nuts. There are areas of judgment where I know I’m being unfair, but I can’t help that little twinge of rebellion that resists giving it credit for where it succeeded.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt like there were at least two (if not three) animes that got sliced and diced and reassembled. Particularly when suddenly VIRM came front and center. Each different approach had a chance of being a great anime of a different type but all together it was a jumbled mess.

    I wanted to see Zero Two transition to humanity without losing who she is at heart. I wanted a little more of the Ikuno story. I REALLY wanted them to push the conflict between “natural humanity” and the dystopic utopia they were fighting to protect. It could have been another Brave New World or another Logan’s Run. But it wasn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never watched this show so I can’t really say anything. But from what I read about the show, it had a structure like wet spaghetti, meaning it was very winding and not very coherent. I also think it gained the traction it did because of 02, take her out of the show and it wouldn’t have been as popular IMO. Great post 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think this show is the last nail in the coffin of seasonal anime for me…
    It couldn’t tell a single coherent story, and every creative choice outside of Zero Two’s character design backfired spectacularly. Darling in the Franxx surpassed boring and became outright depressing to watch… I mean, they screwed up the alien thing worse than Kado! Kado! (though this show hurt me a lot less than Kado, because this was never really more than a dumb action show)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. I dont think it would have mattered how popular it was, how long it was, or in what time span you watched it, the leadership/direction just wasn’t there with this one. The viewing experience is probably the same either way.

      Like

    1. Y’know, I wanted to like the characters, but like Fred commented, they wasted Ikuno. There was a little bit of growth with, Goro, Ichigo, Kokoro, and Mitsuru but with a whole lot of missed potential along the way. And all for what? So we could watch Hiro continue to be a selfish, obsessed prick the entire time aside from a couple flashbacks? Zero Two is probably the best character of the lot overall, but did you really think her transition to humanity and space honeymoon were all that satisfying?

      The spiritual component at the end wasn’t an awful way to try to wrap things up, but you can really feel that there were three different banner studios involved, each with their own vision of what DarliFra should have been. It probably would have worked if just one of them called the shots, or if the direction was strong enough to least keep the storytelling consistent across all three.

      Granted, a series doesn’t have to be objectively good to be enjoyed… I porbably enjoyed Grancrest Senki way more than I should have based on how I graded the other components.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I wanted to see Zero Two gain her humanity without losing the wild creature inside her.

        Giving Ikuno such a lovely potential arc and dropping it like a rock until the very end ticked me off. She was easily my favorite character and the most heroic of the batch.

        Why do I get the feeling that Hiro is a close blood relative of Shinji Ikari?

        They already had their human dystopia running on the functional equivalent of Soma. I see no benefit to changing it into an Evangelion inversion with the mechas fighting *against* the Human Instrumentality Project.

        The fully intact community with lush foliage and the library of books is completely forgotten about.

        The klaxosaurs were in the right and humanity was in the wrong. We were trying to commit genocide. This is a massive element of the story that is barely touched upon.

        I think the studios weren’t just “not on the same page”. They were actively trying to urinate on each other by ignoring the arcs set up by the previous studio.

        So why did I enjoy the show up until VIRM showed up? If I pretended I was watching a couple of potentially really good animes using the same characters and different plots that just happened to get scrambled together, it was pretty good. Given another season they might have been able to pull the teen angst theme and the dystopian themes together. If they REALLY had to have our heroes in space fighting VIRM, that should be a different anime.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Anime Podcast S2 E6: A Theory as to Why Darling in the FranXX was a Narrative Mess – Weeabros

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