Tag Archives: DARLINGintheFRANXX

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 24

A few missteps aside, I feel like this stayed exactly the show I thought it was all along: all about the beauty of life, specifically the continuation of life through sex, conception and childbirth, with a thin veneer of shiny mecha antics. I know a lot of viewers wanted something else from it, and I can respect that; but for me, this was in my wheelhouse from moment one.

Hiro and Zero Two go on their “honeymoon,” traveling through deep space toward the VIRM homeworld. This is not as unusual a honeymoon as you might think; my honeymoon was spent exploring different aquariums. Space has a lot in common with the bottom of the ocean floor.

They don’t have very much to say to one another, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, since they’ve merged (their metaphorical marriage), they’re supposed to be communicating on a deeper level than speech. If neither Hiro or Zero Two says much of interest in this episode, beyond “I love you,” it’s because the real communication going on is supposed to be stuff they couldn’t put into words anyway. I get that, but I think this could have been communicated to the audience better. If this show had been 26 episodes instead of 24, we could have spent a whole episode exploring what it’s like to be inside their heads, but as it stands, we just have to assume the two of them have a rich inner life that we’re not seeing.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, we see the lead-up to Kokoro having her baby, in which Useless Nana manages to actually be helpful for once. See, the future is so bright that even the crappy Nana is being nice! Then the baby’s born and I kind of lose it for a moment.

Of course, thanks to anime genetics, the baby looks exactly like Kokoro, even fresh out of the womb. I wonder what’s that like; when my girl was born, she didn’t look anything like me, and still doesn’t; she takes after my husband, full stop. Sometimes I think that the main reason I want to have another baby someday is because I might have one that looks like me. Selfish? Yes, but everything about having kids is this weird mix of extreme selfishness and selflessness.

I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to see a baby for the first time, as Mitsuru does, when you’ve never seen pictures of babies, or even knew about the concept of a baby until recently. Then again, even in real life, I think parents don’t really understand what a baby truly is until it’s born. It’s one thing to have an idea of this cute little thing, but when you first see it, those impossibly tiny hands and fingers, you realize that you never had a clue what you were in for. So I guess Mitsuru’s experience is pretty universal, really.

Hiro and Zero Two are all set two destroy the VIRM home planet, but VIRM has a trick; using Hiro’s humanity (since he’s still at least partially human), they manage to lull him into unconsciousness and screw up the bond between him and Zero Two. The solution to this problem comes very close to being a Care Bears Solution: everyone links hands and thinks about how much they love Hiro and Zero Two, aided by the statue of Zero Two’s body that now serves as a conduit between worlds. What stops it from being a Care Bears Solution, to me anyway, is that it’s Ai, Kokoro and Mitsuru’s daughter, that jars Hiro back to reality. Ai, and the entire process that transpired to create her, is basically the antithesis to VIRM’s entire program; it makes sense to me that she– perhaps the very idea of her– would be the trigger that would kick VIRM out of Hiro’s head.

So Hiro and Zero Two transform one last time, their final offspring, and destroy the VIRM home planet. Of course VIRM isn’t destroyed forever, because bad ideas can’t be destroyed forever, but they’re set back for long enough that our crew on Earth has time to get a foothold, which is all we need.

Back on Earth, everyone’s going crazy having babies, and I think it’s important to stop and look at this for a moment. It would be really easy to misinterpret the message of this show as “have lots of babies, that fixes everything!” but that’s clearly not exactly what’s going on. It’s critically important that Ikuno plays a crucial role in helping humanity get back on it’s feet. She doesn’t have a child, probably couldn’t if she wanted to at this point, and it doesn’t matter; there would be no future without her. Similarly, Zorome and Miku haven’t had kids a decade after the main conflict ends, and for all we know, they never will; it doesn’t matter one way or the other, because they’re contributing to the future too, teaching the children.

I can understand, given all the positive imagery of children and babies in this episode, how it might seem like a kind of pro-childbirth propaganda (especially in light of Japan’s declining birthrate.) But I really don’t think the point is that everyone should have children; not everyone in Squad 13 does. What everyone does do, is pitches in to help make the world a better place for their friends. Kokoro does it through motherhood, Ikuno does it through science, Miku does it through teaching, and Futoshi does it through cooking. Goro does it through exploring, letting the human thirst for knowledge overpower his fear.

I just don’t think the creators are saying “Hey, all you people out there who aren’t making babies? You should get on that! Babies rock!” What they are doing (and here I go putting words in other peoples mouths), at least from my vantage point, is asking a question: what are you doing to touch the future? Are you contributing to making a better world for everyone, like the Squad 13 kids are? Or are you just kind of doing whatever makes you happy at the moment? Are you like one of the “Adults” from episode 10, plugged into the pleasure machine, happy to stay there until the battery runs out?

And that again is an oversimplification, because it’s not everyone’s responsibility to save the world. For some people, just taking care of themselves, getting through the day in one piece, is enough of a challenge, and that should be respected. But if we want the world to get better, at least some people have to be committed to making the world a better place; it’s not going to happen on it’s own.

I think you could also interpret this show as being a counterpoint to the kind of transhumanism depicted in cyberpunk works like Ghost in the Shell; illustrating that it’s our primal biological functions, like eating and making babies, that define us as human. But that’s not quite right either; at the end, Zero Two and Hiro have both gone through tremendous physical changes (and ZT was never really human in the first place), but Ichigo believes that they were “more human than anybody else.” In Darling in the Franxx, the definition of human doesn’t revolve around whether or not you can reproduce, or if you have pale skin instead of red or blue.

As an aside, I said last time that maybe Ikuno would hook up with Naomi, and that does seem to be what happens. There’s no evidence that they’re lovers, but they’re clearly close. Ikuno gets perhaps the saddest ending of all the kids, but at least she’s not alone.

It’s also worth noting that the kids (well, they’re not kids anymore, but whatever) give up using Magma energy, and seem to commit to renewable energy. I think that’s a pretty transparent message about how humanity should abandon fossil fuels and find other ways of generating power. A lot of the stuff in this episode isn’t exactly the way it appears, but hey, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes showing fictional characters giving up on using the remains of dinosaurs to light their houses is a way of saying “You know, you should really considering giving up using the remains of dinosaurs as a way to light your house.”

Anyway, I don’t know if I’m ever going to have another baby. It cost us 6K to have the first one, and that’s with insurance: I think, for some reason, one night in the newborn ICU wasn’t covered, so we were stuck paying that off for a while. It’s become prohibitively expensive to have children, and from what I understand, it’s worse in Japan than it is here in the U.S. (though that isn’t the only reason for the declining birthrate). So even if the creators of Darling really do want everybody to go out and have a bunch of babies, it’s not going to work unless they start writing some checks. (Maybe that’s what the new Trigger Patreon is for?)

Whether or not I have another child is dependent on a lot of factors, only some of which are financial, and I guess that’s not really the point. What’s important is, am I living a life worthy of Zero Two– or, more importantly, of Ikuno? That’s what this show is leaving me with, and for that, I’m thankful. It was hardly a perfect show, and it would have likely benefited greatly from having a few more episodes to play around with. But I think it’s heart was in the right place; maybe a tiny fetal heartbeat, not quite strong yet, but clearly there.

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 23

This is the first time I’m sitting down to write about this show without feeling good about it. I didn’t hate this episode, but it didn’t quite come together for me, and that leaves me with a weird feeling, because this show has been pretty thoroughly in my wheelhouse so far.

I agree with where the show is going on general terms: Zero Two and Hiro heading into another dimension to put the hurt on VIRM where they live, Kokoro and Mitsuru coming together over the upcoming birth of their child, Nana and Hatchi developing stronger parental feelings toward their charges, etc. But everything in this episode just seemed a little bit too quick, neat and convenient for me. It seemed like getting into space was entirely too easy, the fight against VIRM was too easy, and everything happened just a bit too fast to resonate. I don’t want any of the Squad 13 kids to die, but it seemed convenient that one of the Nines was the only one to die in that conflict.

NOOOOO, DON’T DIE!!!!…Oh wait, it was the blond kid? That’s cool, no one liked him.

Some people have been complaining about the pacing of this show for a while now, but I haven’t been one of them. I liked the deliberate slow pacing of the slice-of-life pacing portion of the show (episodes 16-18), and how that contrasted with all hell breaking loose in episode 20. A ton of things happened at a breakneck pace in 20 and 21, but I still felt it worked somehow. This episode was the first time I felt like stuff was happening so fast that nothing had time to properly land.

I also really disliked Nana and Hachi being in space with Squad 13, as much as I like them as characters otherwise. They really should have stayed on Earth, supervising the other parasites, rather than going off planet on a dangerous mission that could have easily gotten them both killed. Werner Franxx said that Nana and Hachi had to be the “new adults,” and considering what a warped view of adulthood those two have seen, I guess I can’t blame them for not really knowing what that means. Still, it seemed like the only reason Nana and Hachi were there was to deliver exposition, and the transparency of that took me out of the story.

I’m not sure how to feel about Zero Two and Hiro reuniting once again. I understand why Zero Two pulled away from him after merging with Strelizia, because she realized that he wouldn’t have anything resembling a human life if he stayed with her. And showing that selfishness is important; the fact that Zero Two is putting what she wants for Hiro ahead of Hiro’s own wishes mirrors Hiro’s selfishness in putting his reunion with Zero Two ahead of everything else in the previous episodes. This show is doing a good job of showing that love isn’t all sunshine and roses. But the reunion happens so quickly after the parting, from the viewer’s perspective that it deprives their reunion of the gravity it really should have.

This episode is markedly better if you turn off the sound and play Billy Idol’s White Wedding for the last few minutes. Go on, try it.

I do like Giant Zero Two Strelizia and her wedding-dress mech, with her bridal bouquet of explosives. That’s the sort of thing that this show does well, taking really broad metaphors and creating powerful imagery with them. But everything around it undermines the power of that moment.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the final episode; I think there’s a possibility episode 24 could redeem everything I didn’t like about this one. I also wonder if these problems could have been easily solved if the show was slated for 26 episodes instead of 24; maybe just one or two more episodes of build up could have made a huge difference to the pacing. Still, we’re here now, and I’m curious what Hiro and Zero Two are going to discover Beyond the Infinite, or wherever they’re headed.

 

DARLING in the FRANXX, Episode 22

This is pretty unusual. “A bunch of intrepid kids save the world” stories are a dime a dozen, but this is the part of it that we don’t normally see; after the world is saved, then what? What exactly has been “saved,” and is any of it the stuff you wanted to save in the first place? This isn’t quite where I was expecting Darling to go, but now that it has, it feels inevitable; for me, I take that as a sign that the writers are doing something right.

I said last time that if Zero Two wasn’t dead, I was going to feel cheated, but actually, that’s not the case. What I really didn’t want was for her sacrifice to be minimized by having her just be sleepy for a couple of days after the battle or something; having her soul merged with Strelizia and going off into space, to fight a perpetual war, is arguably worse than death. I say “arguably” because Zero Two loves to fight, so it’s probably less of a living hell for her than it would be for anyone else, but still…hardly a happy ending for her.

We will now call to order the first meeting of the Special Committee For The Continuation of All Life on Earth. First order of business: does anyone want to live on this Earth? It’s not great.

As far as I can tell, all the adults were absorbed by VIRM last episode, leaving the parasites the only humans left alive, along with former parasites like Hachi and the Nanas. It’s unclear how many parasites are even alive outside of Squad 13, which would be useful to know in reference to how the episode ends, but we’ll get there. Our kiddos are focusing on farming so they’ll be able to survive after their food runs out, except the parched soil they’re surrounded with isn’t proving fertile. Speaking of fertility, Kokoro is getting nauseated about every five minutes, and everyone finally finds out that she’s actually pregnant.

I think it makes sense that Kokoro is horrified when she finds out. Yes, she liked the idea of having a baby, but it was like a fairy story to her; a myth from a long time ago. It’s one thing to imagine having a cute little doll-like thing in your arms, and quite another to be told “Yes, there is another person living inside you now and they will get bigger and bigger until they burst out.” Nana (the useless one) mentions that it’s considered impossible to pilot a FRANXX while pregnant, so in the past pistils had abortions. This is interesting, because when Kokoro was first revealed to be pregnant I thought she was going to have trouble piloting, but she and Mitsuru did pilot together during the last operation, albeit with difficulty. I think we’re supposed to assume she got away with it because she was still early in the pregnancy, but normally pregnant women can’t; their conception energy is being used elsewhere.

All Kokoro does this whole episode is vomit and lie in bed, which is pretty much all I did for the whole first trimester of my pregnancy, so I can relate. They better start allotting her more of the limited food supply, otherwise they’re going to have a VERY dangerous lady on their hands once she hits the 4-month mark. Do not get between a pregnant lady and her snacks.

Dr. Franxx has set up Hachi and Nana(the original, decent one) to be the next generation of caretakers for the kids, which makes me like him more posthumously. I know a lot of what happened on this show was ultimately Franxx’s fault, but at least he knew that and tried to make amends at the end of his life, which is more than you can say for a lot of fictional mad scientists. Anyway, Hachi and Nana discover that the kids who were kicked out of Garden (like Hiro’s original partner, Naomi) are being kept in what appears to be cryostasis; frankly, I thought Papa had killed them all outright the moment they failed as parasites, so this is a pleasant surprise. I assume they can be revived and rejoin the human population, otherwise I don’t see the point of introducing them this late in the game.

Hiro figures out that the catatonic Zero Two he’s left with is just her body, and her mind is in Strelizia, and embarks on a desperate plan to reunite with her. Goro rightfully chews him out for how selfish this is, but it does nothing to change Hiro’s resolve. I think it’s important to show this, the dark side of love. Last episode, Zero Two saved the world because of love, but she didn’t do it for that reason; she did it to get to Hiro, and saving the world was just the icing on the cake, if that. Now Hiro is just as determined to get to her, and the fact that he might doom the world by doing so is just a minor detail to him at this point. Both of them are acting the exact same way, yet Zero Two seems like a martyr while Hiro seems like a selfish jerk.

When the whole squad (save Mitsuru and Kokoro) agrees to go into space with Hiro to reunite with 02, I’m left with mixed feelings. If it’s selfish for Hiro to go, isn’t it even worse for the rest of them to do so, since they’re effectively the leaders of the planet right now? This is why I wish we knew how many other parasite kids were still around; if there’s hundreds of healthy parasites around to do work on the farm and such, under Hachi and Good Nana’s competent direction, what Squad 13 is doing makes a lot more sense. I guess we kind of have to assume that’s the case, otherwise our kiddos have just doomed the human race to extinction.

“We will now call to order the second meeting of the Special Committee for the Continuation of All Life on Earth. Raise your hand if you want to ditch Earth for Mars. Secretary, please note in the minutes that the Special Committee for the Continuation of All Life on Earth is has now changed its name to the Special Committee For Going The Fuck To Space. Meeting adjourned.”

It looks like our final two episodes are going to be in space, and uh…I’m apprehensive about this. Because once Mitsuru and Kokoro were left at home, the rest of the cast effectively became disposable. Thematically, the future of the human race is tied up with Kokoro and her baby (and has been for the entire run of the show), so as long as she survives and gives birth, the good guys effectively “win.” Anything could happen to the crew in space, and I’m not even sure what I want to happen. They could all die defeating VIRM, keeping the Earth safe for Kokoro’s children; or we could get some 2001: A Space Odyssey type stuff with people passing onto a higher plane of existence or something. Or both. Or neither.

I don’t know; my desire for this show to go where no mecha show has gone before is warring with my desire for the kids to come home safe and sound and frolic in their new Garden of Eden (Eva?), and maybe even Ikuno will get to hook up with Naomi or something and everyone will be happy. It could happen.