For starters, it seems that I’ve unintentionally struck at the secret combination of buzz-words that just keep on giving. Back in its earliest days, I wrote a blog on some of the fascinating messages and social commentary that was made about Darling in the FranXX (realizing in hindsight that it’s two X’s, not three, despite three being more satisfying to type). Ever since then, I’ve been consistently getting a couple of views to that particular article on the Station, and whether that’s because people are actually interested in what I have to say, or I just happen to snag a bunch of people combining the words “Darling in the FranXX” with “sex” (reach your own conclusions), I’m going to do something of a follow-up to that blog.
To get the obligatory review piece out of the way: I enjoyed the series and it had some really satisfying twists in the story, but at the end of it all, something feels inherently off about the whole project. Some of the analysis of the management of backstory and pacing is much better summarized by Geoff Thew in his video about the unfortunate turn of episode 19 (technically 20 if you deduct the filler episode at the end of the first arc), so I’d like to approach this from a slightly different perspective.
True, the series takes a bit of an odd turn to focus on supporting characters in the middle portion of the series, though I find this to be to the benefit of the story, less so it’s detriment. For starters, as core cast can be strong and deep and complex and all that jazz, but if your supporting cast has all the depth of a piece of cardboard, the whole thing will fall flat. Focusing on the development of Mitsuru and Kokoro’s relationship, something that had been hinted at in earlier episodes, was a good choice of focus. The fracturing of the wedding and the wiping of both their minds was an emotional rending turn, though it did raise a number of questions/flags all the while.
To touch on those briefly:
- If they wiped their memories, why did they bother to retain the memories of them already being in Squad 13 but not of each other also being present in the squads
- If it was, in fact, a memory alteration: why didn’t they just stop at a registered point when the squad switched members of two of the FranXX’s pilots
- They can manage a brain scan and memory deletion/alteration, but no one thought to perform a full body scan of both participants to determine their physical conditions. This is especially odd considering the Nines had clearly determined Kokoro’s reading interests and their wedding had been upended. It just seems like a convenient thing to overlook for plot reasons
Reminisce on those as you will, I’ll just leave them as points that the writers wrote in but forgot to address or think through fully. Shit happens, I am no stranger to that fact. However, the rapid development of the plot in the later episodes is probably where this anime feels the most off balance for me. Things go from being a level nine, to getting turned up to eleven, then twelve and thirteen. Things happen at such a jarring pace that there isn’t enough time to process the exact scope of what’s transpiring.
To my best knowledge, the entirety of the first season takes place over the course of four months. There’s four months for our main cast to go from trainees, to experienced, to going into space and fighting an alien race as the bestest FranXX pilots. Because reasons?
As a writer, the raising of the stakes is just too much too fast. We go from all plantations gathering to perform the big push to liberate the Gran Crevasse, to waging war on the Klaxosaur Queen (they say princess, but that makes no sense unless there is, in fact, a higher matriarchic ruler SOMEWHERE down there being saved for season 2) to fighting the forces of the invading alien race. Turns out Papa was a part of that alien entity; again, because reasons.
Let’s look at that last bit there a little closer and see some exciting and ample story opportunities that were missed out on: an interesting throw-away line that was made by the Klaxosaur Queen was when she removed the would-be assassin’s mask and commented on how he/it wasn’t human anymore. Instead of being literal, it would have been more fascinating to see the adults forego their humanity to such an extent as a result of mechanical or biological augmentations that they would be no longer recognizable as human. Even having them have lost that “spark” in their eyes, showing an emotionally dead and detached person, could have made for a more powerful and interesting statement as opposed to “lol, they not human yo”. Maybe the adults who made up APE had been experimenting with Klaxosaur transfusions to enhance their life and longevity and looked more Klax-esque than human?
Speaking of Klaxosaurs: it would have been perfectly acceptable to have had the Klaxosaurs being the alien race that invaded eons ago and became trapped/content in their Earth-living ways. Or the setting could have been a not-Earth where the other continents were settled by the Klaxosaurs who were a mechanical by-product of that civilizations military focus. Or or, they could have just not ripped off the plot of Gurren Lagan and come up with something different. But I digress.
Ending-wise: they kinda shot themselves in the foot when they insisted the alien invaders were leaving, but only to return to “finish the job”. Why? It’s utterly asinine that an alien race, so advanced in thinking and technology, would realize that any civilization that repulses them so effectively isn’t worth the time nor effort to enslave. While it is stated that humans and Klaxosaurs are both technologically inferior to the aliens (I keep calling them aliens because I don’t remember what term was actually used to describe them. Nor do I really care, for that matter), but we as the audience are not shown this to any extent. Instead, the “meager” defender forces are successfully repelling the invasion in space, showing that their smaller numbers are at least adequate in holding off the invading forces. There is no stated resource benefit to capturing Earth (not even the magma energy, which if APE truly wanted as badly as they allegedly did, would have mined and transported to their home planet more efficiently); instead any person of at least modestly strategic minded capabilities would tell themselves it’s not worth it and move on.
All things aside, I suspect there will be a second season to this anime; and I am genuinely worried. They’ve ramped it up to such a silly degree that there really isn’t anywhere to take the story that doesn’t run the risk of becoming the trope-y Shounen style that I tend to mock so relentlessly. Granted, it wasn’t the only anime this season to do this, but it does seem to be the biggest disappointment in that sense.
And just to make sure I hit all the necessary buzzwords to ensure continue blog hits: Darling in the FranXX, sex, blood, Kardashain, opinion, politically incorrect, Game of Thrones, Facebook, the Logan Brothers, bad news.