Mecha anime and I have a tenuous relationship with one another: I love the ideas, concepts and designs behind the mech suits, the technological infusions into more mundane aspects of coming of age stories and sometimes bleak social commentaries about the constraints that the modern world places on the youth to not only magically solve all the problems that they had created in their back-handed, self-serving drive to maintain the status quo, but also to create an ideal future for those self-same power brokers and all at a profitable margin. However, the general tone behind the narrative, the “you possess true, unique power that is a cut above everyone else because = reasons” and general obsession/fetishization of wanton destruction and a death-count for civilians that can rival the first five minutes of most Hollywood natural-disaster/youth-dystopian-sci-fi/Marvel films (not mutually exclusive from one another, but both impart the same sensation of digestive issues but, like, for my brain) is a surprisingly powerful turn-off for me.
Side note: that whole paragraph is two sentences. Holy hell: actors everywhere should be glad I don’t write scripts for people more often.
Back to the topic at hand, many who follow anime trends fairly closely know about the big advertised anime series for the season: Darling in the FranXX, an oddly named anime with some oddly named everything. Example: Klaxosaurs. It’s just a weird word. I’m still not sure what the writers were thinking with that word. Klax-o-saurs. Just weird.
My interests in pulling apart this anime today stem not from the usual trends: I’m not going to laud the art style, the interesting designs, the flashy fight sequences, et cetera. I’d like to discuss, more so, a common trend I had noticed in some commentaries and criticisms about the show, and what that can potentially mean to our society as a whole.
Surprisingly, the anime almost seems to revel in its own fan-service, but with a certain degree of cynicism added to it that makes the effort more aware than simply trying to pander to the lowest-common denominator. Generally, public commentary about the series I hear is summarized as, “This show is great, but it could do with less sexualisation/fan-service/weird words to describe things” (that last point being broken down further into two schools of thought: weird words like Klaxosaurs, and weird words with perhaps uncomfortable sexual connotations like ‘stamen’).
I find the whole thing curious, to be honest: perhaps one of the biggest criticisms about western culture in general is the abundance of sex and sexualisation in many aspects of our media and consumerism. Yet, when presented with something that is built upon the foundations of trying to understand or express that sexualisation, there is an inherent backlash from the populace at large. In reference to Darling in the FranXX, specifically, we’re being presented with a anime that is not only forcing its characters to come to terms with the literal aspects of sexuality, but the audience to understand all the metaphorical aspects of sex that, maybe three quarters of the time, we blatantly ignore.
I’m sure near anyone can see the face-value sexuality of the show without too much effort: the way the mecha suits are piloted, the tongue-in-cheek rebranding of romantic implications into basic mechanical functions of civilization, the general tone of repressed desire and emotion as expressed by not only the children of the show, but by the very nature of how the adults dress, behave and interact with their world (sterilized white environments, complete enshrouding of personal identity to the point of being entirely indistinguishable from one another, but the general focus on controlling the lives of children by means of forced partnership/mathematical metrics to measure things such as compatibility and mental aptitude), there’s really a lot to pull from what this show is trying to say.
Now, I will say this as a disclaimer: many of the social commentaries the show has better reflect the more hierarchical nature of Japanese society and culture than it does western society, but there are still many lessons to be pulled from it. Most notably, and I feel like I’ve pretty well been harping on this the whole time building up to the primary point: adults controlling the sex and relationship lives of children.
Outside of the realm of arranged marriages, something we don’t hear of too often in Canada (and, presumably, the US, but I don’t live down there and pay only marginal attention these days to the hot mess devolving south of our border), the idea of adults telling kids who they can and can’t date/be with might seem a little unusual. After all, most parents don’t typically set up an exact parameter of traits and conditions for courtship of their offspring. Typically, anyway.
Caveat, however: I’m certain you’ve seen various posts online, or hear people parrot, general sentiments of “dating my daughter”. I even, just as typing that last sentence, input “dating my daughter meme” into Google to pull up some specific examples to relate, but the sheer degree of options to choose from kind of reinforces my point. Most of them generally boil down to “I will control what you can and can’t do around her” or “I liek gunz”. In many regards, this reinforces the general sentiment as expressed by DitFXX (double ‘x’ included deliberately to maximize my Scrabble score) of adults controlling the sex lives of children by saying “yeah, there isn’t one”.
Need some more proof? Take a look at the current and sometimes volatile arguments/debates/witch-hunts involving sex-ed in schools. In many regards, parents are the ones acting in outrage over what lessons children should, or more accurately, should not be being taught. The rationalization for these fears, groundless or otherwise, stem from everything from religion, personal opinion, tv show doctor pseudo-science and online fear-mongering. Regardless of reason, in many cases, parents are generally of the mindset that the best thing we can tell them is very little to nothing.
Of course, even a brief mental exercise to plumb this process to its logical ends has so many dangerous potentials that it makes the whole thing more daunting. Add the wild west of information, the Internet, to that mix, and who knows what, exactly, it is people should believe. Regardless of whatever opinion you possess, you’ll find no shortage of people who think you should be ashamed, in the most mild of cases, of what you think.
If you’ve managed to read between the lines thus far, I’m certain you can deduce where I stand on the issue at hand. In most cases, I’m of firm belief of a more open, thoughtful and acceptable level of sexual discussion. It’s something of an outdated model that we view the whole thing with a level of sanitization that even hypochondriacs would find impressive; more so that we have countless silent methods of reinforcing these beliefs and penalizing people who stray too far down a path that, as a collective, we’ve agreed yet disagreed to adhere to.
Where we go from here is a tremendously complicated question: not in sense of where we should be headed but rather how we should be going about it. Of course, dismantling that topic could take me several hours to research so that I can present it in an at least marginally coherent means, so that won’t be today.
At the very least, if you’ve not watched DitFXX, I’d recommend watching it to try to see some of the motifs as mentioned above; and if you have watched it, think on what sort of message the show is trying to convey in its premise. Personally, I’d rather not live in an environment where sex has lost the power to connect peoples in ways that many other forms of communication cannot; nor would I want to live in a world where it is by the decisions of emotionally removed peoples to decide how and where younger generations explore those connections themselves.
As a general aside: Kokoro and Ichigo are best girls in that show; I’ve started wars over less.