In the distant future, humanity has been driven to near-extinction by giant beasts known as Klaxosaurs, forcing the surviving humans to take refuge in massive fortress cities called Plantations. Children raised here are trained to pilot giant mechas known as FranXX—the only weapons known to be effective against the Klaxosaurs—in boy-girl pairs. Bred for the sole purpose of piloting these machines, these children know nothing of the outside world and are only able to prove their existence by defending their race.
Hiro, an aspiring FranXX pilot, has lost his motivation and self-confidence after failing an aptitude test. Skipping out on his class' graduation ceremony, Hiro retreats to a forest lake, where he encounters a mysterious girl with two horns growing out of her head. She introduces herself by her codename Zero Two, which is known to belong to an infamous FranXX pilot known as the "Partner Killer." Before Hiro can digest the encounter, the Plantation is rocked by a sudden Klaxosaur attack. Zero Two engages the creature in her FranXX, but it is heavily damaged in the skirmish and crashes near Hiro. Finding her partner dead, Zero Two invites Hiro to pilot the mecha with her, and the duo easily defeats the Klaxosaur in the ensuing fight. With a new partner by his side, Hiro has been given a chance at redemption for his past failures, but at what cost?
Some disclaimers before getting into my review: I've only been watching anime for about a year now, this is the first season where I've watched seasonal shows as they air, and this is my first review on this site! Why choose Darling of all things as the show I write my first review for? Because try as I might, I simply cannot understand the insane hype behind this show and I want to share my opinions on it because I feel that they have been thus far underrepresented in the community. While I'm sure there are other influences as well, I have noticed, as I'm
sure we all have, very blatant Neon Genesis Evangelion influences and will be comparing this show to that a fair amount, along with other shows as examples of doing X well.
Every good story begins with a setting/world that draws the observer in by giving just enough information to make them interested but leaving much unexplained to be explored as the story progresses. The right amount of information to be given at the beginning differs from story to story but often it's easily determined how well the exposition has been done. An example of a show with some fantastic world building and exploration is Made in Abyss. Granted one of the biggest parts of the show is the abyss itself but I would argue that makes it even harder to make sure the setting is laid out well and explored at a good and engaging pace.
With Darling in the FranXX, there has been no exposition regarding the world at all. Nothing. The show has ignored world building (among other things, but we'll get to that later) in order to focus on the characters and the mech fights. And now my first comparison with NGE. The whole setting is very similar: semi-post apocalyptic world with human settlements scattered and underground, a mysterious upper order pulling the strings (albeit this time they are publicly known), and procedurally-generated monsters that attack the humans for no relevant reason. There's nothing new about this world at all to make me interested in learning more about it. There have been no world components or higher plans hinted at in the way that the Second Impact and Human Instrumentality Project were mentioned throughout NGE. We will see this theme throughout the rest of this review: there's nothing new about this anime that warrants any of the hype around it.
The klaxosaurs. Ctrl+c, ctrl+v angels, make them all blue and black, add some smaller hordes to make it seem different, and boom you got some klaxos. An entirely unique klaxosaur is seen in every attack, just like in NGE, a large round "core" is needed to be destroyed in order to kill a klaxosaur, and they explode in a huge rain of blue liquid in the same way angels do in red.
The mechs. The design of these mechs is, simply put, ridiculous. The mechs look like anime girls, complete with bosoms, clothes, unique colors, and animated faces a la Gurren Lagann. The piloting system is set up such that a male-female pair is required, with the female pending over doggy style on her knees in front of the male, who is sitting down behind her, and the control handles raise out of the area of the suit on her butt.
However, this is Studio Trigger. Look at Kill la Kill! That show was nuts! Being ridiculous is not always a bad thing in itself, clearly. However the issue here is that at the same time the show seems to take itself incredibly seriously, and in all the wrong ways as to fit with the crazy aspects of it. There are clear attempts at deeper meanings and philosophies, such as using the act of piloting the mechs as a metaphor for having sex, and trying to point to how humans can't survive alone. But as is often seen in anime, these attempts at a greater philosophy are blatant and straight up spoken rather than explored through the characters and events of the show.
The best thing this show has going for it by far is the animation. It's very Studio Trigger-esque and the quality is just as high as they've done in the past. The action scenes are well animated and smooth enough to get a good idea of what's going on.
The score is generic and nothing special. I'm not the first person to say it but I will reiterate that the action scenes would benefit greatly from some of Hiroyuki Sawano's music. That's about all there is to it. Generic music and sounds.
Oh boy here we go. Once again, nothing new here. Every character is a one-dimensional stereotype personality and gives no reason to care about them as individuals. These stereotypes are incredibly prevalent throughout anime and this is one of the biggest reasons I can't get behind this show. The chemistry among the characters is generic and predictable as well and leaves a lot to be desired. As the show progresses you will get more attached to the characters just by simple fact of having been watching and keeping up with them, and none of them are actually hateable by themselves (except that one guy but I don't remember his name/code lol, and the MCs but that comes later).
And on to the MCs, the true focus of the show as a whole. Hiro is about as an "anime" MC as we can get. He has no personality traits that make him stand out from many other young male anime protagonists. His only motivation comes out of a feeling of uselessness and desire to help his friends. Which would be fine if we had any reason to care about him and his friends. Show, don't tell. We only know all of this because Hiro's literally said it himself. And through both the generic characters and complete lack of backstory to make him at all relatable there ends up being no reason to root for him.
And finally on to 002. The girl that blew up in the community and became girl of the season overnight. This is not without decent reason, but I wish to turn your attention to these reasons themselves. She is at times really cute and funny through her clear disinterest in social norms/authority and fawning over Hiro but at then this disinterest goes over 9000 and turns into an actual disregard for the lives around her. The writers try to make us empathize with her by hinting at discrimination she's faced in the past due to not being fully human. However this effort falls flat because 1. she's much too callous at points to where it can no longer be justified and 2. she's a walking personality contradiction - cute at times but incredibly cold at others. There are however a lot of questions that end up being raised because of this simply by the two extremes of her personality yet they conflict so unrealistically with each other that I no longer care about learning why I should empathize with this character.
And on to her inexplicable fixation with our hero-I mean Hiro. Disregarding the fact that he's just a bad character by himself, there's literally no reason she is so hung up on him being her "darling" and trying to be with him every moment she can. As far as I can tell the only thing to go on is the fact that "he looked at her differently from everyone else" when he first saw her but I'm pretty sure a lot of people would look at a hot lady swimming naked in a pond differently as well.
The kind of character I think is being aimed it is something along the lines of C.C. from Code Geass. However C.C.'s flippancy/general apathy and reasons for being with Lelouch were done in such a way that made her incredibly interesting as a character through the observer's desire to learn more about why she acts the way she does. There were no contradictions with her personality and as such the later attempts to garner empathy for her character were successful.
Finally, the fanservice. Fanservice is nothing new in anime but given the fact that the characters are already rather one dimensional the fanservice is much cheaper and more tasteless than usual. There are a lot of sexual innuendos that add to the feeling of silliness and ruin the show's attempts to take itself seriously.
All of the above issues make the show frustrating to watch for me and I'm baffled at the hype around this show. I will continue to watch out of hopes it improves and makes something out of the mess it is right now. In terms of recommending this show to someone: clearly a lot of people enjoy it but I would recommend avoiding this show. But all things added up, anyone considering this will probably watch it due to the hype.
Aside for the unnecessary way to control the Robots, Darling in the franxx has a promising beginning and it can either aspire to become the next big thing for mecha anime or die trying.
I'm sure that evangelion wasn't a masterpiece when it was airing, but it sure was promising
Story 7 | Art 9 | Sound 7 | Character 7 | Enjoyment 8 | Overall: 7.4
It's easy to criticize this part of the anime, saying its a rip off of evangelion or any mech anime you have watched, but it's too soon to give a fair judgments since it's been only 6 episodes and
two kind of no fillers, we still haven't got that deep into the story, so I would leave it as Good (7) since its been well executed so far.
Darling in the franx is a mech action series that takes place in a some kind of apocalyptic world, in the first episodes they introduced that most of humanity has been eradicated, and the survivors lived by establishing dome mobile fort cities, we are introduced to the Klaxosaurus (the monsters), Humans defend themselves by raising children to pilot the Franxx, which are human like robots, that need two pilots (Boy and Girl) kind of like evangelion or pacific rim but with a weird way to pilot them.
So a kind of simple story, that has been somewhat well executed, gives you the intrigue and promise to keep on waiting for the next episode, feels like there is something bigger on the outside picture and overall it's been good so far, so I just hope they can get deeper into it faster.
The only thing that I dont like from the 8 episodes we have been through, its the world building, its been a fair amount of episodes and we have just seen some parts of what it looks like a "modern world in ruins" that have been desolated, we don't know really what world they are living or what kind of people inhabit it aside from the pilots of the franxx, we have some glimpses of the setting but we haven't been too deep to this new world, I think next episode would be a huge plot and world building episode, so I hope they can give us more than a few glimpses of this ruined moders world.
So what happens when you combine the best studios in visuals (A-1 Pictures), one of the best action animated studios (Trigger) and combine them with kill a kill art style?
So it looks good, fighting scenes are fresh, and the kind of kill la kill art style just complements the story so good, the background images, sceneries and structures are as beautiful as any A-1 Pictures work. The character expressions are lacking in almost every character except zero two. but overall the art it's a really good feature in this anime.
Sound: Last Week: 7 Now: 7
Voice Characters: Amazingly suited voice characters for everyone except the main character (Hiro) imo.
VC Note: Ichigo voice actor is a first, and I'm really surprised of her work, zero two voice character is superb
OP: Amazing Ending: Good
Ost: Decent, I hope they can improve this feature, the smoothness and freshness of the fighting scenes isnt complemented by the ost, it's been a fairly amount of fighting scenes, and not even one ost has captured the really good animation of them.
Character: Last Week: 7 Now: 7
Simple backstory, he was the leader which everyone depended on him when they were kids, give them purpose to everyone on the team by assigning them a name, when they grew up he was kind of worthless but suddenly something happens and now he is kind taking the lead now.
He has been likable so far, but kind of generic, hope we can get an improvement on this male lead.
Zero Two and Ichigo
Well Zero Two seems unique, i like this character because she is a selfish brat that might be using Hiro for her own good, the label as "teammate killer" was good and intriguing she has an unique personality for an anime girl, not any yandere, tsundere or anything dere as all anime has, she is just selfish.
Basically it's the only character with decent development but we still don't know much about her, they need to get everything they can from this character since she is the main reason for the huge hype of the series.
So Ichigo, definition of what people might call best girl, she has an interesting character, leader of the group, childhood friend of the main character, with insecurities, they haven't shown us anything else yet.
So supporting cast, nothing to much to say, basically the three characters from above carry the show completely, the kind of way they are trying to make the characters experience some adult stuff, its kind of promising and I hope they can get development from this, everyone seems to react different from that experience, so I hope they can take advantage of this interesting plot.
Its been good so far, we have 3/4 of the series left, I hope they can carry this story and give the characters the development they deserve, its intriguing, the art seems fresh, and the story is promising, so I hope they can take this features and dont blew this off
Episode 9 Thoughts;
The interactions between characters are getting stronger, kind of mysterious that only the Klaxosaurus make their relationships grow, I hope it has a meaning and not just for development, unfortunately its getting weaker each week, we need to get deeper into the story faster, I dont mind interactions between characters but we haven't seen any story development since episode 4, Its going to be interesting how they start dealing with emotions they havent experienced before, so I still have high hopes for this series
Inspired by old familiar mecha, Darling in the FranXX tries to incorporate over-the-top elements of Gurren Laggan and symbolic yet dramatic elements of Evangelion.
Where it doesn't fail to deliver in generic combat, it not only fails to deliver in consistent plot, which it tries to build upon, but adds unnecessary elements of melodrama from characters, which just makes them look unrealistic and unlikable, it adds on extra awkward elements that makes sympathizing with the cast a pain and following the plot a chore.
Perhaps the cartoony mecha style emphasizes on that, but in the end it's a shallow show that foreshadows heavily on plot twists,
but doesn't follow through to them in the end.
If you enjoy "nu"-mecha anime with unnecessary fanservice, no respect to its own world building and plot, and no respect to the viewer - go ahead and give this a go. What might seem to be a popcorn flick at first, simply something fun to watch, ends up being something that simply spits on the viewer in multiple ways and calls it a day.
Seeing this number of positive reviews on this show made me decide to write an honest review on it. This review is written by a person who was on the Darling in The FranXX hype train before it arrived at the r/anime station, and also by a person who absolutely loves Trigger and their work, from the Gainax beginnings to their "independency".
Darling in the FranXX started out pretty solid, if you ask me. It already introduced a very interesting metaphor in the first 2 minutes, and I was very excited at that point. Then came the naked girl cliche. Ignoring it as a "A1 shenanigan",
I continued the episode and was able to find it a tad bit enjoyable, mostly because of the cool world concept and the interesting-looking characters.
That didn't last long. In the first 6 episodes, those seemingly interesting characters have either done nothing or have been super annoying. I was not expecting side character development in 6 episodes, but this was just unbearable. 02 also got old real fast, making Hiro the only one able to save the show. Turns out Hiro is just budget Kirito therefore shattering all my hopes for the characters part.
But wait! There's more to a show than characters. "Great Art" is indeed true, and I won't even deny that the art is consistent and good, but it's normal. It brings nothing to the table, it's just the standard "good" animation. The music is also unnoticeable. I was expecting better music from Trigger. Have they even worked on this anime?
While I can't say much about the story, since right now many questions remain unanswered, I can say that it doesn't seem to be going anywhere in these 6 episodes. It seems more like they're experimenting with the mechs and the "kyoryuu" battles right now, and sometimes adding a little bit of info.
I am not enjoying this show. I'm having trouble finishing these last episodes and that's a no-no for me.
This review is preliminary, but I will be adding to it if 1) I don't drop this, and 2) I notice any improvements. Thank you for reading and please remember that this is my opinion, as someone who enjoys Trigger works.