The story is set in the distant future. The land is ruined, and humanity establishes the mobile fort city Plantation. Pilots produced inside Plantation live in Mistilteinn, also know as the "birdcage." Children live there knowing nothing of the outside world or the freedom of the sky. Their lives consist of battling to carry out missions. Their enemies are mysterious giant lifeforms known as Kyouryuu, and the children pilot robots called Franxx to face off against them. For the children, riding the Franxx proves their existence.
A boy named Hiro is called Code:016, and he was once known as a prodigy. However, he has fallen behind, and his existence seems unnecessary. Not piloting a Franxx is the same as ceasing to exist. One day, a mysterious girl known as "Zero Two" appears before him. Two horns grow out of her head.
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.
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 but the two extremes of her personality simply conflict with each other enough to where 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.
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.
I understand that with the sheer quantity of anime being put out year after year of course many shows are going to have similarities. After watching the first episode, I noticed a lot of conceptual similarities to Evangelion. Obviously Evangelion has been a major influencer in a range of anime, and there is no point in calling anything a "rip off". Here are some similarities I've noticed: the characters are orphans, theres a sexual/romantic overtone in each interaction, the characters need to be open to achieve "synchronization", the giant alien enemies have glass balls that need to be destroyed in order to kill them, the
main characters mech has a "frightening" and uncontrollable quality to it, a massive organization of elders with a suspicious motive. This may be commonplace for the average Mech anime, but the ecchi tone really kills all seriousness for me. After watching episode 5 I've lost all interest. Each concept seems to mirror a show that I've already watched and in a weaker less interesting way. I can see why people enjoy this show but for me I just can't be brought to care.
an anime being over the top horny and exploring dumb concept?
made partially by trigger and with a cool pink haired girl with horns?
mechas with cool design?
this anime had everything to interest me and yet here we are, wondering how did we get here
don't see any bad reviews so hey
i'm gonna be quick, the MC is beyond boring, i don't care about the story and those colors are really not welcoming, especially during battles.
those monsters they're fighting are not interresting at all, they're not even ugly, and this whole romance had potential but it just feels like it's going nowhere. and what even is this cyberpunk
pervert grandpa? and this whole organization that is very good at saying cool big stuff that are supposed to intrigue us and also they give orders that have no meaning since zero two will do whatever suits her anyways
tho, i enjoyed a few things, some characters are cool, i'm a big fan of the mecha design and some fights were well animated. but yeah i can't bring myself to sit for 20mn every week watching this