DARLING in the FRANXX – Anime Preview
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Synopsis: The distant future: Humanity established the mobile fort city, Plantation, upon the ruined wasteland. Within the city were pilot quarters, Mistilteinn, otherwise known as the “Birdcage.” That is where the children live… Their only mission in life was the fight. Their enemies are the mysterious giant organisms known as Kyoryu. The children operate robots known as FRANXX in order to face these still unseen enemies. Among them was a boy who was once called a child prodigy: Code number 016, Hiro. One day, a mysterious girl called Zero Two appears in front of Hiro. “I’ve found you, my Darling.” (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: If there’s one undeniable positive fact about Darling in the FranXX, it’s that the show looks great. It’s got clean animation, eye catching character designs and backgrounds that are assured to win over anyone who prioritizes visuals above all else.
Tom: Despite being crafted more so by A-1 Pictures than Trigger (it’s a collaboration between the two studios), the show contains very Trigger-esque visuals, with fluid animation, attractive character designs, some very odd mecha designs and more. Visually this stands out as one of the best looking anime this Winter. That said, everything underneath the hood is disappointing at the least. Our main character, Hiro, is as bland as leads come. It doesn’t help that despite the episode’s seeming focus on introducing him to our lively lead girl, 002, we really learn very little about him. Hiro is constructed with aspects of the stalwart hero, the troubled teen, and the bumbling MC as he accidentally steals 002’s panties. The same goes for all of Hiro’s friends, who we often flash to in order to get blasts of exposition thrown at us. 002, pictured above, is the only highlight offered in this first episode of bland, under utilized and under explored characters, and even then she’s more weird than compelling.
Linny: It’s not just the characters but also the plot that has issues. It’s messy and inefficient, giving random exposition to random characters and failing to actually explain relevant information leading up to the big fight scene that has dialogue consisting of terms that mean nothing to the viewer.
Tom: Compounding things are the overuse of anime cliches. The washed out hero, stumbling upon a bathing girl. These are things that stick out and detract from Darling’s otherwise deadly serious tone. Because of their prevalence, it makes the moments/elements when Darling seems to be taking quite a few pages from older Mecha, like Eva, stick out more. There’s a lot of Eva imagery, little niggles of plot ideas here and there, that make me feel like I’m watching the Trigger re-imagining of Eva more so than I am something that’s meant to be its own thing. Put the overuse of anime cliches on top and I have a hard time growing attached to any of this.
Linny: A bit of a sore spot for me regarding Darling in the FranXX’s premiere episode is that it already contains several tired sexist tropes and cliches, such as a horny old man who openly gropes a female coworker’s buttocks and is only met with a meek plea to ‘stop it aaaaah.’ Nobody else raises an eye. Maybe it is meant to be a funny moment but it isn’t funny at all and just falls into the pointlessly sexist and offensive category. Then there’s the fact that the first face to face meeting between our male and female leads occurs with 002 completely nude and of course wraps up with her (now fully clothed) overpowering Hiro and getting on top of him. Even if you do not find them offensive, these tropes only make the uninspired plot elements of the show stick out all that much more, especially in a show that seems like it’s trying to be deep.
Tom: I guess I should step back a second here and make clear I don’t think Darling in the FranXX is awful. It’s uninspired, trope ridden, borrowing too much from classic mecha anime, but it’s not awful. Just stale writing with great visuals. I wanted to like it, and I’m even more disappointed that I didn’t, more so than any other anime this season. I might come back to this once Funimation has its Simuldub out (That’s February 1st for those curious) and it’s time for a Mid Season Review. But right now I think Darling is something most viewers can pass on, unless they’re starving for Mecha.
Linny: If you’re starving for a good looking mecha, Darling in the FranXX is probably enough to satiate that craving. Heck, there are plenty who are willing to let its pedigree studio origins be enough reason to call it a promising show. But if you want your mecha to have convincing characters and a well laid out start, you’re in for some disappointment.