Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

29 January 2018: DARLING in the FRANXX is more than a one-way reflection

The robots are named after flowers, but I don't know if there is any meaning to it.

Studio Trigger's Gainax heritage basically guarantees I'll give any of its shows a try. They haven't all been hits, but I'll generally find at least something to enjoy. DARLING in the FRANXX is Studio Trigger's two-cours science fiction partnership with A-1 Pictures featuring giant robots and lots of sexual allegories. The show is not at all subtle, with wall-to-wall metaphors about marriage, intercourse, orgasm, infidelity, and polyandry. And that's just the first three episodes. Unfortunately, it also stars an exceptionally dull teenage boy (because of course it does). At least he isn't a whiny brat, I guess. (That role was already taken by one of the supporting cast.)

002, you should have downed the fish Fredrica-style

I'm cautious enough to avoid dismissing the plot outright as being yet another excuse for adults to manipulate teenagers into piloting giant robots in order to fight big monsters. I'm optimistic enough to trust there is more to the show than the viewer has been led to believe, and that twists will be revealed over the next six months. For now, DARLING in the FRANXX is fairly straightforward, without really any groundbreaking elements I can identify. The male-female pairing of pilots is interesting, but not exactly novel. VanDread, of course, had this shtick, as did Godannar. Aquarion had giant robots powered by sex more than a dozen years before DARLING in the FRANXX brought the idea back. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Surely there are plenty more examples that someone better versed in giant robot lore could cite.

Goro and Ichigo
The headgear worn by the female pilots is reminiscent of the bridal hood in Shinto weddings.

But DARLING in the FRANXX does not necessarily need to be entirely original or groundbreaking in order to be good. It just needs to execute in creative or interesting ways. Unfortunately, so far, it is managing the bare minimum in these areas. It is only the animation and Studio Trigger itself keeping me interested for now. (This is a great looking show.) Honestly, that's more than enough to ensure I'll keep watching it, providing it doesn't turn actively irritating all the time (e.g., by loading up on more scenes of Zorome being a jerk). It had also better not assume I'll care about Hiro without giving me a reason to think of him as anything other than Potato-kun.

They can airbrush a plugsuit onto a pilot, but they can't give her a seat belt.

At a minimum, I enjoy the refreshingly different designs of the robots, and I like Haruka DeTomaso Pantera voicing what sounds more and more like a sadistic Asuna every episode. I can't unhear Inoue Marina's Yoko in her Nana, but it's probably the red hair and the Nishigori Atsushi connection. I don't know if it's reasonable for me to hope the sexual metaphors continue to grow more overt. Like I said, DARLING in the FRANXX is not exactly subtle as it is, so it's probably better off toning it down a bit to keep viewers from getting innuendo fatigue. I suppose I should qualify this by mentioning that the newbie pilots themselves all seem rather asexual, allegories notwithstanding, but I'd argue that's the norm in broadcast anime, so presumably this surprises no one.

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