Updated: Mar 15

Darling is such a nice English word, that after seeing Kimagure Orange Road where the term of endearment appears frequently, I naturally went for a more recent series where the borrowed term enjoys pride of place. Both are romances, but share nary any content, although if anyone should locate fan art of Hikaru and Kyosuke piloting a giant robot together, please tell me. On checking our past articles, I see our editor DewIso made DARLING in the FRANXX the subject of his first review back in March 2018. Happy 3rd, Meganime! https://www.meganime.org/post/darling-in-the-franxx But as the series was still ongoing, a take with the whole 24 episodes of the 2018 anime past us seems in order.

Only as DARLING in the FRANXX continued developing and revealing itself, did I come to realize how much salesmanship was needed to get the audience to bite into something so meaty. A series that became an instant hit with both fans and critics, around halfway through a schism peeled many away, or at least alienated them as they continued to watch the anime take an unforeseen direction. They had been hooked, but there was a real reason to conceal such a sharp, catching hook—viewers sometimes balk when a program goes serious and enters lecture and lesson mode without coaxing them on first.

In the future—how distant a future is a question—humanity has abandoned life on the earth’s surface, living in domed cities called Plantations that rove about a scarred landscape. Unfortunately, they are imperilled by giant robotic creatures called klaxosaurs (kyoryu) attracted to the golden magma mined as an energy source. A few groups of adolescents, reared in a nursery called The Garden and then, if they show promise, assigned to a squad tasked with defending a plantation, pilot giant robots called Franxx (after their namesake inventor, Dr. Franxx, an aged man often seen in decisionmaking with other adults). The robots are large and lanky, with animated, expressive faces, but otherwise reasonably realistic: there is none of the wackiness of Gurren Lagann. To defeat a klaxosaur, one needs to destroy its golden, molten core, or it can regenerate.

The youths, called parasites, were referred to simply by their code numbers—the lower, the more promise shown as a Franxx pilot—until 016 literally makes a name for himself, Hiro, and goes on to name all his companions in The Garden. By the time they form Squad 13, they are already a cohesive and peculiar bunch.

Franxx have to be piloted in pairs. This is where the sex, one of the first things to strike viewers, comes in, and it is glorious. The female gets down on all fours, and with the benefit of a spinal brace bears a screen displaying that staple of mecha anime, synchro, behind her head, and a pair of handles on her rear, while the male is seated but mostly upright behind her. This goes a long way toward righting a wrong dating back at least to the days when Shakespeare said “the beast with two backs” is how it’s done. Not here. The sexual position necessary to control a Franxx is commonly known by an animalistic name, but since both partners face the same way, I prefer to think of it as ad orientem. This anime does much to show how fitting for human relations it can be. First, defying my early expectations, voyeuristic shots showing up the bodies are minimized; surprisingly, this is not ecchi. More practically, Why does this arrangement help the parasites make war? I expected no answer, just fanservice, but later on a very clear reason is given: this is not about opportunistic body shots, but something in man’s nature that makes him a fighting animal.