Darling In The FranXX Part 2 (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 288 minutes approx
The first volume of Darling In The FranXX was a major surprise after the early episodes set it up as an unsubtle and bawdy Neon Genesis Evangelion clone, turning into a solid coming-of-age drama. It ended on a pivotal note with the truth about enigmatic female Zero Two about to be revealed.
Wasting no time, part two delivers on this, tracing the complex and unfortunate history of the capricious, pink haired Franxx pilot with the red horns attached to her head that grow whenever she becomes enraged. It was established Zero Two possessed the blood of the Klaxosaurs, the alien forces attacking earth but why this was has never been disclosed until now.
In the great tradition of anime, our perception of Zero Two is swiftly inverted once we learn of her unfortunate backstory at the hands of the adults of this futuristic world, whilst tying her mysterious past in with that of male lead Hiro, who also has been haunted by fleeting recollections of past memories involving Zero Two and his childhood friends and fellow Parasites in Squad 13.
One of the bigger mysteries of the first volume was the discrepancy of lifestyle between the children and adults – why the elders lived in luxury inside fortified domed cities while the kids had a meagre existence away from the adults due to the brief life expectancy as Franxx pilots. Aside from handlers Nana and Hachi, contact with adults is extremely rare for our young heroes.
Also playing a major part in the story with little exploration are the controlling bodies that make very decision pertaining to the kids, the shady organisation called APE, comprising mostly of scientists whose discoveries and efforts in saving humankind after the global disaster that brought the Klaxosaurs to the earth has afforded them immense political control.
The chairman of APE is one of the Seven Sages and is considered to be a God. To the kids he is known as Papa and their trust and faith in him is implicit, like any child to a parent. Under his aegis is Dr. Franxx, inventor of the Franxx mecha, another figure with a past that is vital to the development of the characters, especially Zero Two and the Nines, the super skilled parasites genetically modified like Zero Two.
Every one of these aspects is finally revealed in this second collection of episodes through eye opening and often shocking flashbacks that not only inform but also ensure sympathies are resolutely with the young protagonists. Everything from the history of the Klaxosaur attacks to why procreation died out and why the children are kept under such oppressive conditions is brought to light, and makes for a compelling if horrifying sci-fi drama.
No doubt this was designed by creator Atsushi Nishigori as a metaphor to reflect the level of trust shown in the young by today’s society their elders in creating a nanny state that molly coddles them and doesn’t let them live, whilst stunting their development in not being allowed to embrace their natural emotions. This is not exclusive to the kids though; the adults are all complicit in this totalitarian control largely for their own gain, cruelly sacrificing the dispensable young so they can live in peace forever.
It’s also a paean to puberty and teenagers discovering love, something out of the control of parents worldwide except those nations that practice arranged marriages – like Japan. Being denied any exposure to information about love, sex, and procreation, the parasites are only expected to experience these feelings as part of their piloting duos, but the discovery of an abandoned building sees Kokoro find a book about childbirth and she becomes obsessed with the idea of having a baby.
This sets off a chain of events in which the exploration of love, romance, and eventually sex becomes a common issue among the group that some understand, some don’t, but surprisingly unites everyone as its results in a wedding. But Papa doesn’t want his pilots to be so emotionally compromised, leading to one of the harsher moments of the story in stirring viewer sympathy for the youngsters.
Looking at how the first half of this series only hinted at this show offering more than being an Evangelion tribute act, the second half defies these low expectations by tapping into something truly heartfelt and evocative. We can attribute this to the writing and in particular to the depth of character given to each one of the main cast. Usually, one or two figures stand out and the other are mere ballast but here everyone is significant and relatable, contributing more than just making up the numbers of fulfilling a trope.
However, this is a sci-fi show and anime is notorious for its existential and frankly baffling endings in this genre and that tradition is upheld here in spades. Fans only in this for the mecha action get their fill in the final few chapters but not before the impenetrably surreal build up where logic and narrative are replaced with inane psychobabble and cod-philosophy that will draw a blank stare from the viewer.
But not only is it a visually spectacular conclusion – well it has to be really – we buy into it because Nishigori has made us care about the characters and invest in their plight, their future, their world. It’s an emotional connection I didn’t think possible at the start of this series but the earnest scripting and hopeful tone of the denouement and its coda is infectiously rewarding for all.
Darling In The FranXX has its problems with not being able to abandon the conventions of the mecha genre, the EVA influence is sadly unshakeably blatant, but once it finds its own rhythms and story direction, it proves to be one of the more progressive and perceptive coming-of-age dramas in anime that works better because of its sci-fi premise.
A satisfying and redeeming conclusion to a deceptively smart and engaging show.
English Language 5.1 True HD
Japanese Language 2.0 True HD
Episode 18 Commentary
Episode 23 Video Commentary
Playback Specials 1&2
Textless Opening Song – “KISS OF DEATH”
Textless Closing Song Ep. 16
Rating – ****
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