Darling in the FRANXX Review

Will your lips taste the kiss of death? 

Darling in the FRANXX tells a tale of two stories intertwining into one heartbreaking climax. Lightyears into the distant future, the human race now survives in separate hoards known as “Plantations”, a wasteland town-like way of living. Adolescents are no longer referred to as Children, nor Christian/given/birth names. Now branded with distinct barcode like labels, they are trained to become what are known to be “Parasites”, and congregated into groups, and trained to be soldiers for the survival of their race against massive mecha-terrorist like creatures known as “Klaxosaurs”. Old school human values are completely abandoned, and are frowned upon, even by law. The Parasites are trained to co-pilot their own mechanical combat machine called a FRANXX. Each FRANXX must be co-piloted by members of the opposite sex to work, traditionally with the male as the stamen, and the female as the pistil. Compatibility is where this story begins with Hiro (aka Code 016), training his whole life to become a Parasite, only to be incompatible with all female members, namely his training partner Naomi (Code 703) he questions his worth to the group, and decides that he will be leaving “Plantation #13”. In this time, we see the arrival of “Special Forces”, who oversee the Parasite’s training and induction, also the arrival of Zero-Two (Code 002), a soldier S.F. have raised, born half human with Klaxosaur blood, who’s main mission is to find someone compatible with her not only in trying to fly her FRANXX “Strelitzia”, but a compatible soulmate which she refers as “Her Darling”.

While Anime’s come dime-a-dozen out of Japan on the weekly, we do see a range in animation from each series. You can definitely tell when there is real love and devotion put into animation, and Darling in the FRANXX is one of the best animated series to come out of Japan this year. From the vibrant color’s displayed in each scene, to the silky smooth animated action scene’s, we’re definitely getting Studio Trigger’s (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia) finest here. The design of not only the post-apocalyptic world we see, with the beautiful visuals of Plantation #13, it’s cast of characters, and their uniquely designed futuristic uniforms to designate, not only which plantation they come from, but are also designed with X & Y’s one their chest to represent male and female.

Something a dictated, and mundane world would definitely place, and also, worldly enemies that lie on the outskirts really do make for a beautifully sad environment for our school of outcasts to live in. Zero-Two is designed to be a character in question of whether we’re looking at a human, or demon, which comes into play as the series rolls on. Segregated against her will, Zero-Two’s design is different to the Parasites, as she is made to wear a band over her red sharp horns, with a much slender aesthetic to the rest of the female cast, made to make her stand out from the rest, along with her gazing cyan colored eyes, with rings around her pupils, and eyeliner, which would also boldly represent her vein-ish side.

It’s rare that Anime’s are commissioned to a full 24-Episode run, and while plot wise this may have been a questionable cause for this series, it’s understood visually why the series may have had a lengthy run rather than the standard 12-Episode seasonal run we see in a lot of Anime’s these days. Adapting from the original source material, the Manga is still an ongoing series, releasing it’s 43rd chapter in April, 2019. While Anime series had to wrap up it’s own arc in it’s lengthy, yet questionable run. Without spoiling, or going into detail first 18 episodes of the series we’re and incredibly fun ride, with action, romance, comedy, and a sad story of growing up without guidance, forging your own path.

The following episode felt a little over the hill, or lost at times of where the story was going. There were questionable creative decisions made here, but that may be my own personal bias here. I felt the series creatively was falling flat near the end, and kind of felt a little relieved when it ended. Was I satisfied with the endings outcome? Maybe? Could there have been a better way to conclude this series? Definitely. I feel as the series could have easily been commissioned to a shorter run, with a the possibility of a second season. Giving writers more time, and leeway to creatively write a perfect ending here. Did it come off forced? Yes. It was eneivitable that the series was ending, and it almost felt like a scramble at points of the show, where the plot-line had completely fallen off, making me question out loud at times “Where are we?” or “What has happened?”. Regardless, that’s limited to six out of the 24 episodes we have here, in which 18 were incredibly well done.

I watched the series twice over, with both the Japanese and English voice cast, which I will say both do a tremendous job of exhuberating total emotion from all our beloved cast of characters throughout the series. Personally, one of my favourite characters is Ichigo (Code 015), who plays the polar opposite of Zero-Two, and one point love interest of Hiro, who now falls into a world torn between two women. Dangerous ground, I know. But the emotions that play through each of these three characters here, are incredibly intense, and send you through a spiral of who’s side you’re really on. We see this peek through in Zero-Two’s bi-polaristic side, where she can’t decide to either trust Ichigo, or be against her.

The same goes to Ichigo, to trust Zero-Two, or to try and turn a blind eye, and convince Hiro and the others to stay wary around Zero-Two, and understandably so. While Zero-Two has no intention of hurting Hiro, her “Darling”, she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who comes between them. The VO performances by Yuuto Uemura & Matt Shipman as Hiro, Kana Ichinos & Brittany Lauda as Ichigo, Haruka Tomatsu & Tia Ballard as Zero-Two are outstanding. Some of the best original and dub work you will find in any animated action series out there. Moments of suspense and wonder, definitely tugged on my heart strings here.

Darling in the FRANXX is definitely responsible for reigniting my love for Anime. As a fan of series with similarities like Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, and Elfen Lied, I can understand why I resonate so strongly towards it. Despite my critiques towards the end of the series second arc, it still holds a high distinction as one of the best Anime’s to come out of Japan this year, if not the best Anime that Studio Trigger has produced in recent memory. Staying true to it’s adaption from the original manga, even lifting certain scenes frame by frame, and beautifully animating them, bringing them to life, is definitely something not a whole lot of Anime’s do. It’s attention to detail, in not only it’s sleek action scenes, beautifully crafted mecha designs, it’s cast of characters, and fantastic first arc, will have any Anime fan loving this amazing series, and referring to as incredible for years to come.

Darling in the FRANXX (2018)
– Madman Entertainment

The survivors of a catastrophic war against monsters cluster inside mobile fortress cities and train youngsters to defend humanity by piloting large battle robots called Franxx

Series Run: January 13 – July 6, 2018 (Japan)
Directed By: Atsushi Nishigori, Toshifumi Akai (co-director)
Episodes: 24
Studio: CloverWorks, Studio Trigger
Distributed by: Madman Entertainment (Australia)

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