DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 3: Submission and control

When the girl asserts her dominance, these chumps can’t handle it. They’re all talk and no game. What a shame, what a shame. In this week’s episode, the parasites are assigned to a quick and easy training mission. At least, it was supposed to be quick and easy. It would’ve definitely been quick and easy if Strelizia could’ve come along, but unfortunately, Hiro isn’t a parasite yet. And until he becomes one, the powers-that-be won’t let Zero-Two sortie without a stamen. Of course, we’ve seen her go about it solo, but I guess she’s too valuable a specimen for them to risk it again. To make things worse, even Chlorophytum backs out of the mission because Ikuno and Mitsuru are having difficulties connecting. Everyone seems to place the blame on Ikuno, but it’s obvious that Mitsuru has his mind elsewhere. We’ll get to that later. What’s important for now is that a simple mission to take out some Metroid-ripoff of a klaxosaur quickly goes awry. Unless they send Strelizia out, the six parasites on the field are going to die.

And yet, Nana and Hachi refuse to let Hiro pilot. Oh, they don’t have permission from the higher ups, so there’s nothing they can do about it. They’ll just have to let the kids die instead. Doesn’t that seem to be the case? Don’t these kids feel ultimately disposable to the adults? Zero-Two even hints at this: “This plantation’s squad is about to be wiped out again.” Another group of kids have died before, but we’ve managed to replace them so who cares? These kids are easily replaceable. They’re fodder. They’re not that important. Every plantation has its squad of stamens and pistils. Every plantation is protected by a bunch of clueless kids who have never even gotten to step foot inside the plantations themselves. Earlier in the episode, Zero-Two practically has to drag Hiro into a restricted area just so that he could see what they’re actually fighting for. This shimmering city of golden light is just one of many. And who knows how many kids have lost their lives to protect these buildings and their inhabitants?

The harsh reality is that the loss of six parasites is just not that big of a deal. There’s more where they came from. It’s more important to the adults that Hiro doesn’t pilot the Strelizia than it is to rescue the other kids. In the end, however, Mitsuru volunteers to become Zero-Two’s latest victim. He thinks he can do it. He thinks he’s just as good if not better than Hiro. Like Zorome, these guys all seem to have a bone to pick with the main character. Is it because he assumed leadership of the group when they were younger? Is it because everyone thought he was so important back at the orphanage? Well, now that Hiro’s a pathetic loser who can’t even become a parasite, every guy — minus Goro for now — wants to upstage him. Zero-Two doesn’t remote care about Mitsuru, though; she’s loyal to her Darling. But faced with the reality of his friends likely dying if Strelizia doesn’t sortie, Hiro can do nothing but clench his fists and give his girl up to someone else. It’s as if the writers behind this show decided that previous mecha anime didn’t have enough NTR, so let’s go whole hog on this one.

And just like that, Zero-Two goes along with Hiro’s request.  Is it because guys in this anime get to dictate everything? It almost seems as though she listens to him… if you’re inclined to read certain criticisms into the story. But is this really the case? People seem to believe that if a guy steals a girl from someone else, she isn’t equally complicit. In reality, Zero-Two doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do; she’s too proud to be controlled. I think a certain portion of the audience is knee-jerking too hard over this anime and thus allowing their biases to shine through. It’s too easy to pick and poke at Darling in the FranXX in order to draw out your pet topics to rant about. It’s too easy to milk this show for selective outrage. It’s not as if Zero-Two hasn’t had other partners before. She’s been through this numerous times (where else would the rumors come from?), and she knows exactly what’s going to happen next. She’s going to chew Mitsuru up and spit him out like everyone else. She goes along with Hiro to prove a point: some dumb kid’s macho ego to prove that he’s a bigger, better stamen than Hiro isn’t going to change anything. And it’s the same way, really, with the rest of the kids.

Yes, the guys appear to do most of the piloting — ‘appear’ being the operative word — but this doesn’t mean that the girls are not equally in control of the FranXXs. Together, the pistils establish the foundation upon which the entire squad depends. Why else is Ichigo the leader and not Goro? He certainly seems more emotionally stable than her, doesn’t he? Well, it doesn’t matter what the stamen wants if the pistil is unwilling. If she shuts down, the FranXX becomes completely useless. When Miku falls unconscious in this week’s episode, Zorome becomes dead weight. He can’t do anything without her. Then when it’s Ichigo’s turn to freak out over the possibility of Hiro riding with Zero-Two again, Goro can’t do anything by himself either. And lest we forget, the same is not true when the situation is reversed. Both Zero-Two and Ichigo have shown that they can control their units without any guy being involved. And does this not remind us of certain relevant family units at large? Sure, the man can call himself the head of the household, but it means nothing if his wife controls all the finances. Who decides where the kids go to school? Who decides what to do with the elderly? Who makes the day-to-day decisions regarding the household?

That isn’t to say that everything is perfect. That isn’t to say that systemic issues between the sexes don’t remain to be tackled and solved. And don’t get me wrong — I certainly don’t think Darling in the FranXX is some genius anime attempting to make some grand point about the nature of things. But ultimately, people see what they want to see. They see the guys firmly grasp the controls extruding from the girls’ buttocks and think that there’s an inherent power imbalance. But as we can plainly see, Mitsuru was never in control because Zero-Two never accepted him. When Zero-Two decides to go all out, he quickly becomes yet another victim who couldn’t handle riding with her. She gets to choose her partner, and her Darling can only be Hiro. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.

Misc. notes & observations:

— I don’t mind the dumb, pretentious monologues, because I’ve come to expect them from mecha anime. Yes, they definitely are dumb and pretentious, but mecha anime wouldn’t be the same without them.

— Ichigo still seems friendly enough with Hiro. I would’ve preferred her going cold on him, but I guess childhood friends never change.

— Even these boring elevator scenes are essential in a way. It’s just part of the mecha anime pastiche. Sure, we can have originality, but we can also revel in the ridiculously blatant copy-catting as well. I’m enjoying Darling in the FranXX for its campiness.

— Goro is such a nice dude right now that I can’t wait for him to turn on our hero as well. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. He does mention that Hiro and Ichigo are like siblings, which might explain why those two lack chemistry.

— Hiro: “Our entire purpose in life is to pilot the FranXX. That’s why we were born.” Just how hard has he been indoctrinated? Are there even normal kids in this world? Y’know, kids who weren’t raised in at garden? Where do they go if they can’t become pilots?

— Kokoro’s role seems to be keeping the peace. How bland. She also kinda disappears in the second half of the anime. Obviously, she remains present in the story, but her presence is not felt.

— Ichigo continues to believe in Hiro and defend him at all costs. He must have done more for his friends in the past than just giving them names. Why else would she be so devoted to him? I just wonder how long it’ll take for us to learn more about these kids’ pasts.

— Mitsuru: “Even among the double-digits, he was a cut above.” What does that mean? What are the differences between the code numbers? On a somewhat related note, Mitsuru has a really pompous way of speaking.

— For now, the best Hiro can do is play with his stick all by himself while Zero-Two looks on.

— Zero-Two: “The doctor said parasites are better off being a little pervy.” I think it’s important to consider the broader context of anime as a whole if we are to understand what this means. Anime characters blush when they hold hands. We make jokes about how lewd it is for characters to hold hands. In Darling in the FranXX, being a little pervy might just mean being less of a prude. In other words, how can you be a trusting partner if you always a stick in the mud?

— Man, that’s a terrible security feature.

— Zero-Two: “Just look at this lifeless city. There are no skies or oceans here. It’s isolated on a one-way street to nowhere, a dead end of life.” Her words make me wonder if this society can even reproduce sexually. Do they even understand what sex is? After all, the entire setup in the FranXX looks ridiculous. It’s like if you told a robot what sex is like between humans. I can’t help but wonder if this society has stopped having sex, and as a result, it can’t evolve. It just has weird ideas of what sex is supposed to look like, but no one even knows what it means to kiss besides Zero-Two.

— Zero-Two wants to break out of her birdcage. She wants freedom. Unfortunately, her Darling doesn’t seem to even understand the concept of free will. He thinks he was born for one purpose and one purpose only.

— And why is the city all golden? Is it an illusion? Is it fake gold? Is it just glitz and glamour to hide the lifeless, sterile ugliness beneath the facade?

— Ikuno is struggling while Mitsuru remains cold and unsympathetic to her plight. It’s clear who’s preventing them from connecting, and it’s not the girl.

— This anime is missing those extremely drawn out scenes where the mecha is being prepped and eventually launched into battle. Captain Earth knows what I’m talking about. Who doesn’t like watching the same animation over and over every single week? How can you be campy if you don’t embrace one of the genre’s greatest hallmarks?

— Strike a pose.

— Nana: “You have always been a bit unstable.” Well, that’s blunt.

— You’d think HQ would’ve detected all these other klaxosaurs before sending the kids in. Sure, Nana claims that the others are attracted to this location due to the “magma energy,” but then if that’s true, shouldn’t they have factored this risk into the mission?

— Zero-Two has to train Hiro to break the rules. He’s too much of a follower. He can’t think for himself at all. But perhaps there are things he won’t ever give up like his fondness for his friends even though most of them don’t seem to respect him anymore. He lets someone else have Zero-Two just to save his friends. She can’t be too happy about that.

— Hell, Mitsuru can barely handle riding the Strelizia even before she asserts control.

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8 Replies to “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 3: Submission and control”

      1. Oh, Guardian Enzo still at it? Doke E Minor, that’s the real aniblog old guard right there.

        Regarding his point, as much as I like FLCL & Eva, I don’t think they were particularly subtle shows, whether we’re talking about the characters or the messages of the shows. I think they just had much more emotional depth to them, which I don’t think this show is really interested in.

        “Reheated Gainax leftover” is actually an apt description here, the nostalgia is really the only reason I’m enjoying this show. For me, it’s a bit like eating crappy shawarma from a dodgy street joint — it’s garbage compared to what my mom used to make, but it still somehow provides comfort.

        Anyway, thanks for linking — this guy Simone makes a couple of extra good points against the misogynistic label that some eager bunnies have tagged onto the show.

        1. it’s garbage compared to what my mom used to make, but it still somehow provides comfort.

          It’ll taste like a million bucks at 3am after many tequila shots.

  1. The only opinion i’ve been exposed to on this show are yours and mine so i wasnt really aware that others would have interpreted the power balance between the sexes in the show to lean in favour of the men. I can see their point of view but i agree with you. Just by watching the interaction between the pilots the show emphasizes how important it is for the stamen to be aware of the condiotion of the pistil. The emotional state both pistils found themselves in episode 2 and of course again in episode 3 show that the males can’t just charge ahead. I’ve visualized the relationship like the girls being the neck and the guys the head. Sure maybe the head may lead but the head can’t turn our move without the neck.

    like you’ve said the girls have been the only ones shown to be able to solo pilot.

  2. People who criticize Franxx for lack of (sexual) subtlety, well….can you really use such criticism on a show that doesn’t care about subtlety and doesn’t aim for it in the first place? It’s like criticizing porn movies or erotica for having sexually-driven plot & stories. You know they won’t have it any other way, so why bother? If they want to criticize things, it’s better to criticize the consistency and solidity of the writing.

    That said, I don’t think Franxx is a great series so far, but it’s certainly fun. I do understand why some people find some things in it offensive and off-putting. Those issues don’t really bother me though. Heck, I was more bothered by the lack of crazier animation this episode instead of all the supposedly-offensive things, haha. If things get better in future episodes, that’ll be a real treat.

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