DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 5: Codependency

Will Hiro die if he continues to ride Zero-Two? Of course not. He’s the hero, after all. The show even admits as much: “Yeah. It’s the polar opposite reaction to the other parasites that rode with Zero Two.” Polar, huh? Does that mean the horned girl drained her other partners of their yellow blood cells? Hell, we don’t even know what yellow blood cells are and what they do. All we know is that something is happening to Hiro’s heart, and the surrounding flesh has turned blue and purple in color. It’s enough to think he’s dying, but is he? He’s in pain, but he also confesses that he feels more alive than ever. He can finally fly and be free, and yet, he’s more ensnared in Zero-Two’s grasp than ever. She and Hiro share an incomparable bond, but this also has the effect of isolating them from the rest of the team. Ichigo tries to insist otherwise, but it is to no avail. We already know that she’s powerless to stop those two from growing closer. And yet, we have reasons to share Ichigo’s concerns. Consider Wikipedia’s definition of a codependent relationship:

“In a codependent relationship, the codependent’s sense of purpose is based on making extreme sacrifices to satisfy their partner’s needs. Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy “clinginess”, where one person does not have self-sufficiency or autonomy. One or both parties depend on their loved one for fulfillment.”

It’s remarkable how “unromantic” the other children are. They don’t know what kissing is. To them, kissing is when two Plantations meet up and exchange magma fuel reserves. No, no, no, what about kissing in real life? Do you guys know how to kiss in real life? I just recently saw Before We Vanish, a Japanese movie by acclaimed director Kurosawa Kiyoshi, and I found it remarkable how the husband and wife never so much as kiss in the entire movie. Why is this important? Well, their romance is supposed to be one of the primary subplots! So it’s not just Darling in the FranXX that is weird about physical contact. The entire culture treats it as an action that can only exist behind closed doors. Otherwise, it is taboo. Why else does kissing only exist in Citrus and no other anime series this season? Of course couples kiss. Of course couples hold hands. And of course couples feed each other when they feel lovey-dovey. But we’re not supposed to see that. Whatever you guys do, do it in private. Don’t flaunt your love in public. It just makes others feel jealous and/or inadequate.

But aren’t these kids supposed to cultivate strong bonds with their partners? And how else do you achieve this bond with physical intimacy is off the table? Platonic relationships can be strong, but they can only go so far. In the FranXX, the pistil has to open herself up to the stamen. She has to let him connect with her and go deep inside her… consciousness or whatever. And yet, when they are outside the FranXX, the closeness between the boys and girls couldn’t be more… well, typical of anime. They live in separate wings of the dorm, which is understandable. Most places separate the sexes when it comes to living quarters. But that’s not all; Zorome literally kicks Zero-Two out of the boys’ wing. Girls can’t just not sleep in the same wing, they aren’t even allowed to wander into it. Likewise, these boys and girls also aren’t allowed to share the same table during meals. Ichigo only relents because no one wants to deal with Zero-Two. Nevertheless, as sexual as everything looks and feels within the mechas, the situation is equally sexless and sterile outside the mechas. After all, it’s kind hard to get in the mood if you’re praying that Papa won’t thirst. For most of the kids, their devotion lies with “Father” and country. On the other hand, Zero-Two is busy feeding her darling, and all Zorome can do is suck on his own wiener. Futoshi and Kokoro do, however, play along, and maybe that’s why they seem to be the only other couple with the least amount of drama… but we’ll see.

We meet the children of Plantation 26, and they have it even worse. There’s no sense of individuality between them. Everyday, everyone dresses the same, but these kids go even further: even their FranXXs all look the same. They say this allows for better teamwork, but homogeneity is a hindrance to adaptation. Sure, their team might operate better when everything goes by the books, but when disaster strikes, they won’t have the wide variety of tools at their disposal to survive. This is why genetic variation is a good thing in nature. And that’s the grander point that is being conveyed in this sexless universe — a universe where children pretend to do it doggy style and yet a vocal minority still feel the need to clutch at their pearls. Remember how those adults kept wanting to remove Zero-Two from Plantation 13? They didn’t want her to associate with tainted blood. Gotta keep her blood pure. No sex, remember? And yet, she herself is of mixed blood. The Klaxosaur blood that runs in her veins is what allows her to be so effective in combat, and the adults need that. They desperately need genetic variation in order to survive, and yet they condemn it. This contradictory nature is not a mistake.

The other Parasites are treated the same way. They need to cultivate strong bonds in order to be effective within the FranXX, but those bonds can’t be strong enough that they ever actually act upon it in real life. No sex is allowed outside the mecha. Hell, it’s not even sex. No affection allowed outside the mecha. Children don’t ever become adults. Children are, at best, just Parasites. They live just to die for the sake of the adults**. They don’t become families that procreate. Are they even human? So this brings me back to what I’ve been trying to get at earlier in this post. Because physical displays of affection like kissing and holding hands are only supposed to exist behind closed doors, it’s no wonder that romance in general will slowly fade away and be forgotten. They have no clue how to react and thus cope with any of their deeper feelings. How are kids supposed to connect with each other if they can’t even hold hands? The adults (society) wants one thing (more children for a stronger nation), but they do anything they can to prevent it (public shame). Hell, just look at a lot of the audience’s ridiculous reaction to this anime. “Darling in the Buttsex?” A little air-humping — no one’s even thrusting, by the way — and you think it’s too risque? You think it’s a slippery slope to anal? C’mon.

Unfortunately, there is a danger in becoming too attached. Most of the children talk about hot-swapping partners as if there’s no emotional component involved:

Kokoro: “Is he the kind of guy you’d like to ride with?”
Miku: “Better him than the boys we’re stuck with. Don’t you agree?”
Ikuno: “No. I don’t really care.”

To them, they may as well ride with anyone. These kids aren’t loyal. But Hiro can only ride with Zero-Two, and likewise, she kills anyone else who tries to partner up with her. Those two can only have each other and no one else. And this sort of monogamy has its benefits. No other mecha can outshine the Strelizia in combat. You can attribute that to Zero-Two and Zero-Two alone, but perhaps Hiro is the only person who can keep her from going out of control. Plus, there’s the fact that Strelizia needed Hiro before it could gain its complete form. Plantation 26’s squad leader refuses to work with Zero-Two due to her recklessness in the past. After all, she is rather disdainful of anyone who cannot keep up with her. In fact, if Hiro ends up dying due to her, then she coldly admits that this just means he isn’t strong enough either. Through their relationship, Hiro might be the only one who can give Zero-Two the human heart to serve as a counterbalance to the Klaxosaur blood in her veins.

But again, monogamy has its downsides. Who among us isn’t familiar with our close friends suddenly disappearing off the face of the earth as soon as they find themselves an SO? And this is the struggle that Ichigo has to face. Not only has Hiro’s re-emergence threatened her leadership — the girl often finds herself staring at her translucent reflection throughout the episode — she also finds herself completely useless as his childhood friend. He doesn’t need her. He doesn’t want her. He doesn’t even use her. Likewise, Zero-Two’s extreme attachment to Hiro continues to feed Mitsuru’s feelings of inadequacy. We’ve already speculated in the past that he has resented Hiro since their early days at the orphanage. Last but not least, Hiro can’t open up to anyone else. Goro tries to show concern for his roommate, but the latter simply brushes him off. Ichigo can’t even straighten up Hiro’s collar without him reacting to her touch with revulsion. Throughout the episode, he tries to pump the rest of the team up with generic platitudes about teamwork, but he’s completely oblivious to their deeper troubles. Obviously, Hiro’s in too much pain to be emotionally receptive to anyone but Zero-Two. His relationship with Zero-Two has physically manifested as some sort of vice around his heart. As Hiro reiterates his desire to be with her no matter how he ends up, the camera pans up to the glass ceiling, which fittingly resembles a spider web.

**What are adults anyway? Five episodes in, and we’ve hardly gotten to see any of the other adults and how they live. All we have are Nana, Hachi, Dr. FranXX, and Papa. From time to time, the adults throw lavish spectacles for the children, but who knows how real those ceremonies are. Any adult we see will have their eyes hidden behind a mask of some sort. We don’t even know if these adults have souls.

10 thoughts on “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 5: Codependency

  1. sonicsenryaku

    I’ma be straight up…I think some of the thematic undercurrents and characterization in this series so far are undercooked and lacking in their execution. Hiro’s speech in episode 4 is a good example; and this goes beyond the fact that it was cheesy or embarrassing. The show was clearly trying to elicit powerful emotions from the audience in a scene it felt had earned its cathartic payoff. *Whispers* No, it didn’t; there wasn’t enough character substance or effective build-up to earn such a melodramatic proclamation from Hiro to Zero-two. On the other hand though, I do find some of the drama with certain characters to be intriguing, particularly that of Ichigo’s what with her having to come to terms with the fact she feels like she’s been sidelined ever since Hiro got himself a girlfriend. I find your assessment of the emotional turmoil shes dealing with and the metaphorical implications of her conflict quite compelling and similar to my own.

    I’m not that much of a fan of Zero-two to be honest, which is odd because I’ve always been a fan of the go-getter, take action, don’t give a damn what others think type of character. With Zero-two, she feels less like a fully realized character and more like an avatar with pixie girl tropes slapped on top. The writing doesn’t do a good job of convincing me that this is a character who feels like an organic amalgamation of distinct behaviors consolidating into a personality; she just feels like she’s meant to meet a checklist of characteristics that reflect the quirky, eccentric, apathetic archetype she’s meant to be. Ena from Just because is a good example of how to do the proactive go-getting girl right in my opinion; she had agency, relatability, and meaning behind her actions. She was characterized very well, mostly because the writing made it a priority to craft interactions with the character that felt personal and illustrative of who she was and why her motivations are important to the narrative and what they say about her. Zero-two…ehhh…doesn’t quite have that level of care or skill being put into her; this is actually why i prefer Ichigo as a character over her.

    At first it seems as if Ichigo is being played up as the jealous childhood friend, but then the show plays starts some actual layers such as with her emotional hangups concerning Hiro’s safety and the role that plays thematically regarding Hiro’s desire to feel free and useful. Then you have ichigo’s romantic inclination towards Hiro and how that affects others around her, i.e. goro mainly, how it influences her decisions as a leader, as well as the emotional difficulties all these things present for her. There’s just far more to chew on when it comes to Ichigo; which don’t get me wrong, that alone doesn’t always have to equate to enjoying or liking a character more than another, it’s just that Zero-two so far feels like a caricature of the go-getting, eccentric female lead rather than a true character. There is an artifice to her construction that doesn’t grab me even though i can understand why she appeals to others. She has desirable traits without actually feeling desirable as a character, if that makes any sense.

    1. sonicsenryaku

      *but then the show plays starts some actual layers such as with her emotional hangups*

      I meant to say, “but then the show starts to reveal some actual layers what with her emotional hangups”

  2. Muphrid

    I think there’s another explanation for Hiro’s repulsion at Ichigo fixing his collar. By this point, he may already know about the growth on his chest. If she gets too close, she might discover it, especially if any of it goes up to his shoulders or neck.

  3. Miguel Ángel (@MickeytheKid92)

    So far, this is the best episode of the series. The person behind this episode was an ex-Kyoani worker. That explains why the episode is much more competent than the other 4 in terms of transitions and communicative aspecto of cinematographic planes. I know that subtlety don’t matter in this type of series, but this was the most subtle episode so far.

    I didn’t like episode 1 (that was an A-1 picture episode), but the next episodes had been decent (2-3) or good (4-5). This and episode 4 are the best of the series. After episode 2 I thought that I would dislike Ichigo, but it hadn’t been the case. I can understand that she and her partner have fear for the situation of Hiro. So far, this had been my favorite anime of the season. I don’t think this is the best series on winter, but this is the one I enjoy most.

    PD: Sorry for my bad English.

    1. Sean Post author

      I agree that the first episode is the weakest, but I don’t hate it. In terms of shows this season, I think A Place Further Than The Universe has been the most consistently enjoyable though it lacks the complexity of the other shows.

      1. Miguel Ángel (@MickeytheKid92)

        A Place Further Than The Universe is an anime I want to see, because my twitter friends are saying that is good. The problem is that I didn’t have time to see that anime, but I am not lying when I say that I have interest in that series.

        So far, I don’t remember a single season on 2016-2017 that had more than 2-3 animes I like. I don’t think we have an anime of the same caliber of Conrevo, but I am glad that this season have shows that are enjoyable.

    2. sonicsenryaku

      “The person behind this episode was an ex-Kyoani worker. That explains why the episode is much more competent than the other 4 in terms of transitions and communicative aspecto of cinematographic planes.”

      Yup, I noticed that. Explains why i found this ep to be the best so far.That and the fact that even though my feelings regarding zero 2 are lukewarm, the show set up some potential with her character this ep by hinting that this girl’s jaded outlook about the lives of others and here own reflect some sort of emotional defense mechanism on her part.

  4. Advaris

    I hope this episode means that the anime is going to move forward from the juvenile and stupid sex jokes. I mean it’s interesting to watch for a while, but those sex jokes just grow old fast. Not to mention, it’s just juvenile sex jokes.

    This anime can be a satire that mock the shit out of Japanese treatment of sex and all subjects related to it, and I seriously hope that it’ll take that road and also be good because it’ll be awesome. For all the talk from the “Japanophiles” or at least the ones that I had the misfortune to be acquainted with, Japan is supposed to be this land of high sex tolerance, unlike the puritan west with all of its censorship and shit.

    Of course, based on what I’ve experienced so far, despite its famous and industrious porn industry, Japan actually barely talk about sex. Talking about sex is like a game of you know, I know there or even worse like a juvenile sex jokes. So, I hope this anime can prove to me that it’s more than just a rip-off of various old mecha anime and pointless sex and fan service stuff.

    The two main characters also need to keep up with the side characters. The side characters seem to have more character than those two at the moment.


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