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.