DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 6: What true partnership entails

The difference between Zero-Two and Ichigo is more than just skin-deep. Hell, the childhood friend can show all the skin she wants, but she still isn’t going to get her man. Everyone acts like this is a bad thing, but you’re not entitled to someone’s affections just because you’ve been in their life longer than anyone else. It simply doesn’t work that way. All the “nice guys” in the world would be leaping for joy if love simply came down to caring about someone a lot and knowing them for years and years. Goro pushes Ichigo to talk to Hiro, but enough with that. She doesn’t really understand him, which is what I’ve been saying for weeks and weeks. There’s no point in her confessing her feelings. Until she gets out of the mindset that she needs to protect him at all costs, she won’t ever be able to grasp what he’s going through. This is why simply being a childhood friend isn’t enough. Hell, the most damning part is that she can’t even confess her feelings and becomes a sourpuss when Hiro responds in kind. Ichigo tells him that she’s always thought of him as a sibling, so he tells her the same thing. She’s clearly not happy to hear that, though. The girl’s being ridiculous. If you don’t even have the balls to confess your true feelings, then you have no right to be bummed out.

On the other hand, Zero-Two is better for Hiro not just because she is upfront about what she wants from him, but also because they both push each other to be better than their current selves. This is what true partnership entails. The battle against the swarm of klaxosaur is underway, and a behemoth one — a Gutenberg-class — accompanies the stampeding horde of regular-sized beasts. The plan is to hold Strelizia out of the initial battle; they want to conserve the prized FranXX for when they truly need it. So during a lull in the action, Hiro asks Zero-Two why she continues to fight. Obviously, she’s not doing it for the adults since she seems so disdainful of everyone but Hiro. She replies that she fights because she’s a monster. That sounds odd, but she’s telling us the truth albeit in a roundabout manner. On the other hand, the Parasites — including Hiro — only fight for Papa. It’s their entire purpose in life, which sounds pretty pathetic. Even Zero-Two thinks the same and calls it lame. The timing of this conversation, however, means that Hiro will soon find a new reason to fight. And since she’s calling herself a monster, his new reason to fight will probably be for Zero-Two’s sake.

Mid-battle, Hiro starts to struggle, so Zero-Two asks him if he’s really that weak. This might seem cold on her part, but if you really think about it, our ideal partner should push us to be better than who we are. Our ideal partner should inspire us and not let us settle. Our ideal partner shouldn’t just love us for who we are, but also what we can become. In our day and age, however, we’ve become too sensitive about these matters. We think that if someone tells us we can afford to lose 10 lbs or shoot for a better raise, all of a sudden, they’re being abusive. Goddamn, you’re not being abused just because your feelings are hurt. So maybe Zero-Two’s tone is a little too harsh, but she’s new at this. Nobody said she was perfect. What matters is that as the series progresses she learns to become a better, more supportive partner while never allowing Hiro to settle. She can bring out the best in him without also coddling him. The kid was seen as a savant among his peers, wasn’t he? And I wonder if he simply stagnated because he never had anyone to push him out of his comfort zone until Zero-Two came along. When gifted children don’t learn how to fail gracefully early on in their lives, they tend to give up at the first sign of difficulty. Hiro was the same way in the first episode, and he almost gives up in this week’s episode.

First, he assumes that he and Zero-Two did manage to take down the behemoth klaxosaur. Second, due to his affliction, he also thinks he’s dead. He thinks he’s dead because he’s already willing to give up. And in his fevered mind, we see Hiro pitying himself. We see him telling Naomi, his previous partner, that he’s given it his all and thus he has no regrets. But even dream Naomi is right: Hiro’s not listening to what Zero-Two has to say because he’s too busy thinking about himself. Even if he has more compatibility with her than any other stamen, he also has to learn what it takes to be a properly supportive partner. Relationships take work, after all, and even true love will come with obstacles. This whole time, it’s been all about Hiro and how Zero-Two can help him realize his dreams of flying. But what does she want? What can he do for her after all that she’s given him? He tried to get at this when he asked her why she fights, but he didn’t push the issue enough at the time. In the end, he sees Zero-Two in his visions, but she turns away from him. He even wonders why she looks so sad.

Hiro finally snaps back to reality and sees Zero-Two desperately clinging to her humanity, but her grip is currently tenuous at best. The link between them has been severed, so it’s unlikely that Zero-Two was playing any active role in his visions at all. What he saw just now was born from his mind and his mind alone. This means that he’s always had an inkling of Zero-Two’s struggles, but he’s been so busy pitying himself that until now he didn’t bother to give her feelings enough consideration. In her frustration, Zero-Two cries, “Why, you… You’re nothing but a monster!” But again, don’t forget that she also thinks of herself as a monster. This is the duality of the conflict within her. She acknowledges that she shares klaxosaur blood, but at the same time, she fights to assert her humanity over it. In a twisted way, she hunts klaxosaur to prove that she’s not like them. It’s a bit dark, and it mirrors the way many people go after their own kind because they are in denial about themselves. Self-hating bigots do this all the time. I’m not calling Zero-Two a bigot, because the jury’s still out on the klaxosaurs and whether or not they deserved to be hated by humanity. Nevertheless, Zero-Two’s logic feels familiar, and up until now, Hiro hasn’t really grasp the totality of the anguish that afflicts our heroine’s psyche.

If Zero-Two’s partner goes down, she will still continue fighting. But as we can see from Strelizia losing its humanoid form, our heroine also loses her humanity if she has to go about it alone. That just makes sense. Humans are inherently social creatures. Without society, we’d fall easily to our base desires. Zero-Two won’t necessarily die right away if she’s by herself, but it’s unlikely she can survive for long. But more importantly, she’ll lose her sense of self, so it’s like death in a different sense. As she continues to struggle without Hiro, she’s becoming more animal-like and feral. Again, cynics will read this as if the girl needs a man to be whole, but as I’ve argued before, this is a horribly reductionist read of the story. In any case, Hiro finally opens his eyes and sees that he is not the only incomplete person in this FranXX. Zero-Two needs him as much as he needs her, so he gains a new resolve: he’ll fight for Zero-Two’s sake. All of a sudden, his affliction goes away. It’s as if his mind finally embraces his partner completely, so his body also stops trying to reject her. What Zero-Two needs isn’t just a partner that is physically strong enough to withstand riding with her. She needs a partner that isn’t afraid of her — she needs someone brave enough to be with her, and this reminds us why she found his taste so thrilling in the first episode. Ultimately, Zero-Two wants someone who won’t simply treat her as a means to an end but as an end in herself. She’s not a dangerous animal nor is she just a tool to be used by Papa and his cronies.

And with Hiro now supporting her, Strelizia literally gains its wings. It’s also nice to see him holding her up later as they exit Strelizia. Unfortunately, the rest of the gang continues to swarm to Hiro while Zero-Two remains by herself to the side. For now, she only has her darling and little more.

Misc. notes & observations:

— For real? That thing is really a klaxosaur? Dude, it’s a cube with horns.

— Hm, this episode doesn’t have an OP. I guess it’s that important. Get ready to see a pivotal moment in the story.

— Also, I just realized that Kokoro shares the same VA as Yuzuki from A Place Further Than The Universe. I can definitely hear it every time she speaks now. Meanwhile, Zero-Two is also Asuna from Sword Art Online. Well, everyone has skeletons in their closets. Let’s hope Zero-Two doesn’t also go from perfectly capable heroine to a gilded bird in a cage.

— Ichigo later tells Goro that she plans to save Strelizia for as late as possible. Is this tactical planning because Hiro gave her leadership his vote of confidence? Is this to prevent wear-and-tear on Hiro because she knows this will be his third time riding with Zero-Two, the partner killer? Maybe a little bit of both.

— This episode is all about taking down that huge pack of klaxosaurs after all the setup from last week. I get that. But I sincerely hope the story starts explaining to us what the hell these klaxosaurs are supposed to be after the dust settles, because after six weeks, I need a little more information (for once).

— The other squad’s FranXXs look so dull by comparison…

— The animation is pretty derpy during the hectic battle scenes. I don’t care if it’s a Trigger trademark; I think they can do better. The action itself is pretty fun, and I still very much enjoy this episode (hint: I like this show).

— We saw a swarm of enemies, so how come we now see Squad 26 take the klaxosaurs down one-by-one?

— Zorome and Goro are annoyed that Squad 26 sees them as a potential hindrance, but I actually agree with Mitsuru. It’s not just about how green they are. They have yet to carry out a successful mission without Strelizia’s help. Strelizia is not supposed to be a permanent fixture on their team.

— Futoshi goes, “Keep your paws off Kokoro!” This just confirms what we already know, which is that the girl is identified with the FranXX. After all, when she speaks, the FranXX also appears to speak. The guy is the pilot, but he also doesn’t really control her actions 100%. They seem to enter a shared mind space in which both members have to agree on what they choose to do next even though the division of labor is not always 50-50. I guess if you want to see it as the girls giving up their agency to their male partners, you can interpret that way. I think this would be horribly reductionist, but I’ve already argued that in my second post on the series, so I’m not gonna rehash my points again.

— Squad 26’s leader: “What’s such a skilled teen code doing in a makeshift test team? They even have 016.” Huh. More stuff that requires an explanation, but we probably won’t get one till much later.

— Why is Strelizia so much stronger than the other FranXX? I know it has to do with Zero-Two, but still… also, will we ever see its bestial form again?

— Squad 26 is annoyed that Strelizia decided to join the action early, but Hiro argues that he needs to help his friend. Again, the adults don’t give a shit about Squad 13. They’re perfectly okay with losing those kids if need be, and this has always been the case since episode two.

— Look at that “vaunted” teamwork. I dunno, it just looks silly to me.

— It’s time for the horned cube to step into the ring. I’m curious to see what this thing can do.

— And of course, it simply proceeds to transform into something vaguely humanoid. Also, it’s a Gutenberg-class, whatever that means.

— This mission takes place at night, so the colors are naturally muted a bit. That’s a shame. I rather like the show’s normally bright color palette. Somehow, the action feels a little less exciting because of the night effect.

— It’s a bit strange for Squad 26’s leader to suddenly run out fuel… why isn’t that something he’s keeping track of in the middle of battle? For such a coordinated team, you’d think they’d also be mindful of their goddamn fuel levels. Argentea ends up having to pull his ass out of the fire. Also, how come we don’t get to hear what his partner is thinking or saying? I guess they just didn’t want to bother writing her lines.

— Hiro’s affliction is now spreading to his head.

— Ichigo still wants to hold Strelizia back. Goro reasons that only the gifted FranXX can reach the behemoth klaxosaur’s core, and his partner replies with, “Oh, y-yeah.” Hm. I wonder if her leadership is wavering, or if she has slightly different intentions. I don’t think Goro has told her about Hiro’s problem… In any case, he wants her to stay focused. She had her chance to talk to Hiro, but now she needs to move on. She needs to set her feelings aside and carry out the mission as a leader. I don’t think she’s capable of that yet, so even though she makes the right call to keep Strelizia out of the battle, it’s not exactly for the right reasons.

— Damn, this Shadow of the Colossus remake comes with co-op and everything. Squad 13 even take out its knees to get the giant klaxosaur to fall to the ground for Strelizia’s killing blow.

— Hm, I don’t remember any of the colossi taking on this form, though.

— Well shit… speak of the devil, the bestial form is back.

— Man, those two are really taking a pounding from the klaxosaur.

— All of a sudden, Delphinium also goes out of commission because Ichigo assumes that Hiro’s dead. She doesn’t know that yet. She just jumps to conclusions, and that’s the problem. She only wants to protect him; she doesn’t believe in him. Simply loving someone and being devastated by their death is not enough to be their ideal partner.

—  This guy finally rears his ugly mug again. What the hell has he been up to for the past few weeks?

— Is this the first time Ichigo is calling out Zero-Two’s name in battle? Is she finally acknowledging the girl as an individual on these missions?

— Dr. Franxx: “That boy might just make Zero Two’s wish come true.” I guess we won’t know what that is till much later.

— Even Mitsuru looks happy.

— And now, more new faces and more code names. I wonder if they also have klaxosaur blood unless Nine Iota is referring to someone besides Zero-Two. I kinda just assumed…

— Also hey, no ED. Anyways, I’m still enjoying this. With Violet Evergarden plateauing as of late, this is now my second favorite show of the season (A Place Further Than The Universe is at the top).

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14 Replies to “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 6: What true partnership entails”

  1. I really cant get behind the main relationship of this series or any of the “emotional” moments they have in this narrative. On paper, it sounds like it has all this depth to it but the character writing here is really underwhelming; none of this shit resonates, like at all; at least with me. The interactions between Hiro and Zero-two lack most of the layered character work necessary to make this metaphor about relationships work; hell, they’re not even functional enough to carry the cathartic moments these episodes are clearly trying to hit their audience with. Why should i care about Hiro’s realization to be with Zero-two when up until this point, their interactions have been devoid of them actually trying to get to know each other as people? Hiro’s conflict beyond wanting to pilot the franxx has personal weight on paper but the writing stumbles with fleshing out this idea. Why should i sympathize with these two? Their relationship doesn’t feel meaningful; the show hasn’t done a convincing job of portraying these two as kindred spirits who find solace in each other and actively try to make each other better. All of this feels undercooked.

    Writing this now, it actually reminds me of the conversation we had about the narrative flaws of Xenoblade 2 that made it fall short of its ambitions, flaws that were compounded simplistic and sometimes clumsy execution; I see the same problems here. I guess what makes me so conflicted is that, while most of this show feels soulless (hate using that word but it’s a bit appropriate here), the mecha trappings that it uses scratches this itch of mine that ive been wanting to have itched for quite some time. Maybe the optimist in me remembers the good ole days of mecha anime with fantastic characterization like eureka seven and I earn for that magic again. I see this show and im like: you don’t compare to the quality of something like E7 but at least you have the superficial trappings of things i enjoy from this kind of genre. I feel compelled by intrigue to see if Darling in the Franxx can actually do something engrossing with its premise soon enough but then some of the more underdeveloped parts of this narrative ends up making me shake my head in dismay. Eh, but this will be the last week i complain; the indelible impression the show has made on me has been mixed with more disappointment than elation that i don’t think my viewpoints will be changing any time soon unless there’s an overhaul in the writing.

  2. Really good episode. I know that a lot of people will dismiss the relationship between Hiro and Zero 2, but this same people are the ones that forget that storytelling don’t have to be rigid in terms of how you can handle the story. I like animes that use the medium(animation) to express their message. Darling in the Franxx may lack the complexity of a real relationship, but I think it works because the show uses its elements in a way that can be both funny and interesting.

    1. “but this same people are the ones that forget that storytelling don’t have to be rigid in terms of how you can handle the story.”

      I hear you dude; I’m right there with you in that not every story has to strictly follow the basic principles of storytelling in order to be good. I get that there are some people who have an idea cemented in their head regarding how a narrative should be written/executed and if it does not follow those parameters, they are quick to exclaim that it is poor storytelling. I’ve expressed this opinion before and why this stiff mindset can lead to a narrow perspective regarding storytelling and its ability to evolve; why being so myopic about dynamic approaches to storytelling can be restricting to one’s growth as a person. However, you can’t always use that excuse to handwave problems in a narrative; not to mention at the end of the day, there is a bit of personal mileage to be had when responding positively or negatively to narrative structures that veer off the path of the norm.

      What i like to do as a way to avoid handwaving narrative issues as “different styles of storytelling” is to systematically deconstruct what it is the narrative is doing, analyze those pieces, link the pieces back together and then ascertain whether the style of storytelling maximizes the intent and goals the story aspires to achieve. Does this approach to the storytelling benefit the themes or drama aimed at the audience? If it does not work emotionally, does it work intellectually? Does the intellectual spill over into the emotional? If the answer to these questions are positive, the style is justifiable; if not, then it should probably be considered a flaw. Darling in the Franxx has a cheekiness about it that im all down for, but the way it handles its themes feel incongruent to its visual prose and its character writing. They are elements that don’t feel like they mesh; there are metaphors (at least some of the metaphors) that don’t feel like their say much beyond just being there. These are flaws i have a hard time being able to look past, especially the character issues.

  3. This episode is indeed much stronger than the previous episodes. It seems this anime is going to take the romance path than the satire path at the moment. I prefer if it take the satire path because I think it’ll be more interesting and more unique, but the romance isn’t bad so far, so I guess that it’ll be fine. Not to mention there are still a lot of episodes left at the moment, so there is still time for a lot of things.

    “Everyone acts like this is a bad thing”

    Yeah, it’s kinda weird that people even those who like the “boy meets manic pixie dream girl” in other stories think that the one in this anime is unnatural or whatever because other than a few differences that this anime have that I’ll address later, the romance of this anime is pretty much the same as those other stories.

    I mean we got the stupid, meet cute beginning, they click, the special girl causes the normal boy to become something special just like her, and suddenly they are ready to go on an adventure or other dangerous and crazy shit for each other. Their relationship advances in a speed that is just seriously too fast even if they are naturally compatible I think. And finally, this relationship advances not through a series of small moments that make them closer, cultivating in one strong moment that marks the level up of their relationship. But just through one strong, flashy level up moment like nothing happen for a while, then suddenly shit happens and they become closer. So, the flow of the relationship feels like it’s jumping from point A to point B instead of advancing normally.

    I seriously see no difference here between the romance of this anime and others of its ilk in a broad stroke.

    There are a few differences before, but those difference aren’t a bad thing. Most romance stories of this kind are dull and boring because its characters are flat and never grow in any significant way. Not to mention there are rarely any challenge to the character’s outlook or relationship.

    This anime has those two things. Of course, I can’t confirm their results yet until I’ve watch the next episode, so this anime can still screw it all up, but I believe that it won’t. Of course, I don’t think the conclusion of the romance of this anime is going to be different from others of its ilk, but the journey seems to be better.

    So, I don’t know. It could be that those people have childhood friend fetish or prefer a more traditional waifu heroine, but ultimately I don’t know.

    1. The show has never been satire. The first four episodes were camp, but camp and satire are not the same thing. The last two episodes have taken on a more serious tone, which might seem like a huge swerve after all the sex stuff, but it’s not a mistake nor is it an accident. East Asian cinema has a long tradition of mixing absurdity with romantic seriousness. Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s recent Before We Vanish is just one example. The movie happily oscillates between humor, blunt social/political commentary, and sappy Japanese pure-pure romance. I’ll concede that this mix isn’t for everyone; it’s an acquired taste and no one has to like it. But it is very much East Asian. But to bring this back to Darling in the FranXX, I’m having a blast with it. I write 1500+ words every week to tell people exactly what I take out of this show, so it’s annoying when people still ask me why I like it. I’m not saying you do it. I’m just speaking in general. It’s hilarious. If the huge post up top doesn’t convince people, some comment isn’t going to do it either.

  4. “The show has never been satire.”

    I know. It’s less of an observation and more of a wish because I think it’s going to make the social commentaries stuff stronger and make it stand out more from others of its ilk. Heck, this anime if you think about it is less Trigger’s extreme mecha action and more “boy meets girl” romance with a serving of camp and social commentaries about sex mainly. As I’ve types before, I don’t mind it, though. The romance is better than others of its ilk so far for reasons that I’ve typed in my previous post.

    Sometimes, I wish anime can let go of its compulsion to be “silly” and not be too “serious”. It limit its repertoire. It’s also funny that some have said that this anime is loose about following the basic principles of storytelling because as far I concerned this anime has been by-the-book so far.

    “I write 1500+ words every week to tell people exactly what I take out of this show, so it’s annoying when people still ask me why I like it.”

    Wait, people still ask you that question until now? I can understand people doing that during the first few weeks, but at this point. Seriously? Damn…

    I thought it’s already obvious why you like this anime. You’re not using some nigh-incomprehensible, esoteric words or mincing your words in your posts. Heck, your posts about this anime is the most extensive ones for this season. That is hilarious. Lol

    1. Heck, this anime if you think about it is less Trigger’s extreme mecha action and more “boy meets girl” romance with a serving of camp and social commentaries about sex mainly.

      This is it, basically. People came in expecting a new mecha series, so they compared it to all the old mecha series. So you get all the same old criticisms bandied about: derivative, unoriginal, tired, unsubtle. After a few weeks though, we need to look at the show from with a different lens. No one has to like it, but it’s clearly not supposed to be the next great mecha anime. It’s not the homage to mecha like how Kill la Kill was a celebration of shounen anime.

      1. It’s also kinda the anime’s fault for advertising itself as an extreme mecha action anime. Embedding is a thing and because of that, first impression does matter. Of course, at this point, it should be kinda obvious that this is a romance anime. If you remove the mecha/sci-fi element, you got yourself a high-school romance melodrama flick here. Lol

        I do hope the other aspects of this anime, the campiness and the social commentaries, aren’t left behind and also improve. Because I think romance alone isn’t enough to make this anime great. It’s going to be just good at best.

        1. It’s also kinda the anime’s fault for advertising itself as an extreme mecha action anime

          I don’t remember any of the PVs suggesting that this was an extreme mecha anime.

          1. That is what I get from the synopsis and the PV, though. It does have the “boy meets girl” romance stuff, but that stuff is pretty much the norm to mecha anime now, so I don’t pay much attention to them and I’m pretty sure that others do that as well. I guess I just focus on the mecha stuff at that time. I mean I thought this anime is just one of those mecha anime with a serving of camp and fanservice at that time. It just felt like one of those LN adaptation anime.

            1. I’m not going to sit here and argue what people did and didn’t perceive from some 30 sec PV. All I know is that I thought it would be a bigger mecha show, but it wasn’t, so I shrugged and move on. I don’t see it as a big deal especially after two or three weeks. Oftentimes, the writers have little control over what the marketing team decides to do anyway. I’m not going to say the story is negatively impacted because I was led to believe one thing over another by the marketing.

    2. “Heck, this anime if you think about it is less Trigger’s extreme mecha action and more “boy meets girl” romance with a serving of camp and social commentaries about sex mainly.”

      This is the main reason I’m so irritated by this show. It offers commentary on sexual dynamics – but only in the boy -> girl set. Nothing at all about alternative relationships. No polyarmory, no nonheterosexual relationships, no friends with benefits, no platonic, no alternative lifestyles.

      There’s value in delivering its story in a skillful way (and whether Darling does that is irrelevant here), but I personally just have no interest in this show or its future. I hope Sean enjoys it in future, and I wish it all the best.

      1. I understand what you’re saying. The conservative narrative woven into this anime is indeed annoying, but this anime also seem to want to play around with it, so it could turn out to be good I hope. It’s too bad that this isn’t a satire.

        And we’re talking about Japan here. Just like any other Asian countries, social progress is extremely slow there and I mean it. So, those stuff that you want in anime? Yeah, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

      2. First, we’ve seen six episodes out of twenty-plus that are possible. There’s nothing to suggest we won’t see alternatives in the future. Second, I hate purity tests. Let’s take polyamoury, for example. Studies say 5% of US relationships are polyamoury. Five. That number might be slightly larger or slightly smaller in Japan, but either way, it’s small. The idea that a show is completely worthless to someone just because it doesn’t meet the challenge of representing a 5% slice of the population is patently ridiculous.

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