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.
— 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).