After all the near-death drama from last week’s episode, Darling in the FranXX decides to take a breather and indulge itself in a light-hearted beach episode. I know, I know, I’m not fond of beach episodes either. Nevertheless, this week’s offering is still rife with critical character development and crucial clues about the show’s setting. We also continue to build on the show’s overarching themes about Japanese society in general. First, some good news: Hiro and Zero-Two are now officially partners; Papa and his ilk can’t deny this any further. More importantly, most of the kids have given up on the idea that Zero-Two is some sort of partner-killer. But she does kill her partners. Just not Hiro. I mean, would Mitsuru want to ride with her again? I think not. Nevertheless, Ichigo continues to remain somewhat distrustful of the two-horned girl. I’m sure there’s no bias there. She concedes that Zero-Two is exactly what Hiro needs, but… is she really okay with it? I doubt it. That’s not an enthusiastic smile. More importantly, however, we need to talk about what’s good for the nation versus what’s good for the individuals. For instance, Ikuno’s mood and tone shifts dramatically when she’s talking to someone other than Ichigo. When we see them walking together later in some mysterious forest, Ikuno even brushes Ichigo’s cheek in a rather affectionate and intimate way. It sure seems as though she’s into Ichigo, who is sadly in love with Hiro and Hiro alone. Can these two girls even become potential partners in the future or are they bound to their respective partners? Only time will tell.
Nevertheless, you can’t help but wonder how she and Mitsuru are even compatible in the first place. She’s so cold to him, and he’s too self-centered to care about anyone else. Maybe their disdain for the world is what makes them compatible, but that seems ultimately dysfunctional to me. Rather, I don’t think they’re compatible at all. They might eventually become compatible later in the story, but not right now. I suspect they only became partners because a computer determined that — given what we have — this was the best course of action. What does this mean? Well, at one point, the boys drag Hiro away from Zero-Two just to grill the latter about the act of kissing, so you know sex education is bad nowadays. I joke, but this truly is the case. These kids are completely clueless about any sort of romantic interaction. Goro even asks Hiro if it’s possible for two people to be closer to each other than merely partners. He doesn’t even know what it means to love someone. That’s sad. I don’t mean sad in a pathetic way; rather, it’s sad in a dystopian sort of way. The show’s naysayers have been so busy railing at the show’s poor attempt to mimic sex that they’ve overlooked the fact that this universe has an unhealthy, altogether incomplete understanding of relationships for a reason. This is a reflection of a certain modern society. This episode is building upon themes that have been established weeks ago. Is there procreation in this world? Is there real sex in this world? Hell, is there even real love in this world? How can two people be compatible if they lack the concept of love?
You can imagine how partners might have come into existence in this universe. Faced with the encroaching threat of the klaxosaurs, humanity has no choice but to pair people up via metrics. This is the only way to get the best out of the FranXXs. In other words, we don’t have time to wait for people to fall in love naturally. We don’t have time for people to date around and explore their compatibility. Let’s just hook these kids up to machines, and let the numbers tell us what to do. Pairings like Ikuno and Mitsuru are the result. There’s no loved lost between those two, but when you need soldiers and you need soldiers now, are you going to wait and hope to find better partners for these two kids? Or are you just going to force them together in order to fight for the better good of society? As outsiders, we might find this odd, but it’s really not. For the vast majority of human history, marriage has never been about love. Even now — all around the world — people marry all the time for politics or convenience. This age-old tradition then runs headfirst into contemporary, modern values in which love is seemingly the only reason to ever get married. We naturally assume that in a conflict, one side will eventually win out. You either continue getting into relationships for pragmatic reasons, or you get married to your partner out of love and love alone. But what if both sides end up annihilating each other? What if both options slip out of our grasp and our society no longer gets married, no longer has babies, and no longer get into long-lasting, rewarding relationships? Can a society really sustain themselves for long like this? That’s the anxiety that every first-world nation eventually comes to face, isn’t it?
What we do know is that the adults do not care about the children. Squad 13 would’ve been wiped out weeks ago if not for Zero-Two’s intervention. Wherever these kids came from, there are others just waiting in line to replace them. The adults do not have the children’s best interest at heart; they only care about themselves, which, of course, is framed as the better good of society. Hiro has yet to fully doubt the adults’ intentions, but he does at least question the need for humanity to live within the plantations. Why lock ourselves up when the world around us seems so beautiful and serene? This of course makes him blasphemous in the eyes of the other kids. It’s just that moving into the plantations haven’t exactly protected mankind from klaxosaurs. They’re still being attacked, so what’s the difference with being attacked inside a plantation versus being attacked outside one. Unfortunately, the other kids are fully indoctrinated: “I mean, the adults used to live in these drab outdoors, but now they live in bright, sparkling cities! And we’re the ones protecting their lifestyles! We’re being useful to them!” More importantly, Zorome thinks he’ll eventually be rewarded with adulthood. Imagine that. Adulthood is the end goal. When you follow a religion, you hope to one day enter heaven, achieve Nirvana, or what have you. For these kids, it’s adulthood. Childhood, on the other hand, is the brutish, punishing everyday experience that they must devoutly endure. If Hiro wants to depart from this cave of half-truths and mistruths, he can only turn to Zero-Two.
At one point, Zero-Two directly confesses to Hiro that she wants to be with him forever, so naturally, the story has to find a way to force them apart. As such, we see a flashback in which Dr. Franxx warns Hiro to avoid letting Zero-Two consume his emotions. So is our hero supposed to withhold every single one of his emotions from his partner? Or does he simply have to keep her from devouring them all? The distinction is important. You can’t really be a good partner if you’re not emotionally open and available, so this feels like the adults wanting Hiro to sabotage himself. Zero-Two was already useful to them; while they were hoping to find a suitable partner for the girl, they didn’t exactly need someone like Hiro to unlock her full potential. What if they’re actually fearful of what Zero-Two is capable of if she sticks with Hiro? What if they’ve always been fearful of true compatibility and the potential it has to disrupt the current status quo? Plus, who’s trustworthy here? How does Hiro know he can trust a guy he’s just met? Unfortunately, these kids have been brought up in a world in which they are meant to revere and sacrifice everything for the adults. You can easily substitute “adults” with “overall good of the nation.” For now, Hiro still lacks a single rebellious bone in his body. Zero-Two has often tried to lure him away, suggesting that they run off and abandon society altogether, but he doesn’t even understand what that would entail. Our heroine is the only person who is truly disdainful of the false paradise around her. She seems to be the only person who’s remotely atheistic. If she wants to help her darling, she’ll have to convince him that Papa (God) is actually dead.
And yet, Zero-Two won’t go unopposed. At the end of the episode, Ichigo says she’s going to officially introduce Hiro and Zero-Two to the group, but Zero-Two is not there. The girl is still busy swimming out in the dark all by herself, but does Ichigo wait for her to return? Of course not. Once again, Zero-Two’s treated as an outsider. These sweet words about teamwork and friendship are all for Hiro and Hiro alone. On the surface, this campfire scene feels warm and reassuring. After all, who doesn’t love to feel as though they’re a part of a family? But when you peel back the layers, there’s a dark undercurrent. Ichigo (inadvertently or not) continues to ostracize Zero-Two. Of course, the two-horned girl taunted Ichigo back in that abandoned city, but the latter has distrusted our heroine since the start of the entire story. No one’s completely innocent here. The point is, all this talk about teamwork and friendship is hollow when one of your team members can only look from afar. Ichigo then goes on a walk with Hiro later and tries to remind him of a childhood promise that he had made to her. Instead of looking forward, she has him looking to the past. Without truly realizing what she’s doing, Ichigo continues to represent the status quo, i.e. the safe option of the childhood friend. Return to the past. Fulfill your old promises. Never grow up. Zero-Two’s work isn’t done yet.
Misc. notes & observations:
— Goddamn, it’s a beach episode. Well, after all the serious stuff, I suppose the gang needs some downtime. Let’s just hope they do something interesting with the obligatory beach episode. I’m also somewhat surprised that Zero-Two went with a one-piece swimsuit.
— Miku: “Being on break doesn’t mean you can get carried away.” Welcome to the “No Fun Zone,” where running and screaming on a beach is forbidden. Miku’s words are even worse when you hear what Kokoro says next: “This is our first time seeing an ocean that’s okay to swim in.” The first time! Who wouldn’t be excited to see the ocean for the first time?
— But where did they manage to find this place? Where in this world is there suddenly clear blue skies and sandy beaches? Apparently, it’s just right outside the plantation. Huh. It looks perfectly safe and inhabitable. Why did humans decide to go and live in the plantations instead?
— Goro’s so boring, he wonders if this vacation is actually a training exercise in disguise. Bro, let your shoulders down and just relax.
— Mysterious guy: “Who would’ve thought that failure of a special specimen had so much ability?” Another guy then goes, “I wish he’d shown us this from the start.” “He,” they said. They’re talking about Hiro. I didn’t know Hiro was a special specimen. Funny to get this bit of info now. I initially thought they were referring to Zero-Two. We then learn that Hiro needs to bring the girl to the “Grand Crevasse,” which sounds rather overtly sexual. But you know how it goes. Everything else out of their mouths (do they have mouths?) are purposefully vague.
— “One of APE’s special forces = Zero-Two, apparently.
— We are also finally introduced to this dude. If you don’t recall who he is, he referred to someone (likely Zero-Two) Nine Iota at the end of last week’s episode. Maybe he’s another member of the APE’s special forces. They all seem to get snazzy military jackets to wear. Hiro needs to update his wardrobe.
— Apparently, it’s dangerous to send the kids to the beach by themselves? Maybe we’ll get some action in this week’s episode after all.
— Oh? Does all-too-pure Goro actually have a vice? He goes onto say that he’s a guy too, so how is he “supposed to ignore this marvelous view?” It would probably shatter these guys’ minds to know that girls also like to take in “marvelous view[s].” You think those shirt-less boy idols in Japan were just a coincidence? C’mon. It’s one of those things I wish anime was more progressive about. Stop pretending that half of the world doesn’t harbor any semblance of sexual desires. Have you ever listened in on girls-only talk? It’s just as raunchy, man.
— Is there anything more intimate than sex? How ’bout getting through a life-or-death situation with your partner? Sadly, one of the show’s overarching points has to be spelled out to viewers. All the pretend doggystyle stuff is just pretext to true compatibility. Listening to your partner and supporting them through a life-threatening battle is everything. One is played for humor and the other is dead serious. Unfortunately, people got all pissy about the humor, which is ironic. Anyways, what’s the point in our boy hero being shy now? He’s already seen her at her most vulnerable and vice versa.
— Also, he’s seen her naked before, a fact which she points out. Then again, you could argue that swimsuits and lingerie are much sexier than just plain nakedness. You could argue that. But I subscribe to the School of Michael Scott:
“Let’s face it. Most guys are from the Dark Ages. They’re cavemen. And they like a woman to be showing her cleavage and to be wearing eight-inch heels. And to be wearing see-through underpants. But for me, a woman looks best when she is just absolutely naked.”
— The mark on his chest is a reminder that all of our partners leave something indelible behind after their time with us. And it doesn’t make us less beautiful or less worthy.
— Zero-Two says that “you should only kiss the person you love, okay?” But… you two have already kissed.
— Wow, you make it sound so hot.
— Oh man, wait till you find out what else you can do with your mouths! Ten simple tricks to drive her wild!
— Also, Futoshi’s eyebrows look like walnuts or whatever.
— With Ichigo joining the party, I’m ready to move on from this scene. I don’t really want to bother with her blushing, stammering, and pretending that she doesn’t know what a kiss is. Liar.
— I don’t think that this is the Grand Crevasse that those guys were referring to, but it certainly looks like some sort of crevasse to plunge into. Apparently, Mitsuru went off on his own at some point and found this place. There’s like an entire forest in here.
— Goro admits that while he has fun with Ichigo, their relationship also hurts him sometimes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t love there, though. Love hurts, man. But it’s okay. Exercising hurts too, but it makes us better in the long run.
— At the end of the path, the kids stumble upon an old, abandoned city. It seems remnants of a long, lost civilization still remains. Have we… have we actually been on Earth this entire time? Is this our Planet of the Apes moment? But yes, this is a dystopian future — a dystopian future in which concepts like childbirth and babies are completely alien to our kids.
— The kids end up exploring a mansion that very much resembles their current boarding house. Ikuno speculates that perhaps their home has been modeled after these old buildings.
— This show is just rife with meme potential.
— Zero-Two doesn’t know that Ichigo has kissed Hiro, though. I wonder if she would honestly get mad if and when she finds out. Is she a jealous sort of person?
— Anime food. The funny part is that the food just showed up out of nowhere. Someone dropped by and set it all up… then just left the grill running. They were that confident that the kids would make it back in time before everything overcooked.
— There’s no honey on it, so Zero-Two just stares at her skewer with disinterest.
— Later that night, Hiro and Ichigo go on a walk and gaze at the constellations in the starry night sky. Apparently, he had made a childhood promise to her. I’m not really feeling the chemistry between them, though. Nothing here screams romance. Friends can make promises, too.
— Ichigo then tries to argue that the kiss they shared was important and special, too. But was it really? She said the kiss sucked. Why is she lying to herself? I mean, I know why but c’mon… give it up. She’s pouring her heart out to him, and yet, his mind is wandering. Sure, shooting stars are special. Shooting stars are one-of-a-kind events. But so are confessions. If I’m truly interested in a girl, and she’s telling me something important, I’m not going to interrupt her. It’s not like the shooting stars are going to disappear instantly if I wait a couple seconds to let her finish what she wants to say. The difficult truth that Ichigo won’t swallow is that Hiro just doesn’t think of her that way. Honestly, I really don’t want to go through an entire series with her competing hopelessly for Hiro’s affections. I understand why it’s necessary due to what Ichigo represents, but it’s still a drag. I hate love triangles or any other love polygons.
— Then we get a new, crappy ED. Boo. Bring back the old one. I really hope it’s just for this episode, because a montage of beach scenes wouldn’t make sense for any other episode.