DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 8: Battle of the sexes

Well, this is a sticky situation. But before we get into why Hiro’s practically cross-dressing, let’s start from the beginning. 

— The kids are in the middle of another battle as soon as the episode starts. We don’t really know what’s going on, but it’s okay. This foe isn’t really all that important, and neither is all the action. This is why I don’t really see this as a mecha anime. It’s more about a group of friends coping in a dystopian world than it is a mecha anime. Sure, they climb into giant robots every once in a while, but the action is not the feature attraction. In fact, the action is kinda mediocre. Nah, we’re here for the children and the children alone. We’re here to understand what it must feel like to be pushed towards sex even though these kids have never been taught what sex is. So if you started watching Darling in the FranXX in the first place because you were looking for a fresh and interesting mecha anime, I’m not surprised that you would come away dissatisfied and unimpressed. It’s really a different type of show.

— On that note, these mechas aren’t very well sealed. Not only that, the blue liquid proceeds to eat away at the pistils’ bodysuits. Oh dear. Just their bodysuits, though. We wouldn’t actually want to hurt the girls; we just want to ogle them. It’s also interesting to note that the girls have no clue what’s going on right now within the cockpit. When they are piloting these mechas, they become the mechas. They have to put a lot of trust in the boys and vice versa.

— Mitsuru barely has a reaction to Ikuno’s body. At least he’s well composed.

— As soon as we’re ready to wrap this scene up, Strelizia goes and finishes the job out of nowhere. It makes you wonder why she didn’t do this in the first place. Again, mecha action is not the focus here. It’s just a vehicle to help drive the main story forward.

— Nevertheless, I wonder when we’ll finally get to see the other FranXXs have their moments in the spotlight. Strelizia always gets to deal the final blow, and we’re already eight weeks into the story.

The basic girls are mad that the boys got to see them in a partial state of undress, but Zero-Two doesn’t really care. After all, she thinks parasites should actually be a little pervy. Unfortunately, Hiro thinks this explanation would help calm the girls down. He really is an idiot. Oh well, at least he can take solace in the fact that the best girl approves. Nevertheless, Goro’s right. If the girls are too embarrassed to fight, they could actually endanger the missions and themselves. It’s totally understandable why the boys didn’t say anything during battle. At the same time, however, the girls are allowed to be mad. They are allowed to vent. It’s just an unlucky situation.

— As a result of all this nonsense, Miku no longer wants to be around the boys. She goes to the extreme and draws a line right down their living quarters with tape. The three other basic girls seem to go along with it. Again, the show is just building upon a previously established theme. These kids are told to link up and have their souls deeply intertwined with each other. After all, you can’t have good combat efficacy if you’re not compatible like lovers. Yes, lovers. Just being close friends isn’t enough (see: Hiro and Ichigo). At the same time, however, they’re told to eat at separate tables, live in separate dorms, and are never taught anything that resembles sex education. This contradiction confounds not just the Darling in the FranXX universe, but a lot of our own societies as well. There are some cultures where nudity isn’t a big deal, but this is not one of them.

Here’s the thing, though: most children don’t grow up naturally feeling embarrassed or ashamed about sex. That fear has to be instilled in us. We have to be told that it’s wrong for boys to see girls naked and vice versa. You can’t shame sex and at the same time tell these kids that they must do it for the good of the nation. That makes no sense. It’s one or the other. I’m not saying that the girls don’t have a right to feel as though their personal space has been violated. That’s totally valid. At the same time, however, they shouldn’t act as though the boys had done anything malicious to them. Their knee-jerk reaction is due to growing up in a culture that shames sex. This same culture fills our minds with nonsense like how a girl’s purity must be preserved at all costs. As such, she is tainted if anyone sees her in the nude. That’s frankly ridiculous.

— Zero-Two doesn’t care, though. She’s going to be with her darling no matter what, which gets on Ichigo’s nerves. That’s why she’s the best girl. This shit is juvenile, and she knows it. It’s amusing, but childish nonetheless. Of course, that’s the point.

— Hachi: “It’s unprecedented for so many members of a squad to hit puberty at once.” Oh really? Too bad we have no point of comparison. Plus, Dr. Franxx tells Nana not to interfere because this is a test team. He doesn’t even want the Papa freaks to know about this situation. What are they testing? Why these kids and not any of the other squads? Something must currently be unsustainable about the current model if they feel the need to experiment, but I’m just speculating.

— Zorome’s not wrong. And apparently, it’s goody-two-shoes Goro’s idea. Ichigo notes that neither Futoshi nor Zorome would be clever enough to troll the girls. Harsh. Probably true but still harsh.

— Miku: “I wish the invisible caretakers would handle [cleaning the bath], like they do with our food and laundry.” Huh? I knew someone had to prepare their food for them, but I didn’t realize that the kids have literally met said person[s].

— Goro still has his heart in the right place. Too bad emotions are still running high, and as such, some girls are too stubborn to let bygones be bygones. Why do people even like Ichigo? She kinda sucks as both a leader and a friend. She’s maintaining this pointless feud for no reason.

— Although she refuses to pick a side, Zero-Two is in no rush to get everyone on the same page. She thrives on conflict, so this is all just an amusing diversion until the next klaxosaur strikes. Life is short, so she may as well have as much fun as she can. For someone like Zero-Two, it must feel as though death is always around the corner. Plus, this isn’t really her home. She may even feel as though she’s never had one. Maybe she’ll eventually grow close to the rest of her team as the story progresses — in fact, that is more than likely the case — but for now, she’s just here because her darling is here. And if Hiro could ever take a hint and run away with her, Zero-Two would probably be over the moon.

— Kokoro bumps into Mitsuru at the greenhouse, and she goes, “Hey, do you really not mind chatting with me like this?” He’s not chatting, though.

— Of course, everything is beneath Mitsuru. He’s the typical arrogant prick that every team needs (not really). Still, Kokoro finds his non-conformist nature courageous. How come she doesn’t say the same about Zero-Two? Plus, what is there to be scared of? What would the other girls do to her if she didn’t play along? I guess peer pressure’s a thing, but it’s not as if anyone’s a bully here. She fears retribution that doesn’t really exist.

— Kokoro still has that book about childbirth with her. Is it really something to hide and conceal? Is it considered forbidden by Papa and his goons? Or is she just embarrassed to take an interest in something can only result from sex?

— Ichigo wonders how long this fight will last, but she’s the one who held Miku back from joining the boys in the dining room. What does she even want from this? Does she want the boys to get on their knees and grovel? On the other hand, seeing as how Ikuno probably has a crush on Ichigo, she doesn’t mind maintaining this separation from the boys at all.

— This is getting stagnant fast, so Zero-Two decides to play both sides like the chumps that they are. She wants to shake things up, so this leads to an age-old anime trope. Y’know, the devil is also considered a trickster.

— Zero-Two would later explain her motives: “If you keep half-assing things like that, you’ll even up like the adults one day.” Her words can only fall on deaf ears, though. After all, these kids are raised to worship the adults. She’s the only one who doesn’t respect them, so they can’t possibly understand where she’s coming from. It’d be like me walking into a church and badmouthing Jesus. In any case, she then goes and throw in something ominous: “Because you’re all going to die sooner or later.” Welp.

— That girl is too dexterous with her feet. Hm, would you even call it dexterous at that point? In the end, however, even Hiro goes along with his partner and finds the whole thing amusing. At least there’s that, I suppose. In the end, Hiro always steps up for his girl. He just needs a lot of encouragement from her, which she seems to have an endless supply of.

— The girls wanted Zero-Two to join their side, and this is the latter’s way of feeling included. After all, they still treat her like an outsider if last week’s episode is anything to go by. Remember how Ichigo officially welcomed both Hiro and Zero-Two to the squad, but she conveniently did so while pink-haired girl was busy swimming in the ocean? That was no innocent mistake on Ichigo’s part. The childhood friend is hella passive-aggressive. And now, she and her posse only want Zero-Two’s help when it’s convenient to them. As a result, Zero-Two has no particular loyalty to anyone but Hiro. The resulting confession from our heroine is both amusing and sad; the girl is both independent and vulnerable. She belongs to a team, but at the same time, she kinda doesn’t. She tries to seem human, but can only do so at the expense of both groups.

— Nana has finally had enough, so she intervenes and scolds everyone. I guess even Dr. Franxx couldn’t hold her back forever. Of course, she’s not wrong. What would happen if klaxosaurs had attacked? But maybe this is a missed opportunity. Maybe the story should’ve done just that: pit these embattled kids into a sudden life-or-death fight to teach them a lesson about how petty their squabble really is.

— These kids aren’t even taught basic teamwork:

Hiro: “I’ve never spared much thought for how girls felt before now…”

Zorome: “Why bother? They’re weirdo whack jobs.”

How are you supposed to be a close-knit squad when there’s such a dividing line right down the middle of the group? Boys, girls, what does it really matter?

— Mitsuru: [Zero-Two’s] the ultimate pistil. She doesn’t need your support.” Nobody really needs anybody. We can all live on our own. It’s fucking hard as shit, though. We are all better with other people’s support. This isn’t rocket science. Mitsuru should be smart enough to know that.

— But of course, the running theme here is that a “monster” like Zero-Two is really just as human as you or me. As such, Hiro argues that she’s just “a normal girl.” Blah blah blah, the girls bear the brunt of the punishment in the FranXXs, and they entrust the boys with the piloting. The girls are always giving it their all. As a result, most of the boys agree with Hiro: they should do their best to protect their respective partners. Only Mitsuru stays silent, because there’s no love lost between him and Ikuno.

— Meanwhile, inspired by the book on childbirth, Kokoro plays peacekeeper on the girls’ side. Unfortunately, Miku is back to being stubborn. This is really quite silly of her, but someone has to cause a scene. Someone has to go run and hide, and as a result, stumble upon a photo of the previous Squad 13, kids who have all been wiped out. This cements the idea in the current team’s minds that their lives are precarious. Kids are supposed to live carefree. Kids are supposed to shoot for the stars and achieve their dreams. Not our kids, though. Squad 13, like every squad before them, are born and raised to die for the sake of the adults. They’re sacrificial lambs. Blind followers like Zorome can only hope to one day grow up to be an adult. How silly does that sound? But that’s their reality. They are children with no future.

— Everyone eventually agrees to make up because they don’t want to die. They have to suck it up and become better teammates so that they can’t let each other down in battle. Sure, the feud is finally resolved, but this is not exactly the most ideal outcome, is it?

— Things remain frigid between Mitsuru and Ikuno, but at the same time, he was a non-participant anyway. They just go back to square one.

— Hiro and Zero-Two never feuded in the first place, but they end up growing closer to each other anyway. Good ol’ teamwork. Take notes, Ichigo. Hiro should also be commended for taking active steps towards becoming a better, more supportive partner. He’s not being told what to do; he’s doing this himself.

— Damn, are we getting a new ED every week now? I still prefer the original one best.

9 thoughts on “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 8: Battle of the sexes

  1. Leivinia Birdway

    Aren’t these kids a bit too way selfconscious considering they don’t even know what a kiss is? I mean, is a bit weird they are worried at being naked and looking girls naked when they don’t even know what sex is.

    1. Sean Post author

      I don’t think it’s that unrealistic. A 10-year-old child should know to hide their nakedness even if they don’t really understand sex. It’s probably the same way with these kids. They’ve been taught enough at the orphanage. We just don’t know what exactly they’ve been taught. Plus, the story is being allegorical, so it’s not all that necessary to take everything literally either.

      1. Leivinia Birdway

        Or maybe they just wanted to force that typical scene for the lulz even if the context is questionable.

    2. sonicsenryaku

      Yea, but a 10 year old is not primarily hiding their naked selves with that the thought process that their being lusted after or oogled; they are doing so because their social environment (and a little bit of evolutionary programming over time) has taught them that their naked bodies is a private thing; kids learn this around the age of 5. The way the boys and girls act in this anime despite them supposedly being sexually inert is synonymous with romantic comedy hijinks that requires some awareness of boy and girl interactions on a sexual level. I think this has less to do with them understanding that they need to hide their naked bodies and more to do with the incongruence of the storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be willing to accept some excuses regarding the “inconsistencies” in their behavior; and you know what, you’re right that we don’t know what the kids have learned about male/female dynamics. You could argue that since squad 13 is special, Dr. Franxx may have taught them a bit about male and female interactions prior. Hell, kids start experiencing feelings of sexual attraction before understanding how to act on them or the actions that go into expressing them. However, I cannot escape the feeling that the scenes between these kids in the show come off more as the anime wanting to have its cake and eat it too, playing to romantic cliches while trying to simultaneously present these kids as ignorant to the ways of romantic intimacy. Any one only needs to break down the dialogue between these kids to see that this inconsistency is not intentional. There’s just something about it that doesn’t feel like it’s truly striking that appropriate balance. Mind you, i don’t think it’s serious enough to ruin the conceit of the show as this series is campy as hell to begin; a little inconsistency like that won’t kill anyone or drag down the quality of the show (kinda wish the writing was stronger though). However if we are to take this allegory seriously, it does ruin a bit of the immersion.

      Say what you will about Shin Sekai Yori, but i think that show is a good example in anime of constructing the concept of a group of kids who are supposed to be romantically disadvantaged and properly sells the viewer on that. To them, sex is purely instinctual and a means to only satisfy urges or abate physiological responses related to stress. There is no intimacy behind their actions and the show does a stellar job of establishing this social paradigm to which the story envelops its characters with. When the characters act in a way that hints at romantic emotions, its because they are beginning to break away from the social brainwashing that has been forced on them by their bureaucracy and learning to have individuality by breaking away from the chains set forth by such a society. If i had to criticize anything about the way shin sekai yori handles the concept, it’s that i wished the cast of characters were more fleshed out and realized so that them breaking away felt more impactful. The two main characters have a bit more texture in relation to the others in the cast, but that itself needed a bit more work.

      Regarding Ichigo being passive aggressive, while agree that she exhibits those tendencies, I don’t quite agree with your interpretation of her behavior. Your read of her kind of makes her come off as someone who is being two-faced and lying about her intentions (you can correct me if I’m wrong regarding this interpretation). In last week’s episode (and this week), you framed Ichigo’s actions almost as if the girl purposefully waited for Zero-two to isolate herself from the group before stating that she is accepting of both her and hiro to the team, a viewpoint that I think is a bit reaching. Hiro literally asks Zero-two if she wants to join the group at the campfire and she declines, offering to go swim instead. Sure, Zero-two might have been hoping for Hiro to go with her, but the girl also made a conscious decision to isolate herself from the group because she feels like she doesn’t belong (due to her existential complex regarding the state of her humanity) and also because she just doesn’t want to get attached to them (probably because of the truths she knows about the intentions of APE). I think you’re dismissing the fact that Zero-two isolates herself just as much as the girls don’t make many attempts to be inclusive of her. Hiro then goes to the campfire and the group has a spontaneous conversation about Hiro finding his place with the team. At this point, Ichigo just follows the flow of natural conversation and gives her blessings to both Hiro and Zero-two as team members. With as far out as Zero-two was in the ocean, would it have been convenient for Ichigo to go call out Zero-two to join the campfire after the girl has already made it clear by her actions that she’d rather be alone? Does Ichigo have to actively go out of her way to be inclusive of Zero-two for her feelings to be genuine. That just doesn’t seem like the organic flow of events that would occur during that situation. Sure, Ichigo could have gone above and beyond to invite Zero-two to the campfire, but again, their relationship is not there yet nor does it need to be there for the girl to be accepting of her (did anyone else go out to get Zero-two; some of the other girls don’t have as much beef with her as Ichigo presumably does). I just think it’s an extreme read to say that the character actively shows that she still doesn’t like Zero-two and that she’s being conniving about it.

      Ichigo genuinely does want to be accepting of Zero-two a person; however, she also sees her as a romantic threat and doesn’t want Zero-two to eclipse her when it comes to Hiro; that’s literally all it boils down to. Her feelings of Zero-two as a romantic threat are isolated from her acceptance of the girl. The issue now has nothing to do with trying to passively isolate her from the group or make her feel ostracized unless its convenient for her. Ichigo previous attempts to dismiss Zero-two was due to her having a bad rep at the time as she was dangerous for Hiro. Now that she seems less like a genuine threat, ichigo has backed down from seeing Zero-two as a harmful person and has become more accepting of her. The only thing here that Ichigo is contending against Zero-two with is Hiro’s affection; she doesn’t want to become irrelevant to Hiro just because he now has a girlfriend. That’s something that Ichigo has to learn to not be so insecure about but also Hiro has to be mature and conscientious enough to convey in return.

      1. Sean Post author

        Wait a minute, you told us this two weeks ago:

        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.

        I kid, I kid. You can criticize whatever you want. I just find it amusing. In any case…

        Your read of her kind of makes her come off as someone who is being two-faced and lying about her intentions (you can correct me if I’m wrong regarding this interpretation).

        That’s not my interpretation. I’m simply saying she’s passive aggressive. Lots of people are passive aggressive without realizing what they’re doing. Lots of people exclude others without realizing what they’re doing. Did she deliberately wait for Zero-Two to depart from the group at the end of last week’s episode? Of course I’m not suggesting that. I can’t read her mind. But is she displaying bad leadership by not being aware of the fact that Zero-Two is not there? Of course. Is there bad blood between her and Zero-Two? Of course. So it’s totally fair to draw the connection that perhaps she’s being passive aggressive whether she realizes it or not. Haven’t you ever told someone they’re being passive aggressive, and they deny it because they don’t realize what they’re doing?

        I also try to couch very writing in as little hesitancy as possible. I don’t want to hem and haw, i.e. “Oh I think,” “Now, this might just be a guess, but…” If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If evidence points to the contrary, so be it. It’s just anime.

        Anyways, I’m not going to rebut the rest of your comment, because I dislike that sort of thing anyway. You know, where people go through a long piece of writing, then cherry pick portions they disagree with while ignoring the rest. I hate when people do that to my posts, so I won’t do the same to others. I addressed the Ichigo comment since it was aimed directly at me with the parenthetical, but that’s it. Plus, I appreciate you reading my posts, but I just don’t think we’ll be convincing each other to change our positions anytime soon.

        1. sonicsenryaku

          “Wait a minute, you told us this two weeks ago”

          Hahaha i knew you’d say that and while i know you’re just teasing, in my defense I wasn’t necessarily complaining about the show. I’ve said all i need to say about it at this point and harping on what i think are flaws would just get annoying (Hell, I would be annoying myself). I complain only to spur discussion, not to get in the way of others enjoyment and I’ve got all that i can out of discussing this series’ merits. The only thing left to do is to finish the show and see if the “whole” recontextualizes the “parts” which also includes reading your post because they have interesting perspectives and I want to give you the viewership count. Changing your mind on the series was never really in the cards as i can tell how much you love it and I find that to be a pointless endeavor to even try let alone want to.

          “But is she displaying bad leadership by not being aware of the fact that Zero-Two is not there? Of course. Is there bad blood between her and Zero-Two? Of course.”

          Not so sure i can agree with the answer to the first question but i do the second. Yes, some people are passive aggressive without realizing it; but that’s why i said that while Ichigo displays some of these tendencies, her intent never feels as being purposefully exclusive of Zero-two. A good amount of the time, people who are passive aggressive don’t realize it not because they don’t know the intent of their actions, but rather because they don’t know that what their doing IS passive aggressive; part of it being a product of cognitive dissonance and the other part just not knowing what falls under the category of passive aggression. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve called out for being passive aggressive and they’re like: “Passive a-what?” and that’s usually because they are aware of how they’re behaving, but they don’t realize that the behavior is a form of aggression that does not paint them in a good light. Does Ichigo get defensive when it comes to Zero-two? Absolutely; but Ichigo genuinely wants to Zero-two to be a part of the group. Though I don’t think it helps when Zero-two purposefully antagonizes her, but you knowwwwww…

          “I also try to couch very writing in as little hesitancy as possible. I don’t want to hem and haw, i.e. “Oh I think,” “Now, this might just be a guess, but…” If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. If evidence points to the contrary, so be it. It’s just anime.”

          I’ve been around since your blog’s inception; I know how you get down and to be honest, I would find you writing, “I think” or “I guess” to be a waste of time. I, and most people should have enough awareness to understand that what you write are your thoughts/interpretations of an anime. One of my pet peeves is people expecting others to say, “in my opinion” whenever they state their observations on something that is clearly subjective.

  2. Miguel Ángel (@MickeytheKid92)

    Good article. I also dislike Ichigo as a person. I don’t hate her as a character, because I can understand the concept he represents, but that doesn’t mean that Ichigo as a person is someone I can stand.

    “— Damn, are we getting a new ED every week now? I still prefer the original one best.”

    I also prefer the first one.

  3. Advaris

    “It’s really a different type of show.”

    Yeah, if this is a mecha anime, they will solve their problems in their mecha, not in their dorm. Lol

    “Strelizia always gets to deal the final blow, and we’re already eight weeks into the story.”

    Yeah… I know that it’s the protagonists’ mech and it’ll always be stronger than the mecha of other characters, but this is starting to become ridiculous like “how humanity survive without Strelizia” ridiculous.

    “Why do people even like Ichigo? She kinda sucks as both a leader and a friend. She’s maintaining this pointless feud for no reason.”

    The creators of this anime seem to depend on her too much in order to create or prolong conflicts, but also doesn’t want fans to hate her too much. Yeah… they really need to make up their mind. At this episode, they try to use Miku, but ending up using her again.

    “Sure, the feud is finally resolve, but this is not exactly the most ideal outcome, is it?”

    The resolution (if you can call it that) is kinda anti-climactic, but it does spread the seeds of conflicts for later episodes, so I guess it’s okay for now.


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