Presents? What’s the occasion? Well, it turns out that you get to request a gift from Papa once a year. Goro can’t help teasing Ichigo for getting a stuffed cat. Apparently, the girl always asks for something childish. On the other hand, I can’t tell what tell what Kokoro got. Is that a box of make-up or pastries? Or something else entirely? Ah well, it doesn’t matter. They better knock her episode out of the park, because at the moment, she and Futoshi are kinda boring. They bring the least drama to the group, which is good… but they also don’t really stand out in any other way (other than Futoshi’s bottomless appetite, of course). Last but not least, Zero-Two continues to separate herself from the rest of the group. I’m guessing she didn’t get anything from Papa. This sets us up for the two main storylines of the episode.
Zero-Two’s Sea Change
Hiro eventually takes Zero-Two aside and gives her a present just so she doesn’t feel left out. Whether or not he even realizes what romance entails, he’s at least a very considerate boy. He’s not perfect, though. First, it’s kinda lame that he got her a personal mirror. I don’t really consider that a good gift. Second, the personal mirror used to belong to Naomi, so Zero-Two’s just getting a hand-me-down from Hiro’s previous partner. To be fair, it’s not like he could go out and buy a gift. There isn’t exactly a mall nearby. He could’ve made something from his two hands, though. At the end of the day, however, I suppose it’s the thought that counts. And unless she’s putting on an act, Zero-Two appears to like the gift. This is one of the small things he can do to help her feel human. Being part of a family and being appreciated are all part of Zero-Two’s socialization.
Later that night, Zero-Two stares at her gift before looking out into the night. I can only wonder what is running through her mind. She seems fixated on her reflection, which would make sense. She has ambivalent feelings towards her own identity, after all. Is she any closer to being human? Or does she still see a monster in her reflection? Our heroine continues to oscillate between the two sides throughout the episode. When a mission to take out a Gutenberg-class klaxosaur hits a major snag, Zero-Two is predictably rather blase about the whole thing. And again, she accepts death as an inevitability. It seems as if she fights not only to kill monsters, but also because it’ll bring her closer to death. Being with Hiro and the rest of the team may change her outlook on life, but that’ll take some time. At that particular moment, she is closer to being a monster than a human.
Goro is trapped in the klaxosaur, and the rest of the kids express their anger and frustration over the situation. Zero-Two silently observes her darling as he clenches his fist in anger. I wonder what she’s taking away from this. She must think that her darling is being emotional and foolish, and yet, something about his reaction must intrigue her. This is what it’s like to be human, huh? She can’t deny her disdain, but the same time, she can’t deny her curiosity either. That’d be my first guess, but I’m charitable to the character and, by extension, the story. I find the current ambiguity surrounding Zero-Two’s true feelings fascinating. Even though she hasn’t been the focus in recent episodes — and likewise, she hasn’t gotten a whole lot of lines to speak — she’s still undergoing some pretty significant character development. There’s a sea change going on inside her, but we don’t know for sure what she’s thinking. She’s never had a darling before, and likewise, she’s never had to care for another team member before. These things are almost necessary, however, for her to become human. After all, humans are (for the most part) social creatures. Earlier on in the series, Zero-Two acted as if she didn’t care about Hiro’s fate. If he had died, it just meant he wasn’t strong enough. But after what they’ve been through lately, does she still feel that way? I don’t think she’s ready to risk herself for Hiro’s sake, but I have to imagine that she’d still be sad. You have to imagine that her feelings for the rest of the team is on a similar trajectory.
Near the end of the episode, the team finally hatches a plan to save Goro. But like all plans, this is a risky one. Ichigo will have to put herself in direct danger if she wants to rescue her partner. Hell, the team doesn’t even know if Ichigo’s suit will hold up long enough for her to reach Goro. As a result, Zero-Two tells Ichigo that she wouldn’t go to such lengths just to save a partner. This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care about her darling. Rather, she just wouldn’t put herself at such an extreme risk for such a small chance of success. Either way, we have some ways to go before Zero-Two will die for her teammates (assuming that she ever will). Again, it’s a sea change, so it’ll take time. Small moments like Ichigo saying that she believes in Zero-Two will eventually pile up in the horned girl’s heart until she can no longer ignore them.
Goro & Ichigo
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Goro’s feelings for Ichigo are starting to deepen. After all, they’ve always been there. But with Hiro and Zero-Two doting on each other lately, Goro’s feelings can’t help but treat his love for Ichigo a little more seriously. If he does confess, however, how will Ichigo respond? She’s in love with Hiro, after all. Second, how will Ikuno respond once she finds out? She’s in love with Ichigo, after all. Luckily for Goro, the main character isn’t really his competition at all. Some viewers even doubt if Hiro has a single romantic bone in his body. I don’t necessarly agree with those viewers, but I get where they’re coming from. Nevertheless, you gotta respect Goro for not harboring any resentment towards Hiro. Seriously, what a wholesome dude. He’s been support of the main character since the start of the series. He also tried to resolve last week’s conflict. Again, Goro is just a good dude. The only thing that you can maybe knock him for is ogling the girls at the beach.
After joining Ichigo to spy on Hiro and Zero-Two, Goro tries to have a talk with his roommate about love. Unfortunately, the latter is being rather dense about it, so Goro just comes right out and reveals his feelings for Ichigo. He then immediately goes to bed, but he also claims that he’s currently happy with the way things are. We’ll see. Once the chips are down, I’m sure his tune will change. Still, I wonder why he feels the need to Hiro first. Do they have the sort of dynamic where they can confide in each other about such personal feelings? Later on in the episode, Goro confesses that he was happy being second, because Hiro is special to him too. We don’t know why this is, though. I suppose that will have to wait til another episode, but this might explain why he feels secure enough to tell Hiro about his crush on Ichiro. It’s possible he might have wanted to gauge Hiro’s reaction, but he’s rather confident that Hiro doesn’t like Ichigo in that sort of way. In fact, he seems to think that Hiro is wholeheartedly in love with Zero-Two. While I don’t think Hiro is completely clueless about matters concerning the heart, I agree that he’s not truly in love with Zero-Two yet.
Anyways, you can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened to these kids if Zero-Two hadn’t shown up. Hiro would’ve departed from the group since he couldn’t find a suitable partner. Without Strelizia, most of (if not all of them) the gang probably would’ve already perished on one of the training missions. Likewise, Goro definitely would’ve never realized the true depth of his feelings. Zero-Two didn’t just save Hiro; she saved the whole gang.
Anyways, during the mission, Delphinium had to sacrifice itself in order to save Argentea from danger. And right before a big explosion could go off, Goro hits a button which sends the knocked-out Ichigo to safety. Apparently, the stamen can place the pistil into a protective pod then eject it from the FranXX in a dire situation. It almost looks like the mecha is having a big sneeze. There are no similar escape mechanisms for the pilot, and as a result, Goro remains trapped in the FranXX (which is trapped in the klaxosaur). He then falls unconscious for quite some time, because when he wakes up, the rest of the kids have already retreated back to the plantation. The pistil can operate the FranXX without a stamen, but it is apparently unsafe to do so. On the other hand, the stamen can’t do anything at all without its partner. This means that Goro is pretty much screwed. Nevertheless, he has a smile on his face as Ichigo yells at him. He’s just happy that she can even cry for him; he never thought she would.
In yet another flashback, we learn that Goro was not such a wholesome boy back at the orphanage. He picked fights with everyone in order to isolate himself; this was his coping mechanism. Still, Ichigo saved him by helping him beat up a bunch of kids. Nothing spells love like getting into a fight with your partner. He’s been in love with her since that day. Well, whatever it takes, I guess. Realizing now, however, that there’s a good chance he might die, Goro starts to deeply regret the fact that he never confessed to Ichigo. In fact, back at the orphanage, Goro and Hiro both had the same gift idea for Ichigo: a bird-shaped hair clip. Unfortunately, Hiro got to Ichigo first, so Goro stepped aside. Ichigo continues to wear the hair clip even to this day. It seems as though Goro always assumed that those two would be together one day. But now that Hiro has Zero-Two, he now has a chance that he can’t squander again.
Eventually, Ichigo puts herself directly in the line of danger in order to rescue him from deep within the klaxosaur. Her suit can barely hold up, but she can’t abandon her partner. She acknowledges that they are both helpless by themselves, but they always pull through when they are together. She’s always been too fixated with Hiro to truly realize this, but Miku (of all people) actually manages to talk some sense into the girl. And conveniently enough, Ichigo loses Hiro’s hair clip during the rescue. Since Goro still has the one that he made for her, he gets the perfect opportunity to confess his feelings. I like the fact that he held up his end of the bargain. It would’ve bene easy for him to just be happy that she came for him and put a rain-check on his confession. But instead, he doesn’t back down. After all, she has kinda saved him twice now. As a result, he confesses to her immediately after handing her the hair clip. Ichigo replies that she doesn’t know how to respond to his confession yet, but still, this is good. This is progress. It would’ve been tiresome if she was just going to pine after Hiro all series long. Hopefully, Goro’s confession will shake things up within the group, and both characters can go grow from this. Maybe she can finally step out of Zero-Two’s shadow and stop being just a childhood friend who finishes second. Goro is showing her the way by finally stepping out of Hiro’s shadow.
Misc. notes & observations:
— I’m surprised Hiro has to explain this tradition to Zero-Two. She’s never encountered this before? In any case, this explains why she didn’t get a present. She didn’t even know she could ask for one. What do you suppose Zero-Two would’ve requested? Maybe nothing since she is rather disdainful of the adults. As for Hiro, he requested an illustrated guide on birds.
— Papa’s message to the kids kinda suck. It’s cold and impersonal. The kids love it, though. What a buncha cultists. Hiro notices Zero-Two’s non-reaction to the letter, but how long is it gonna take for him to finally find out that Papa is a fraud? Well, since this episode is all about Goro and his feelings for Ichigo, I’m guessing not until we get through the gamut of character developing episodes. The overarching plot will remain at a standstill while the show busies itself with fleshing out the side characters.
— Ichigo likes to spy on Hiro and Zero-Two, but she’s not even sneaky about it. She’s doing it in plain sight. If Goro confesses his feelings, it’s not only good for him but good for her as well. Her obsession with the two main characters is starting to seem a bit unhealthy.
— Naturally, seeing Hiro give Zero-Two a gift brings Ichigo down. This is why you don’t spy on others. Out of sight, out of mind.
— Only three stuffed animals on Ichigo’s bed. I thought she would have a ton.
— A Gutenberg-class klaxosaur is headed right for Plantation 13, and that screen almost makes me think that a hurricane is about to strike.
— During the meeting, Hiro takes a peek at Ichigo. He’s still got last night’s talk with Goro on his mind, but the girl doesn’t know that. Luckily, nothing seems to come from this small moment. I was afraid she might jump to conclusions about him staring at her.
— These klaxosaurs are so odd. Not only can they can take on any form, they even affect the weather adversely. A lot of them don’t even appear remotely beast-like. At some point, the story will have to tell us what these things are. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be any time soon.
— It seems kinda foolish for Argentea to rush in head-first. Zorome has no clue what this klaxosaur is capable of, and Miku should’ve resisted his reckless impulse. Unsurprisingly, the pink-themed FranXX immediately gets tied up. Even after breaking himself free, Zorome goes and puts himself back into trouble. Isn’t Ichigo still the leader? Shouldn’t she still be calling the shots? Shouldn’t they have done some pre-battle planning?
— Goro instinctively saved Ichigo right before the explosion went off. I wonder if Zorome would have done the same for Miku if they had been caught instead.
— One thing I don’t like is how Ichigo doesn’t look remotely injured. Miku tells her that she should still be in bed, but there’s nothing about her that visually conveys the idea that she took any serious damage from the previous battle.
— I like how Zorome sneaks himself out of the frame. The guy talks a big game, but he’s afraid of Miku when push comes to shove. Unfortunately, his partner’s voice-acting feels a little too restrained in this scene. She’s supposed to be going off on Ichigo. You need to let it flow if you want to get through to someone like Ichigo, but I’m not feeling it here. The scene isn’t bad and the writing is adequate, but it’s the direction that isn’t impressing. A more concerted effort would’ve coaxed out a better performance from Miku’s voice actress.
— Save Goro? Puh-lease, says Hachi: “Our top priority is preventing the target from making contact with the plantation.” Basically, the team has an hour to save Goro. Week in and week out, the adults make it clear that these kids are expendable. What is it going to take before everyone wakes up and rebel against Papa?
— We know that the stamen can’t control the FranXX without the pistil, so Delphinium put itself into a fetal position on its own?
— So the plan is to drop Ichigo through a blowhole at the top of the klaxosaur, and she’ll swim her way to Goro. I’m just amazed she can remain in one of Strelizia’s hands like this without some sort of restraint to tie her down.
— Interesting face mask.
— Almost seems like Ichigo has to go through a sphincter-like opening in order to get through to Goro.
— Why did Ichigo’s entrance have to seem so angelic? Or is that just the thin air playing tricks on Goro’s mind?
— Way to ruin the mood.
— You might naturally wonder the following: if it is this easy for Delphinium to escape, then why did Goro eject Ichigo in the first place? Well, they didn’t know about the exhaust opening until Zero-Two had mentioned it in the meeting room. Goro didn’t know he’d be trapped in the klaxosaur either. He just knew that the mecha would take serious damage from the explosion, and as the pistil, Ichigo would bear the brunt of that punishment. He then assumed his friends would’ve destroyed the klaxosaur while he was passed out. Still, I agree that the show’s action is weak and uncompelling. Luckily for me, I like Darling in the FranXX for its character drama.