In this week’s episode, the kids are finally allowed to step foot inside their plantation’s city, and Zorome ends up getting more than he bargains for.
But first, we pay those so-called sages a visit. They’re amazed at Squad 13’s recent performances. More specifically, they are impressed by the fact that the team can work together so well despite their differences. At first glance, there’s nothing particularly revolutionary being explored here. Remember Squad 26 and how boring their FranXXs looked? Not only did they look boring, however, they even used the same weapons. On the other hand, Squad 13 is special, because every FranXX is unique. Every FranXX is individualized. The entire squad is also a group of kids with wildly different personalities. They’re not homogeneous like other squads. As a result, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.
And it is for this reason that Squad 13 is the experimental group. We can easily surmise that other squads are similar to Squad 26; conformity and homogeneity above all. This allows multiple individuals to quickly fall in line and work together as a team. They can thus easily realize their potential. Unfortunately, nature has always favored diversity. Even in society, we have thrived by specializing. We don’t all do the same type of labor. Rather, I might take up farming, you might taking up smithing, and someone else might take up carpentry. When we put our efforts together, we can achieve greater results than if everyone had been jacks-of-all-trades instead. But this is obvious, right? We all know this, right? Well, not exactly. Japan is a very, very homogeneous country. As a result, we often marvel at their sense of community and teamwork. At the same time, however, you can’t help but wonder if they are perhaps limiting their potential by refusing to diversify.
One of the sages feel uneasy about Squad 13’s uniqueness: “The future we at APE exalt is one of calmness and uniformity.” A species can survive without genetic diversity, but they are always under the threat of extinction should a disaster strike. It is much, much more difficult to adapt to the ever-changing environment around you when everyone is too similar. Maybe this is why humans have abandoned the outside world. They can only cope inside their hermetic plantations. This also helps us understand why Zero-Two would stare at one of the plantations’ golden cities and call it lifeless. She literally has klaxosaur blood running through her veins, so she’s all about being different. Her uniqueness is also what allows her to be so much more physically adept than everyone around her. In other words, it’s really quite amusing that the sages continue to pray at the altar of uniformity when they seem to depend quite heavily on Zero-Two’s abilities to save them over and over.
At one point in the episode, Ichigo remarks that she can’t even picture herself ever growing up and becoming an adult. What a weird notion. Of course, this shows you how expendable they are. They are born and raised just to die for the adults. And yet, this feels kinda familiar, doesn’t it? For over a decade, we’ve heard over and over how it’s especially bad to have a negative population growth. Why? Because most modern societies depend on an ever-growing workforce in order to keep up with the rising costs of pensions and social security. With an aging population, however, this is slowly becoming more and more difficult for Japan. There just aren’t enough young people in the workforce. Well, why don’t we just “create” more kids! Clearly, that hasn’t worked. The government has tried to encourage young people to get married and have children, but they just don’t want to for a myriad of reasons. One other solution is to open the borders up to immigration, but as we’ve already seen, Japan favors “calmness and uniformity.” Well, goddamn, something’s gotta give! As a result, Darling in the FranXX is exploring a dystopian future in which we’ve gone to the extreme of literally producing and exploiting kids just for the sake of the adults.
The episode opens with Zorome narrating to us. He seems to have a recurring dream that, at first glance, appears to resemble the experience of a child being born.
After the kids receive their medals, Nana relents and allows them to walk back on their own. The city is practically empty, though. You don’t get to see any of the adults. No wonder it’s considered lifeless. In any other series, we’d get those generic scenes of people going about their daily lives. We get nothing of that sort here. Not content to just return home after a short tour through an empty, lifeless city, Zorome sneaks off on his own. He eventually stumbles into one of the buildings, and it’s really quite stark in there. To contrast the gaudy golden exterior, these buildings are filled with nothing but cold and sterile halls of complete whiteness. The kid finally manages to spot someone walking in the streets, but they quickly disappear around the corner when Zorome calls out to them.
He tries to climb down a wall, which catches the attention of yet another individual. She seems initially frightened by him, and this reaction makes Zorome slip and fall. These adults have probably never interacted with children before. The kid ends up knocking himself out, and when he comes to, he finds himself in a woman’s home. I wonder how she transported him here. Anyways, she then tells him something curious: “You know how your body and other things are a little different from ours? The medical checker just wouldn’t work on you.” Is it possible that they’re not even part of the same species? Again, is it even possible that these adults are not even human?
After all, the adults look so weird from behind. Just some odd, humanoid-shaped silhouette of white. When the woman finally takes off her “hoodie,” she is revealed to be quite elderly. I wonder if the other adults are the same. I wonder if there’s even a single young adult in the city. Y’know, someone in their twenties. Anyways, Zorome observes the woman in action, and she’s going about her home with a spray bottle of disinfectant. Considering how old she might be, her immune system might not be so hot. Still, you’d think that with all their technology, their homes would be self-cleaning.
She eventually reveals that she has a partner, but not out of love or anything like that. According to her, they’re just “following an old custom.” Nevertheless, she says, “Life must’ve been so uncomfortable back then.” When Zorome fails to understand what she means, she adds, “Well, they had to rely on others for every little thing. Doesn’t that sound really annoying?” The old woman then offers to introduce the kid to her partner, and it’s just some guy strapped inside a chamber. He’s been in there so long that she can’t even remember what his voice sounds like. What’s the point of being partners if you don’t even need to speak to them? She says that neither of them are dissatisfied with each other, but they also can’t argue that they are satisfied either. These people are so afraid of pain that they’ve stopped living altogether.
At one point, her partner smiles, and the woman says, “He’s getting his dose of happiness.” Sadly, this is what the kids are dying for. Happiness is no longer something that an individual can strive for. Happiness no longer has to be achieved probably because the struggle is so “uncomfortable.” Instead, happiness can just be attained through a drug. Kids are sacrificing their lives to help these old people cling onto their zombie-like way of life. One can only wonder why they all haven’t resigned themselves to these “pleasure machines” for good.” Just hook yourself up to a virtual world. Why even bother with this corporeal existence? Our flesh will eventually fall apart after all. Wouldn’t that be horribly uncomfortable to experience?
All of a sudden, the woman collapses in place because she feels tired. She doesn’t look incredibly old, but you never know how much that is due to technology. Someone simply in their 60s wouldn’t just randomly fall to their knees. She also adds that she isn’t used to talking to someone as much as she’s done today. Man, interacting with others can be so uncomfortable! After all, she doesn’t talk to her partner at all. They don’t meddle in each other’s lives (or lack thereof). As a result, Zorome starts complaining about how Miku nags on him all the time, so the woman suggests that maybe he should change his partner. This quickly makes him admit that he’s not really all that bothered by Miku’s personality at all. He then goes on and on about how she’s actually kinda cute, so he has this urge to protect her.
But listening to him has tired the old woman out, so she arranges to have someone pick Zorome up. When she returns, she finds him in tears. He’s suddenly been hit with a wave of sentimentality, but he can’t quite comprehend his feelings. She feels familiar to him, but they’ve never met before. He confesses that he feels as though someone’s always been looking over him, but she counters that she can’t protect him. After all, it’s the other way around: the kids protect the adults. Still, it appears as though Zorome has always been yearning for a motherly figure in his life, and the old woman stirred up those desires again. When he adds that he hopes to one day become an adult like her, she can only give him a quizzical look. He asks if they could be friends again one day, and she says no. But before she can explain why, her sentence gets cut off. The authorities have come to take Zorome away, but they have to scan him first for whatever reason (radiation?). One of them refers to Zorome as one of the “infected children.” The other guy says, however, that the kids are “basically victims in all this, too.” Hm.
In the end, Zorome reveals to us that he no longer sees that recurring dream anymore. Maybe a small part of the illusion has been shattered for him. On the plus side, he has a better appreciation for Miku now.
Zero-Two’s continued struggles
Something is bringing Zero-Two down. She hasn’t really been energetic self ever since she got that present (a mirror) from Hiro. On the one hand, she appears to be changing on the inside. In last week’s episode, she kept saying over and over how she doesn’t dislike all of the mushy friendship stuff that goes on with Squad 13. On the other hand, nothing has changed for her at all on the surface, and maybe this is why she constantly stares at her reflection. She still sees herself as a monster despite everything. Hiro asks his partner what’s bothering her, but she replies that she’s just thinking about something. “What are you thinking about?” seems like a natural follow-up question. Unfortunately, we only get to see Hiro walk off with Zero-Two. We don’t know if he pressed her any further on the issue. He likely didn’t.
Hiro spends a lot of the episode stealing glances from Zero-Two. He can tell that something is wrong. More importantly, she needs someone to reach out to her. Not only that, they have to be persistent about it. Unfortunately, that’s probably reserved for another episode. After all, Hiro tries again to ask Zero-Two what’s bothering her, but she continues to stonewall him. He might be her darling, but she doesn’t actually trust him with her feelings just yet. And with that, he gives up again. I feel as though he needs to try a little harder, but a mixture of mostly cluelessness and a tiny bit of fear paralyzes Hiro. He’s still not comfortable treating Zero-Two as a romantic partner even though she’s been constantly flirting with him up until now. This reflects the fact that their relationship isn’t really all that deep… not yet, anyways.
Right before the credits, we see Zero-Two examining her fangs. Is she becoming more beast-like? Although Hiro is slowly improving as a partner, I wish he’d take a more active role in helping Zero-Two out.
Misc. notes & observations
— It sounds like this week’s episode will focus on Zorome. If they’re going to devote an episode to each Squad 13 team member, it’ll be a while until we finally get back to the main story. At the end of the day, it all comes down to execution. If they do this well, then it isn’t a problem at all.
— Here’s this week’s token klaxosaur. Also, Ichigo seems content to give Strelizia all of the finishing blows. After all, they have to prioritize survival above all else, and if Strelizia’s spear is the best weapon for finishing off these monsters, then so be it. The problem is that Zorome isn’t content to be a sidekick, so Argentea steals the kill instead. Since this week’s klaxosaur doesn’t seem all that threatening, Zorome’s recklessness doesn’t cost him and Miku anything. In a more serious battle, however, Argentea’s lack of range is a huge hindrance.
— At some point, Mitsuru’s ego will get the better of him as well. He might try to pull the same stunt.
— The sages intend to give Squad 13 a bigger challenge. Not only that, the kids will have to “undergo maintenance in the lab at once.” That sounds ominous. To keep spirits up, however, the sages agree to “reward” the kids.
— Zorome and Miku continue to butt heads, but every pairing is different. This might be their way of expressing the fact that they care. If they ever stop arguing, it probably means that they’ve given up on their working relatonship.
— On the plus side, Ichigo sees those Hiro and Zero-Two doing their own thing, but she doesn’t make a fuss about it. Progress?
— Papa intends to award the kids with medals, but Zorome doesn’t even know what a medal is. The other kids know what they are, though. Maybe Zorome’s just dumb. The bigger news is that everyone will be allowed to visit the golden city that Zorome loves so much. Naturally, he’s ecstatic. On the other hand, Zero-Two tries to walk away in disdain, but Nana gives her some bad news: they’ll be conducting some tests on the girl. Zero-Two replies that she feels fine, so she’ll pass on them. I wonder if the adults will actually let that slide. I also wonder if the tests truly make her body feel terrible. Maybe it’s just psychological. No one likes to undergo tests.
— The kids’ outfits are lame. Thankfully, Zero-Two doesn’t have to wear the same get-up.
— Even the city is homogeneous. Why does everything have to be golden?
— Can those guys actually see out of those… hats? Helmets? What do you call those? Are their eyes so sensitive that light shouldn’t go near them? Hell, can we even be sure that they’re human?
— He then walks up to Zero-Two and calls her “a former Nine.” Huh?
— Zorome sticks his hand out to the adult, but the guy just turns away. I guess nobody shakes hands anymore in this dystopian future. Way to leave the poor kid hanging.
— Goddamn Futoshi was hoping for some grand banquet in their favor. His episode better be good, because right now, he’s just played off as some fat kid for comic relief.
— Some structure with a honeycomb pattern opens up and lets out some steam. The kids marvel at it. Odd. It doesn’t look particularly special to me. Maybe this is what it’s like to be in a cult; everything impresses you.
— Things are still a little awkward between Ichigo and Goro.
— Even the food is all about uniformity. The kid finds it delicious, though.
— Is… is that her heart on the outside or just a design quirk on her outfit?
— Zorome asks the woman if she’s going to eat anything, but she says she can’t enjoy the sense of taste anymore. Basically, she’s so old that her taste buds have died off. Christ, how old are these guys?
— People are going to complain about the show’s lack of subtlety, but as I’ve repeatedly argued before, subtlety is overrated. A show isn’t inherently superior just because the viewer had to put in more work in order to understand it. If you only like something because you managed to figure it out and others didn’t, then isn’t that just a bit masturbatory?