DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 13: Fairy tale romance

With Zero-Two threatening to devour Hiro’s emotions, the latter ends up diving deep into the depths of his partner’s mind. What he finds in her memories hardly resembles a monster. For as long as she could remember, Zero-Two was always treated like an animal. She found herself confined to a room as a child, and we must remember that solitary confinement has a terrible effect on our mental health. Hiro can’t really relate. Sure, he was confined to the Garden, but he also had friends. I can’t even imagine how a young child would cope with solitary confinement. This might also explain why she currently has such disdain for the plantations. When we paid a visit to Plantation 13’s city in a previous episode, we saw how bland and lifeless it had looked on the inside. Even to us, they resembled lifeless prisons.

Zero-Two even used to be chained to the wall. Memories are unreliable. There are memories that Zero-Two can’t really recall, and likewise, there is a figure in her past that she can’t quite remember clearly. Still, she used to have someone who would treat the girl with kindness. She couldn’t free the girl, but she must have loved her like a parent. So one day, her caretaker brought Zero-Two a picture book, and we now know why she was tearing up the library in last week’s episode. All of a sudden, the caretaker disintegrates in Zero-Two’s memories. According to the girl, the woman never returned. I doubt she got in trouble for giving Zero-Two the picture book. After all, they would’ve confiscated it long ago if that had been the case. Rather, the woman probably gave Zero-Two the picture book because she knew she could no longer return. Knowing that this would be the last time she could pay Zero-Two a visit, the caretaker decided to give the girl something invaluable.

The perspective eventually switches over to Hiro back when he used to live in the Garden. He was always different from the other kids, because he was quite introspective as a child. He even tells us later that he was the only kid who would ever ask the adults any questions. Obviously, he never got any answers. Still, kids are naturally inquisitive, aren’t they? It’s probably a safe bet that children in this universe are artificially created. After all, nobody even has sex anymore. So at some point, they must have come up with a way to create children without sexual reproduction, but the process is not perfect. We are later told that the lower your number, the greater your chance of becoming a Parasite. As a result, some of the children don’t come out right. Some of them don’t behave like humans, so they lack the potential to be good Parasites.

Hiro went through his own battery of tests, but nothing that appeared to be too cruel or sadistic. One day, he saw Zero-Two being dragged through the Laboratory just as he was leaving. We later see her stripped naked and strapped to an examination table. The girl underwent scarring and traumatic experimentation over and over. It’s remarkable they managed not to break her mind. Dr. Franxx can’t believe that Zero-Two “[had] developed such a human form.” They must have been creating human-klaxosaur hybrids for quite some time now. But even though he marveled over her human form, he and the other scientists in the room certainly didn’t treat her like one. They shot holes in the poor girl just to test her superhuman healing capabilities. After all, the man himself appears to be half-machine. The irony here is that he’s even less human than she is.

Back in the Garden, children would disappear overnight. It must be painful to wake up one day and find your friend missing. Not only that, you have to live with the possibility that you too will disappear one day if Papa no longer loves you. If you’re not a good candidate to become a Parasite, then you’re just a waste of resources to the adults. They don’t need useless children. This was when Hiro started to lose his trust in the adults. He always asked them questions, but he was starting to concern them. The adults feared that the kid would have a bad influence on the other kids, and they’re not exactly wrong. But interestingly enough, Dr. Franxx wanted to keep Hiro the same; he wanted to see what Hiro might become.

Hiro once again wandered through the halls one day and came across Zero-Two being practically tortured in the name of science. Honestly, there are a lot of interesting experiments that we have yet to conduct because they’re simply not ethical. Clearly, this dystopian universe has no such barriers. Shocked by cruelty before him, Hiro resolved to run away with Zero-Two. He ended breaking her out of her prison by climbing a tree and easily shattering the window to Zero-Two’s room. You’d think they’d put up sturdier windows to prevent Zero-Two from escaping, but this minor oversight isn’t really all that important to the overall story. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but when Hiro reached out to the frightened Zero-Two, his shadow resembled the caretaker in her memories. I’m not saying that they’re one and the same. Of course not. Rather, they were the only two to ever treat the girl with any sort of kindness, so the imagery here is possibly deliberate. After all, when he patted her head later, he instantly reminded her of her caretaker.

We see a solitary floating feather over and over in this episode. We first see it when he spied through the window to her room, and we see it again when he broke her out of that same room. This feather reminds me of both Zero-Two and Hiro’s monologues at the very start of the series. Y’know, about that species of bird that requires a partner in order to take flight. Zero-Two and Hiro appear to have always been fated for each other. They’re “imperfect, incomplete creatures,” and they must lean on each other in order to take flight. We see this demonstrated over and over throughout the story. Hiro can’t pilot without Zero-Two, and Zero-Two devours anyone who isn’t her darling. But the metaphor extends to their first meeting as well. Had Hiro not freed Zero-Two from her prison, who can really say how much longer she could’ve endured all that painful experimentation. She might have given up on life at some point. Likewise, seeing her horrible treatment is what eventually gave Hiro the impetus to openly rebel against the adults. He would only ever ask questions. Zero-Two inspired him to actually defy their overseers.

Naturally, Zero-Two didn’t know how to speak back then. I can’t imagine anyone would bother teaching her any sort of language. Hiro tried to name her, and I think Oni would’ve been cool, but in the end, Hiro opted for Zero-Two. Well, we now know where the girl got her name. Anyways, Hiro wanted to run away with Zero-Two, but since they were only children back then, his plan wasn’t very well thought-out. There was no way they could get very far, especially in the harsh environment around them. They had no food nor shelter. They had only the clothes on their backs, and two pieces of candy. Still, this was when Zero-Two developed her sweet tooth, and in return, she shared her picture book with him. Everything about her personality stems from the one precious day she got to spend with Hiro.

The fairy tale appeared to be a variant of “The Little Mermaid,” and likewise, it also had a sad ending. In the story, a princess gave up her wings in order to become human and marry the prince she loved. Unfortunately, her happiness was short-lived, and she was cursed to turn back into a beast. She could free herself from the curse by murdering her true love, but in the end, she opted to sacrifice her own life. Zero-Two has obviously been modeling her life after her favorite story. Even the witch explains the girl’s insecurities: “No matter how you disguise yourself, you are a beast…” A ll we can do now is and wait and see if the rest of Zero-Two and Hiro’s story will follow the fairy tale as well.

Unfortunately — and inevitably — the adults caught up to the kids. To them, even Hiro was expendable; Zero-Two was all they wanted. And this was when the girl felt that she and Hiro were too different — that his blood is red and hers is blue. She was a monster and he was not. But is this really true? Back in the present, we see Ichigo desperately trying to subdue Strelizia so that she can get Hiro to safety. From what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it appears that Zero-Two can’t permanently maintain her human form. With every passing day, her facade threatens to shatter. She will eventually revert back to being a beast like the princess in the picture book. No matter how much time she spends with Hiro and the rest of Squad 13, she can’t become them. Not on a biological level, anyways. In fact, there’s the possibility of Hiro turning into a beast like her. That is her curse.

But then again, is that really a danger? What’s wrong with becoming like Zero-Two? At first, I thought that Trigger and A-1 Pictures had made the girl’s beast-form too cute and adorable, but maybe that’s the point. Why do we hate ourselves? Why do we call ourselves ugly? Are we really all that different from the people that we admire? Zero-Two wants to become human, because she doesn’t think a prince could ever be in love with a beast like her. But that’s not really true, is it? And that’s something we all have to asks ourselves when we look into the mirror everyday. Are we really as ugly and horrible as we think? Do we really need to change ourselves as much as we think we do?

In the end, Hiro recovers his repressed memories. He remembers his promise to Mitsuru, and he even remembers how the adults treated him. I’m interested to see how he makes up with Mitsuru and if the latter will even be receptive to Hiro’s efforts. I also want to see how he acts towards Papa and the rest of the adults from here on out. I’d be disappointed if he still trusts them. He’ll have a hard time convincing the others (but maybe not Zorome after what he’s experienced). But more importantly, Hiro remembers the girl with the picture book, and she remembers him:

Misc. notes & observations:

— Huh, it looks like Zero-Two used to have a lot of stuffed animals too. In another universe, she and Ichigo would probably be best friends. In this universe, however, their relationship is about to go all the way back to square one. That’s what I imagine, anyway. Hiro will still insist that Zero-Two’s perfectly safe for him, but Ichigo won’t initially believe him.

— The picture book has neat-looking art. I can’t imagine that this current society is very interested in creating this sort of thing, so this picture book must be rather old.

— Speaking of numbers determining your potential, can’t two kids can have the same number then? Also, Ichigo’s number is lower than Hiro’s, so she apparently had more potential than him. That makes sense, I guess. She’s currently the leader of Squad 13, after all. Potential isn’t just about being a good pilot.

— You receive quite an education in the Garden. I’m not going to stare too closely at that blackboard, though.

— Anyone below 099 got special treatment and not in the good way.

— As a young child, Ichigo couldn’t quite cope with the fact that she was different from everyone else. The other kids are emotionless — almost catatonic even. On the other hand, she and Hiro can keenly feel and express their emotions. Apparently, your emotional capacity determines your ability to become a Parasite. What’s also interesting is that Ichigo found differences to be scary. To help cheer the girl up, Hiro gave her a name. In doing so, he taught her that it’s okay to be unique. They don’t need to share everything. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a small part of Ichigo still holds onto her fear of differences. Maybe this is something to examine in future episodes.

— Hiro eventually went on to name all of the kids… like this shy boy who will eventually grow up to hate his guts.

— The adults weren’t happy to see Hiro giving everyone names, but they didn’t punish him either.

— We get to see the scene in which Hiro had promised to pilot with Mitsuru. Now that he and Zero-Two are connected through Strelizia, all of these old memories are bubbling up from the depth of Hiro’s consciousness. It also now makes sense now why the other kids feel as though Hiro’s personality suddenly changed one day. The adults messed with both his and Zero-Two’s memories to prevent them from clearly remembering the time they spent together. Mitsuru was just collateral damage.

— Man, the girl ate a poor rodent. The rest of the rodent family must be devastated.

— Children need to play, and Zero-Two was no different.

— Your mouth isn’t sterile, kid. Hiro read in a book that animals lick their wounds to induce healing, which is true. For instance, cat saliva contains enzymes that encourages blood clotting should the cat ever suffer a serious injury. At the same time, however, you never want a cat to bite you, because their mouths are full of bacteria that your body can’t ignore. Nevertheless, Zero-Two likened Hiro licking her wounds to a prince kissing a princess’s hand.

— I don’t know why we don’t get to hear the rest of Hiro’s promise. He obviously promised to be her darling.

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11 Replies to “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 13: Fairy tale romance”

  1. This episode is a genuinely good episode and turn point. I’m a bit irked at the “Oh, look it’s another childhood friend.” but I guess it’s unavoidable in anime. At least, this is more interesting than usual.

    I also wish Hiro’s character development is more natural. I mean the sudden return of the lost memory is fine I guess, but I wish he already showing signs of rebellion against the adults before the flashback and the flashback just seal the deal, but it’s better than nothing I guess. I could speak too fast and it turns out Hiro still trust the adults somehow in the next episode, but it doesn’t make sense for Hiro to still trust the adults.

    Zero-Two’s “beast” form is pretty much pink-haired scanty and kneesocks. Lol

  2. “I don’t know why we don’t get to hear the rest of Hiro’s promise. He obviously promised to be her darling.”

    OR

    He promised to be her “Daddy” * makes a smirk face*

    Ok, probably not. But that would be a great plot twist, wouldn’t be?

    1. Yeah, I think that’s what we all thought when we saw that scene.

      “Is he saying daddy?”

      Ten minutes later.

      “Oh for fuck sake, ‘darling’ is in the show’s title. I’m an idiot.”

  3. Eh, I don’t think you can compare the anime version of “ugly” to the human version of it. The character is designed as such in order wring out as much sympathy as possible from yet another sad childhood friend backstory. Someone who’s objectively ugly IRL is probably not going to inspire other people to become “ugly” for their sake just because said other people felt bad for them.

  4. From a writers point of view, the story so far has good setups of character develops and mysteries being slowly pays off. I am surprised that the script devoted entire episode to supposedly side characters, in which explores adolescence of teens and world development via the eyes of the kid in the city. it has a lot more than the shallow fan service centric promotional material used to draw audiences at the beginning. Lets hope this don’t suffer like Macross Delta, goes all down hill after the half way point….

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