The battle for the Gran Crevasse is underway, and Zero-Two’s leading the charge. Unfortunately, Strelizia is firmly locked in beast mode. Ultimately, none of those stamen could last with her. Could she have spared them? Maybe. Look, don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t think Zero-Two is a moral, ethical being. She’s practically a feral beast. But this is just the classic nature vs. nurture argument. Of course she’s dangerous to Hiro, and if you were his friend, you’d be justifiably concerned about him spending time with her. Nevertheless, the devil is in the details. A closer examination of Zero-Two’s origins clearly reveals someone who had been made into a beast. I’m not talking about the klaxosaur blood running through her veins. I’m talking about the relentless physical and mental torture that she had to endure. Any human would go rotten in her place. Let’s not pretend otherwise. So the follow up question is whether or not she can be rehabilitated. This is why I don’t agree that she and Hiro should’ve been separated. Again, she’s dangerous, but if there’s a chance that he can restore her humanity, I think that’s far more important than his own personal safety. If you think that this is going to “all lengths” just to defend the girl, then so be it. I’ve made my case and I’ll stand by it.
Hiro initially has to stay behind, and this makes sense. After all, I was afraid that Ichigo might’ve been stupid enough to go into this dangerous battle with him as her stamen. But for now, Squad 13 will engage the mission without Hiro. Nevertheless, the team appears to be in good spirits. They all seem practically unnerved by the fact that they’re about to head into the most dangerous battle of their lives. Are they just putting on a brave face for Hiro’s sake? After all, they wouldn’t want him to worry. Or do they genuinely think that the magic of teamwork will help them pull through? But no matter how optimistic his teammates might look, Hiro must be in the dumps. Not only has he lost Zero-Two, he can’t even be there for his friends when they need him. They’re putting their lives on the line, and he finds himself back at square one: grounded like a useless, flightless bird. What has he been fighting for all this time? Didn’t he want to fly at all costs? Didn’t he risk his life with Zero-Two just for the chance to taste freedom? And now he’s just going to sit back and take it? I can’t see that. That would be terrible for his characterization. Hiro would essentially be going backwards. Plus, he knows deep down that the adults have no need for useless children. Even if he can successfully link up with Ichigo, it would still leave Goro as the odd man out. There’s no positive outcome here. One of them will be screwed either way. Either he forces it with Ichigo and Goro disappears, or he disappears. As a result, he has no choice but to reunite with Zero-Two.
When the perspective switches back to Zero-Two, we see that her horns have grown out of control. Actually, they’re now more like tree roots than they are horns. Similarly, any sign of humanity has left her eyes. Nevertheless, Strelizia quickly dashes to Plantation 13’s defense when a behemoth klaxosaur punctured the city’s dome. Is she just looking for a fight or does some small glimmer of her still care about the city? The answer to this question is not so clear cut, because even in her bestial state, Zero-Two can’t help but cry out to the void that the line between her and her bestial side is blurring. She doesn’t want this, but the human aspect of her personality no longer has any control over her actions. As Strelizia struggles to with itself, Dr. Franxx watches from a safe distance and compares Zero-Two to a klaxosaur, a proud but lonely beast fighting out of instinct. Hiro instantly leaps to her defense, but just an episode ago, he couldn’t help but call her a monster. This guilt instantly weighs on his conscience. Granted, everyone’s emotions were running high at the time, and after what she had done to his friends, you could say that he was justified in calling her a monster… but deep down, he knows now what he has to do. If he truly believes that Zero-Two is more than just a beast, then he needs to put his money where his mouth is and go to her. Like him, Zero-Two isn’t complete without her partner. We all need someone. Hiro just needs one final push to summon up his courage.
Hiro thus visits Zero-Two’s room one more time. As he examines her claw marks on the walls and ceiling, he wonders what she had wanted to tell him right before he pushed her away. He eventually discovers that the girl had tried to fix his gift to her. She tried to mend the broken pieces of her personal mirror with scotch tape right before she left the team. If only it were that easy. If only her humanity could just be held together by some tape. She can’t do it alone. More importantly, this is her way of expressing remorse. She’s sorry that things turned out this way. She’s sorry that she ruined Hiro’s gift. She’s sorry that she used him. He had been trying to reach out to her all this time, but because she tunnel-visioned so hard on becoming a human for her darling, she was blind to the fact that her darling had been right beside her all this time. No, this is not complete absolution for Zero-Two, but it’s a step in the right direction. The girl has a character arc, and she’s slowly inching her way towards rehabilitation.
With his resolve now firmly steeled, Hiro finally hops into a training unit in order to make his way to Zero-Two. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get far before the tiny vehicle falls apart. Nevertheless, he’ll crawl his way to Zero-Two if he needs to. After all, he’s realized that there’s nobody else for him but Zero-Two. It’s more than just about flying. He wants someone to help him stand up against the adults. He needs someone to help him question their motives and why the world around them has to be the way that it is. All of the other children simply adore Papa. Hiro can choose to remain ignorant too, but a certain emptiness within him will always gnaw away at his soul if he closes his eyes to the truth. He needs to fight back against that feeling, and he needs Zero-Two for that. He needs to convince his friends to help him, though. Most of all, he has to convince Ichigo, who still wants to protect her first and only love at all costs.
And seeing Hiro’s desperation, Goro also finally stands up for what he believes in. Despite Ichigo’s wishes, he stops Delphinium in its tracks and gives up his seat to Hiro. He’s not doing it for Ichigo’s sake, though. He’s doing it so that Hiro can actually get to Zero-Two. Goro is an interesting side character, and I like how his arc has developed. He doesn’t deserve to be loved by Ichigo just because he loves her back, but it’s not just about that. He’s also Hiro’s friend. He’s been capitulating to Ichigo’s whims and desires because she’s the team leader — and also, because he loves her — but no more. After seeing what Hiro is willing to put himself through just to get to Zero-Two, how can a true friend not support that? This is a great step for Goro as a character, because he’s coming into his own. He’s more than just a guy who loses to Hiro. He’s more than just a guy who pines for Ichigo. He’s not just another NTR meme. He has his own beliefs and he gets a say, too. They all get a say. This is not just the Ichigo show.
Is it Hiro’s determination that’s allowing him to link up with Ichigo? When his and Ichigo’s minds connect, the girl can’t help but see that Hiro’s thoughts are completely dominated by his feelings for Zero-Two. There’s no room in there for her at all, so she has to admit defeat. If she truly cares about Hiro, then she has to relent and help him reach Zero-Two. To be fair to Ichigo, Goro is right in that a part of her worries about Zero-Two. Obviously, she cares about Hiro far, far more, but it’s not like she hates Zero-Two. Furthermore, I never argued in last week’s post — or any previous post, for that matter — that she hated the pink-haired demon girl. Rather, Ichigo was just thinking for herself. She was being selfish, and using her love for Hiro as a front to cover up her selfishness. It’s not that she doesn’t care about Hiro. Obviously, she does. It’s that she wasn’t considering what he truly wanted.
Ichigo’s main flaw is that she’s too much of a parent. Your parents always want what they think is best for you, and until they see you as an adult who can make his or her own decisions, their love for you often leads to overprotectiveness. They value your safety over your dreams, because they can’t stop seeing you as their child. While you are content to live and die for the life that you want to live, they don’t want to feel the pain of losing you. This is Ichigo’s conundrum. Not only does Hiro want to fly, he also wants to question the adults. He wants to go out into the dangerous world and learn more about it. Ichigo loves him, so she just wants to protect him. She thinks nothing could be worse than him dying. Sure, he might be a little unhappy under her wings, but her love for him can make up for that… or so she thinks. She doesn’t realize, however, that keeping him cooped up like a caged bird would feel just like dying but in a different way. Every parent must eventually let go of their children. It’s Ichigo’s turn to let Hiro fly. Like Goro, it’s her turn to take a step forward. As the old adage goes, if you love truly love someone, let them go. So with Ichigo’s help, Hiro manages to pilot Delphinium all the way to Strelizia, but then Ichigo suddenly takes over. She starts picking a fight with Zero-Two, because even though she has admitted defeat, she still needs to let off some steam. We can’t hold this against her, though. After all, it’s easier for Hiro to board Strelizia if it sits still. Ichigo isn’t just raging out for rage’s sake, but it still must have been cathartic to slap Zero-Two around a bit.
In any case, Hiro eventually climbs back into his old seat, but the controls are unresponsive. Zero-Two is also unresponsive. If he wants to rescue her, he’ll need to plumb the depths of her subconscious once more. This time, he sees the rest of her story. According to Dr. Franxx, the incident with Zero-Two made Hiro useless. He could no longer partner up with any of his peers because he ingested her blood. On the other hand, Zero-Two never gave up. The adults couldn’t delete Zero-Two’s memories of Hiro no matter how hard they tried. She tried so hard to hold onto their short-lived time together that she even went so far as to devour her precious storybook. She literally tried to embody her own fantasy. Eventually, Hiro manages to reach Zero-Two, and back in the real world, she continues to express her remorse. Even now, she’s afraid to be with him, because she knows what she has done is wrong. Still, I’d argue that you just can’t expect her to become a fully mature person out of nowhere. If you want to write her off completely, then sure. Go ahead and do that. But Hiro chooses to stay with Zero-Two despite everything. Most of all, he’s right: any relationship can only thrive with communication. And now that they’ve been through hell and back, Zero-Two will hopefully stop holding her insecurities to herself.
And with that, Strelizia’s human form emerges once more, but this time, it’s red like Zero-Two. She’s embracing all of herself now, because she no longer has to fear Hiro’s rejection. He doesn’t need her to look like a human, beause she’s human to him no matter what. Together, they practically moan each other’s names as they smash through the behemoth klaxosaur threatening Plantation 13. With their fervent expressions of love for each other, we’re right back to the campy feels of the first few episodes. Y’know, back when we all mistook this for a mecha anime. But that’s Trigger’s shtick, isn’t it? It’s about not having any shame for what you love. The couple is even broadcasting their newfound communication to the rest of their teammates. Sure, CloverWorks is in charge of this episode, but Trigger’s fingerprints are all over this climax. Unfortunately, the battle isn’t over just yet. With the help of the Nines, Strelizia breaks through the dome around the Gran Crevasse. Should they have done this? Should they have carried out the mission like the Elders wanted them to? I guess it’s too late to debate that now. With this, Papa and the rest of the Elders are eager to carry forth humanity’s “liberation.” But all of a sudden, a giant hand emerges from the pit and nearly destroys Squad 13 and their plantation. What now?
With Hiro and Zero-Two finally united for good (I hope), it’s time for Darling in the FranXX to explain its setting. Why is this world the way that it is? What are the Elders after? What do the klaxosaurs come from, and why are they so bio-mechanical? What was that thing that came out of those cores? Was that a twisted form of a human child? The list of questions goes on.
Misc. notes and observations:
— They still haven’t really explained what’s so important about the Gran Crevasse. Yes, Papa think that it’s important. Yes, Papa thinks that this battle could be the turning point in humanity’s history… but why?
— What is your wish?! Tell me your wish! It’s episode 15! Stop hiding important plot details from the audience!
— Well, for now, I can only assume that all klaxosaurs will be defeated if Papa and his ilk can take over the Gran Crevasse. But is it really that simple? I can’t imagine that to be the case. They must have some ulterior motive. Maybe I’m just conditioned to distrust any sort of mysterious individuals sitting in a room. After decades and decades of watching anime, my prejudice towards them has been etched into my bones. They must be conspirators.
— Oooh, no OP. That means shit’s about to go down. We still get the delayed title card, which is a thing that I just love. Nothing gets me more hyped up than when I’m so immersed in the story that I totally forget about the title card… then BAM. I think Nier: Automata’s third act had the best delayed title card.
— All of these kids have been created, raised, and trained just to die in this battle. None of the adults have put their lives on the line. What’s worse is that the pistil feels everything that the FranXXs feel. If the robot is “in pain,” then the female pilot is in pain.
— So I guess the Nines all have FranXXs that look like Strelizia. They don’t look as personified as Strelizia (they all seem to lack faces), of course. In any case, the Nines all have klaxosaur blood in them too? To varying degrees, I must imagine. Zero-Two is the strongest, but she’s also borderline uncontrollable. So it would make sense that they used her as a template for future human-klaxosaur hybrids.
— I don’t envy Goro. I wonder if his and Ichigo’s performance will suffer any in the ensuing battle.
— Looks like all those people griping at the start of the series about the lack of same-sex partners were jumping the gun a bit. Actually, they’ll probably just complain about the fact that the Nines are abnormal in some way. They’ll never be satisfied, because that’s not what they want.
Edit: Let me expand on what I mean here to avoid any further confusion. You can certainly critique the show for the bird metaphor. At best, it’s conservative in its lack of inclusivity, and at worst, it’s deeply problematic. Considering the show’s stance towards biracial identity, its potential insensitivity towards another marginalized group is confusing. For now, however, I’ll wait until the very end of the show to weigh in ultimately on this matter. Nevertheless, the show has had its share of detractors right from the very get-go, and I don’t believe that a lot of these people truly care about the concerns that they raise. Instead, they will latch onto any cudgel that they can get their hands on. Disagreement is one thing, but some folks exist simply to be argumentative. They even draw strength from this as if it’s an admirable quality.
— Alpha sure has a disproportionate amount of interest in Ichigo. This might be something to track in later episodes. Even if Hiro ends up with Zero-Two, which has seemed all but certain since the start of the series, it’s not as if Goro will get Ichigo for free. She doesn’t even seem to see him in any romantic light. Just because someone likes you, it doesn’t mean you have to like them back. We have to remember that. I’m mad at Ichigo for not being more considerate of Goro’s feelings, but I would never blame her for not loving him back. We are free to feel what we feel, and love who we love… we should just be cognizant of how our actions might affect others.
— I wish there wasn’t such a dusty haze over everything. I want the show’s palette to pop, but that brownish filter is getting in the way.
— The insert song here is kinda whatever to me. It’s not really getting me hyped up.
— Eventually, the boss shows up, and it’s apparently a Super Lehmann-class… as if I know what that even means. It looks kinda goofy, but then again, all of the klaxosaurs have looked kinda goofy so far.
— The giant klaxosaur ends up upending Plantation 26 entirely, and it’s going straight for Plantation 13. Did the adults really not think that something horrible would show up if they attacked the Gran Crevasse? In any case, I still think this bit would look so much cooler without the hazy filter.
— The Elders tell Code 090, one of the pilots for Plantation 26, to execute Protocol 32. Since he says it would be a great honor, it’s probably some kamikaze bullshit. These kids no longer have a home, so the Elders don’t really care to keep them around. How heartless. How much longer are these kids going to continue obeying their cruel masters? It’s just so hard to relate to someone so willingly throwing their lives away. I know it’s an honor to die for your country, and the adults are all about propaganda. They even stage fake award ceremonies just to keep these kids brainwashed. But once you’re staring danger right in the face, shouldn’t nature take over? I guess not. I suppose that they’ve been engineered and raised to be obedient.
— To nobody’s surprise, Protocol 32 doesn’t work. The behemoth klaxosaur rips a hole through Plantation 13’s dome, then begins to vomit klaxosaurs into the city. It’s kinda gnarly.
— No one can really help Squad 13. You see a few stragglers fighting with them, but the rest of the children will remain focused on the Gran Crevasse. If Squad 13 doesn’t want to end up like Squad 26, they’re going to defend their city mostly on their own. It’s sad, because the adults don’t even deserve it. The adults don’t deserve their pathetic, zombie-like lives.
— It’s odd how Strelizia can just run through a crowd of klaxosaurs and they end up all exploding. I know she’s strong, but what exactly is she doing to them to make them explode? I guess this isn’t plot critical.
— My problem with the Nines is that they all seem to have the same sassy and smug personality. It’s kinda stupid to watch in action.
— Hm, Delphinium’s hat got knocked off. It looks a bit weird without it.
— What the hell just fell out of a core? Is that a child?
— The Elders are desperate to take control of the Gran Crevasse, so they have an entire plantation self-destruct just to breach the Gran Crevasse’s defense. Christ. Papa and his ilk don’t care about anyone — not even the adults. Even Dr. Franxx can’t believe what he’s seeing. If Papa doesn’t end up being the final boss of this entire series, I’d be very surprised. It’s not just the kids who have to stand up and revolt. The adults (like the old lady that Zorome met) need to join them.
— Oh great, now we have a superboss.