The kids aren’t without their share of hardships, but they’re trying to have a good time. “Trying” is the operative word. According to one of the boys, “[they] are to stand by and wait for [their] next mission,” so for now, they’ll still obey. For now, they will still give their thanks to Papa before every meal. The only person who doesn’t bother to follow tradition is Zero-Two, which makes perfect sense. From our vantage point, it’s easy for us to wonder when these kids will wake up and realize that Papa is not worthy of worship. Did they not see those plantations being made to blow themselves up? Did they not see Squad 26 sacrifice their lives just for nothing? Did Hiro not experience all of Zero-Two’s traumatic memories and see how she was physically and mentally tortured by the adults? How do you go through all of those experiences and not come out hating Papa and the rest of the adults? The truth is that they did see all of those things I just mentioned. They’re just not emotionally equipped to accept the fact that they’ve been worshiping a fraud. The truth is often hard to swallow, and no one likes to accept that God is dead. It’s doubly difficult when all you want is a brief respite.
Nevertheless, as viewers, we have reasons to be concerned for the kids (assuming that we care about them at all). People tend to get complacent when they feel as though things are going well for them. And when they get complacent, they lower their defenses. Nana and Hachi are instructed to ignore the kids as best as they can. At the very least, everyone is still being fed, but their water filtration system has broken and that’s real bad. Ikuno has been dealing with an intermittent fever lately, and according to Hiro, Goro is starting to suffer from the same condition as well. Everyone tries to be cheerful and put on a brave face, but deep down, they know that things are slowly falling apart. Of course, these illnesses could be due to a lot of factors. They have to conserve energy, so who knows if they’re keeping themselves adequately warm at night. They don’t get delicious-looking meals anymore, so maybe they’re malnourished. They’re running low on drinkable water, so maybe their immune systems are compromised. Or maybe — and this is the worst case scenario — these kids were never designed to live very long in the first place. Of course, that might just be my paranoia speaking, because I’m dreading a terrible outcome for these kids.
Early in the episode, Zero-Two is on messenger duty as she bangs on a pan with a ladle. It’s her turn to gather everyone for breakfast, and she takes on the chore with gusto. It seems as though she’s finally integrated herself into the team, and she’s trying super hard to make it up to them. After all, she did choke most of them out a couple of episodes ago. On the one hand, I’m glad that Zero-Two has become friends with everyone, but on the other hand, it almost feels like she’s overdoing it a bit. She even willingly sits with the rest of the girls during mealtime. Is that truly necessary? Still, like Hiro, she’s happy right now and probably just as complacent as he is. She’s wholeheartedly embraced this peaceful, domestic life. Nevertheless, danger is lurking beneath the surface. There are signs that things will eventually go horribly wrong, and worst of all, the kids will be defenseless because they won’t be expecting it at all. After all, what’s with Miku’s hair? Is it going grey already? Is this an indication that their lives are horribly finite? But even though this discovery gives Zero-Two pause, she doesn’t say anything about it to Miku or the rest of the girls. It’s almost as if she realizes that the paradise she now finds herself in may very well be short-lived, so she doesn’t want to shatter it.
Faced with a shortage of supplies and the real possibility that rations might just stop showing up one day, Zero-Two eventually suggests that they all learn to fend for themselves. These kids will finally have to learn for themselves what it means to become an actual adult. And I’m not just talking about those practically comatose geriatrics within the sterile cities deep within the plantation. Rather, I’m talking about what it means to truly grow up and become self-sufficient. How did people use to survive on its own? This is like the start of humanity all over again. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible. The outside world doesn’t appear to be that devastated, but even if venturing beyond the plantation is not a viable option, it’s not as though Mistilteinn is without its resources. After all, we’ve just seen what looks to be a perfectly healthy fish swimming in the river. There might be other animals that they could hunt for food. They might even be able to forage for vegetable and fruits. We just don’t know until we try. That fish in the river is likely tastier than any concoction of meat paste that they can think of. It would behoove these kids to step outside of their protective bubble and learn to live without Papa’s blessing.
Zorome’s a bit unhappy at first at thought of having to catch and cook his own food, and I get it. Self-sufficiency brings him ever so closer to the realization that God (i.e. Papa) has abandoned him. He’s already an orphan, so he doesn’t want to be cast aside by God as well. He tries to be defiant about it later, but his pride is short-lived. After all, it’ll take more than a day to undo years of indoctrination. It would take more than a day for any of us to stop worshiping our parents. At one point, Zorome tries to get Futoshi to eat, but the latter accidentally drops his plate of food. Or maybe it wasn’t an accident. Apparently, Futoshi has been suffering from bulimia. He’s taking his “breakup” with Kokoro a lot harder than it seems. Nevertheless, this sudden confrontation shatters everyone’s facades. It’s like how a single, small crack can compromise the entire structure, and before you know it, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Zorome is the first to admit that he’s hurt; he just can’t understand why Papa is ignoring them. One by one, the rest of the group confesses that they’re all full of worries and anxieties too. They were just equally afraid to voice their concerns. The episode had been cloyingly corny up until this point, but it was all just an act.
Hiro tries to rally the troops and assures them that it’s fine even if they can no longer depend on Papa. After all, they have each other, and if anime has taught anything, it’s that friendship will overcome all obstacles. This is a coming-of-age story, so Hiro naturally tells his friends that they simply need to define their own purpose in life. They need to realize that there’s more their life than just fighting for the sake of the adults. Their future rests in their hands, and they no longer need to depend on the adults. That’s all fine and dandy, but I doubt that Papa and the rest of the adults are just going to let these kids grow up and become independent. It’s rare that freedom is ever given to us freely (no pun intended). You often have to fight for it, and Hiro will soon realize that becoming an adult has its own price. Can this optimism last? Can everyone — and not just Hiro and Zero-Two — really live happily ever after one day? I feel for them, because they’re just kids. Ever since birth, they’ve been poked and prodded at like lab rats. And now, they constantly have to put their lives on the line for the adults. When do they ever get to reclaim their childhood? Aren’t they allowed to get some rest? Unfortunately, a peaceful rest may very well entail death.
In last week’s SP episode, one of the show’s creators stated that the ending likely won’t be happy for everyone. Hearing that, I couldn’t help but dread for the future. Even though some of the kids are more annoying than others, it’s obvious that I like them as a whole. I want them to be happy, and of course, I hope that the group pulls through in the end, but… well, something just feels ominous about Hiro’s reassurance that he and Zero-Two will be together forever. It’s like if you have to say it, then it certainly won’t happen. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I think I should brace myself for the worst possible outcome. The new OP certainly doesn’t give us many reasons for optimism. It ends with Hiro attempting to embrace Zero-Two, but she dissipates in his grasp. Boy oh boy… We also have to remember that Zero-Two’s beloved fairy tale includes an evil witch. We have some crusty ol’ Sages, but no witch… yet. Is it time for us to meet the show’s true antagonist? And will she tear the princess and her beloved prince apart? So many shows have ended on a bittersweet note, so why should DARLING in the FRANXX be any different? Hell, even shows I didn’t like felt the need to give us a dour conclusion (looking at you, Aldnoah.Zero).
But maybe I’m worried about nothing. Near the end of the episode, we see Zero-Two with some paper and colored pencils. She’s truly accepted her past and moved on. In a previous episode, we had seen Zero-Two tear the library apart in an attempt to find another copy of her fairy tale. But now, it’s different. Instead of wasting her time and energy in a futile effort to locate the book, our heroine will do the next best thing: she’ll just recreate her fairy tale. Hiro is amazed that the girl can reproduce the original art so well, but of course, it was her first “pretty thing,” so the book left an indelible impression on her mind. But along with the power of recreation is also the power to rewrite the story. If you can recreate something old, then you can also create something new. Will Zero-Two give the fairy tale its original tragic ending? Or will she exercise her authorship and give the beast princess the happy ending that we all want? No story is ever set in stone. After all, Zero-Two understands that being human is more than just appearances. Rather, it’s about living together as one and helping each other out as a communal family. Is this something that the evil witch can truly take away from Zero-Two? Ah, we’ll just have to wait and see…
Misc. notes & observations:
— If you’ve noticed, I’ve switched over to taking 720p screenshots lately. Most shows aren’t even rendered natively in 1080p, and I was running out of space real fast. Sure, I could fork over even more money for a few extra gigabytes, but I don’t profit from the blog. Ad revenue might cover half of the yearly fees if I’m lucky. I get some nice donations from to time, but for now, I can’t afford to take giant-ass screenshots. That’s fine, though. They’re just screenshots.
— How lucky is it that the residential area was spared? Yeesh.
— Is she sharpening her horns? Or filing them down? Maybe she’s just examining them. By the way, I was actually hoping for the girl to have red skin again…
— Ah, the obligatory new OP. Same song (slightly remixed), but new animation and everything. Well, I guess “Kiss of Death” has grown on me a bit. It still isn’t something I would ever add to my playlist, though.
— Anime OPs and running… name a more iconic duo.
— Is it weird that I don’t think 60% sounds all that bad? Considering the previous episode, I honestly thought that the number of casualties would be much higher.
— Oh ho ho, some of the Sages don’t think they should’ve blown up the plantations.
— Naturally, they don’t tell us yet why the Sages want the Gran Crevasse so badly. Instead, we simply introduce yet another mystery to the story. One of the sages even go so far as to say, “I’ve already sent two messengers to you-know-where.” No, I don’t, jerk.
— “[O]ur final warning to them?” Is there a klaxosaur government that they’re potentially negotiating with?
— Two keys? Klaxosaur Princess? Oh lord.
— Hiro’s the inquisitive one, right? So he’s been sitting around for a month without trying to find out what’s going on with the adults? Hm. I guess survival is the highest priority for now.
— The girl can’t live without her honey.
— Zorome has the best reactions out of the group.
— Apparently, the adults aren’t supposed to reach out to the kids. Otherwise, their plans will be ruined. Huh.
— We still haven’t gotten much character development out of Nana and Hachi. I don’t actually care too much about the man, but I’m hoping for the woman to at least give us a little more than what we’ve seen in the first fifteen episodes. At times, it looked as though she cared about the kids, but due to her position, she had to hold herself back. So now what?
— Just as an aside, do you know how hard it is to write 2,000 words on a show while your cat insists on sitting on your stomach?
— Nana pleads with Dr. Franxx; in fact, she speaks as though the kids are being abandoned. Maybe the kids would try to stop the adults if they knew what was going on. This is just another reason why the kids (namely Hiro) should have remained vigilant.
— The woman suddenly winces in pain. Hm, how conspicuous. I wonder what that’s about.
— Goro feels a bit restless, because they haven’t gone on any missions as of late. Hiro, however, is content right now, and maybe he does deserve a break. After all, he went through hell and back to save Zero-Two. It’s not difficult to imagine why he might want to ignore all the bad signs and pretend as though everything is hunky-dory.
— Mitsuru suddenly wants a haircut. I guess he feels that he needs to change, and this is one way to take a permanent step forward.
— It’s odd to see him with frizzy hair. But how does Kokoro even know how to cut hair? It’s not as easy as simply whipping out a pair of scissors and going to town. People go to school for this sort of thing. In fact, who has been cutting their hair all this time?
— With Kokoro’s beloved greenhouse serving as an impromptu barbershop, Mitsuru suddenly eventually opens up to her about what’s been bothering him lately. Even though things are better now between him and Hiro, he’s not completely satisfied with the results. After all, he’s not sure what he even wants from himself or his former idol. At the very least, he understands that Hiro hadn’t wronged him. It takes a lot of self-reflection to admit this, but he also feels like he came away with nothing for all his hard work. But y’know, personal development should be its own reward, and this is something he can slowly come to understand after getting some words of encouragement from Kokoro.
— Oh my… Futoshi’s not nearby, is he? Actually, who cares if he is? He needs to get over Kokoro anyways. Still, I bet this moment will just stir up all those anti-Kokoro sentiments again.
— I prefer Mitsuru’s old hairdo. He looked different. Now he just looks like any generic anime character.
— Oh come on, you’ve already expressed your love to her in front of everyone. Why are you embarrassed to hold her hands now?
— Yeah… why don’t we just ask Papa to fix all of our problems?
— If you can cut hair, then you can learn how to cook. Hell, I think cooking is a hell of a lot easier than styling hair.
— Man discovers fire!
— Miku’s reactions are pretty good as well.
— Ichigo confesses to Goro that she now just wants the best for Zero-Two and Hiro. That’s good. But now I’m wondering how far she’ll go for them. I guess I just can’t shake the feeling that someone will have to sacrifice their lives for the rest of the kids at some point in the story. Ichigo is the most matronly of the kids, so maybe it’ll fall on her shoulders to protect them at all costs.
— That salad looks kinda lame, though.
— Zorome: “I bet none of the other squads actually cook for themselves, right?” Yeah, they probably just died.