DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 18: Holy matrimony

Hachi tells Ichigo that they will soon have to abandon Mistilteinn for the parasite camp. As a result, the children of Squad 13 will soon lose their precious home. Being the emotional leader, Hiro is always full of silly ideas. Plus, he’s inspired by Zero-Two’s favorite book, so suggests that they hold a wedding ceremony for the group’s latest and newly established couple. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like I already have the general idea of what’s going to happen next. The kids will try and have their fun, but Papa and his army of Nines will swoop in and ruin everything. Do I know exactly what they will do to the kids? No, of course not. But because I can kind of feel out the the overall tempo of the story, it makes me a little less excited for the ensuing drama. Nevertheless…

Futoshi’s lack of character development

I’m rather surprised at how well Futoshi manages to cope with his friends’ impending union. He even wants to play a pivotal role in the ceremony. Unfortunately, he’s not even asking for the role; he’s forcing himself into it. My biggest problem with Futoshi as a character, however, is that I have very little reason to empathize with him. I really don’t. Out of the entire cast, I feel like he, Ikuno, and Miku have gotten the least amount of character development. In last week’s post, I kinda misspoke when I said that the characters are well-developed. Most of them are, especially Hiro and Zero-Two. These three, however, are not. We can excuse Miku, however, because she never seems to have any actual problems to deal with (other than her hair prematurely turning gray). Despite having such a loud personality, she kinda just blends into the rest of the group. She has no beef with anyone, but she isn’t particularly close to anyone either. Even her voice actress admits that all she shares with Zorome is a sibling-like relationship. On the other hand, Futoshi has issues, but he’s not fleshed out enough to lend any weight to them. After all, he’s only defined by two things: his eating (and subsequent lack thereof in the second cour) and his one-sided love for Kokoro. That’s kinda pathetic.

Sweeping Ikuno under the rug

Unlike with Futoshi, I actually want to empathize with Ikuno. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much to her character either. She’s cold to everyone but Ichigo, because naturally, she only likes the latter. This pretty much defines the girl as a character within this story. I also couldn’t help but realize that she never did get her own episode. Even though I lumped her in with Futoshi and Miku in terms of not having enough character development, the guy at least got to spend at least one week in the spotlight. Sure, he shared it with Kokoro and Mitsuru, but Ikuno has never been the focal point at any point in the series. Her worries and problems have instead been scattered across several episodes, so it feels as though she is the forgotten character. I don’t really know her as a person, and it seems like her friends don’t know her all that much either. Remember when the girl got really pissed off in last week’s episode and slapped Nine Alpha across the face? In this week’s episode, Ichigo says it herself that she has never seen Ikuno so mad before. Even Ikuno’s teammates are surprised by her sudden outburst. To be clear, however, I’m not trying to say that Ikuno has a simple issue. It’s more that… it’s never really gotten the attention that it deserves. She’s in love with another girl, but in order to survive, she has to obey a system in which she pairs up with another guy. Is that not cruel? She’s right: the system does suck. She’s aware of it, you’re aware of it, and even the writers are aware of it. But I don’t think their approach is adequate.

When Ikuno hears about the impending marriage between Kokoro and Mitsuru, she wears a melancholy expression. She’s probably a realist at heart, so she assumes that she can never marry the one that she loves. Ichigo eventually notices that Ikuno is not in good shape, so she goes to speak with friend. Honestly, she’s the only one who really can. Even though Ikuno and Mitsuru no longer have to butt heads as partners, I don’t think they’ve ever really sat down and hashed things out. Does Ikuno even respect Hiro? Who knows? She’s friendlier with Zero-Two nowadays, but that’s about it. So yeah, Ichigo is really the only person who Ikuno can open up to. As a result, the girl decides that now is the time to come clean. Goro straight-up confessed his feelings to Ichigo, but it was to no avail. So up until now, Ikuno must have felt as if there was no point in revealing her true feelings to Ichigo. Still, with everything that’s been going on lately — her faltering health, the adults taking their precious home away, etc. — Ikuno probably feels as though she has to say something before it’s too late. As a result, she pins Ichigo down and finally tells her friend that she loves her. She also admits, however, that she knows nothing can really happen between the two of them. In fact, she seems to intrinsically attribute hers and Ichigo’s personalities to the restrictive system that they’ve been brought up in. All the girl can thus do is hate herself for being different — for having such complicated feelings. Life would be so simple if we could all be the same. Unfortunately, it sometimes hurts to force ourselves to be the same as everyone else.

Of course, there’s nothing Ichigo can do but offer platonic comfort. She holds her friend and pats her hair while soft music plays in the background. She offers cheap platitudes as a salve for Ikuno’s pain. And somehow, we’re supposed to believe that, gee, maybe everything will turn out okay in this crazy, topsy-turvy world! Nah, this is a cop-out. I’m not saying that Ichigo has to return Ikuno’s feelings. Obviously, you can’t force someone to have romantic feelings, especially if Ichigo isn’t into girls. At the same time, however, this sort of shtick happens all the time. This often involves an outsider like, say, an LGBT character coming out and opening up about their vulnerabilities, then someone hugs and tells them that everything’s going to be alright. The scenario looks nice on the surface, but it offers little comfort beyond that. All we’ve done is milk a serious issue for feels, but have nothing substantive to offer in return. So at the end of the day, Ikuno can only claim that she won’t give up. She’s gonna keep on trying, and gosh, she’s a stubborn one! But think deep and hard whether or not she’ll truly find the happiness that she seeks. That’s why Ichigo’s cheap platitudes feel like such an insult. It’s like we’re just sweeping Ikuno’s issues under the rug. There are no easy answers to her situation, sure, but it feels like such a slap in the face to see the story trying to give us one. And you know that the writers think that they’ve done a good job, because we immediately follow up this scene with a montage of the kids having fun, prepping their home for the wedding.

Zero-Two’s sins

Zero-Two also has her own little moment of despair this week. Midway through the episode, we see that the girl is still in the middle of reproducing her favorite book, but as she nears the end of the process, she pauses to consider how everything might end. In the fairy tale, the princess felt as though she didn’t deserve to be with her prince, so in the end, she gave up her life for him. Zero-Two must feel the same way. How can she truly reconcile the reality of her past with the future that she currently wants to share with Hiro? This schism causes the girl to hallucinate. She sees a skyline of a devastated battlefield. This is where she used to live before she transferred to Plantation 13. A black pit then opens up in front of Zero-Two, and her former partners emerge from what looks like the very depths of hell. They eventually grab hold of the girl and try to drag her down into the pit with them. Had Hiro not freed the girl from her nightmare, what else would she have seen? What other ghastly sights might her guilt have shown her? Zero-Two knows that she’s done terrible things in the past. She knows that she hasn’t atoned for her crimes either. If she believes in karma at all, then she must feel as though justice will eventually come for her soul. Is Zero-Two a good person? That’s a tricky question to answer. We are both defined by our pasts and who we are in this very moment.

The girl could always try confessing her sins. Hiro is no heavenly father, but it always helps to talk to someone, especially the person you love. Unfortunately, Zero-Two decides to keep everything to herself. She tells him that she simply dozed off for a second, opting to say nothing about the nightmare she just saw. Her anxieties, her worries, her guilt… she won’t open up about any of them to Hiro. I find this frustrating, because it’s like she’s learned nothing from the first cour. Remember when Hiro could tell that something was bothering her, but she kept it all bottled up? That turned out well, didn’t it? She only nearly killed him, after all. Well, Hiro can once again discern that something is bothering her now. If he truly loves her, then she can’t really hide her feelings from him. Maybe Zero-Two will eventually say something before we reach the climax of the series, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later. I hope it even happens at all before she decides that she needs to sacrifice herself like her favorite fairy tale.

Near the end of the episode, after Kokoro and Mitsuru had been torn apart, we see Zero-Two with her completed book. She managed to finish her fairy tale just as soon as another one had ended. Hmm.

Misc. notes & observations:

— In most situations, it would be weird for a guy to wake up naked next to a doll. Most situations are not DARLING in the FRANXX.

— Man, these two kids are gonna get a bad end… at least for this week’s episode.

— I’m kinda disappointed that we didn’t dive right back into the whole Princess of the Klaxosaur subplot. I’m honestly more interested in that than Kokoro and Mitsuru. I don’t hate either of them, but I’m not emotionally invested in whether or not they make it to the end of the series either.

— Camps… camps… history has taught me to be wary of camps. Plus, the adults are all liars, after all. At the very least, they’re lying by omission. Who knows what else they could be lying about? If you think about it, Dr. Franxx’s little experiment has forced these kids to pick up some survival skills. They can’t quite survive on their own, but it’s a start and that’s a good thing, right? For the kids, sure. But for Papa, the last thing he would want is for his children to become completely self-reliant. He needs to pull the plug before the change is irreversible.

— The adults have been watching the kids’ every move. I wonder if they even saw Kokoro and Mitsuru have sex… that would be kinda gross of them, wouldn’t it? I mean, they’re kids.

— Goro’s fever is getting worse. Miku is also developing a fever. Oh dear.

— Why are you guys talking about rations now? I thought you guys figured out how to fish for food.

— Oh, maybe this is why. Maybe the adults have stopped the water from coming into Mistilteinn.

— Life here wasn’t that bad. It was the fighting that sucked.

— Look at our blushing bride and groom. I’m kinda surprised that Hiro didn’t wish to marry his darling as well, but maybe he doesn’t want to steal his friends’ thunder. Or maybe this is a test run in case anything goes bad.

— What does Miku know anything about romance, though? I’m not trying to insult her. I’m actually serious about this. Maybe there are romance novels in their library, but wouldn’t said novels also contain references to sex and baby-making?

— Good ol’ Zorome never really understands anything, but he’ll roll with it.

— Man, I was just thinking about how none of these teenagers seem to care all that much about fashion. Granted, the concept is probably alien to them, but it’s a bit odd to me that no one has ever tried to vary up the appearance of their clothes. This wedding dress is the first time anyone’s even thought of wearing something other than their uniforms.

— I don’t know how I feel about all of this. Again, I still really want to return our attention back to the Klaxosaurs and thus explore the setting of this anime. Sure, I like these kids, but… we’ve spent like 90% of our time with them already, y’know? On the other hand, we’ve barely spent any time world-building.

— Didn’t Hiro say something to Zero-Two about seeing the cherry blossoms with her? So at least there’s that.

— Feels like we’re killing time just watching these three play soccer.

— Ooh, Ikuno actually backhanded Nine Alpha. I forgot that little detail.

— Ichigo has two admirers now, and yet, she probably still harbors feelings for Hiro. Some people have all the luck.

— Ikuno fell in love Ichigo because the latter named her? I agree that this is a silly reason.

Yeah, kinda

— Let’s see how many people in this picture will live to see the end of the story.

— Her default outfit looks way better than this one.

— They couldn’t give Mitsuru a new outfit to match his bride?

— The kids did a good job with the dress, all things considered.

Famous last words.

— C’mon, Futoshi, don’t bring the whole celebration down with your glum face.

— But nothing’s worse than the looks on the adults’ faces. God, Hachi is such a joyless man. I mean, I know why he’s joyless; his emotions have been fucked with. And to give him some credit, it doesn’t look like he’s going to do anything to stop the kids’ fun.

— Instead, the Nines have decided to drop by at the worst possible time. As they often say, speak now or forever hold your peace. Well, APE definitely has something to say about all of this this.

— “[T]he parasite camp’s re-indoctrination program…” Not for everyone, though. Just those two. You know which two. Welp.

— Hiro was re-indoctrinated, wasn’t he? Wasn’t this why he came back to the group without his memories? So I bet you they’re going to erase Kokoro and Mitsuru’s memories.

— But what if Kokoro is pregnant? And what if — and I know this sounds crazy, but it’s possible — the adults don’t notice this? Wouldn’t it be weird for her to suddenly have a baby after losing all her memories of Mitsuru and their fateful encounter?

— Wow, do they really have to storm the premises with guns? Do they really think that Squad 13 is going to fight back? The kids have no weapons outside of their mechas. Only Zero-Two has any sort of hand-to-hand combat prowess.

— Dude, if you can’t bear to see them kiss, you don’t wanna know what they did the other night…


— Oh, we’re gonna get some action?

— As I’m watching Zero-Two fight off the entire group of Nines, I can’t help but wonder what on earth her darling is doing?

— Oh, he was already overpowered. And she eventually succumbs to the Nines as well.

— I’m actually curious as to why they didn’t just bother to re-indoctrinate everyone. Why even take the chance? These kids will remember what went down today. They will either fall in line because they’re scared of Papa, or their resentment will fuel their rebellion. So y’know, I think it’s silly that nothing happened to Hiro and the rest of the gang.

— Nothing’s going to change, buddy. Nothing’s going to change unless you make it happen. Time to stop dicking around and having fun in Mistilteinn. Time to fight back. And god, I’m so ready for these kids to take it to the adults. I want the rest of the plot to move forward.

— Oh hey, Nana has also been detained.

— Interestingly enough, Hachi wants to know how he could have comforted the children. Maybe his character will have more to offer in the final few episodes. In a sense, he’s been more of a father to these kids than Papa, anyways. Cold, stern, and emotionally unavailable. Yep, sounds like an Asian father to me.

— We catch a glimpse of Nana in her younger days as a happy parasite. There’s still the possibility that these kids — like Miku — have been designed to die young, but maybe not all hope is lost after all.

— Was this Hachi with longer hair? I believe so.

— And this was the rest of their squad.

— “…a world where APE and humanity can live for all eternity.” So Papa and his ilk are definitely not human. Well, we could kinda tell after last week’s episode, but this makes it official. But what are they, though? And why do they need to be “freed from the shackles of [their] shells,” i.e. their bodies? Are they AI? AI wouldn’t need a body, though. Are they spirits of some sort? This show doesn’t seem very mystical. Hm.

— The replacement key? For what?

— So this is the parasite camp. I wonder who designed all of these buildings.

— Our kids still won’t rebel. They’re still listening to the adults. They’re still just sitting idly by until they receive their marching orders. C’mon! Do something!

— After weeks and weeks, Kokoro and Mitsuru finally get to rejoin the rest of the group. Unfortunately, their memories have been erased just like how Zero-Two and Hiro’s were. In fact, they don’t even know each other.

— This memory-erasing process sucks, though. Mitsuru thinks that Kokoro is new to the team, but she thinks that he is new to the team. Wouldn’t such inconsistencies ultimately doom this whole stunt? And of course, there’s also the fact that the other kids will keep reminding them about their wedding. Sorry, but I’m having a really hard time believing that the adults think this would work.

— They didn’t even confiscate the wedding ring!

— Well, now Hiro knows that if he tries to marry Zero-Two, they’ll fuck with his brain again. See? It’s always good to have a test run with guinea pigs.

— Yes, you’re at the end of your rope, Hiro. Now will you fight? Or will you perish like a dog?

3 thoughts on “DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 18: Holy matrimony

  1. Anon

    Maybe erasing everyones’ memories costs too much money? Maybe resistance is so uncommon they don’t think it’s needed.
    Even with all the flaws I like the mood, it’s my favorite anime this season and I’m looking forward to more existentialist vibes. Existence predates essence, and someday the kids will awaken. There’s so much transient imagery with the sakura and the dancing, the adolescent emotions, and Zero talking about how she can’t have kids which makes her a perfect girlfriend of the present–a Zen like being with no complications. With this episode the kids have all realized they could choose how to live happier lives without papa, and they all desire to actually live as they desire before they die soon, in war, or as adulthood erases who they are.

  2. Pia

    It was weird that Hiro suggested the wedding idea and ended up not doing it himself,
    I mean hell, Zero-Two reminded Hiro that they promised each other to marry in the future
    Hiro got cool feet all of the sudden? that’s not cool you indirectly fucked Mitsuru again haha.

    I secretly rooted for Ikuno too, I wanted to see more of her character since she was kinda a mistery,
    but the writters are not helping, her anxieties got “solved” in a very distateful maner, I mean I would’ve rather prefered that Ichigo told her the hard truth: i.e. I’m honored you feel that way about me, but I don’t like you, sorry, something like that.
    Don’t pat her on the head girl! that’s insulting! the last thing anyone want is pitty from your crush after an unsucessful love declaration.

    “— They didn’t even confiscate the wedding ring!”
    Is realy difficult to keep my suspension of disbelief in moments like this, let’s hope there’s an explanation for this, maybe this is another Dr. Franxx bizarre experiment but I doubt it.

    1. anon

      I actually found that scene satisfying. When I was rejected by a one-sided love I would have liked to have been hugged by her and nonverbally told we will still be friends, and that she could our at least wanted to empathize with what I felt right now. It’s natural to pity someone who had their feelings hurt and who was rejected, whether or not you’re truthful about expressing it to that person in the moment. And critics can’t accuse her of homophobia for the way she a accepted her feelings while not reciprocating them. Maybe what she did is also considered ideal way of turning down an LGBT advance from a friend in Japanese culture.


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