— Yeah, VIRM has a really weak design. I think we all had an inkling at the back of our minds that the villain wasn’t exactly human, but I didn’t expect it to look this uninteresting.
— Not only that, VIRM’s motivation is not exactly original: “We have assimilated several lifeforms from all over the universe and helped them break free of the shells of their bodies. And the time has come for you humans to embrace your evolution.” It would take all day for me to list every single work of science fiction that has tapped in a similar story beat.
— I think what we have to keep in mind, however, that this isn’t a story about them. This isn’t a story about humanity and where it’s going in the future. These elements are in the overall picture, but the main story has always been about the kids. Even more specifically, it has always been about the relationship between Hiro and Zero-Two. Yeah, sure, DARLING in the FRANXX apes a lot from its predecessors, but I think it’s a mistake to ignore the main focus of the story and the emotions it can elicit from the audience for the overall (albeit unoriginal) framework around it.
— It’s interesting, however, to see that the other Sages have no clue what’s going on. The wool had been pulled over their eyes as well.
— VIRM: “There exists a form of pleasure that is gentle and perpetual…” This reminds me a lot of every single Law ending in the Shin Megami Tensei series. In those games, you essentially have an eternal struggle between the forces of law and chaos. Chaos champions freedom above all, but that comes with a price. Life is brutish and unpredictable. The strong shall rule over the weak, because they can exert their free will over yours. Law, however, puts order before all else. Peace will reign, but that’s because people no longer have any passion or desires. You can almost see the same sort of parallels here in DARLING in the FRANXX.
Obviously, VIRM values order, and you saw what life is like in those sterile cities. But on the flip side, do you think the klaxosaurs represent chaos and freedom? Not quite. They could’ve worked with humans right from the get-go, but we later learn from the Princess that they actually went underground in order to achieve solitude. Somehow, they thought that would give them strength. Shrug, don’t ask me how.
— Well, this doesn’t look good.
— So we already know that when Zero-Two loses herself, Strelizia goes into Stampede mode. The same is true with the Princess. Apparently, VIRM set it up so that the whole mecha would explode if it goes feral.
— Since the Princess reminds Hiro a lot of Zero-Two, so as a last resort, he decides to connect with her. That’s how he pulled Zero-Two back from the brink, so it makes sense that the same trick would work on the Princess. Time for some flashbacks?
— Time for some cosmic flashbacks.
— Outside the Star Entity, it’s an all-out battle between what looks like the klaxosaurs and these big, purple things. They almost look like klaxosaurs, but not quite. Klaxosaurs are kinda animal-like, but these purple things are a little more alien in their appearance.
— All these poor, unfortunate children have now been abandoned.
— Dude, you have 72 minutes until the whole planet blows up? That’s a ton of time in fiction.
— Watching the rest of the kids slowly coming to the realization that Papa is full of shit is painful… but they’ve been brainwashed all their lives, so I guess I should be patient with them. At least Ichigo eventually manages to pull them together.
— Oh no, time for exposition!
— We’re getting a double dose of exposition. Not only does Hiro want to know what VIRM is all about, Zero-Two wants to explore her roots as she regains her strength. Hoo boy. It’s a bit of momentum-killer for sure. But I guess that’s why we have 72 minutes to solve this giant bomb predicament.
— So Zero-Two is a clone of the Princess. Not just the only clone. She was one of many, but somehow, they all died except her. Is she really just a clone, though? Dr. Franxx didn’t mess with any of her DNA? She’s actually not part human at all?
— Ho hum, there used to be an ancient civilization that predated humanity. You might even call them the Ancients.
— Then one day, Jenova arrived! I mean, VIRM! Phew… almost screwed up there. But of course, Final Fantasy VII isn’t the only story that comes to mind. It’s just the one that I tend to think of first. In general, these stories all borrow heavily from each other and simply tweak one small element. Whether or not you can live with that is up to you.
— I won’t summarize the Princess’s history lesson. These screenshots will suffice:
— And a clone of the Princess was created in order to steal their prized weapon away from them. I wanna know, though… if that huge hunk of junk is just a mass of klaxosaurs, why are we calling it the Star Entity.
— Despite being underground for millions of years, the Princess has a pretty decent hair stylist.
— Okay, now that we know what Zero-Two and the klaxosaurs are all about, what’s up with Hiro? What makes him so special? Why does he have an undeniable connection with any klaxo sapiens, clone or otherwise?
— Oh yeah, the Nines are clones of Zero-Two. This is probably why they’re all jerks. Kidding aside, maybe this is why they looked jealous in last week’s episode. Zero-Two is able to find love and camaraderie. Meanwhile, all they have is their slavish devotion to Papa. Unfortunately, VIRM will let them die along with the rest of the planet, so what will they do now? At the moment, the Nines still insist on giving Squad 13 a hard time. Maybe they’re looking forward to merging with the rest of VIRM’s collective consciousness.
— What makes them so different from Zero-Two if they’re clones of her? Are they only this delusional because they never met their Hiro? That would be kinda dumb. I wouldn’t want to put that much importance on the generic animu protagonist.
— Oh hey, VIRMs “things” are now tearing Nine Delta and Nine Upsilon apart. I wonder if they’ll still love Papa now.
— This is a pretty brutal scene. We’re looking at some serious body horror considering how the mechas are one and the same as the pistil. The pilot feels feels everything that is happening to their mecha. You then have the mecha’s “guts” splatter all over the rest of the Nines. Oof.
— It would make sense that the Nines still have their horns in some form or fashion. Are we about to see them all go into Stampede mode?
— What? We’ve already burned up that much time?
— After 21 episodes, Zero-Two has finally carved out her own identity. It’s intrinsically tied to Hiro, but few of us can fully exist independently of our loved ones. We may survive, but only a shell of us. What’s important is that she’s no longer obsessed with the distinction between humans and klaxosaurs. In a more daring work of fiction, she wouldn’t look like a hot anime babe, but eh, it comes with the medium. Even if she gets back the red skin from her youth, she’d still be a hot anime babe.
— I’m still curious about what the story plans to do with Nana. The real Nana, by the way.
— Quite an entrance for the rest of the kids. In any case, we have a bit of a reversal of the first half of the series. Back then, they all helped Hiro get to Zero-Two and save her. Now they’re banding together to help her save him.
— I like how the doctor is just talking out of his ass, but with 18 minutes left until the apocalypse, it’s fine: “It’s a highly optimistic view with no basis whatsoever.”
— Chlorophytum uses up everything it has left to open up a path for the rest of the kids. As a result, Argentea and Genista will stay behind to protect their defenseless friends. Hmmm…
— It’s unclear what Hiro’s doing to stop the bomb from going off. Is he preventing it just by connecting with the princess?
— What a stupid sentiment from the Princess. They’re both going to die at this rate, so yeah, it is his battle to fight.
— The power of friendship will save us all!
— The big spear suddenly starts moving on its own. Hmm.
— We return our attention to the Nines for a brief second, and unfortunately, they did not revert into Stampede mode.
— Hiro talks about his promise with Zero-Two. The kids keep telling each other that they all better survive or else. It makes us so hopeful for a happy ending, doesn’t it? But I dunno, I doubt these bozos can resist having a bittersweet conclusion, because in general, we collectively seem to think that this is somehow a more well-rounded and mature form of storytelling. Personally, I’m still holding out hope for a Kill la Kill-esque ending.
— After telling Zero-Two to bring Hiro back no matter what, Ichigo and Goro proceed to plummet into a bottomless chasm. Um, awkward…
— Look, princess, we’ve got no time. They’ll probably be fine since we have three episodes left after this.
— So how do they manage to open the door to the Star Entity? It turns out Dr. Franxx has been carrying the Princess’s cells on his left arm this entire time. He simply has to sacrifice it in order to breach the Star Entity. Bruh. This is the extreme version of “OMG, she shook my hand so I’ll never wash it again!”
— And now, the doctor gives a mini-speech about how he won’t ask Zero-Two for forgiveness. She then asks if he had taken her to Plantation 13 just to meet Hiro. It’s just funny, because the entire planet is about to blow. But of course, time is always wonky in fiction. In Dragon Ball Super, thirty seconds tournament time apparently takes up multiple episodes, so we can only assume that Zero-Two still has plenty of time left.
— Even the Princess’s pet will play nice.
— Look at how nice Zero-Two is being. Girl, he tortured you for years. Anime can be so corny sometimes. Almost everyone can be redeemed (especially if you’re hot), and all sins are thus forgotten.
— Aw man, the poor pet shatters to pieces after getting Zero-Two to her destination. All good boys must go to heaven, I guess.
— No matter what happens to the main cast, this really is the end of the klaxosaurs. There’s going to be none left at this rate.
— I think the text in the corner kinda ruins the composition of the scene. I mean, if you’ve gotten this far, I doubt you need the show to tell you where Zero-Two currently is.
— Good thing the pink goo has hardened.
— Hoo boy, there are a lot of fibers in this room. Life… fibers…?
— Zero-Two gets to Hiro, but only his head is visible. He’s also completely lifeless… from the surface, anyways. Who knows what his vitals are at the moment.
— Aw shucks, we’re out of time.
— Zero-Two’s horns suddenly grow into antlers and her skin turns red. Is this the return of the OG Zero-Two?! She tells Hiro to wait for her as if she’s going somewhere. I assume she’s just referring to the fact that she’s going to connect with him in order to bring him back to life, but there could be a more foreboding meaning to her words.
— Somehow, the Princess’s spirit can witness everything, so she decides to sacrifice herself for their sake. She will lend them her strength so that they can try and save the planet.
–Thematically, though, this would kinda suck. Over and over, the show has harped on the fact that these two need each other to be complete. They need each other to live their lives to the fullest. Hiro can’t fly without her and vice versa. So if the writers give us a bittersweet ending in which one of them bites it in the end, then they just killed one of their major themes for no reason other than to have the classic bittersweet ending. But we’ll see… maybe Zero-Two will live on inside of Hiro or something stupid like that.
— In their shared dream, Hiro and Zero-Two get to see each other again.
— We still have three episodes left, so this sequence is weird. It feels like an ending to the entire series, y’know?
— Catch ya on the flip side, doctor.
— Strelizia Apath bursts frees from its prison, then proceeds to strike back at VIRM. And just like that, the alien entity grabs the massive spear and bails. Really? That’s it? They’re cutting bait and high-tailing it outta there? Hiro and Zero-Two try to grab hold of the spear, but they can’t prevent it from flying off into space. Nevertheless, with this insert song blaring in the background, this really feels like a series conclusion.
— Oh, here comes the gut-wrenching stinger: Hiro calls out to Zero-Two at the end, but the girl is unresponsive. In fact, her horns crack and life seems to have disappeared from her eyes. We have three episodes left, though. Three! Did she use up everything she had left to save Hiro’s life? Are we going to spend the last three episodes on trying to save Zero-Two? What happened to Ichigo and Goro? What about the rest of the kids? Are they okay? What about Nana? What are the Nines going to do from here on out? What is the rest of humanity doing? Are they still blissfully ignorant in their golden, sterile cites? Are VIRM really gone for now (I guess this would leave open the possibility of a sequel)? Man, waiting for the last three episodes is going to feel like forever.