They really did it. They really went and gave us a 24-min denouement. Last week’s episode was the climax for sure. As for this week’s episode, it is practically nothing but one long and mostly unsatisfying wrap-up. Again, all I’m left with is a certain exasperated feeling that we got an incomplete story. DARLING in the FRANXX needed at least another season to fully explore its characters, setting, and themes. Unfortunately, all we get is the power of love and friendship overcoming spiritual space baddies, and everyone growing up to have lots and lots of kids. You hear that, Japanese audience? You need to screw like rabbits to save the
country planet. Unfortunately for Ikuno, she’s a lesbian so all she gets to do is die young. No, seriously. She devotes the rest of her life to research, and she gets nothing but the satisfaction that everyone gets to live on without her. Parasites suffer from accelerated aging, so she wants to save her friends from such a horrible fate. In the end, they all get to have happy families. Unfortunately, the poor girl can’t save herself. By the end of the episode, she is practically confined to her hospital bed. Seriously, what is up with that? The writers have no shame in cramming a cheesy ending for each of the other characters down our throats, but Ikuno has to suffer in pain? Everyone else gets to live happily ever after, but she has to pop pills? I just… I don’t even know what to say to that.
As for Hiro and Zero Two, eh. The couple get to have one last “battle” with VIRM, but it’s one of those “unloseable” encounters that you get at the end of practically every JRPG. You’ve already beaten the actual last boss, so this part is just for show. After spending so many days in space, Hiro’s mind and body are slowly faltering. By the time they reach VIRM’s home planet — for a bunch of baddies so obsessed with discarding their flesh, why do they still need a home planet? — the kid’s resolve is weak enough that VIRM can once again sever the link between him and Zero Two. Oh no, is this the end for our heroic duo! Not so fast, spiritual space baddies! Even though Zero Two is probably millions — if not billions! — of light years away from home, she somehow still has a connection to her stone body. And through it, she is able to convey to her friends on Earth that she and Hiro desperately need their help. As a result, the kids band together and literally pray to the skies. MINNA~! Lend us your strength! So like every lame-o JRPG ever, the major characters take turns yelling at the heavens. Their words of encouragement eventually wakes Hiro up, and together, he and Zero-Two bomb the fuck out of VIRM’s home planet like a bunch of terrorists. And that’s that.
I’ll cover the rest of the episode through my notes below. For now, I just want to wrap my overall thoughts and feelings about the series. I think what we have on our hands is a tale of two halves. The first fifteen episodes? I really, really liked them. I know a lot of you didn’t, but I absolutely adored the character drama, the social commentary, and the overall mystery of the setting in the first half of the series. If I could grade those first fifteen episodes on their own, I’d probably give the series a B+. And then the second half of the series happened. I still like Hiro and Zero Two as a couple, but somewhere along the line, the guy became useless. He stopped actually doing anything. He’s just there. He literally just has to be present in order to make Zero Two strong and powerful. But in terms of actually playing a major active role in the narrative, Hiro all but disappeared from the story. Plus, the writers ran out of ideas. Zero Two and Hiro are separated, but this time, it’s Zero Two’s turn to save him. Fine, okay, we’re mirroring the conclusion of the first half. I’m cool with that. Zero Two and Hiro are separated again, but this time, Hiro has to go up into space to get her. Really? We’re doing this again? Then we get the same bullshit in the finale! Zero Two and Hiro are separated again and now his friends have to get them back together for good. Uuugughdghghghggh.
The second half of the series would get a C- from me. I still like the animation. I like the show’s overall use of colors. I like some of the action and how they are often framed. Some of the space scenes really suffered, so let’s avoid that next time. Not every damn series has to end up in space, y’know. But I digress. Even though Hiro and Zero Two’s relationship didn’t really develop much further, I still like the kids as a whole. Yeah, a lot of them are sadly under-developed — hell, the whole series in general feels under-developed — but after the first fifteen episodes, I just can’t hate the show as much as some of my readers do. So even though the VIRM reveal was pretty terribad, and the writers’ heavy reliance on the same basic conflict between Hiro and Zero Two was even worse, I’m not going to judge the show too harshly. Ultimately, I still enjoyed the show despite its shortcomings. I still rooted for Hiro and Zero Two even though the director kept trying to warn us over and over that the ending wouldn’t satisfy a lot of fans. From start to finish, I was hooked on DARLING in the FRANXX. The journey proved to be a bumpy one, but it was a fun nevertheless. This is a far better outing than a lot of Trigger’s recent efforts.
Overall, I guess the show settles in around a…
Final grade: C+
Misc. notes & observations:
— Imagine being stuck in space with nothing to distract you from your darling. Look, I can love my girlfriend as much as I want, but I still wouldn’t be able to spend that much time with one person.
— I took this screenshot mostly because Mitsuru’s posture is funny. Plus, I like how pregnancy in fiction often comes down to a few bouts of morning sickness. It’s not all sunshine and roses, kids.
— Anyways, the kids eventually find their way back to Mistilteinn, but all this does is remind me of that random ass beach episode. Remember when they went off on their own and found a bunch of abandoned buildings from the past? What happened to that place? Are there more places like that out there?
— More down-to-earth farming scenes. Ho hum. We need stop being businessmen! We need to good ol’ hard-workin’ farmers!
— Mitsuru is trying to be a good husband, but I just like the way Miku glares at him in the corner. She continues glaring at the rest of the boys. Sadly, she’s probably the least developed character out of the entire gang. What does she do, actually? Ichigo was and probably still is the leader. Kokoro is the first in the group to get married and become a mother. Ikuno eventually becomes a researcher who helps save probably thousands of lives (if not more). As for Miku… she… uh, I have no clue what her role is these days.
— We see a scene in which klaxosaurs continue blasting off into space, but I thought that warp could only be used with Apus, which is currently floating in the middle of space. So where exactly are these guys going? What fight are they joining?
— Another time skip takes us right to the birth of Mitsuru and Kokoro’s kid. That’s cool, I guess.
— They then free the rest of the children that had “disappeared.” Y’know, the failed Parasites like Naomi. What I find strange about this is how it took nearly 300 days for these kids to be released and re-integrated with the rest of society. Seriously, what took them so long? Plus, I thought power was an issue, so how did this facility even keep these kids alive for so long?
— Oh well, a happy ending is a happy ending, right? ‘Cause Naomi’s back! Unfortunately, the story never really explains the bond that she has with Squad 13.
— The story never really explains why they adults and VIRM bothered to keep these kids around, though. Like what purpose did this even serve? Ah forget it, let’s just grin at some potatoes.
— At some point, Goro decides to go on a journey. Not only does he want to scavenge for materials, he wants to help save anyone who might still be out there. This sounds like a potential spinoff series.
— Right before he leaves, he plants a big kiss on Ichigo’s lips. Is this the first time they’ve kissed. I think so. Look at Ikuno glowering at him. Even after all this time, she’s still hung up on Ichigo.
— Oh lord, there are more of the VIRM bastards. Do they all have two faces as well? Why do they have to have two faces? What does it even mean for them to have a face if the flesh is so unimportant to them?
— And man, don’t you wish you could learn more about VIRM after seeing this? The reason why they suck as antagonists is because we don’t know anything about them. They’re just generic baddies who want to enslave the universe in the name of peace. They have no character. They have no personalities. They have no origin. According to the story, they just showed up on Earth one day and started wrecking shit. Even Jenova wouldn’t have been an effective villain on her own. That’s why she was paired up with Sephiroth. Sure, he’s overly emotional and it’s easy to hate on Final Fantasy VII because of how popular it is, but Sephiroth makes up for what Jenova is missing. VIRM doesn’t have that. VIRM is just… VIRM. A complete non-entity. All we know is that they’re bad. They’re bad bad guys because they’re about as fleshed out (no pun intended) as a cardboard cutout.
— I don’t really like how the black dots just kinda disappear into Zero Two’s giant mecha body.
— So there’s the massive spear. It doesn’t actually play much of a role in the finale. It’s just here, because Strelizia wields a spear. As a result, we need a suitably large weapon for Zero Two in this final battle of sorts.
— Oof, since Zero Two feels everything her mecha body feels, this has to hurt.
— Ichigo tells us that people would join them in prayer for days and nights on end. Uh, they had to take bathroom breaks, right? I hope so. I hope the show just didn’t bother to show them scheduling shifts for their 24-hour praying marathon.
— They named their kid after love. That’s so… bah.
— Another version of Strelizia? Pfft, why not?
— So VIRM’s planet goes the way of Alderaan, and what we’re seeing here are all the souls that VIRM had absorbed up to this point. VIRM’s not dead, though. In fact, they apparently can’t die. They even ominously suggest that they will once again come into conflict with the fleshy denizens of the universe. So uh, we didn’t solve the problem at all. We’re just delaying it. Even if Zero Two and Hiro’s souls can make it back to Earth, their descendents will just have to deal with VIRM again.
— As for the rest of the souls, I guess they’re just going to slowly float back to their own planets and reincarnate somehow. I’m not sure what to make of this weird mixture of science and East Asian spiritualism. Is this why the Nines had to die? Because they were clones of Zero Two, so they had no souls?
— Yep, just naked and floating off into space.
— Back on Earth, Zero Two’s stone body finally breaks. It leaves behind a small sprout that would eventually grow into a massive tree. Y’know, like the one in Hiro and Zero Two’s past. It’s like poetry. It rhymes.
— But seriously, I kinda wish Zero Two’s statue had stuck around as some sort of monument to the klaxosaurs. The kids pretty much owe the klaxosaurs everything, because…
— HINT HINT USE RENEWABLE ENERGY
— Looking at these ruins, whatever happened to the other adults? Y’know, like the old woman that Zorome had befriended. Did they all just die in a previous battle? Are we really just going to sweep them all under a rug just like that? That’s my problem with all of the loose ends in this story. The writers went so far as to give us an entire episode about the adults and their society, but then they just disappear off the fucking face of the planet. It’s frustrating.
— At least Ikuno has Naomi as a lab assistant, I guess.
— The kids also finish Zero Two’s book, giving it a happy ending.
— Apparently, Hachi and Nana can’t age. So can they die? Cause the only reason we die is because our cells break down and stop replicating. If these two can’t age, then…
— I like how they’re just going to leave the FRANXXs standing there like that. One bad earthquake might knock them over, which would be pretty bad.
— Alright, one more time skip. This time, we jump eight years into the future. Mitsuru and Kokoro have even more kids. She’s cut her hair a little shorter, and the guy is back to combing his hair.
— All we know about Zorome is that he’s become a teacher.
— Again, I don’t know what Miku does. She grew her hair out, I guess?
— We get to see that Ichigo is currently pregnant with Goro’s child. He’s apparently been on non-stop journeys around the world, but luckily, we’re told that he’ll actually stay put for the baby.
— Ikuno is not doing so hot. Again, she’s stuck to a hospital bed. For some reason, she doesn’t get to have a super happy ending like the rest of her friends. It’s just odd.
— Goro looks… off.
— Afterwards, we see Zero Two’s tree grow bigger and bigger as the world changes around it. Considering how long it takes trees to grow, by the time this one reaches its apex, most of the main characters have probably died from old age.
— In the (presumably) distant future, we see two distinct souls return to Earth. Well, that took them long enough. And guess what? Hiro and Zero Two just magically happen to meet each other again. Hopefully, no mad scientist is going to try and tear them apart this time. We are then told that a new story can begin anew. To that, I can only say, “Meh.” Trigger and CloverWorks should’ve just finish this one.