Darling in the FranXX
The earth has undergone desertification with only small mobile cities containing the ruminants of humanity. While roaming the wastelands, these cities often come under attack by giant monsters called klaxosaurs. The best defense against these creatures are specialized mecha called Franxx, piloted by a young male/female couple. Raised without parents, these children have little knowledge outside of their training to be pilots.
Hiro has been training to be a pilot as long as he can remember, but can't mesh well with his partner. Without a partner, he can't be a pilot so it's inevitable he'll be retired. Then he had a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named Zero Two. She has klaxor blood and small horns on her head. She's incredibly powerful but known for sucking the life out of any partner she co-pilots a Franxx with. Zero Two takes an interest in Hiro, and against all odds they bond well. Zero Two has killed every partner within 3 battles, will Hiro survive past the next two?
Darling in the Franxx seemed to borrow a lot from other shows, including one I wished I'd forgotten about. I wouldn't say this anime grew on me, instead there was a pivotal point that hooked me. This is one of those titles that you'll have to accept revels in being an anime, which can be a good thing or somewhat cringe worthy. Me being an anime fan, I'd say it's the former but in that way probably isn't well suited to those who aren't more hardcore anime fans.
The first episode has the meeting of Hiro and Zero Two, and something about these two led me to believe this show would lack depth or a serious tone. The cheesy kiddy like mecha designs didn't help much, and the way boy-girl couples have to cooperate to pilot these things was a serious turn off. The environment was a little hard for me to grasp at first, partially because there is a lot to take in, but also because this anime doesn't push every aspect of how things work down your throat right off the bat. That turns out to be one of the better aspects of this anime. Instead of spoon feeding you, the anime leaves the viewer to question things baked in to the show. The children don't know much either, and bit by bit the truth is revealed in a way that is well paced. The pieces of the puzzle are put into place throughout, instead of trying to pack it all in the final episodes.
About 10 episodes in, I still wasn't much into the anime until the background of Zero Two is revealed. I found this part so moving, that I knew I'd be hooked for the rest of the show. I would have preferred that level of development earlier, but better late than never. Unfortunately I never felt much of a connection with the other characters, although they aren't bad, and have fair development/back-stories of their own, not to mention some pretty good drama.
There is a drastic shift in the last third of Darling in the Franxx, when the children learn about why they exist and what has become of humanity. As details about the Klaxosaurs is revealed, it moves away from the focus on the children vs Klaxosaurs into a space war, eventually culminating in the emergence of a galactic unicorn bride mecha thing. The anime stays true to some of the fundamental points of freedom and a more basic theme of love, so it doesn't feel like it completely lost its way. And by that point I was more interested in how it would end anyway, so I was fine with a change in direction.
Although my opinion of Darling in the Franxx wasn't high in the beginning, by the end I thought there plenty of very good points to the anime. To me it feels like the kind of show only an anime fan could love, but being an anime targeted towards anime fans isn't such a bad thing either. It's a decent watch with some depth, fair characters, and even some impressive animation at times.
Zero Two: And so we are bound by a kiss. A kiss is a symbol saying "you are mine and mine alone. You are special to me."
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