*Spoilers for Episode 1 are Included!*
When Studio TRIGGER and A-1 Pictures had announced a collaboration back during Anime Expo 2017 I was thrilled. I love both companies for equal reasons and it stands that they are two of the stronger studios in the business. The fruits of this labour would be teased through out the 2017 year and it wouldn’t be until January 13th, 2018 that we would finally get to witness the beauty that is this collaboration. DARLING in The FRANXX drops us onto the desert world of Plantation 13 where we are introduced to the parasite academy graduates from Plantation 13 and our male lead Hiro. We come to him after he has decided he has no purpose in this academy as a pilot who cannot help his parasite operate one of the large mechs referred to as FRANXX.
For only a duo, Male and Female (Negative and Positive) can operate these weapons to combat the dangers to society. While in his sheltered escape from the graduation preparation he is graced by the infamous Partner Killer or Zero Two a woman with the blood of a Klaxosaur. Her Partner Killer namesake is gifted to her from her APE colleagues as after three missions her partner usually winds up dead. Through their brief, lakeside conversation he begins to understand her train of thought.
She is similar to him in many ways, both having to fight through notions of animosity towards them from peers. What Hiro felt plagued about was having failed his test as a Parasite and thus dragging his partner down with him. His gifted nature had failed to shine through and his “power” was not activated. In a similar way, this is what Zero Two has to come to grips with as someone who has a knack for killing her partners. I’m most certain that this is indirectly due to her mysterious background as the girl with Klaxosaur blood.
However in traditional anime fashion our failure of a hero must set aside his doubts and his feelings when an actual Klaxosaur attacks the graduation ceremony. The newly inducted Parasites and attendees are suddenly caught in a dangerous situation. That is until Zero Two intervenes in her animalistic mech, having pushed her fellow Parasite partner to his limit. This accelerates the situation into Hiro’s hands where he musters the courage to face a prior failure and thus assist Zero Two in defeating the Klaxosaur through becoming one with her, thus releasing the full power of their FRANXX, Strelizia. Okay quick run down of episode one aside. Can I just clarify that I was not expecting the quality start of this show. Sure I had my thoughts on just how this new show might play out, but it just crushed every expectation that I had.
The dystopian world that this show is set in is one where the land is bare, lacking in all manner of life; save for the plantations. Judging from the numbered Plantation we see, we can summarize that there are more out there. Bastions of life and green that harbor the sheltered remnants of human society. Why the world is a this point it anyones guess but with the introduction of the aggressive, mechanical Kyouruu I can push my assumption towards terraforming gone wrong or advance machine sentience.
Speculation of plot aside I am just engrossed in this world and it very much reminds me of Gurren Lagann’s world wherein the last bastions of humans live in underground societies. Also what is this past we see in the opening? Is this Zero Two in her native form? Is she the cause of this machine menace that chases after her or is she an anomaly? Also who is this cyborg doctor who has a devoted interest in her and the FRANXX themselves? Creator is a potential notion I get from him and yet I am curious how he relates back to Zero Two. Is he the one who found her and helped her to reach normalcy? Did he create her in some way?
The art is very much a Studio TRIGGER direction, but I can see influences from A-1 Pictures creed in in certain interior and exterior scenes. One thing that remains beautifully TRIGGER is the expressive animations and the fight scenes. It gushes Kill la Kill like no other and that is a beautiful thing. The art direction in that show was strong and that is visibly scene here in this anime. The powerhouse combination of studios will surely lead to some interesting aesthetics and potential issues internally. It will be curious to see how this partnership holds up down the road and if A-1 Pictures was merely brought on to help with the work load or the work on backdrops mainly. Don’t take my word for it, we will just have to wait and see.
Also, can I just gush at the theme?!? We hear this melody play briefly in the opening scene and then again as Hiro and Zero Two embrace, becoming partners of their FRANXX. It’s chilling, strong and very much gives me the goosebumps much like Kill la Kill’s OST did. I am clamoring wildly around the web, hoping to catch wind of a potential OST release for this show. It could credit it massively and it is something that I think will standout about this anime. The overall story and theme will be a curious direction as I can already tell we will have a coming to terms sort of story for Hiro and Zero Two.
They are two characters who share a similar feeling, although they experience it in different ways. I know the trope of the anime male lead who is down on his luck being picked back-up is a tried one. I just hope they don’t beat this anime with it. It could stand to be uniquely different and I think they will. Still I have been pleasantly swept off my feet by Zero Two and the overall charm and feel to this show. I don’t know what I was expecting and that is a great feeling to have. I’ve not felt this excited for an anime since when I watched my first full anime; that being Chobits.
DARLING in The FRANXX is airing every Saturday on Crunchyroll and VRV. I have not looked into a potential episode count yet, but I can guess a 12-24 episode run is likely. If you have seen the first episode, please share your thoughts and or concerns!
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