Set in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity is driven to near extinction by war against giant beasts for the right to live on Earth, the anime Darling in the Franxx is a 2018 action-mecha-packed anime with serious messages about humanity. Adapted from the original Japanese manga with the same title, Darling in the Franxx not only has eye-catching artwork and animation style but a great story that makes you rethink humanity’s existence on Earth – deep, I know, and it sure opened my eyes.
(Caution: Spoilers Ahead! Read at your own discretion)
After discovering a new resource fuel, humanity destroys the Earth’s surface with its over-excavations and is forced to move into large fortress cities called “Plantations”. As they continue to dig for more fuel, giant monsters appear and rampage the Earth, attacking each Plantation city. To protect their cities and their lives, humans create a piloted weapon called “Franxx”. Too selfish and scared to pilot it themselves, the adults create worthy pilots for the Franxx – the Children – born and raised in a sanctuary called “The Garden” until they come of age to begin training to pilot the Franxx as boy-girl pairs.
The protagonist, Hiro, has now lost his motivation and questions his existence after failing the aptitude test to start a Franxx with his female partner pilot. While his teammates go out and successfully fight off the monsters, Hiro is forced to stay behind in the base. Everything was going according to plan until they meet the “partner-killing” female FranXX pilot Zero Two.
What I think drew me to this anime was not only the artwork but the messages that they had. This anime does a great job of being subtle, but at the same time, not subtle at all with their messages and themes. One of the many messages that has been clear to me since the first episode was about the problem with the environment. The anime addresses the problem of the environment as one of their themes but at the same time, it is reflecting the problem that we are experiencing today with our own environment in our society.
Because of the constant digging for fuel, the humans have destroyed the Earth’s surface, making it uninhabitable for any other living thing to survive. Except for the few wildlife that resides in the Gardens for the children to see, there is not a single animal that can survive on the Earth anymore. The Gardens have become the only habitable place for animal life but are they really living if they are in the Garden? Wouldn’t that be more of the cage than freedom? The humans have basically forced once freed species to live in a cage because of their selfishness.
And the humans in the anime directly reflect us in the real world. Today, we are still digging for fossil fuel, oils, cutting down rainforests, ruining the land, and destroying habitats that other living things live in for the sake of our own needs. Because of the continous growth of the human population, we need to clear more land to make room and homes for more people to live in and as a result, we destroy the things that are in the way. Humans take but don’t give back enough to help the Earth regrow.
The monsters that fight back are a representation of Mother Nature fighting back to reclaim the planet as we humans destroy it from taking its natural resource. This anime could possibly be predicting our future if we continue to take advantage of our natural resources. This anime is telling us that if we don’t be careful with our usage of energy and if we keep destroying the earth for our selfish reasons, this could be our future, a world that is desolate and dead – fighting to survive. This anime is telling us that we need to change our ways and change ourselves in order to preserve the planet that we live on. This isn’t the only hidden message that the anime has. There are so many more messages and themes but they’d be worth exploring in a bigger discussion in the future.
Despite the anime having a great plot and great messages, there are some details that had me think “did they really do that” as I watched it. For those who are considering watching this anime, please be warned, there is quite a bit of nudity in a lot of the episodes. But first, let’s talk about not so subtle sexual references, starting with the positioning of the pilots as they pilot their Franxx for a second here. To break it down, the male pilot, a stamen, is put on top of the female pilot, a pistil. And when the Franxx is powered up, the male and female pilots’ minds link up and they pilot as one.
I mean, could this BE anymore metaphorical for sex? From the positions to the mind-linking, this is too literal. Young children, look away! Not to mention the pilot suits that they wear are so skin tight that they might as well have been naked.
Secondly, there is a great difference in the male and female roles here. The males are basically controlling the females without any impact on themselves. How, you ask? During any fight, the pistils are the ones who are in direct connection with the Franxx, therefore, should the Franxx receive any damage, the pistils are the ones who feel the pain and the impact and the stamens do not.
But despite the unsubtle pervy-ness of the anime, this is probably one of my favorite animes that I’ve seen, and trust me, I’ve seen a lot. This anime takes the ball with the animation and art style. It is colorful and bright in comparison to its dark themes and plot. Darling in the Franxx is co-produced by Studio TRIGGER! (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia) and A-1 Pictures (Fairy Tail, Blue Exorcist, SAO, etc.). With the combination of these two great production companies, the artwork does not disappoint.
The artwork style is both beautiful and clean, leaving me in awe at such greatly designed mechs. Not only were the mechs beautifully designed but also the settings and the characters. Each character is drawn with softer edges as comparison to the straight and hard lines of the mechs and their surroundings. I appreciate any anime network that takes their time to perfect and clean up their lines when it comes to animation work.
Now I know I said that this anime is very action-packed and contains some deep messages, but that doesn’t mean that it is always very serious. This anime actually has a great deal of comedy relief to lighten the mood of an otherwise serious show. And that has a great deal to do with the characters. You have to keep in mind, the characters are all children, maybe preteens, but basically very young. Children who know nothing about their world other than to fight and protect it. But because they are growing up together, working and living together in the Garden, there are bound to be some interesting and crazy situations that arise from a co-ed living space of preteens.
Each character is so unique and different that you can’t help but fall in love with all of these kids. I found myself connecting with all these kids as they go through their times together and work through each problem together as a team. The comedy of the anime is able to flow with the theme and plot of the anime because of the different characters and the brilliantly placed timeline of the episodes.
So, to recap, although this anime has its serious and dark themes and plot, it allows for light hearted comedy and romance to be mixed in, allowing the audience to get a breather and a chance to laugh rather than cry. So, in the end, does this anime make me cry? Yes. Does it also have some issues in terms of sexual context? Yes, but what anime doesn’t have some sort of underlying sexual context? Do I recommend this anime to my friends? Of course! So if action-packed, deep themed mecha animes are your thing, check out Darling in the Franxx! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Where you can watch Darling in the Franxx: