“Darling in the FRANXX”
Saturdays at 12:00 pm EST on Crunchyroll
The day of the assault is here, and Hiro is determined to pilot, even if it kills him. The fight seems to go as planned, until a bizarre, gargantuan klaxosaur brings Hiro to the brink.
As if to make up for last episode, this week we get the action we were promised, and it looked absolutely gorgeous. Initially I was a bit worried, as the fights by the stock FRANXX and the MCs was very choppy, if very dynamic and well directed. Then, Strelizia gets into the fight and you start to understand where all those borrowed frames went. Once again, it might be worth keeping up with FRANXX just to watch these scenes, as no one does action like Trigger. We even get a taste of their incredibly goofy design aesthetic as our monster of the every other week morphs into a giant rocket powered hammer. It’s pretty much a round endpiece away from the most phallic robot I’ve ever seen, and watching the scene where it just keeps hammering over and over again became more goofy than threatening.
On the character side, it really doesn’t feel like we deserved this resolution. I’m all okay with the idea of willpower overcoming problems, but this is just too quick and too convenient. What is it that makes pilots sick when they pilot with 02? Is it physical? It seems pretty physical considering all the blue veiny stuff, and yet Hiro immediately calls it out of him when he overcomes death. How? Why? There is mystery, and then there’s just plot convenience. Nothing so far has shown there to be a metaphysical aspect to this show the way there clearly was in Evangelion, and yet we still have no explanation as to what’s going on. Maybe we’ll finally get some answers next episode, but I’m really running out of patience here.
This week’s episode highlights everything Darling in the FRANXX can be and everything it constantly continues to squander. This week’s fight is a sorely needed spectacle after last week’s dreadful pace, and it Franxx manages to bring it in the best way possible. It’s energetic, stylish as hell, and superbly shot. Strelizia tearing into the Klaxosaurs is up there with some of the best robot fighting we’ve seen in the last few years. And yet, while this week’s spectacle was exciting to look at, it elicited almost zero feelings in me. And now we arrive at the core of FRANXX’s underlying problems. You can build the most exciting action setpiece in the world, set it to the most rousing music, and stylishly direct it, but it will do nothing for me if I don’t care for the characters involved.
I don’t care about Hiro. I don’t care about Zero Two. Their struggle doesn’t inspire me. Their triumph doesn’t make me happy. It’s almost tragic, because if you were to judge this week’s episode solely on the quality of its animation and action, this is maybe one of the most exciting episodes of mecha anime I have seen since Gurren Lagann itself. You can just tell this episode was meant to be its Giga Drill Breaker moment. The moment in a mecha anime when the characters have finally overcome a great personal struggle and unleash their greatest attack for the first time. It’s supposed to be a jaw-dropping moment. But FRANXX can’t elicit any of that in me because at the end of the day, Hiro is still the most boring bog standard mecha protagonist imaginable, Zero Two is a mean spirited bitch and not even a likeable one, and I can’t even talk about the other characters because there’s nothing to work with. This isn’t even going into the rest of FRANXX’s problems, most of which can be traced to its wild flailing attempt to be a response to Evangelion 15 years too late. At this point, I’m probably in it for the long haul purely on the merit of how strong FRANXX’s visuals are, but the characters are going to make it a painful journey every step of the way.