Darling in the FranXX was arguably the most anticipated anime coming into the Spring 2018 season and much of that anticipation derived from the fact that this production was the result of a major collaboration between the famed Studio Trigger and A-1 Pictures (well mostly because of Studio Trigger). As such, with high expectations riding on it, even the smallest missteps were bound to infuriate and missteps were most definitely made.
At the end of its 24 episodes, many had labeled it a disaster, some were confused at what had transpired and few very much appreciated what they got. Far from the extremely positive reaction it garnered in its early showings, the end result was a very divisive one. Still, every show deserves a fair shake and that’s exactly what the following entails.
We’ll start off with show’s clearest and most agreed upon strength, that is on a technical level, Darling in the FranXX undoubtedly shone. Trigger’s works are generally imbued with stylistic flair that easily makes them distinctly standout among their peers and Darling in the FranXX is no exception. From beautiful shots of its desolate world to the exuberant energy present in its action sequences and the ‘unique’ designs of its mechs and primary enemies, Darling in the FranXX consistently maintains a strong visual identity throughout its run.
The show also loves to give certain moments a more cinematic flair by altering to widescreen aspect ratio during these scenes. Sometimes it comes off as a bit awkward but generally manages to fulfill its intended purpose.
FranXX’s handling of its characters is almost equally strong. The core of Darling in the FranXX has always been about love and Zero Two’s introduction to the cast signals the start of a torrent of emotions among them. The main focus of the group and to whom majority of screen time and development is given to are our main couple, Hiro and Zero Two. Their progression over the course of the series is where its heart lies while rest of the cast are also given their moment to shine, the chance is not equally so.
Excluding our main couple, Mitsuru and Kokoro get the greatest time in the spotlight along with Ichigo and then Goro. Miku, Zorome, Futoshi and to a lesser extent, Ikuno, remain pretty static both in terms of development and progression. Still even with the lopsided focus, the main cast is eminently likable and posses a solid chemistry with each other.
Lastly, the most agreed upon weak point of the series, the development of its tale. From the start, FranXX threw us in to mysterious post apocalyptic world that was brimming with potential in its narrative possibilities. And for most of its run, FranXX does a great job slowly building up to the truth of its circumstances, however the introduction of a certain plot point late in its story heavily shakes that foundation. This new element not only clashes with the story established so far but its belated entrance strips it of the time it needs to be properly expanded upon. This in turn forces the plot to rush forward, jumping from point to point with no regard to its implications or feasibility within the framework of FranXX’s tale. However, the series finale does an admirable job of wrapping it all up by giving the focus to the show’s characters and core theme, thus providing a fairly satisfactory conclusion to all that came before.
In the end, Darling in the FranXX is a show that no doubt started its run at full speed in the right direction and manged to continue on this path for a fair way before stumbling off the track. Nonetheless, FranXX does arrive at its destination in the end despite not being in most pristine condition and the various detours it took to get there.