On a ruined, Mars-like planetoid sits Plantation, a mobile fort city where the pilot headquarters, Mistilteinn, is located. It’s here that a group of children are raised and trained to fight as pilots of the FRANXX to challenge giant monsters bent on humanity’s destruction. Hiro, code 016, is a failure, but one fated day he meets a horned woman named Zero Two and together both become an overwhelming FRANXX force.
When I learned this was an A1 and Trigger show, I knew I would be watching no matter the plot. However, I got a little nervous when I saw it was about robots. You see, I’m not a mecha girl. I only like a couple robot anime, and it’s very rare for me to find a modern robot anime interesting at all. Actually, I haven’t liked any modern mecha anime besides the Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin movies.
The key visual for FRANXX looked solid despite my nervousness, and I really liked the teaser. The studios drew me in to watch the first episode, but the story has made me stay. These guys are building quite the interesting world, and the superb animation and color are just the garnish.
Darling in the FRANXX takes place on a beautiful Mars-like planet with a particular domed habitat as our focus. We see a group of unique personnel fly into the dome and begin their descent down some Evangelion-like elevators while talking about things we don’t understand as audience members, yet. One party member, a horned, pink-haired woman, disappears and you see her steal away into a top level of the habitat.
There’s a cut to our featured main, Hiro, who finds a bird that couldn’t differentiate the window from open air. He’s depressed and wandering the forest in the habitat when he finds the beautiful pink-haired woman swimming. She dives down, and in confusion, Hiro rushes into the pond to save her. Zero Two, as we will come to know her, immediately takes a liking to Hiro and says they should be partners because she can awaken his latent powers.
Zero Two is taken away by her unique handlers, but not before her current partner warns Hiro about Zero Two. It seems that anyone who rides in a FRANXX with her ends up dead after a few rounds. We also learn during this encounter that the pilots of the FRANXX are known as parasites which is a very interesting name. There isn’t any more information on the etymology of the title, but calling the pilots parasites leads me to believe there is something more to them. Parasites take something from a host, so what are these pilots taking and what is their specific host?
From here we understand that Hiro is a parasite candidate, and we learn that pilots work in male-female pairs only as this helps the FRANXX reach greater effectiveness in some way. The rest of the kids Hiro knows are parasite candidates as well; however, they are being made full parasites after a grand ceremony being held on this day.
This explains why Hiro is so depressed.
He isn’t going to graduate like the rest of this friends because he failed to pilot with his partner, Naomi. We are unsure who is at fault at this point, but Naomi believes it was her error because Hiro was given special permission to stay in the habitat whereas Naomi was being forced to leave. As for where Naomi is supposed to go- I’m not quite sure. It’s mentioned that there were other classmates that failed over the years as these kids were vetted to pilot the robots. You just have to wonder where all those people ended up being sent to if they were not useful and obviously disposable.
The basic setup ends as soon as Naomi boards her travel sphere and a gigantic monster known as a Klaxosaur attacks. The monster itself looks digital in a way, and it’s (honestly) a little cute. Naomi’s shuttle is cracked and the Klaxosaur begins a rampage that interrupts the parasite ceremony.
During this time we get a wonderful look at that delicious signature Trigger fight animation we love. It’s fast and sharp, and who doesn’t love those dust clouds. Animation like this makes you really love anime.
Hiro is a pure hearted kid, though a selfish, and rushes to Zero Two’s aid on the battlefield after Zero Two’s current partner dies. She had been piloting the FRANXX by herself for sometime, and seems terribly wounded by the feat. Zero Two accepts Hiro’s offer and kisses him- the FRANXX alights and the unique doctor we saw the beginning of the episode is excited. Apparently, Hiro/Zero Two’s robot is operating at near perfection. The negative and positive of the two sexes together make the perfect fighting machine, and the pair are able to kill the Klaxosaur. Interesting enough, Klaxosaur has cores that need to be destroyed to kill them… just like in Evangelion.
I swear I’m not stretching these conclusions, there are Eva pulls all around and it’s really cool to see a modern anime homage and take knowingly from such a classic genre-bending show. It’s cool to see the cornerstone of amazing animation meet the cornerstone of giant robot storytelling.
The episode ends with the reveal that Zero Two has Klaxosaur blood, which explains her adorable little horns. However, how she got this blood is still unknown. Maybe she was a failed parasite candidate and they experimented on her? Just a cool thing to think about as we move forward not knowing anything about this world. Of course, maybe that’s too contrived.
I had a ton of fun with this first episode. Both A1 and Trigger have a great way of introducing us to a world by giving us just enough details to understand that exists, but not enough to be bored with the story’s execution. Here we see some great and simple character designs meshing very well with some cool robots that look like a cross between My Life as a Teenage Robot and Gundam with Zero Two’s solo piloted FRANXX reminding me of Ano’s Evangelion beast formes. The animation side of things didn’t disappoint either with solid effort all around from the basics to the fighting. I’m really looking forward to this standout series, and I would love to add this to my very short list of liked mecha anime.