We have only a few more episodes, five to be exact, so it was high time for us to get our flashback episode. Throughout, we cut back and forth between the past and present, but not in such a terrible whiplash-y way the last time Darling ran a duel narrative episode. The information we are presented with here is both expected and terribly strange, especially concerning the Klax who seem to have always been around… we just didn’t know it until the magma harvesting.
The episode beings with Dr. Franxx informing APE how rash they were in erasing Kokoro and Mitsuru’s memories since Squad 13 may become uncooperative now that their friends have been edited in such a way. It seems like Franxx didn’t know that the all the parasite kids were having their emotions ripped away, and he finally realizes that he isn’t a part of their plans or the bigger picture.
Our first cut to past features a twenty-something Dr. Franxx in a world that hasn’t reached its zenith and collapsed. He is asked to join some upstart group called APE because they want him and his research, namely that illegal research he is keen on… cloning. The key here is that Franxx is good at cloning, and from what I can gather, he’s had quite a bit of relative success with it.
Before Franxx meets with APE in a very Gendo-Fuyutsuki scene, we learn that APE was originally just some weirdo organization that popped up out of nowhere with people of unknown origin as members. APE pioneers better mining techniques for magma energy, and they were able to access deeper veins of magma for a low cost. The organization eventually ganged influence in politics like all energy giants do, and began to tell people that this magma energy has the possibility to create immortality in humankind.
Franxx, working on the human immortality project, is worried about humanity’s reproductive function. It seems that as immortality is added to the human genome, the predilection for mating falls to wayside. A sort of natural exchange as humanity cannot keep reproducing while living infinitely. However, no one really cared about not having children when this information came to light, and many people chose APE’s immortality over their ability to procreate.
And so humanity’s decline began.
Only the wealthy, upper-class people had access to immortality procedures, so the class divisions became exceptional. Then, shortly after a population surge of people not dying from immortality and the lower-class people continuing to have children, a law was passed to limit childbirth. In an almost poetic display, Earth reflects this change in desertification as the planet is unable to reproduce, itself, due to the lack of core energy.
Most interesting out of all of this is APE’s rise to power. These guys literally showed up out of nowhere and began to take over using seemingly effortlessly using humanity’s selfishness and desires to live in ease and comfort. It’s actually pretty surreal and scary.
We have a brief cut back to the present where we see Kokoro getting yelled at by Futoshi. Mitsuru catches the end of it and learns from Kokoro that Futoshi says he wants her to team up with Mitsuru. The rest of Squad 13 had already told these two what happened in the past between them, but neither Kokoro nor Mitsuru can remember any of it and neither believe they will ever develop those same feelings for each other again.
Though this is all terribly sad, I personally believe that Kokoro is pregnant from that night she spent with Mitsuru, and we will get to see at least of the kids realize their love again… if not, at the very least, love from Kokoro for her child.
When we move back to the past, the year is listed as 2036 AD. Human immortality is now at 70% with the last 30% of humanity scheduled to have their procedures completed within in the next few years. Franxx and a lovely science woman, Karina, both don’t wish to take part in the immortality project, and instead wish to have a old fashioned human life together… while still working for APE.
In the midst of the planet’s destruction, APE presents Plantations to the world with the promise that humanity will live through the desertification of planet, a new Noah’s Ark. With this, APE effectively ruled the world.
Following the premiere of the plantations, the Klaxosaurs began their attacks first on a large magma mining facility. Humans were able to defeat the monster using nukes, but it wasn’t the most effective solution. Soon after, more and more Klax appeared, obviously attracted the mines in a giant-monster-save-the-planet kind of way. The rash of attacks caused APE to create plantations as mobile fortresses, and all cities were abandoned on Earth.
Dr. Franxx, having access to Klaxosaurs, fell in love with the mechanical and organic nature of the monsters. He found that the Klax shared the same chromosomes as human females, XX, and using this knowledge is how he begins creating the anti-Klaxosaur weapons the FRANXX in a similar way where the Evangelions in Evangelion are made using Angel parts. Unfortunately, his obsession with creating the FRANXX caused Dr. Franxx’s marriage to fall apart.
In 2042, Franxx finally finishes the first prototype robot to fight the monsters, but the caveat is that humans still need a reproductive system to use the robots which is a possible side affect of using the organic materials from Klaxosaurs. If this isn’t the case, the whole idea is just weird, so I have to draw the only conclusion the creators gave us clues for.
As the test modules fail and fail, Franxx’s former wife, Karina, volunteers to be a test pilot. It’s sad to see her attempting to help with his work in the only way she can using her limited self, and that sadness is only compounded when she dies much in the same way Yui dies in Evangelion; however, instead of ascending to a robot spirit to guide future generations- Karina simply dies.
This scene is wonderful in that it’s taking what we know about Yui’s death framing in Evangelion and limiting our perspective even further. Our view of Karina’s death is cut into small windows of limited viewing where we feel terribly helpless, just as Franxx does, unable to see anything more than just a small section of destruction and death. This scene works as a perfect homage to that infamous Yui Ikari scene and as it’s own thing, still winning the argument that Darling in the Franxx is a great show that stands on it’s own legs, only homaging Evangelion.
After Karina’s death, Franxx continues his testing making her death not the only death in these prototypes. The pilots began stress trials that involved the addition of yellow blood cells that acted as a conduit for the FRANXX, as well as, the implementation of male/female teams. Humans were now immortal, but people with reproductive functions were needed for piloting, so cloning and child soldiers began.
After this information overload there’s a brief cut back to Squad 13 who discuss Kokoro and Mitsuru’s memory loss. Zorome comes down on Papa’s side, though Hiro is able to convince the crew that they need to talk with Papa and convince him to give back their friend’s memories and return them to normal.
Seeing our hard-working kids wanting to stand up to Papa is great, but now that we know they are clones, literally destined to fight as soldiers until they inevitably die — it’s difficult to not feel the melancholy of their unchanging situation.
In one last blast to the past with Dr. Franxx, we see that whole squads has to be used to take down the Klaxosaurs. It was a huge waste of time and money, and APE had to find new weapons and techniques to the kill the monsters. As the technology grew, Franxx learned that kids piloting the robots needed emotions, so they were given antiquated homes to live in to deepen bonds and emotion, and everything provided for them automatically to keep the children as their best health.
After some time, the humans in the plantations forgot about the Klax invasions as the children above died over and over for their sake. Because the humans no longer lived in fear, they began to get comfortable and lived in tedium. Franxx, himself, became bored with the future of the already “dead” race and began perfecting his cloning techniques when he heard of a certain Klaxosaur Queen.
Somehow, it’s not explained in the least, APE learned that the Klaxosaurs operated with orders from a Queen below the ground in what is now know as the Grand Crevasse. She sits in the ruins of some ancient civilization, and I sit wondering what happened to them and what and where were the Klax before the magma mining.
APE’s instruction to Franxx is for him to return with a DNA sample from the Queen, and though he is successful, the Queen takes Franxx’s arm as recompense for her fallen subjects. During this, we realize that she isn’t part of the previous human race as I had initially thought, and she’s just simply a different species than us.
We stay relatively comfortable in the present for the last bit of the episode, with Dr. Franxx as the intermediary between Squad 13 and APE. The kids make their case, and Papa states that the memories were not sealed away – they were removed entirely, so there is no going back for Kokoro and Mitsuru. Just as Futuoshi begins to throw a tantrum, Zorome asks Papa how many more Klax they need to kill to become adults. Knowing the answer just from Papa and APE’s silence, Zorome finally realizes (I think for sure this time) that the kids truly only exist to pilot robots and die.
Hiro follows up this series of outbursts denouncing Papa as their father and asking to be set free once the next mission is over. The fact that APE agrees to these terms makes me wonder how truly deadly this next mission, if it all even matters, and just how much we can actually trust the word of this invading, bodiless, alien race.
Just before we close for the week, we see Dr. Franxx’s past self holding the hair of the Klax Queen, and using those wonderful context clues we know that he is Zero Two’s father. While this isn’t a terribly big revelation, and it’s something we could all guess from the get-go, especially at the beginning of the episode when we found that humanity possessed no reproductive organs at the time of Zero Two’s birth. From here, we can assume that Dr. Franxx is the father of a great many of these children, too.
It’s an interesting fact since he was able to torture is daughter in such a way.
Darling in the Franxx is wrapping up quite nicely, and all of our questions are getting answered. There’s a fair bit of mystery left, and even if we don’t find out what the Klax truly are, I’ll be happy just knowing that humanity declined so terribly over the course of about forty years.