Despite spawning many memes when it first aired, Darling in the Franxx is an anime that has been mostly forgotten. While some shows immediately cement themselves as classics and are talked about for years after they initially air, others quickly fade from memory, even if they had a lot of hype behind them at the time of their release. Darling in the Franxx appears to be among the latter group. However, now is the perfect time to rediscover the series.
Darling in the Franxx was released in 2018 and co-produced by A-1 Pictures and Studio TRIGGER, with Studio TRIGGER and CloverWorks handling the animation. The series is set in a dystopian future where humanity is hanging on by a thread after an apocalypse. Humanity has abandoned the Earth's surface, and adults and children live separately. Adults are immortal and live in futuristic cities, but they are not allowed to procreate or have relationships with each other. The children, on the other hand, are artificial creations called parasites. They live in places called birdcages, where they are trained to operate mechs called Franxx.
The Franxx are important, as they are used to fight off creatures called klaxosaurs. Each Franxx requires a boy-girl pair who synchronize with each other to control the mech. The series is set in one of the world's birdcages, Plantation 13. Hiro is a pilot prodigy who is marked for greatness. However, he fails the final Franxx exam, as he is no longer able to synchronize with his partner. While he is avoiding the graduation ceremony, he meets Zero Two, a pilot with klaxosaur blood. Zero Two is called the "partner killer," as her partners always die when they synchronize with her for the third time. Despite this, Zero Two and Hiro end up forming an uneasy bond.
After it came out, the show was the center of some controversy. Many people criticized the amount of sexual innuendo as being inappropriate for a show with a teenaged cast. Others noted that the plot felt overly rushed in the show's second half, making the story confusing and hard to follow. Some also argued the second half failed to successfully capitalize on the characters and world-building that came before it. These criticisms only grew louder after the show's ending. Many fans and critics called the final episode a massive anti-climax and said it felt like it had been hastily written to meet a deadline.
However, many reviewers praised the show for its frank examination of the confusing coming-of-age experience and for its unique plot, which explores modern issues through a sci-fi anime lens. Positive reviews also drew attention to the show's characters, who are well-developed and memorable. This is evidenced by the fact that Zero Two became extremely popular in certain anime circles, with memes that feature her still being common today. Studio TRIGGER's animation also received lots of praise, and the series features all of Studio TRIGGER's usual hallmarks.
Looking back, Darling in the Franxx seems like a textbook example of a mediocre ending ruining a show's legacy. Even positive reviews agreed that the rushed second half led to an average finale that didn't live up to expectations. This means that many people simply won't recommend the show due to the disappointment of the ending sticking in their minds and overwhelming their positive memories of the show.
However, Darling in the Franxx is a show worth rediscovering. Despite its flaws, it is a very unique series that is unlike anything else around. While the second half may feel rushed, the show still has a memorable world, fascinating characters, and all the beautiful designs and animation that you would expect from a Studio TRIGGER production. Darling in the Franxx is not perfect, but it is a creative take on the mecha genre, and it will likely inspire future creators to experiment further with the genre.