Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Darling In The FRANXX Part One
Anime Studio: Studio Trigger/ CloverWorks
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Mecha / Sci-Fi / Romance
Released: May 27th, 2019
Extras: None on Disc
In a battle against the klaxosaurs only the children, classified as parasites, are humanity’s hope in this dying world. Fighting in mechanised suits known as FRANXX, parasites are grouped up in male and female pairs to face the monstrous creatures. Hiro was once a prodigy FRANXX pilot. But when he gives up the fight, he meets Zero Two, the girl with the horns, and finds a new reason to keep going.
Originally releasing in January 2018, Darling in the FRANXX was simulcast on Crunchyroll. Now, Manga Entertainment are releasing it in the UK, starting with this Blu-ray box set covering the first half of the run. Having not watched it during the original simulcast, I was eager to dive into the story here, and honestly, I wasn’t left disappointed.
Darling in the FRANXX is, at its best, a genuinely interesting take on the mecha genre. I love the design work when it comes to both the klaxosaurs and the FRANXX. In a way, it feels like a middle ground between Casshern: Sins and Evangelion in that regard, at least to me. And the designs get to be shown off in the best way possible too: via some excellent action scenes that do a good job of balancing mech concepts with a surprisingly Western comic-book feel. It’s these cross-over elements that made it all stand out to me during key moments. And it’s all aided by a terrific soundtrack that features some excellent heroic feeling moments and a superb ending theme.
What drew me in though was that the series takes a bunch of familiar things – such as the dystopian setting and some common character types – and gives it all enough heart to really stand out. And that happens right from the get-go. The series starts with Hiro and Zero-Two giving their thoughts on the mythical Jian bird and how they rely on finding a mate to fly. This immediately shows us the two leads’ worldviews, and as we start to see more of the setting, that becomes important. It also gives Hiro a point to grow from.
Zero Two is by far the most standout part of the release when it comes to characters. From the subtlety of the horns in her design to her focus on taste, she’s an intriguing focal point for the story. By the time we hit the end of the second disc and start building some more intrigue around her existence, she’ll likely already be a favourite for many viewers.
That’s not to say that the rest of the cast is poor though. Hiro does a good job of both helping to move the story forward and giving us opportunities to learn more about the other kids in the Unit. The way they all interact feels very natural too, meaning that any sense of generic traits falls away under the sheer likability of it all. And, much like with Zero Two, the end of the release gives us a few revelations as to the kids’ origins that will leave you wanting to learn more.
Now, there are some unusual moments here too. For example, the FRANXX require co-pilots to effectively work them. While that’s not entirely out of the ordinary – Pacific Rim does the same, for example – the whole thing is set up to look quite sexual. And of course, the series is not devoid of fan service. What amazed me though is that the positives elements of the series drown out the things that I would otherwise find overly off-putting. For example, episode eight ramps up the fan service elements, but then gives us (and the characters) a stark reminder of death to push the actual story forward too. That the series has the ability to make me forget the stuff that I’m not a fan of so easily is a definite positive.
All in all, Darling in the FRANXX Part One is a great release. The animation is really good, Zero Two is a fantastic co-lead, and the series creates a wonderful sense of intrigue that will leave you excited for Part Two. This is an easy 4 out of 5.