DARLING in the FRANXX is the newest post-Evangelion mecha anime about teenagers and their ugly sex drives. This week in anime, Nick and Micchy see how it's stacking up against similar horny yet introspective series so far.
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You can read our weekly coverage of DARLING in the FRANXX here!
Micchy! Good news! We have another excuse to talk about Aquarion EVOL!
You had me enthusiastically tearing off my clothing there for a minute, but this is going to be a Darling in the FRANXX discussion instead, isn't it?
Either way, it's not often you get to
talk about buttcheek sakuga.
They're slightly more clothed than an Aquarion character, anyway. Just never mind the choice camera angles.
But yes, it's finally time to talk about the new co-production from A-1 Pictures and Studio Trigger, the latest in a long and storied line of anime that beg the question: "What if Robots, but Sex?"
Or in this case, "What if Robot Butt Sex?"
If anything, I'm more restrained than the show.
Mecha as a genre is no stranger to the ol' psychosexual coming-of-age story. With so many teenage boys in the cockpit, things are bound to get horny at some point. Hell, FRANXX's most obvious stylistic influence, Neon Genesis Evangelion, never shied away from discussing Shinji's weird hangups about sex and sexuality. Some robot shows dig a little deeper than others into the obvious "powering the mech with teenage spirit (read: libido)" gimmick.
And others are Captain Earth
I personally enjoyed how in Star Driver the magical robot-activating power was literally called libido, as if that show needed to be any less subtle between the window-smooching and fetish gear.
Well if "less subtle" is your bag, then boy does FRANXX have something for you. Because somewhere in the writing room, the folxx making franxx thought "who the hell needs subtext". So far, piloting the robot literally just means doing the horizontal monster mash.
Somebody's franxx is gettin the suxx iykwim.
But yeah, that's mostly been the focus of these first three episodes. There's nominal hints at a plot about fighting radioactive dinosaurs or whatever, and there's hints about some YA-style dystopia in the background, but franxxly the show has mostly been about hammering in that the robots are powered by fucking, so here's how that setup makes all of these kids feel weird in their shorts.
For a show so laden with double entendres, FRANXX seems really unconcerned with actual sex. Despite the awkward-ass cockpit arrangements, the show doesn't seem to give a shit about how the characters feel about each other's bodies. There's some subtle love polygon dynamics in play, but otherwise FRANXX is weirdly chaste in terms of interactions outside the robots. The characters have no idea what kissing is, and their partnerships are government-enforced; the end result is this horrible imitation of sexuality that only exists when piloting the FRANXX. Visually, however, it's a fuckin' field day with boobs and girl crotches everywhere. Franxxly, that disconnect is what puts me off most of these first three episodes.
Yeah, that's something that stuck out to me too. I'm decidedly more positive on the show so far, but that's mostly based on a fairly generous reading that allows it more rope than may be advisable in the future. The more we learn about the Parasites' childhood and the world they've been raised in, the more I hope the show wants to pick apart the weird, uncomfortably utilitarian approach to sexuality that permeates their situation. But then there's the lovingly animated butts.
Yeah, I feel like the camera's fixation on the female characters' bodies undermines anything the show might have to say about divorcing sex from sensuality. There are ways to do this! Aquarion EVOL starts off with its male and female characters separated into two departments, with their only exposure to Aquarion "merging" (read: sex) being this clinical, procedural thing. In that show, it's no accident that the guys' school is basically boot camp, while the girls' is essentially a convent: the most sexless, prudish environments imaginable. All the T&A shots happened in relevant contexts, when the characters themselves are checking each other out. Meanwhile in FRANXX, you have these kids raised to be completely unaware of their own sexuality—while the camera lingers on tits and asses. Is it supposed to be sexy or not? Unclear. The show wants to have its cake and eat it too, which seriously bothers me. It also strikes me that it's all female fanservice in FRANXX. It doesn't even pretend to humor any perspective but a straight guy's, and honestly, I'm tired of it.
It's definitely a problem that kinda comes with the show's decidedly straight-dude-perspective so far. The first three episodes have focused pretty much all on Hiro and how he relates to sexual dysfunction. In that regard it certainly captures the myopic way a lot of teen guys relate to sex. His major foils outside of his Domme Demon GF have been obviously insecure shitheads trying to prove they're Billy Bigcock by piloting better than him. But the show hasn't really offered much perspective from the female half of the cast. Outside of Ichigo and Hiro's mechanical dysfunction in episode 2 (she loves him but he can't get it up for her), the only insight we've gotten into the girls' side is 02, who's potentially interesting as the only one who seems to know the larger picture beyond this Robot Sex Cult that some assholes have started in the middle of the desert. But she's still more or less a mystery for Hiro (and the audience) to unravel and I guess be turned on by if that's your thing. And hey, the half of my Twitter feed that's into FRANXX definitely responds to her.
The cynical part of me can't help but feel she's being set up for a "taming" character arc, but that's probably paranoia on my part. I'd like to believe we as a culture can properly appreciate good domme gfs.
02 appeals to me on a base level, is what I'm saying.
In that regard I am cautiously hopeful. Mostly because the more we learn about the world of FRANXX, the more it seems like it's setting up this whole society to be knocked down. Like the masked guys were already weird:
But every new revelation about these child-broiling dudes makes them come off more like
And the restrictive dichotomy of the cockpits seems at least self-aware and purposeful. The girls' HUD helmets look pretty dang similar to traditional Shinto wedding headwear.
I don't think it's a coincidence that these are called "Horn Hiders"
Hey, if the series ends up becoming a scathing critique of heteronormativity (meaning a system where all relationships, even queer ones if they exist at all, have defined masculine = dom and feminine = sub roles), I can maybe dig it. For what it's worth, I do think it's interesting that we never actually see Zero Two in that awkward cockpit pose. While most of the girls serve as the vehicles to the male pilots (the robots themselves assume the girls' voices/emotions), she seems to break that trend. So there might be some neat subversion down the road. I'm just not sure the show isn't shooting itself in the foot along the way.
when u nut but she keep destroyin
But yeah, I definitely understand people being wary so far. While I think there's a lot of good material being seeded for an interesting examination of compulsory sexuality and unlearning a lot of bullshit about sex, the series hasn't actually done much to assure viewers that it's going that way yet.
I would also very much appreciate it if the show acknowledges that queer people exist, but maybe that's too much to ask given its perspective so far. I don't mind if all it ends up doing is upending its own rigid system. All I ask is that it not be so gross about staring at crotches, thank you very much. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Yeah, 02 licking Ichigo doesn't really count as representation.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like that bit though.
However it turns out, I am at least interested in seeing where FRANXX goes with all this nonsense. This show has clearly had a lot of effort poured into it by a lot of talented artists, and I'd like to see all that be in service of a story with more going on under its hood than just "But is it okay if I let my girlfriend be on top sometimes?"