Puberty & Robots – A 20 Question Reassessment of Darling in the FranXX (Episode 1-15)

Well well well… I never thought I’d see the day you reviewed Darling in the FranXX again! What with all the bluster and hand-wringing and harsh words you threw at it in your previous two reviews? Yes it’s true, I had some ~negative~ comments about the show when I first watched it in the week-to-week format when it first came out.

Uh-huh, that’s the understatement of the century. You were frothing at the mouth you had so much vitriol toward the show. Why are we back reviewing it again? Well I took a two month break from the show after Episode 8, and I’ve been keeping tabs on it on social media and through various blogger’s reviews and I noticed the mood turning on the show, some of the people who were quick to sing its praises were growing cold on the show and I thought this was interesting.

How so? Well I observed a pattern, people were turning off the show because they felt it was focusing too much on the relationships between the characters and not enough on the world-building and sci-fi plot that was the hook for so many people—myself included.

So initially you watched the show because you thought it was going to be a compelling sci-fi/dystopian tale with mild teen-angst & robots. That’s correct.

But what is the show actually about? It’s a compelling coming-of-age story/romance/drama set against a back-drop of dystopian sci-fi & robots.

♪ “Tonight is the night… when two become one…” ♪

Sorry, did you just call this show “compelling”? What happened to the guy who ranted on for over 1000 words using buzz-words like “the patriarchy” and “heteronormative”? Oh I’m still here, I just realised something along the way while reading the messages of all those people who were getting disappointed about what the show was choosing to focus on.

And what’s that? That this show was never meant to be taken seriously, the show was never meant to be viewed as some sort of genre-spanning masterpiece or some sci-fi action extravaganza, it’s just a story about a bunch of kids who live an unusual life trying to navigate the perils of puberty and love and relationships without the help of external influences like parents or teachers or guardians or older siblings to guide them.

Why did you underline that part? What did you think you came up with something revolutionary there? I, uh… well no. I just thought I’d highlight what my mindset was when I decided to re-watch the first 8 episodes—and the subsequent 7 after—that make up for the “first part” of the story.

Okay, fair enough. So this isn’t a review is it, at least not in the traditional sense? No, this is, as the title suggests a ‘reassessment’ I don’t want to get bogged down in covering episode-by-episode plot points, this is purely addressing the criticism I had for this show in my previous reviews and explaining where my opinions are now.

Right… so it’s a retcon of those previous two reviews? If you want to put it like that, sure. But those reviews are still up there to see me in all my hyperbolic rage, I’m not deleting a word of those, just setting the record straight.

Fine. So the ‘rampant sexism’ that you claimed was among the worst you’d seen in an anime. Yup that’d be the hyperbole… you know how when you get worked up about something and you just kind of over-exaggerate your rage and your indignation to prove a point? Well, guilty of that here! When I re-watched the episodes, I felt a very minimal amount of ‘rage’, ‘distaste’ or ‘discomfort’, so minimal that I’d wonder if I’d suffered a brain injury of some kind that made me view the show so differently. In fact, after episode 8 (i.e. the one that made me rage-quit the show in the first-place) the “objectionable content” was almost completely gone.

Okay, sure. But what about the idea that by containing these “immature” and “harmful” elements—your words—that the show was undoing its very own reason for existing. That was when I thought the show was aiming to be high-art, like the first episode of the show is very pretentious in all the ways I like so as you can imagine I was expecting a lot of lofty things from the show and so when it didn’t deliver and instead seemed to regress into this adolescent, almost childish show you can perhaps understand why I was taken off guard.

So the fact the show is actually a coming-of-age romance/drama with emotionally ill-prepared teens excuses the shows short-comings? In a way yeah, it kind of does! Like let’s forget that this show is written by a bunch of 40+ year old men and is financed by a large company and all that ~external~ stuff and look at it as it’s being told. It’s told from the perspective of these kids, they have the majority if not entirety of the ‘voice over’, it’s their story—it just happens to be set against the high-concept back-drop of a dystopian future with moving dome cities and transforming monsters and giant mechs.

This is just window dressing…

I’m still not sure I get your point… Let me put it another way, your life, yes you the reader I’m talking to you directly right now—your life it may be school-based or work-based, it may be in a poor country or a city with a high-crime rate or street or a town with bad infrastructure but that’s not what your story is about, your story is about you and the feelings you feel and the relationships you build—that’s your story and that’s the story of Darling in the FranXX!

There he goes again, underlining his own text like he’s being all profound and shit. Hey! It’s my site, I can do what I want!

That’s true enough. So you’ve done a complete 180 on Darling in the FranXX then and all it took was changing your preconceived notions of the seriesSee I can underline you too, in those rare moments you say something concisely accurate. Feels good doesn’t it?

Feels good man.

Hmpf, it doesn’t feel bad, if that’s what you’re getting at… Geez, you’re such a tsun…

Don’t call me that! Ahem… so anything else you want to add before we end this reappraisal? Well if we’re going to go into specifics for a second I personally think Episodes 11-15 are of such a high-quality emotional story-telling that I could scarcely believe I was watching the same show. Before that point it was still a well-animated, deeply character driven but nonetheless entertaining show (post reassessment opinion) but those episodes were ~exactly~ the kind of thing I was expecting and wanting from this show!

The feels!

If you’ll allow me to interject for just a second. You did complain in your initial reviews that you wished the show would focus on story and world-building instead of character. Now I know since you decided to approach the show from a different perspective your ‘needs’ for the show have changed, but do you still want for the show to explore the deeper “secrets” and lore behind the dystopian world it’s built. I do, and I believe it will, it’s just all that stuff is taking a back-seat to the coming-of-age romance it’s wanting to tell instead. And while I understand how that can be frustrating for people who just want that aspect of the show, I’m perfectly content for it to be the garnish to this delicious character-driven buffet.

So uh… how do we wrap this up? Umm… okay, what would you say to the disillusioned people who have dropped the show, or are barely hanging on, or who find themselves frustrated with the various ‘decisions’ this show has made. By all means do as I did and drop the show, take a month or more even to distance yourself from it, but come back and watch it with all I’ve said in mind… I’m not saying that having this point-of-view when watching Darling in the FranXX fixes inherent problems in the show itself, however I absolutely think it helps in understanding what this show wants to be! And taking all that into account can help one truly appreciate this show for what it is; a show about Puberty & Robots.


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13 comments

  1. As much as I agree with you on what FranXX actually is, it doesn’t excuse the wildly unfocused narrative or inconsistent pacing. I do think that the second half of the series so far has been MUCH better than the first half in terms of story-telling, but that’s going from like a 5 to a 7.5 in my book.

    I never disliked Darlifra, but it’s gonna take some reeeaaaallllyyyy good episodes down the stretch here for it to actually win me over.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t know I kind of like how unfocused it is. It’s like a roller coaster of what to expect… like puberty! But I can understand your frustrations. I think binge-watching the 15 eps over the course of a week helped too as I got to see it all in a short period of time rather than having to wait a week between each small piece of story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree that character relationships are the best part of the show. Still, that is enveloped with everything else, and that everything else for me isn’t that satisfying. I almost think that the good stuff could’ve been condensed into a 1 cour show because the overall story feels unfocused and somehow empty. The sexual part also feels weird – at first it was important, then it practically vanished and as of now, it seems like the whole mechanism of piloting the Franxxs (and everything else) was put just for the sake of it without any meaning.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. There seems to be lots of stuff to be explained and developed yet. I have a premonition I’m not going to be very happy about all of it (Team Ichigo will never win, though Goro is probably better for her anyway). It would be very frustrating if these explanations will be on the same level as the last flashback episode, but yeah, we won’t know until the episodes air. Let’s hope for the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I wouldn’t mind this show being character driven drama about the kids with the robots in the background, if it was doing a good job of character drama, but even there it is wildly inconsistent in how it presents things and the melodrama is at times off the charts. Plus, the world and its set up keeps adding in stupid road blocks for the sake of it but the world is inadequately explained so it just makes you scratch your head and wonder what the point is actually going to be.
    So frustrated with this anime as while there are some elements in there that are quite good, the overall narrative is not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it being inconsistent is indicative of the situation these kids find themselves in, but then again I think that’s as much as an excuse as it is reality but I’m willing to go with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really didn’t like it to start, and i’m still not sure if i would now, but admittedly my main hang-up is that i wanted it to be something else, which sounds like what happened with you. maybe, if i ever get thru my current backlog, I’ll give it a shot because I want to go in fresh & also go in WITHOUT being bogged down by other opinions from all the bajillion people watching it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think binge watching it after the fact will help a lot, my fiance hated the show when we first watched it week-to-week but now she really likes it (maybe not as much as I have grown to like it but still, its a surprising change in opinion!).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m entirely where you are, but I’ve been there from the very beginning. I kept (and keep) seeing people whinging about how it’s all unfocused, and doesn’t have any story (even in the comments here), and goes so many episodes without advancing “the plot”, and I’m like “You guys are all missing it. The story’s right there, in these kids, in what they’re doing, in how their lives are playing out, in this tension between wanting to control their own lives and having things imposed on them, in this tension between their feelings and their actions and their words.” I’ve thought it’s a pretty good story as it just lets that all play out in all of it’s angsty, messy, shouty glory.

    I think the key thing is that people like that weren’t watching the show that was in front of them. They were trying to watch a show that didn’t exist, and getting mad at the show that does exist because it’s not what they think it is. I think it’s good that you could step back from it, recalibrate what you’re looking at, and appreciate what’s presented, instead of just focusing on the fact that what’s presented isn’t what you wanted it to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reassessing your preconceived notions is a hard thing for people to do, I don’t really hold it against the people who can’t or won’t. I just hope this gets through to some people who maybe have given up on the show so they can give it a second chance.

      Like

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