「わたしを離さないで」 (Watashi o Hanasanaide)
“Never Let Me Go”
And with that the ride is over, the adventure is done. Keeping with the momentum of its latter half Franxx offered no new surprises for us in its final minutes, opting instead for a happy romp through the good times via an eight year montage (and longer) which more or less tied everything up while indulging in some fan desires. The world returned to normal(-ish), Kokoro and Mitsuru finally had that baby who of course would be named Ai, and a few other key pairings were confirmed through their own baby making shenanigans (except for Zorome-Miku for some inexplicable reason). Even Futoshi managed to avoid being the NTR poster boy by finding new love and a trucker ‘stache to boot, because nothing says bad boy like a set of grizzled whiskers. Or at least that’s what my family acquaintances tell me.
As for our titular couple they succeeded in their
honeymoon mission of stopping the Virm menace at the cost of their material forms (oh the irony), although not without the promise of reincarnation and a return to the good old days of friendship. No matter opinions on the strength of the moment, it’s the ending fulfilling the Jian metaphor and the omnipresent fairy tale storybook, bringing a proper end to Hiro’s klaxosaur/-sapiens ascension and Zero Two’s purpose in life. The darling duo found their happiness and through victory gave a chance for humanity to recover and prosper. Considering the Virm still technically exist and are biding their time the new humanity will have to be ready. Something tells me though the next generation will be more than up to the task.
Out of all anime airing so far this year, none has come close to popularity (or infamy) that is Franxx. In true Trigger fashion this series has had a wild swing of ups and downs with more mecha references and homages than you could shake a stick at, shooting forward with twists and turns that have simultaneously shocked and infuriated before slowing down to get ready to do it all again. It was the quintessential popcorn show, giving one everything one could ask for in terms of entertainment, but a show which arguably fell short of its promised heights. It was good, but in hindsight could have easily been better.
The main issue with Franxx is structure. By this I don’t mean its story or its characters—both were in fact well-designed and logically drawn out; the problem instead lies in the “arcs” emphasized. Take TTGL (very similar in plot) or even KLK, both those series featured key midpoints and intermediate “boss” fights which gave a sense of urgency to their respective stories. We had some form of enemy to face and hints of something else lurking in the shadows (plus another 12 episodes) to keep the suspense strong and intrigue overbearing—critical elements for retaining audience interest. Franxx however technically did not have this, there was no intial boss showdown or midseason switch, no gradual realization that something “greater” was occurring under the surface. Components incessantly teased to this effect—Papa, the Nines, potential parasite rebellion—never materialized into an actual fight, instead serving as little more than info dump speed bumps on the way to the true enemy in the Virm who themselves also barely received any notable development attention. We had all the enemies one could ask for, but little time devoted to actually dealing with them.
Why this transpired is due to where Franxx lavished its attention: world/character building. In place of the usual “action” shenanigans we received a slew of development heavy episodes focusing on most of the main cast, giving us both fleshed out characters and hints of Franxx’s world (ex. Zorome’s adventure, the beach episode). In isolation these moments of course are mandatory, outside of light novel info dumps they’re the means we learn and grow to care about the main cast. The problem is that Franxx overemphasized this requirement over the other, replacing its climactic midpoint with character development (read: drama) that may have satiated the love for all things darling related, but did nothing for creating a tangible threat to overcome. Instead of a story-esque peak we arguably got a trough, with the result being a final threat—i.e. the Virm—needing those potential midseason enemies quickly disappear to make room for the real fight—and we all know how that turned out in practice.
While there’s no guarantee Franxx would have been objectively better with improved focus and a better midpoint (something something hindsight being 20/20), the show certainly had the components needed to step beyond its actual offering. Those ample aforementioned mecha references gave lots of room for some seriously entertaining action scenes for example (particularly with the wonderful use of 2D animation), and more than a few interesting characters were left wanting of some fleshing out for the benefit of audience entertainment (*looks at Hachi and Nana*). Franxx easily had the anime world by the tail, but—if only to repeat it again—chose to let it go for whatever reason. Whether down to A1’s involvement (see Qualidea Code) or simply Trigger stuck in the originality rut that is Kiznaiver is unclear, but Franxx’s potential success ultimately paid the price for some decisions made as to the nature of its story.
For good or bad though Franxx in the end is going to be a series well-remembered for seasons to come. It may have offered less than expected or (for some) overly indulged in all manner of fan service, but there’s no denying it kept us all fixated and eagerly anticipating every episode set to air. We may not have received the spiritual successor to TTGL or Trigger’s next awaited hit piece, but Franxx shows there’s plenty of room for epic-esque mecha and post-apocalypse stories. Should our darling couple and their baby making ways pave the way for something greater in the future, I think this series, warts and all, has done more than enough to keep our heaven piercing drill dreams alive.