Easily the most controversial set of reviews I’ve ever had to write (so far), DARLING in the FRANXX began it’s run with a lot of promise. This show was a combination of the production efforts of Studio TRIGGER and A-1 (who later renamed the offshoot team that worked on this series to Cloverworks), and it started off with a lot of potential and hype.
The first half of the series is a bit messy and way too derivative of other, better shows (*cough* Evangelion *cough*), but it still managed to tell and endearingly cheesy love story punctuated by well animated mecha battles, all set in a reasonably compelling post-apocalyptic landscape. Hiro never made much of an impression as the series lead, but his partner Zero Two had the benefit of energetic characterization and a top-tier character design, so it’s easy to see why folks latched on to her as the season’s Best Girl™. The robots themselves, called FRANXX, were an interesting hybrid of bulky mecha designs and, erm, “humanoid” proportions (they have boobs, you see). The method of piloting the FRANXX is perhaps the least subtle sex-metaphor ever put to screen, but the battles they have with the mysterious Klaxosaurs are usually quite fun. DARLING in the FRANXX mostly worked in it’s first cour, despite some troubling subtext and a few puzzling story beats.
The second half of the series, though, started off as problematic and devolved into a hot mess of terrible exposition, confusing and potentially offensive themes, and one of the worst attempts at executing and 11th-hour “twist” that I’ve ever seen. Zero Two’s characterization undergoes a lobotmy that rids her of any of the charm and personality she started the show as, Hiro becomes an increasingly insufferable and selfish asshole of a protagonist, and the Big Reveal that explains the true motivations of the Klaxosaurs is just irredeemably dumb. I didn’t hate DARLING in the FRANXX, but it did manage to almost completely nullify everything I liked about its first half with every awful decision it made getting to its finale, and I’d consider the final product to be mostly a waste of time.
Don’t let any of the hardcore FRANXX fans find out about that, though, because they very well might try to hunt me down and pelt me to death with their expensive Zero Two figurines.
My full set of streaming reviews can be found on Anime News Network.