I was actually a bit surprised that Darling in the FranXX pulled the beach trip card. I mean, that scenario is a goldmine for fanservice but the thing is that Darling has had fanservice covered since it began. I’m just saying, those bodysuits already leave little to the imagination. But even crazier is that this episode might actually be one of my favorite episodes of Darling so far. I thought it was just going to be nothing but “plot” but as it turns out, there is some actual plot here!
At first, this scenario plays out as you’d expect. Everyone’s in swimsuits, having a good time, and there’s naturally some naughty camera shots for viewers to enjoy. To be fair, a trip to the beach does make more for a nice lighthearted adventure, especially after a remarkably intense battle last episode. And I’ll admit, there are some really amusing directorial choices here and there. I imagine it was very intentional to have Zero Two wear the most modest swimsuit out of all the girls. It’s almost like someone in the staff said, “Eh, we’ve already seen her naked. Why bother putting her in anything risque?”. It does crack me up that Hiro blushes at the sight of Zero Two considering they have seen each other naked at this point. Another thing that amuses me was seeing Gorou join Zorome and Futoshi in oogling over Miku and Kokoro. Gorou is arguably the most mature male in this team so it stunned me to see him indulge for once.
And speaking on indulging in typical adolescent romance, the boys (sans Mitsuru) actually confront Hiro about kissing. I still can’t believe that knowledge of something that simple eludes these teenagers’ brains though it has lately come across as peculiar than dumb. It just seems that Zero Two is the only one who already knew what kissing is. I mean, she did kiss Hiro after all. For a show that very blatantly makes visual allusions to sex, these characters seem to know very little about it. It’s strange because this trip to the beach reveals that these characters are kind of aware of what tickles their fancies and yet they don’t know that these relationships can escalate even further physically and sexually.
You know what surprised me most about this episode? How it suddenly goes from eyecandy to effective worldbuilding. See, halfway through the trip, everyone takes a detour and suddenly stumbles upon an abandoned town. While we are admittedly seeing teenagers in swimsuits explore a level of The Last of Us, I have to admit that this scene was effectively eerie. There’s always a strange tranquility seeing a civilization abandoned and now overrun by nature and yet it’s foreboding knowing that something cataclysmic caused all this. All signs point towards the klaxosaurs but for all we know, this mystery is as deep of a rabbit hole as Hiro’s powers.
Oddly enough, I found myself comparing the setting of Darling to that of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (fitting since the latter was made by Gainax). Both anime involve underground civilizations and robots though there is a big difference. Whereas Gurren Lagann had its cast of characters discover robots to liberate the surface, the central organization in Darling built robots to protect their underground cities from monsters running amok on the surface, thereby maintaining a status quo.
I wonder if Kokoro finding that book about childbirth will amount to something. Since these kids clearly did not attend Sex Ed, that book must be some taboo knowledge or something. Come to think about it, if sex is such a secretive topic, how exactly were the kids born? I mean, they definitely don’t know how they are made. But more importantly, they don’t seem to know about their parents and Zorome suggests in this episode that becoming an adult is a privilege all pilots have to earn. I can only imagine that some trouble will arise if Kokoro learns how babies are made.
There’s a couple of other things to consider. One, that the creator of the FranXX (of course his name is Dr. Franxx) is still alive really has you wondering how long this civilization has been in place. Two, Hiro’s slowly realizing that this cult of personality around “Papa” is messed up but no one else finds it strange. And three, it continues to boggle the mind that Ichigo still can’t confess to Hiro. In her defense, it’s Hiro’s fault for not paying attention but that stargazing scene was such a perfect opportunity! I know for a fact that Ichigo’s chances are slim here but goddamn it is this show good at making me care for this poor girl.
All in all, there’s a ton of things to keep in mind about Darling. Let’s hope that the upcoming episodes can offer some satisfying answers.
ED 2: “Manatsu no Setsuna” by XX:me
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