I’m stepping out of bullet points mode for this episode because I have to admit that this one was a doozy.
As it turns out, Hiro happens to be Zero Two’s darling in both past and present, having met the latter when they were both children. It’s even revealed that it was Hiro who came up with the name “Zero Two” which I can’t help but laugh over because that’s a godawful name to give someone. At least Hiro admits he wasn’t at his A-game at the moment. Most impressive is that it seems that Darling in the FranXX really is making it official that the main couple is Hiro and Zero Two. For a series that has finagled with its relationship chart, I’m glad that it’s cementing one pairing for once. Sucks to be you, Ichigo.
I wouldn’t call this episode perfect; there’s a few things that while not awful, they could’ve been better. Let’s start with the framing behind the flashbacks. Having Hiro peer into Zero Two’s memories to unlock his own is pretty clever, reminding me of the drifting process from Pacific Rim. That said, why exactly did this work? I know pistils and stamens are synced mentally but it was never brought up in the past that peering into your co-pilot’s memories is a possibility. Having it introduced now feels like plot convenience.
Even more mind boggling though is how the adults operated in this episode. Is their approach to the children’s questionings seriously just shutting them up? They’re only letting kids like Hiro ponder even more. Wouldn’t it make more sense to create some elaborate lies so that the children at the Garden would stop asking questions? I’m just saying; it’d be easy to manipulate these kids while they’re still young and impressionable. It’s also just dystopia 101. I also love that Zero Two was experimented on in a room right next to where Hiro was getting tested. Great planning, guys!
I criticize but I have to admit that the actual moments where young Hiro and Zero Two interact is incredibly sweet. There’s no denying that. Whoever designed child Zero Two’s character did a great job making her look less human yet still adorable. The part where they eat Jolly Ranchers together is comforting but what really got to me was the scene where Hiro reads the picture book to Zero Two. Only the former can read and comprehend that text but it’s Zero Two who develops a strong connection with it. She still sees a parallel between the story and her newfound friendship with Hiro, thus instilling in her the lifelong goal of becoming human and living a life with her “darling”.
The ending is also really effective in expressing how tragically short-lived this relationship is. Splitting the aftermath into bits and pieces and transitioning between them with static cuts accentuates the memory loss Hiro and Zero Two are subjected to and how ominous the society they live under is. Honestly, this scene may be one of the most purposeful and emotionally charged directional choices I’ve seen in Darling in the FranXX so far.
I wouldn’t call this episode perfect and honestly the fact that I had to sit through the past twelve episodes to get something like this is leaving me a bit salty. I do, however, agree with some fellow viewers that Episode 13 is certainly a high point in Darling. I’d even dare call it the best episode yet. Not only does it advance the overall story, it’s also just a really compelling and emotionally moving episode on its own. That said, I don’t know if I can celebrate just yet. This is Darling in the FranXX after all; I’ve yet to see this anime offer a string of consistently great episodes in sequential order. And while I’ve been avoiding spoilers as best as I can, I have that heard things get controversial next episode. I mean, I don’t want to discount the possibility that I’ll end up liking it up…but I am a little scared right now.
- I really like that A-1 and Trigger included the entire picture book during the credits, letting us recognize the symbolism more easily. I wonder if the ending in the book is foreshadowing how Darling itself will conclude.
- The part in the picture book where it mentions the prince’s soul will get consumed seems like it connects to Zero Two’s status a teammate killer. That also puts Hiro’s ability to handle her powers in question as well. Hmmm…
- Hiro’s memories getting erased does explain the stuff with Mitsuru though I do confess that I haven’t thought much on it because I don’t like Mitsuru all that much. I’m hoping that it gets addressed though.
- I can’t help but feel that moment Hiro and Zero Two remember each other is undermined a teensy bit by the compromising positions they’re still taking in the cockpit. It still hits me in the feels but I confess to chuckling after thinking about that scene a bit more.
ED 4: “Hitori” by XX:me
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