Before I share my thoughts on Episode 23, I just want to quickly address the elephant in the room that is Gorou’s voice. For those who don’t know, cast member Yuichiro Umehara is currently getting treated for an autoimmune disease he got diagnosed with back in May, thus putting his voice acting career on hiatus. Replacing him for the last two episodes is Daiki Hamano. It’s pretty obvious that Gorou’s voice changed but I mean that as a mere observation and not a complaint. Given the circumstances, I think Hamano is doing the best he can and I hope Umehara will make a speedy recovery.
Really, a last-minute cast change is the least of this episode’s problems. I realize that at this point, I must sound like a broken record but it truly does baffle me how much this show has lost its mind. In hindsight, calling the first two or three episodes weird was a gross misunderstanding. If only I knew what this show truly had in store.
As promised last episode, Darling‘s final battle between humanity, the klaxosaurs, and VIRM take place in space and it’s really not as amazing as it sounds. With how rushed the backstory has been and how insultingly simplified the antagonists proved to be, there really isn’t much to appreciate in this final battle besides some visual callbacks to Gurren Lagann. And like I said before, all the callbacks do is just remind me that I could be watching a much better and more appropriately absurd mecha anime.
Even the upgrades Squad 13 gets so that they can pilot their Franxxs in space feel underwhelming. Just change their primary colors to black and ditch the cool weapons for the standard issue laser lance thing that’s meant to be lame. That’s the so-called upgrades this show claims our heroes got. It couldn’t even give an elaborate explanation behind them either. It just says that klaxosaurs provided the paint job. For once, I kind of wish the show brought up magma again. Also, how come the Squad 13 got the upgrades but the Nines don’t need them for their Franxxs? There is actually no reason given. It’s just sheer laziness.
The resolutions provided in this episode are at best, hit or miss. Alpha sacrifices himself so that Hiro can reach Zero Two but who honestly gave a shit that he died? I’m surprised the other two Nines are even still alive (for the record, who are they even co-piloting with?). Hachi and Nana resolve to fulfill Dr. Franxx’s request of looking after the children. I wish this show delved more into their characters. They clearly were not given the attention they deserve. Back at Earth, Kokoro and Mitsuru rekindle their relationship which is to be expected. It does feel a little cheap considering what little time was devoted to seeing them rebuild their chemistry. At least they got their happy ending though because oh man, I really didn’t want this show to discuss abortion. Crisis averted if you ask me.
I don’t know why Hiro getting tied up by tentacles is becoming a recurring image but watching him dive into Zero Two’s mind one last time was an admittedly beautiful scene. I just adore how the scene uses the “Beast and the Prince” illustrations to visualize Zero Two’s mind, telegraphing to the viewer how she’s convinced her life is trapped in this book. Having her revert to her younger form shows her vulnerability and fear while Hiro imagining himself as the Prince character demonstrates his desire to change her ending for the better. Admittedly, I don’t get why the show then proceeds to show their naked bodies (I guess we needed a callback to the 2nd OP?) but the whole scene is overall, really well directed and animated.
And then Darling in the FranXX proceeds to reveal that Strelizia’s true form is a giant Zero Two…yes, this actually happened. I’M DEAD SERIOUS RIGHT NOW.
I laughed. I laughed really fucking hard at that reveal. There is no way this anime expected anyone to take this seriously. I refuse to believe it. It is the dumbest thing this show has ever done and that is saying A LOT considering what we’ve had to deal with. One thing I noticed is that with the white armor and the headdress, it kind of looks like Zero Two is wearing a bridal gown. Perhaps the intent is to accentuate the union she feels with Hiro. Still, that doesn’t excuse Darling from pulling such goofy shit. Too many questions are raised here. Did Dr. Franxx program this function in? How did Zero Two merge with Strelizia? How can metal just become organic skin? How does this cause Zero Two’s original body to turn into stone? How can she talk in space? WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?
The biggest problem with this resolution though is that it just sucks all the emotion out the window. I should feel something about Hiro and Zero Two choosing to use a Mass Effect relay so that they can blow up VIRM Pacific Rim style. After spending so much time with these two and even liking them at a lot, the possibility that this is the end for them should carry weight. But it doesn’t. Not when you have Hiro tied up in a bunch of robot tentacles, piloting his giant robot girlfriend in a metallic wedding gown. This was the strongest story arc in the show and even then, the show found a way to screw the pooch.
Whatever, there’s one episode left. Let’s just get this anime done.
Thanks for reading!
For more Darling in the FranXX posts, check out the show’s archive page!
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