DARLING in the FRANXX

DARLING in the FRANXX ★★

This is the first show I've seen that follows the Gainax formula but isn't actually good. It has all the elements it needs to succeed: teenage friendship drama, cool mechas, shadowy conspiracy, exotic enemies, decent animation, ending that goes off the rails, etc., but it focuses on all the wrong stuff. The characters are fun, and they have interesting relationships, but they resolve all their personal problems long before the actual climax. The mechas and monsters are traditionally 2D animated for the most part, which is a relief, but their designs are bafflingly bad. The "mecha piloting as clumsy metaphor for sex" thing that's present in most Gainax shows is turned up to ludicrous levels: the mandatory skintight pilot suits are so skintight they're literally sprayed on, and the cockpit layout requires a hilarious "doggy style" pose from the teenage pilots. The title is also really really bad.

All these issues could have been ignored if Darling in the Franxx managed to stick the ending, but it fails there too. It does the "crazy twist and huge stakes escalation" thing an episode too early, and we're left longing for a spectacular climactic final battle that never really happens as the pacing grinds to a halt. While it's nice to see Trigger and Khara working together on the old formula, they should stick to directors who know what they're doing (basically just Imaishi and Yoshinari).

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