WARNING – Here be all kinds of spoilers!
I recently wrote up a quick review of the first 12 episodes of Darling in the FRANXX, including a brief recap of episodes 10-12. In my review I noted that following the first major arc surrounding Hiro and Zero Two (I call it “The curse of three” arc) the show seemed to lose sight of itself a bit. It was still delivering an entertaining show, but it lacked the power and excitement of those early episodes.
I can say with confidence that episodes 12 and 13 have helped right the ship once again.
The episode picks up right where 12 left off: Hiro and Zero Two in the cockpit of Strelizia as Zero Two appears to be going berserk. As their FRANXX goes into overload, their consciousness meet temporarily, and we get to see the backstory of both young Zero Two and young Hiro.
Zero Two is shown in a dilapidated nursery, surrounded by scarred walls and destroyed stuffed animals, her earliest memories involve being visited by a mysterious dark figure that brings her food and provides some level of comfort for the child. Eventually, this figure brings her a vivid picture book telling the story of a handsome prince and a female beast that falls in love with him. While Zero Two is unable to read the story, the pictures draw her in and it becomes an early, prized possession.
Hiro recalls his early years at The Garden, and we get a more detailed version of how the other pilots got names from Hiro when they were all very young, including Ichigo and Mitsuru. His potential as a teen Code meant that he got some special treatment, but he grows increasingly frustrated that adults refuse to answer his questions, and that more and more children go missing every day.
Zero Two’s life takes a sudden and dark turn when the scientists begin to perform experiments on her. The tests that we see are mainly surrounding regeneration, which means that the young Zero Two was severely tortured – subjected to injury after injury to witness her healing abilities. Hiro sees her being dragged off to a series of tests, and fruitlessly asks who the little red girl is. Unsurprisingly, he’s ignored by the adults.
The terrible experiments continue until one day Hiro hears her screaming following one of his routine examinations. Walking up to the window, he sees a horrible sight:
He pleads with the nearest adult to let her go and stop hurting her, but he’s shuffled off and left to wander in the snow, reflecting on the terrible things the adults are doing to her. He thinks back and remembers seeing her in an external room that is near a large tree, and so he climbs it and uses the access to break the window and let her out.
The two then flee into the woods together. At first, Hiro has difficulty talking to Zero Two because she doesn’t fully understand him. Slowly, however, she begins to talk to Hiro in broken language.
He starts his relationship with her like he has with the other children, by giving her a name. Noticing her code number, 002, he almost names her “Oni”, or Demon. Instead, he goes with something more familiar.
So, the ill-fated children effectively run away from home, attempting to hide from the soldiers. It’s during this outing that we discover some of the origins of Zero Two’s eccentric behavior. She loves sweets because Hiro is the first one who gave her candy. She licks people because of the way he attempts to treat her wounded knee after she falls. She seeks a darling because of a long forgotten promise…
Unfortunately, their escape doesn’t last very long. Finally cornered by the adults, Hiro is knocked unconscious and the two are brought back, where their memories are erased. Zero Two is driven to become a human so that she can be with her darling from back then, and as the episode ends the two realize the gravity of their former connection, and their reunion is complete.
What a fantastic episode this was. With the benefit of a full season ahead of them, Darling in the FRANXX was able to dedicate a whole episode to pulling the curtains back on Hiro and Zero Two’s tragic past.
The episode did a great job in the first segment of switching between the two to maintain a good flow of plot while also effectively tackling two plot-lines at the same time. We begin to see Hiro’s dissatisfaction with the way The Garden handles things, and the early spirit of his rebellious nature.
What really set the episode apart, however, was its overall emotional impact. I’m sure we’ve all seen a similar plot play out before – it’s not like we’re unaware of what “star-crossed lovers” look like. However, considering the world and the characters that have been built up to this point, the episode delivered one revelation after another, all seated in this brief escape that Hiro and Zero Two experienced together.
The result is a fully-realized relationship and bond between the two that now threatens the structured society they’ve grown up in. With their memories returned, it’s unlikely that they will simply forgive and forget. Is a revolution on the horizon? How will the Nines play into all this? Will Papa finally make an official appearance to quell Zero Two and Hiro?
Guess we’ll find out! Stay tuned, and check out new episodes every week on Crunchyroll!
Darling in the FRANXX - Episode 13
- The revelation of Hiro and Zero Two's past is masterfully done
- Effectively dispels any remaining doubts about how messed up the adults are
- Fantastic music choices that complement the broader story
- None that I can think of - a truly impressive episode.