Miss my review last week? You can find it here!
The episode opens with Dr. Franxx confronting Papa and the others on their interference with Squad 13. Instructing Dr. Franxx to “behave”, they abruptly end their conversation, which then transitions into a lore-rich episode detailing how the world got to be the way that it is.
The episode takes place on two timelines: one in the past that documents Dr. Franxx’s life, and the other in the present as the Children confront Papa and the others for taking away Mitsuru and Kokoro’s precious memories.
The past timeline starts with a fairly young Dr. Franxx being notified that he had been recruited by an upstart organization known as APE. Consisting of a handful of influential scientists, APE helped to design and implement the mining of magma energy: a low cost, high yield energy source that launched mankind to the “apex of material civilization”. APE’s role in this helped them to amass tremendous political and economic power. They had recruited Dr. Franxx to work on a rather ambitious project: securing immortality through the use of magma energy.
Already familiar with taboo science practices (he did some seriously controversial work in cloning, best as we can tell), Dr. Franxx got to work. Within 5 years time they had discovered what it took to achieve immortality, but the cost was grave: the loss of their reproductive functions. Already burdened with overpopulation, the “immortality procedure” was only accessible by the rich and powerful, furthering class divides.
Compounding this further was the fact that regions of the world were experiencing a rapid desertification, likely as a result of the extensive magma mining. Of course, the theories that magma mining had anything to do with it were quickly squashed, and mankind adapted, moved, and continued down their path.
Finally, the klaxosaurs arrived. A massive beast appeared and destroyed a mining location, exacting a terrible toll on humanity before it was stopped by multiple nuclear missiles.
Humanity, having grown accustomed to being at the top of the heap, quickly went into survival mode. Dr. Franxx was the tip of the spear in designing a weapon to battle the klaxosaurs, and at the cost of thousands of lives, including his wife, the FRANXX was born.
After years of implementing the immortality procedure, everyone had lost their reproductive functions. In a cruel twist of irony, only those who still possessed reproductive functions could properly pilot a FRANXX. This is where The Garden was born, and how the dynamic between children and adults came to be.
Mankind pushed back. In an effort to shield the remnants of humanity, APE designed Plantations to serve as mobile cities that could mine magma energy and also remain on the move as not to be a target for klaxosaur attacks. Adults remained safe inside the plantations, living a life of “tedium”, while children piloted the FRANXX and sacrificed their lives to protect the larger society.
After some time battling the Klaxosaurs, Dr. Franxx and his team discovered the location of the Klaxosaur Queen. Venturing into the underground cavern, everyone except for Dr. Franxx is killed, and he is confronted by the same creature we saw dismantle the APE representatives a few episodes ago. He comments that she was “the most beautiful thing I had ever seen”, and even after she bites into his arm and tears it from his body, he is able to secure a handful of hair from her, which we assume they then used to produce clones based on the Queen.
In the present, things are a bit easier to follow: Futoshi tells Kokoro that they shouldn’t be partners, wanting her to return to being with Mitsuru. Both Mitsuru and Kokoro don’t quite understand why their squad is working so hard to play matchmaker, as they doubt they would ever develop those feelings for one another. Hiro and the others are devastated that their memories had been tampered with, and ask Dr. Franxx to arrange an audience with Papa.
Speaking with Papa, they first ask that Mitsuru and Kokoro’s memories be returned to them, only to be told that it would be impossible. Futoshi gets a bit riled up, demanding an apology for taking away their precious memories. Zorome interrupts his outburst to ask Papa a single question: How many more klaxosaurs do they need to kill before they can become adults? Papa’s silence is staggering, and Zorome breaks down. Finally, Hiro demands freedom. The chance to be free once their mission is over and live the life they want. Papa agrees, granted they complete their final mission.
Did somebody order an extra large serving of lore and world-building? ORDER UP!
Seriously though, Darling in the FRANXX definitely lays it out in this episode, using Dr. Franxx’s history as a glimpse into the thrilling rise and slow collapse of mankind. Fans of Neon Genesis Evangelion will definitely notice some very similar tropes, particularly when it comes to Dr. Franxx’s relationship with fellow scientist Karina Milsa, and her tragic end while testing an early development unit of the FRANXX.
Despite being lore-heavy, I appreciate that Darling in the FRANXX was able to fill out a lot of the questions on their world within the span of a single episode, while also checking in on Squad 13 in the present as well. Even though their scenes were brief, it was nice not to be completely disconnected from the main storyline.
While getting a better feel for the broader world was appreciated, the archetype of Dr. Franxx as the misunderstood genius fell a bit flat for me. Sure, he demonstrated some reluctance when he realized the cost of immortality, and held out to undergo the treatment himself, but he still was the one responsible for torturing Zero Two, and essentially gave Papa and the others a pass on experimenting on children for decades. While it would have taken a lot to “forgive” him, it could have done a bit more to make him a character to empathize with.
Despite the answers that we got from this episode, there are still quite a few questions that remain: particularly surrounding the klaxosaurs. I’m also interested to see how Papa and the others screw over Squad 13 with their next mission, since they’ve been promised freedom once it’s over.
You can watch new episodes of Darling in the FRANXX every Saturday on Crunchyroll!
My latest review is up! You can find it here!
Darling in the FRANXX (Episode 19)
- Lore-rich episode really helps cast some light on this previously mysterious world
- Manages to deliver bulk of backstory without detracting from main plot
- Dr. Franxx is still a jerk
- Elements of the backstory are almost too familiar