Darling in the Franxx is rather horny

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Darling in the Franxx: the best assets of the show

The whole appeal of Darling in the Franxx in one screenshot from episode one. So far this has been more of an A-1 Pictures than a Trigger show. There’s some of the latter’s horniness, but it’s all fairly bland while the plot and setting so far seems more like your average light novel sci-fi show as A-1 churns out by the dozen. You know the routine. A supposedly post-apocalyptic world, where humanity is on the brink of extinction, fighting against a non-sentient menace that can only be fought by a gaggle of privileged teenagers still somehow living in a high school like setting. Our heroes are busy fighting the menace, but slowly realised the real enemy might be on their own side.

Darling in the Franxx: Hiro needs to be dominated

The real plot is that Hiro can’t get it up for anybody but Zero-Two. Ichigo tries, but doing piloting the conventional way gets him excited for a little bit, and he’s trying, and it’s not her it’s him, but he can’t keep his interest up with such a docile partner. Hiro needs to be dominated. He needs the assertiveness that comes to Zero-Two as natural as breathing and Ichigo’s attempt to fake it doesn’t convince. Hiro is too sensitive, not macho enough for the dominant role that traditional FranXX piloting needs. In the uber patriarchal society he lives in, he’s useless and he knows he’s useless, comparing himself to a bird with one wing, a bird that can’t fly and therefore will die when we first met him.

Meeting Zero-Two is a revelation for him, to be in a piloting situation where he doesn’t have to be the dominant, assertive one, where he can let his partner take the lead. For Zero-Two too meeting Hiro gives her a way to escape her own situation, where she has to abuse her partner to get her robot going to the point where they die of it. Hiro is somebody who can take that abuse, thrive on it in fact. No wonder she calls him her darling. Together Hiro and Zero-Two offer an alternative to the clearly failing conventional way of piloting FranXX. Which may be why the powers that be are both fascinated by them and extremely reluctant to pair them up, even when it’s clearly the best option, preferring to get one of their normal pilots incapacitated rather than unleash a power they may not control. In this context, the very sexual terminology surrounding the FranXX as well as the incredible ignorance of its pilots regarding actual sexual matters, to the point that they don’t even know what a kiss is, makes sense. You have the old, old men & women that rule the world forcing these teenagers to sublimate their sexual desires into piloting their murder machines, keeping the world safe for their star chamber. Zero-Two, with her assertive, knowledgeable sexuality and Hiro, with his willingness to be the submissive partner challenge that order.

Darling in the Franxx: Hiro needs to be dominated

The biggest flaw in this is that the show is still so friggin heteronormative. Perhaps you couldn’t expect any queer pilot pairings among the established order, but Hiro & Zero-Two’s relationship isn’t actually all that subversive either, just a somewhat more equalitarian one, through a willingness to let go of traditional gender expectations of an aggressive male stamen steering a passive female pistil. Before episode four came out there was Twitter speculation that Zero-Two/Hiro would take their role reversal to the logical end, with Hiro taking the place of the pistil and Zero-Two piloting him — a metaphorical pegging — but sadly, no. Whent hey finally get to pilot again, it’s in the traditional manner. Perhaps the show will change that in later episodes, or perhaps it isn’t actually trying to be all that subversive, I don’t know. It all feels a bit off at the moment, it’s clearly trying to do something interesting with teenage sexuality and how it’s used and abused by adults, but so far it’s not gelling for me.

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