Blu-Ray Review: Darling the in Franxx – Part 1

Will you be my darling? An all important question that is partially answered within this first part installment of Darling in the Franxx; but what did we think of this release? Let’s take a look and find out.

Synopsis:

In a battle against the klaxosaurs only the children, classified as parasites, are humanity’s hope in this dying world. Fighting in mechanized suits known as FRANXX, parasites are grouped up in male and female pairs to face the monstrous creatures. Hiro was once a prodigy FRANXX pilot. But when he gives up the fight, he meets Zero Two, the girl with the horns, and finds a new reason to keep going.

Our View:

Animated by TRIGGER, the same animation studio behind Kill La Kill, and produced by CloverWorks; Darling in The Franxx sets itself up to be an anime series based in a post-apocalyptic world with teenagers forced to pilot mecha units in order do battle with gigantic monstrous creatures known as the Klaxosaur. It all sounds very familiar (i.e Neon Genesis Evangelion) but throw in a half-human half-monster pilot and things begin to get interesting… or one would hope at least. Darling in the Franxx takes inspiration from various different types of media but never decides on what it should be, where it wants to go and how it should get there. It is a case of finding an identity and as such the story, and how it progresses forward, suffers.

Featuring twelve episodes, across two Blu-Ray discs, Darling in the Franxx – Part One introduces us to this oddly familiar world of humans battling against monsters in order to survive. In this case teenagers, known as Parasites, are paired together in male & female teams in order to pilot giant machines. The female parasites (known as Stamen) act as the embodiment of the mecha (known as Franxx) while the male parasite (known as Pistil) acts as the pilot. This in itself is bizarrely interesting (and leads to difficulties later on in the series) but more importantly it takes inspiration from the live-action film Pacific Rim in which two pilots need to shame the same aptitude in order to pilot. Regardless the parasites of Squad 13, from Plantation 13, are still in training; that is with the exception of Hiro (code number 016) who finds himself unable to pair with other members of the facility and wandering alone.

It’s here where we begin the story; as Hiro, who finds himself alone in the woods, encounters a mysterious girl known as Zero Two (code number 002) who is a specialist parasite (Stamen) with horns on her head as a result of her human blood merging with Klaxosaur blood. To most she is a monster, but to Hiro she is a thing of beauty. This encounter aside Hiro and 02 find themselves paired together in a Franxx when a Klaxosaur attacks the facility and as a result Hiro finds that he is able to pair up with 02 perfectly. This opening episode has explosive momentum and lures you in to what you think will be an exhilarating mecha filled anime; but alas that is not entirely the case.

For the next selection of episodes it is more about discovery of one’s self as Squad 13, who have now become full Parasite pilot members, disagree with Hiro’s obsession over 02 due to the rumours of parasite pilots not surviving more than three rides with her. This constant back and forth leaves both Hiro and 02 on the side-lines with the remaining Squad 13 members going into battle. The attention 02 gives Hiro also leaves team-mate Ichigo feeling emotionally overwhelmed as deep-down she has feelings for Hiro. In some aspects this first portion of Darling in the Franx is a ‘coming of age’ story whereby, once 02 has settled in to the world of Squad 13, we explore the individuality of the team and the characters they are partnered up with.

Each episode (from the seventh episode onward at least) finds itself focusing on a single Franxx pair, the emotional turmoil they face and how they overcome it. Truthfully I didn’t really care for these episodes, especially as so much about the world, the enemy and their objective were left unchecked, but it does allow us to get a better understanding of these characters and their desires. Hiro seemingly has no desires other than to be able to pilot the Franxx but other characters within the team have their own goals and dreams. The episodes before these meanwhile focus on simplistic attacks from the enemy, with klaxosaurs being represented in different shapes and sizes, while viewers become accustomed to the characters within this stale world.

Darling in the Franxx, or at least this first part, finds itself unknowning on where it wants to go and with whom; so much so that by the end of this first half more questions are left being asked with no answers provided. Naturally these could be being saved for the second half; but it leaves very little in wanting me to continue watching. The immense build-up during the first episode was amazing, but afterwards the episodes deteriorate into a sense of the unknown. What exactly is 02, what are the klaxosaurs, Why is Hiro special, Why did humans now reside within domes, why does everything have a sexualised innuendo and more importantly why am I still watching this? On the positive side the animation style is nice; but it does have some Kill La Kill traits.

Extras:

Darling in the Franxx – Part One remains consistent with other FUNimation releases of this calibur and as such viewers will find a selection of supplementary content spread across both Blu-Ray discs; with the noteworthy content being on the second Blu-ray disc.

The first Blu-Ray disc features English Dub Cast Commentary with various voice actors. Usually these can be quite insightful and entertaining; but in this case the voice actors just seemed to sequel when their characters appear on screen.

The second Blu-Ray disc meanwhile features an interesting combination of Next Episode Previews, which were only shown online, an English Video Cast Commentary for episode 12 and three-part “Pre-Broadcast Special” which shows behind the scenes footage from the animation studio, voice acting studio as well as promotional material.

Naturally this three part special is the highlight of these bonus features as it gives us an insight look into how anime is produced and promoted within Japan; something which we rarely get to see. The English Cast Commentary is another interesting addition; but just like the audio commentary it does not provide the insights one would expect to receive – especially when it features cast and crew who worked on the English dub.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 3:13:48 (Disc 1), 1:36:08 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) & DolbyTrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

The events within this first half of Darling in the Franxx takes inspiration from various forms of media to deliver a questionable mecha anime experience that hopefully will get better in the second half. In this world humans have abandoned the surface in order to live in movable plantations that take power from magma engery and, at the same time, monsters known as klaxosaurs feed on magma energy and as such attack these plantations. To combat this the humans use genetical modified humans, known as parasites, in order to pilot mechas and destroy the klaxosaurs. This story, is the story of Squad 13 and in turn code number 016, nickednamed Hiro, and his half-human half- klaxosaurs partner 02.

It sounds like an interesting story, and it should be; but instead it fades in-and-out of different plot points in an attempt to keep the viewer interested. I won’t list them here; but each episode introduces at least one new plot point that could help progress the story forward; but by the next episode it is forgotten and moves onto something different. It’s just disappointing and makes moving forward with the overall story a bit of chore. Regardless the focus is on Hiro and him being able to pilot the Franxx and through various difficult situations, all of which Hiro overcomes, he is allowed to pilot a Franxx along with 02. Afterwards the story shifts to focusing on individual characters and their own desires; all the while teasing a bigger conspiracy theory that is left overwhelming unexplained and left up to the imagination of the viewer.

Quality wise then Manga Entertainment UK have opted to use Blu-Ray masters originally authored by FUNimation entertainment and as such all of the usual presentation styles, such as English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0, along with a selection of bonus materials are included. The English Dub was surprisingly refreshing with a newer voice cast being used; but at times some characters felt oddly out of place on who they were trying to play – but this is all down to personal tastes rather than bad performances. The selection of bonus material meanwhile is exceptional the Japanese Pre-Broadcast Special gives us an insight into how the series was promoted in Japan before its Japanese broadcast debut.

Overall Darling in the Franxx – Part One is a hit and miss type of mecha anime; the exhilarating first episode delivered everyting you could want from a mecha anime but the remaining episodes, albeit slightly interesting, did not continue to build up on that hype. The background music score, something which I rarely ever mention, did nothing to build-up these moments either and it feels like a real shame as it could have been so much better. In terms of presentation and release quality then everything is as one would expect from a FUNimation related Blu-Ray release. A disappointing first half in terms of story, but a consistent release in terms of presentation and quality.

Score: review-stars-3

Darling in the Franxx – Part 1 will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD from the 27th May 2019.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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