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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:00 pm 
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So, I finished Brynhildr in the Darkness and... boy was that ending real rushed-for-time epic. I actually really liked the show overall, enough to try to look up the Manga (which it appears was sadly only ever officially translated into German). The characters were all really nicely done (well, the protagonists I should say) but those last four episodes were a mess. The only thing worth the buildup was the two minutes or so of (unsealed) Kuroneko. But as nice as it was seeing her fully realized (including how she was different from/similar to her Kuroha state), it doesn't exactly make up for a fistful of rushed exposition regarding the end of the world or whatever, the heavily built-up germans amounting to nothing characters we really had couldn't have amounted to, or the fact that the clips from the first opening portrayed a better battle with Valkyria than the one we got. At the same time, the rushed ending doesn't ruin the good the show gave up to that point so... mixed feelings.

Current lineup is Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet + Toradora. When Gargantina finishes it'll be onto Darling in the Franxx and episode-by-episode logs thereof

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2018 6:52 pm 
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Finished Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet today. I... liked it a lot! I'm not sure what I was expecting going in, but the writing is pretty great. I really appreciate that there are a lot of twists in the last few episodes, but none of them feel forced or disingenuous. They were ALL good twists, and pulling off even one twist is too hard for a lot of writers. I found out on lookup that Gen Urobochi is responsible for this, and I suppose that makes sense as he pulled off a very good sequence of twists in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The pacing was excellent and the treatment of the AI characters was note-for-note perfect in that they were very much characters, but also still very much AIs and not humans.

Meanwhile, Toradora has 4 episodes left! Drama! Still enjoying it!

Wait, I just finished Gargantia, that means that tomorrow I'm going to be restarting Darling in the Franxx!

The essay posts begin... now, actually!

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:55 pm 
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Let's talk about Letdown. Why? Because this is what got me taking a second swing at Darling in the Franxx

TPmanW wrote:
Darlings in the Franxx succeeded to disappoint. Two terrible episodes (the picture book flashback and the Werner flashback) revealed the great mystery. The solution to the mystery was that they put 0 effort into worldbuilding. We are given laziest possible answers to any question you might have about the world of Franxx. Not only are they boring and cliche but they make no sense either. Watching the previous episode I was a little disappointed to realize there was still one more episode to go. Hopefully they at least deliver on some spectacle for the finale.

Specifically, I'm going to introduce the Steven King Scale of Letdown. I feel kind of bad tearing into that, actually, because I think King is a legitimately great author a good deal of the time, and I've truly enjoyed a lot of his work, even the works with bitter letdown endings and the adaptions thereof. King, however, has Letdown be so endemic and infamous that you can kind of find grades and distinctions in the different ways he's had his endings be something of a letdown. Here's my brief list, from best to worst.
“The Mist” Letdown: No Letdown at all.
“IT” Letdown: There's a quote from King himself that describes what I feel about IT and the weakness in its ending. "You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible,' the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall.'" And that's all. The problem is not that IT technically has a bad ending, the problem is that there is literally no ending that could have possibly lived up to the hype. IT makes sense: a shapeshifter that trades deeply in the primal fears of the human animal has a 'final' form of a giant spider? Yeah, that checks out. In my mind this is unfortunate, but just the natural consequence of certain setups.
“The Langoliers” Letdown: Another one that I mostly accept, this is the kind of letdown where the result seems weird and dumb (Unlike IT) but (like IT) you can't really think of a vastly better execution. So we're weaving a mystery with this weird, desolate version of the world, there's an unknowable approaching doom, and... huh? We need to see it? Killer cannonballs rolling up the world, sure. It's not good, but what would be the visual representation of the violent end of time itself, anyway? It sure as hell could have been something a little stronger.
“The Tommyknockers” Letdown: Aliens! It's just aliens. This is an ending that throws away a potentially interesting setup with lazy twists and uninspired answers. This is the scenario where you didn't try your best and let down anyway, nor did you try and stumble. You didn't try. There was no effort into the payoff, and it suffered because of that.
“The Dark Tower” Letdown: This is it, the letdown of letdowns. The one that isn't just lazy, but is instead actively bad. The one that betrays everything we wanted to see out of a climax, for better or worse, destroying the meaning of the setup and journey (Note: I'm talking about the CLIMAX of The Dark Tower. I actually thought the “New Game+” element to the ending, that final stinger, was alright). Normally, I'm of the opinion that while the ending is probably the most important singular moment in storytelling, the sum of the journey getting there is more important. This is why I still like a lot of Steven King's work while Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is on my long-term disappointment list: King usually delivers a good journey to a destination that wasn't what you'd hope, while the ending of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn I regard as brilliant but the majority of the overly long books 2 and 3, ESPECIALLY 3, were such a miserable slog of out-of-character forced drama that the journey was not one I'd want to repeat even for a clever end. When you go all the way to The Dark Tower levels of letdown, though, it starts to poison what came before. This is what happens when a story doesn't just not really payoff, but actually throws away what made it great in pursuit of something that was not worth having. It is the letdown you DO NOT want to see.

It seems to me like TPmanW experienced a "Tommyknockers" level of letdown. But then, everyone's reactions to media differ, so who knows where my opinion is going to fall? It always depends on a lot of factors, including not only the technical content of the material itself, but just how far it falls short. I can't avoid going in with certain expectations, even having seen episodes 1-6 already, so I might not feel the fall so keenly (if at all). Part of why I mean to talk at length about each episode, is to force myself to not tune it out or fail to engage on the level I would if I was watching with no expectations.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2018 6:52 pm 
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Episode 1 (Rewatch)

I remembered this being kind of pretentious and... boy howdy is it pretentious. That's usually a mark against in my book, honestly. This is clearly a show that THINKS it has something to say, whether or not that's actually related to what it's saying. I think my first time through I was afraid that this was going to get the Christopher Nolan treatment – that is to say nobody ever has fun or talks like a normal freaking person because the writing and directing is excessively consumed with how DRAMATIC and IMPORTANT everything can sound and every line has to be delivered like its the end of the freaking world and nobody ever smiles. I HATE that. I hate it because it makes every character a bland and dour mouthpiece for the plot, rather than letting them be individuals. And OK maybe somebody's the little gray rain cloud of drama but most people and thus most good characters have things they like, dislike, that make them happy or annoy them on a personal level rather than one of the plot.

Lord of the Rings may be a very heavy work, but it is so much stronger for the friendly rivalry between Gimli and Legolas, Sam's proclivities for farming and cooking, and all those other things that are trying to grow a world rather than just piling more weight on Frodo's shoulders by reminding us how important it is to get the Ring to Mt. Doom. Mekakucity Actors survives an incredibly poorly paced and awkwardly styled story by having none of its characters succumb to the “all drama all the time” treatment. Even characters who are suffering through some pretty awful situations still care about the little things the way that people do, and it helps you identify with the likes of Shintaro Kisaragi when, despite the massive impact the 'death' of his (girl)friend has left on his life and the depth of his emotional scars, he doesn't spend his time monologue-ing about said three year old event and instead he's bothered by things like Ene's teasing, the summer heat, or having to replace a dead keyboard. Avatar: the Last Airbender would be diminished to almost nothing if you took away Sokka's sarcastic charm and funny wit, Aang's childish wonder, Katara's uncompromising interest in helping everyone, Iroh's obfuscating stupidity act, and so on to replace every character with stiff, humorless cardboard cutouts of Season One Zuko... wait, actually they did that, it was directed by Shyamalan, and it sucked!

Point being, I remember Darling in the Franxx mercifully veering away from that school of storytelling. I remember Zero Two (More on my first reactions to her when we spend some more time with her) being an entertaining blend of worldly wisdom the rest of the team lacks coupled with a really charming degree of exuberance. I remember Zorome's pride and envy being played for both drama and comedy. And I remember everyone except maybe Ichigo and the dark haired dour couple giving honest smiles somewhere along the line. But after Episode 1 I was really concerned that we were going there, and probably only went on because at the time of my first watch I'd pretty much heard only good things.

As for what it wants to say... if I only had episode 1 to go on, I'd probably guess “look at me!”, but with 1-6 my bet is on an environmental message. The mobile harvest of an energy resource and the dead, desert world really strike me as setup for one of those “Stop raping the planet” lessons, especially when the Franxx pilots are called parasites. That said, 6 episodes leaves a LOT of material to cover, and it didn't make more than the absolute most cursory hint in that direction, so I'm leaving the idea open that it's something else, possibly still open to “Just pretentious because it wants to be noticed”.

I will say, though, that might be slightly poisoned by the fact that I've been warned that the show doesn't turn out as well as you might hope. While in general I would prefer non-pretentious to pretentious, some things take on pretentious airs because they are trying, and succeeding, to legitimately take on the traits of myth or epic, not just because they're going the dull message fiction route (like so many environmental pictures) or trying to trick you into thinking they're deeper than they really are (like The Matrix). There is, absolutely is, potential here for greatness.

As far as other specific commentaries on episode 1... There was less Ichigo than I remembered. I guess she really must have come into her own in episode 2, and the subtext that Hiro and random useless girl #706 (I think) were on the way to the glue factory was even more obvious than I remembered. I remembered well (and it made it into my old predictions) how mechanical the Klaxosaur seemed, especially compared to the Franxx. I'd forgotten that Dr. Franxx was given a “dirty old man” characterization. And I hadn't quite remembered how emphatically Hiro had to step up in order to ride with Zero Two the first time; I remembered him falling forward into the cockpit so I assumed he just kind of got dragged in

I think I appreciated the scene at the lake a little more knowing something of where Zero Two's character is going, and the fact that she's not just a femme fatale with a bratty quirk. It's actually kind of a good demonstration of who she is. She is a serious character, not straight-up comic relief, but she's never 110% serious, and I really like that.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:53 pm 
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Ah so hopeful, as I once was.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:30 pm 
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It's that time again! I may not get around to episodes saturday/sunday, but every time I do, I will post another reaction.

These will probably get shorter eventually as I say all the generic stuff about the show I can really say, and as I get out of material I've covered once and into candid first reactions, but we'll see.

Episode 2 (Rewatch)

I ask you this... what is the point of claiming that the random useless girl who was paired with Hiro survived her slow crawly transport pod getting wrecked? And I mean, that thing was emphatically wrecked, so I suspect her survival to be a lie of sorts. It's not like she was going to live anyway and the “she's OK” sendoff doesn't indicate that we're ever going to see her again (and based on my recollection of 1-6, we don't). There are children, babies born yesterday, who could tell you that even had the Klaxosaur not attacked and her little journey gone utterly smoothly, she was dead freaking meat. And she knew it too, just look at her little sendoff with Hiro where she forces him to stay behind – she knows that she's on the short bus to the Soylent Green plant and is basically taking the bullet for Hiro, who has an out. Are we supposed to be affected like the characters presumably will be when somewhere around the climax it's revealed she went from “Pistil” to “Pushing up the daisies” at the hands of the Omniscient Council of Vagueness? If so they did a poor job setting her up because she gets maybe 60 seconds of screen time, the random “oh she lived” callout, and then is (unless I'm forgetting something) never mentioned again, at least for the first arc.

I'd say that maybe they're keeping her around to mess with Hiro and provide leverage (in character) or forced romance-related drama (out of character) but the Omniscient Council of Vagueness doesn't NEED the former, and the writers have Ichigo providing the latter free of charge, so why not allow Useless Girl to die with a little dignity? Wouldn't losing a friend to an enemy attack give Hiro a stronger motivation to not let anyone he cares about get hurt again, leading into both the decision he makes in episode 3 (IIRC) to have Zero Two partner with another guy despite her clear displeasure at the idea and his dramatic recovery for Zero Two's sake in episode 6? I think both those scenes would have more weight if Hiro had felt just how much a few moments could cost, and had experienced the loss of someone close to him.

Or if you're going to defy all logic and expectation and keep her alive, why not have her presumed dead in the wreck, only to reappear having scraped by on the surface of this dead desert world we find ourselves on? That way she could serve as an emissary of some important information, having seen things no plantation-based human would ever have seen, not even Zero Two. Heck, if I'm right and Klaxosaurs are mechas, maybe someone lost in their territory could manage to commandeer one – Zero Two's mech takes on a more saurian form when she's got control alone, so presumably (theoretical piloted) Klaxosaurs have one pilot unlike Franxx mechas? That could have been a cool way to utilize this bit character and blow the lid off the conspiracy. As it is, though, she's “alive and well” and will probably be either brought up largely in passing as fertilizer or never seen, spoken of, or even referenced again, failing to use either her life or her death in a way that would make the story more powerful and dramatic.

… Did I really just go on for three paragraphs and nearly 600 words about a single line? I've got issues.

I'm not the only one with issues here, though... Alas, poor Ichigo. This is the episode where I was able to really feel for you, and at the exact same time the episode where I knew your cause was lost before it even began. I've got a real soft spot for characters in her position, the Childhood Friend who wants to take things to the next level, but doesn't quite know how to do it, or if she's alone in that feeling. I don't know why, when so often such a character's desires will end not granted if not in tragedy but (to mirror the first perspective on the Jian, I suppose) I find an element of that, to be so close and yet so far away, to be beautiful.

OK, that might be taking it too far, but I do usually root for the childhood friend romance (especially in the dynamic of interested girl x thick-headed boy) despite how often it ends up being a lost cause with the advent, sooner or later, of the real romantic lead on the scene. I don't know. Maybe it's the fact that the frequent failure of such pairings to launch is tragic without being bitter – but then I like to see them finally go places. Maybe it's because I was exposed to a number of examples of “childhood friend” characters who were well-written and had legitimately good chemistry. Maybe it's a preference for seeing something built over time rather than on the foundation of one-glance-true-love. Maybe I'm just a sucker and there's not a better explanation. Either way, I know Ichigo is going to lose, has already lost, but all the same I can't help but feel for her.

At least she's losing to Zero Two, and not who my first impressions thought Zero Two was going to be.

So, yeah... the mock battle was about as disastrous as I always thought it was going to be. I guess Hiro didn't get TOTALLY thrashed because Zorome is a cocky idiot and also collapses. It was basically the best outcome Hiro could have realistically achieved under the circumstances.

Speaking of Zorome, I like him better than the other jerk among the boys. He's a hothead, prideful, envious, but also an idiot who's played for comedy. The other guy (I can't remember his or chubby dude's name yet) seems... really nasty. Like coldly cruel. I'm OK with Zorome even as Zorome makes trouble, but I'm not really cool with the other guy.

On the Zero Two watch, she's again looking way better the second time through. She smirks as Hiro fails the mock battle, a little trial that could effectively cost him his life, but I trust more that she actually does believe in him having seen her in later episodes. Meanwhile, breakfast (Or lunch? I was thinking Breakfast because Zero Two is smothering her meal in something syrupy. Honey, maybe?) with the parasites is a very solid establishment of who Zero Two is. She's flashy, irreverent, and difficult to impossible to shake. I especially like how she effortlessly handles Zorome just by using his shirt as a hand towel. All the same, on first pass, it was easy to read the scene in a much less flattering light for her, showing off instead a callous disregard for people. I don't think, after episode 6, that that's where she's going, but if somehow there's a turnaround and it turns out she's bad I guess you could call that a pointer. I really, really doubt it though.

As for the other Parasites, now that we're seeing them, Goro seems like the Ajani of the group: Dignified, noble, wise, and kind. I like him. I also like the chubby guy and his partner, they both seem like very nice and genuine people. Zorome's Partner (sorry, I'm pretty bad with names) is also kind of fun, even if I feel like she's not going to get a lot of focus. I don't think the dark haired girl (Jerk's partner) got any lines at all. Maybe that's just how she is.

Another thing I noticed this time around is that the show uses a lot of "artistic" shots that don't fill the full frame, or that insert multiple "panels" into the frame. This is something I commented on for Dusk Maiden of Amnesia but I don't think it's being used quite as well or as artistically here as it was in that show, I just think it's being used to simulate the image of a manga page. The funny thing is that I didn't remember the show using this technique at all, so either it drops it (like the pretentiousness dialed way down from where it was in Episode 1) or it's at least unobtrusive enough to not draw awareness to itself.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 7:22 pm 
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Episode 3 (Rewatch)

The one where Zero Two thrashes that other guy for his presumption. I... honestly don't have much more to say about this episode. The Klaxosaur enemy was kind of neat? But goddamn, there's no meat to this episode except that one guy whose name I will eventually remember enough to be confident writing it getting his ass kicked by thinking he could handle Zero Two. Now granted, he's such a jerk that it's a little cathartic that he gets mauled (Unlike Zorome. I actually like Zorome) but really what else is accomplished? We learn that Hiro is on the **** list after the mock battle, which isn't a surprise. We know that Ichigo is off balance, which is also fairly natural.

I also think we got a fairly good couple of moments out of Zero Two here along aside the harshest “ruthless monster Zero Two” moments you really have to cite. Subverting the security is pretty good, though IIRC she does it more triumphantly in the next episode. The other bit is the conversation overlooking the city. In my mind, that little moment kind of encapsulates what Darling in the Franxx has been doing well. The visuals are fairly stunning, the ideas are simple but pointed, and you easily understand the pain the characters feel while also being allowed to see hope and levity: Zero Two muses on how a name is pointless because they're all just statistics in the end (And since she mentions the plantation defense force being wiped out “again” later, I don't think normal parasites have a very long half-life in service. We nearly had a TPK on this group's first mission and people seemed more disappointed than shocked. At this rate, it seems like riding with the “Partner Killer” might be an improvement to life expectancy.), which is a nice commentary on how our leads are living their lives, but follows it up with a little display of acrobatics and a childish “Just Kidding!” to keep the whole thing from diving into the (previously mentioned) Christopher Nolan Land. It keeps the focus on the characters more and the weight of the world less to have them display personal mannerisms.

Another good moment for “Character first” is down in the mines, with how Zorome especially and to a lesser extent everyone reacts to Miku waking up after she got knocked out by the little roly-poly klaxosaur. In short order, Zorome, Miku, Ichigo, and Goro all kind of show who they are, rather than just focusing on what is going on. Interplay like that can save scenes when the overall plot isn't really going anywhere. So far, that's been a lot of Darling in the Franxx: a kind of ungainly and awkward whole made up of these good little parts.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2018 7:32 pm 
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In other news, I finished Toradora! and... It was funny, heartfelt, and even dramatic when it wanted to be at the end. I'd like to thank whoever recommended it to me as the "RomCom for people who don't normally like RomComs". Impressively as well, it was 25 episodes, and it never felt padded or drawn out. Everything was given the time and attention it needed to develop in a natural way. I found it really good.

New show in the lineup: Yuki Yuna is a Hero

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2018 12:04 am 
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Your thoughts on Franxx so far mostly mirror mine. The only standout difference is that I figured Naomi being reported as surviving was supposed to show a 1984-type control of information. Chocolate rations have been increased from 10g to 8g, rejoice! In other news, nothing has gone wrong at all!

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*"To YMTC it up" means to design cards that have value mostly from a design perspective. i.e. you would put them in a case under glass in your living room and visitors could remark upon the wonderful design principles, with nobody ever worring if the cards are annoying/pointless/confusing in actual play

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2018 4:56 pm 
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Interesting to hear! I'm curious as to if and when our reactions may diverge. And yeah, I considered that, but compared to the obvious overtones of where she was going, it felt needless compared to what could have been done with actually throwing her away, I guess.

Episode 4 (Rewatch)

I'll be honest, I love this episode. As far as I remember, it might be the best of the opening 6. It's the episode that really sold me on Zero Two the first time out, it has good action, it has solid character drama exploring Ichigo's need to improve as a leader (and boy does she. With the pity points from her Childhood Friend position worn away over two actual viewings, she's... actually kind of unpleasant and selfish, and not one who shows a lot of leadership skill.) and Zero Two's actual vulnerable points. Yeah, she's not just an uber-skilled soldier with a fixation on her “darling” and a fun manner most of the time, there are actually places where she's hurting, like being treated as something different. There are ways, episodes 1-6, in which she's terribly cold, and I think that being part of the squad is going to do wonders for her, especially if they'll be able to accept her for who she is (And while Goro, Futoshi, and Futoshi's partner are the most accepting, I feel like pretty much everyone except Ichigo will)

Heck, I'm finding surprisingly little to pick apart for this episode. Dark Haired Jerk's reaction to his thrashing is good, as is his eventual recovery scene (though, getting out of the bed, he REALLY doesn't seem like he should be able to perform against the worm). I still don't like him, but I guess he does show something of a good side with the determination to go through with it. The innuendo was almost unbearable, but I think it actually wrapped around from “cringing in agony” to “cringing, but actually that's kind of funny”. The fight with the worm is dynamic and engaging; out of all I've seen, I can't fault the Mecha action in the least. Well, except for Strelitzia being the invincible robot of destruction, but I'm pretty sure that comes with the turf of being the Protagonist Mecha. It's not like Chamber (from Gargantia) or the Arbalest (from Full Metal Panic) ever face enemies that match them short of “final boss” caliber foes like Striker or Venom. By that account, Strelitzia gets the tar beaten out of it when Zero Two goes into Rampage Mode in episodes 1 & 6, so while the other Franxx all kind of job for her, she's actually got a spottier record than the protagonists of the two other mecha shows I've watched.

Since we've gotten to the point where my opinion turned the first time, I guess it's time for my long-winded reaction to a certain somebody...

Reviewing shows, even in brief, I find myself saying a particular phrase quite a lot: “I wanted to like X.” This is probably because I'm, in all honesty, a fairly forgiving viewer and reviewer, and even if some things (like Children of the Whales, AnoHana, or The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) disappoint me enough to bear them ill will in the end, I didn't go in with a desire to find their faults and skewer them, I went in with a desire to be entertained. And yet, when it comes to Darling in the Franxx, there's a curiously reversed situation. Not for the show – I still want to like Darling in the Franxx – but for one particular element.

I wanted to dislike Zero Two.

Part of it is saturation. Before I even knew who she was, I had seen her image plastered just about everywhere. I'm, not even kidding, I didn't know who Zero Two was, but I sure as hell recognized her on my first watch. A very cursory search indicates this character, who is less than a year old, has more fanart than “I've seen fanart of this character a million times” entries like Yuno Gasai, any of the main cast of RWBY (For whom I had a similar but less dramatic experience), Tifa or Aerith from FFVII, or Rei Ayanami. And at a certain level of saturation either your curiosity is put into full gear, or you find yourself wishing that someone, somewhere would dial it down. It happens a lot with heavily advertised movies, at least here in LA/Hollywood where the industry is relentless. Though I don't dislike Zero Two's visual design (in fact, I think it infested my damn subconscious somewhere between seeing her image for the first time and watching DitF for the first time), she was really overplayed. I won't say that I wanted to dislike her from this alone, but she had a mountain of Hype to overcome. “Wow me, character everybody and their brother loves! Show me why you outstrip old landmarks and new artist favorites alike! I dare you!”

Another part of the equation is Ichigo. Now, personally, I don't think that in order to prefer a given “solve” to a romance arc, you have to dislike any 'rival' characters. I think both Tifa Lockhart and Aerith Gainsborough are fine characters, and have no reason to besmirch the reputation of whoever I don't prefer to see paired with the lead. At “page 0” (Episode 2, really) on Darling in the Franxx, Ichigo has my sympathy and interest. I am a gods-damned sucker for Childhood Friend romances, especially the long-simmering romance of two characters that have spent enough time together to deeply understand each other, but possibly not to understand themselves or the possible changes in the status quo. I mentioned this in Episode 3, but Ichigo is basically the exact love interest type I always root for (at least, she STARTS in the same place). But unlike a lot of love interests, Ichigo quickly establishes herself as... I have trouble finding a word for it. Spiteful, perhaps? I called her selfish earlier but it's more than that. She's not happy for Hiro, sad about him, or even primarily determined to change things, she's freaking pissed, and Zero Two is to an extent the target of that. And at least at first I couldn't help but sympathize at least a little with Ichigo's distaste.

A third factor is that Zero Two is NOT given the best introduction. Watching just episode one, the character I was expecting to get out of her was sexual, violent, and emotionally cold – a cliched 'bad girl' who doesn't care about her “Darling” of the day or the fact that she is the legendary Partner Killer. The kind of character who can't make a personal and personable connection and probably won't be given much personality to work with. I probably should have known better; rewatching it, my impression was no doubt colored, as the second time through I noticed how many of her funny, charming elements were in her introduction: in the scene at the lake, for instance, she actually smiles a lot, and they're genuine, cute smiles. Now, she may be given a less than totally stellar introduction on purpose: Zero Two is complicated as a point-of-view herself character, and that's basically how the Parasites understand her at first, so we get to learn more about who she is with the other characters. But when I initially had a reason to not be particularly charitable to her, and quickly gained another, this really cemented my early expectations: if it looks like a femme fatale, acts like a femme fatale, tastes like a femme fatale, and brings disaster to guys it interacts with like a femme fatale, it's probably a femme fatale. Not that I have anything wrong with Femme Fatales when they're done well, but it's a character type that works best as a villain or neutral, not as the leading lady.

Here's the thing, though. Pretty shortly, I found I couldn't dislike Zero Two. I think the scene that clinched it the first time was in Episode 4, where she takes Hiro dancing through the security systems (Which she did in a more low-key fashion in episode 3) after hearing his confession. It's a fairly simple sequence, but it shows a lot of what's great about her character. First, she's not just a killer soldier, she has wants and desires of her own (even ones that override even gun-to-her-head enforced loyalty), and absolutely does care about individuals (particularly Hiro) despite her big talk about “weaklings that are just going to die”. On the other hand, what it takes for her to actually start showing off helps cover her from being just a flat love interest. She's not infinitely forgiving, and even if she wants something she's not going to forgive and forget at the first sign of a change. Hiro has to actually earn Zero Two's actions. The way she does things, though, is the most important. We saw this before the pivotal scene, but contrary to my initial impressions, contrary to what Ichigo would want me to think, and presaged in nothing I had seen of her before knowing her... Zero Two is actually a fun character. I was expecting her, as I basically said, to have two modes: Unpleasant and Sultry. And she can be unpleasant when she wants to be, with a rather bitter edge to her world view, and she can be at least a little sultry. Instead of that being everything, however,, her default seems to be chipper, even humorous. True, she never mentions the other partners she's had in the past like they were people. That's messed up. And she doesn't seem to value the lives of Hiro's friends. Again, messed up. But then she's a child soldier so you kind of expect her to be a little messed up somehow, and numbness to death is one of the ways that would logically manifest for one who's seen a lot of action, unlike Hiro and co. Maybe it's just easier for her to blame the stamens who couldn't take it. So on the whole, I think I actually like her better as this goofy, irreverent person with a massive sweet tooth and low respect for authority than I would the potentially tragic character that took her existence totally seriously. And of course, either one would be better than a cardboard cutout femme fatale. It's actually kind of funny – despite literally fitting the definition of a Femme Fatale (as the Partner Killer), Zero Two is actually about as far from the personality archetype as possible.

I like Zero Two. I like her scenes. As a viewer, she's fun to be around while still having enough dimension to also carry dramatic scenes, and on the whole I think she's a good, rounded characters. She has likes and dislikes, and interests that aren't totally germane to the plot. She gets mad sometimes, and she smiles a lot (and shockingly enough the art goes with 'cute' rather than 'sultry' for her in a good mood). She can feel joy and pain and express a good range of emotions while still being an entertaining character who I fairly reliably want to watch. And, I think that's going to go a long way towards carrying the rest of the show, because while she may not be a point of view character there's absolutely a lot of the story riding on her shoulders.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 12:47 pm 
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Episode 5 (Rewatch)
The calm before the storm here, this one seemed really important for building character; the plot movement was basically two things: the setup for the battle in Episode 6, and the fact that Hiro is having a reaction to Zero Two and thus could die. But the character scenes do a lot more.

Hiro: You know, Hiro comes off as a fairly generic main character. His notable trait is determination, and at least at this point, we don't know how far that's going to reach. Far enough to keep him in the story, I suppose. That said, if you're going to have one note as the heroic lead, Determination isn't a bad one, and he's not just pure grit, there is a kindness to him. I actually like how he talks about feeling alive despite the fact that he seems to be dying. It gives him, if not really other notes, at least a little more personality than “I will go forward no matter what”. Also he's apparently famous among other Children. For what, I wonder? It can't be for riding with Zero Two (his only notable accomplishment at the moment) if for no other reason than 26-leader didn't know Strelizia was present. Add this to the “mysteries” tally.

Zorome: Probably the character to bring the most interesting note for future plot. “He probably doesn't know” something about the transition to adulthood, or lack thereof. I feel like there is a precisely 0% chance of Zorome or any of the other parasites being elevated to full citizen status. The Omniscient Council of Vagueness pretty clearly sees Parasites as expendable resources, not as people (as if the practice of giving them numbers rather than names wasn't enough to know that). I reaffirm liking Zorome. He has an ego the size of a planet and it's easily bruised, but he plays off really fun being so high strung.

Dark Haired Jerk Dude: Still bitter, angry, and unpleasant. No, having a “Don't you dare pity me” moment isn't going to win you any brownie points, nor is being on meds after getting wrecked by Zero Two. Expecially not when that moment came in the form of exploding at the nicest character of the lot. Speaking of whom...

Koroko: We're not getting a whole ton out of her, but her kindness really does shine through. I like that, though, while clearly being an empathetic person she's never shown any hesitance to fight. That makes sense – these kids have been conditioned to live only for battle. I feel like she's kind of the counterpart to Hiro: Hiro lives and offers to die solely to be of use, Koroko pretty clearly wants more out of life but accepts her state. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into her.

Goro: I said in my Episode 2 write up that Goro is basically Plantation 13's Ajani, and I reaffirm that. He has feelings, clearly, he gets mad at Hiro when Hiro is being overly self-sacrificing and he feels off when he clearly experiences something for Ichigo (cue obvious spare paring, but if she just turns around in a nanosecond, that would be sloppy writing). This is the guy who should be Leader, not Ichigo: he looks out for all the members of his squad, keeps a level head in times of crisis, and seems to be pretty universally respected.

Ichigo: Just another heavy dose of unrequited love, nothing to see here. Actually, there's a LOT to see here, I dare say that this is was more of an Ichigo-focused episode than anything. It's actually really strange, by all accounts I should feel for her, especially after the fight with Zero Two, but instead I'm just fixated on how badly she manages to mess up her situation by not rising to the task she's been given. I get it, leadership of a combat squad is a heavy burden, and I'm not going to expect any kid to do perfectly. But while we, the audience, know that her argument with Zero Two is justified, Ichigo didn't see the scenes with Hiro and Goro, she has no reason to be so vehement except her obvious personal agenda. I'd believe, if it were Goro or Koroko, that either of them would have intervened for any member of their squad. Even Hiro, if he were swapped with someone else, I could believe to put in the extra effort to keep his friends safe. But with Ichigo? I don't think she'd have had that talk with Zero Two if Goro and Hiro's positions were reversed, and to an extent that sickens me. Her scene with Goro right after is actually very nice, but while it helps me like her as a character or as a person, the degree to which she's already cracked under the pressure doesn't help me respect her as the supposed leader, and that eats into my respect for her in general since she has repeatedly stated the goal of being the best leader she can be. Zero Two may have earned that slap in the face, but Ichigo should have had the professional bearing to not actually deliver it.

Zero Two: If you have a negative/harsh read on Zero Two, this episode has fuel for you! Specifically, she once again espouses her “weaklings die” philosophy, and at least to Ichigo's face she even applies it to Hiro. Yikes. On the other hand, the scenes with her at breakfast and showing her around the house were gold. She may be more knowledgeable and experienced than the Parasites of Plantation 13, but there are still a lot of ways in which she's a total kid. Like we have the one little scene where she's just jumping on the bed, and that's great. Or when she insists that Hiro make rain happen, it has the entitled petulance of a child. The best scene for her, though, comes right at the end: she basically offers to let Hiro go. “If you want off this ride, now's your chance.” To me, that basically redeems her conversation with Ichigo: either she listened but wasn't willing to admit it to Ichigo's face, or (more likely) she was talking tough in front of a romantic rival the whole time. Because this whole adventure has been Hiro's choice. He's stepped up, time and again, despite the danger, despite encroaching doom, now despite agonizing pain. She tells him that he can go, but Hiro doesn't take the opportunity. To an extent, this makes me think she honestly cares for Hiro more than Ichigo does: Ichigo doesn't know the danger to Hiro as clearly as Zero Two does and tries to block him, or go around him to subvert it. She acts without interest in Hiro's wishes. Zero Two respects Hiro's decisions, but doesn't fail to warn him, essentially, about what's coming. In essence, while Zero Two talks in an extremely possessive manner regarding her Darling, it's Ichigo who is acting selfishly possessive.



Double Feature today! Episode 6 writeup is coming.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 2:02 pm 
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Episode 6 (Rewatch)

This is the one that competes with Episode 4 for being “the” episode of the opening arc. However, I feel like while this had the higher stakes and more solid resolution, Episode 4 had better character and drama: Essentially, you would need to staple 5 & 6 together, where 4 does it in a single Episode. Here, we clearly resolve the main internal conflict of the first episodes: Can Hiro pilot, and can he survive doing so?

I forgot he had a little netherworld chat with Useless Girl('s memory). Maybe he was actually meeting her in Limbo? That would seem like a way to go with it that would explain trying to give her some presence in episode 2 while not defying all sense and reason. But it really seemed like the whole 'dying dream' was just Hiro's subconscious messing with him, since he's clearly still aware of his surroundings (if, you know, dying) before his magical recovery. He was 'on his way to the graveyard' but the time for regeneration had not yet passed.

Zero Two was also great here. I like the moments we get that show she's self-effacing and self-sacrificing and hiding the degree to which she hates herself and her condition under a lot of tough talk. I repeat my comment that I think joining up with Squad 13 is going to be really good for her. There's a lot of show left to get through, and thus a lot of potential character growth. Now that Hiro has accepted Zero Two and the rest of them seem likely to, maybe she'll get a chance to really accept herself.

Ichigo, on the other hand, was in even worse form than last episode. Like I didn't quite remember how bad it got. She is clearly willing to jeopardize the mission (and by extension the whole plantation that, as Hiro says, they literally live solely to defend) in order to spare Hiro, and she can't even sell the idea to the rest of her squad; Goro, bless his heart, has to cover for her. While Zero Two is a character who I believe will do a lot of growing, Ichigo is a character who desperately needs to do a lot of growing. Hiro believes in her (as she stuffs herself into the sibling zone. Ye gods you're bad at this, Ichigo) but I'm not convinced. That said, I'd love seeing her grow into a good and competent leader, someone who can put other people first rather than being controlled by her own desires and guilt. She doesn't have to get over Hiro, especially not quickly, but she does need to reach a point of acceptance and tolerance.

Futoshi is a good guy. He doesn't get a lot of lines, but I like him. He seems to have his priorities in order and he's never really messed things up. He's passive, unlike Goro, so I wouldn't call him leadership or focus material, but his heart seems to be in the right place.

Nope, still can't really stand that one guy. I'll remember his name eventually. Starts with an M.

Closing thought, something Episode 6 did for me was point what kind of show Darling in the Franxx wants to be. Specifically, the means and framing of Hiro's recovery and the magic wings of Hiro and Zero Two believing in their ship that follow, tell me that this is, nay, must be a fundamentally optimistic show. This is a show that is very much pro-Human Spirit. It's treading heavy in themes of love and dependence, and after this display, it's both monstrously unlikely that this would take a dark turn for the Parasites, and it would be a betrayal if it did. By having Hiro tell the Reaper to stuff it because he wants to be there for Zero Two, the show has rejected Tragedy at its core. Even if the vast masses of the Adults turn out to be irredemable heartless monsters, true spirited humanity, especially as represented by Hiro and Zero Two, has to triumph in the end. That's not to say they can't struggle and suffer, but they'll make it. They have to. And I love that. This is going to be a fun ride, and I do not want off.

I think JRR Tolkien may have said it best.

Samwise Gamgee wrote:
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”

Hiro's had a lot of chances of turning back already, but he's kept going. And now he knows what he's holding on to. The shadow hasn't passed, but I basically know how it has to pass.

~~~

This is concluding my rewatch of Darling in the Franxx, so it's time to start speculating forward. After this, it's all new material for me.

I had written down, in my older guesses “This isn't earth/parallel earth/humanity's home”, but there was a moment here in Episode 6 that made me rethink that, when the Gutenberg Class knocks over a ruined skyscraper. I'm now thinking more that this IS the future of Earth, ruined and desolate. The Klaxosaurs are still probably mechas (they are so blood mechanical), but there's probably a Gaia's Vengeance aspect to them as well, like their creators are either direct magical guardians of the planet (like the Weapons in Final Fantasy VII) or an ancient race that lives in harmony with the world or something like that. I guess they could even be an alternate branch of humanity (like the Hideauze/Whalesquids in Gargantia) that opposed/opposes Papa and the Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Maybe the Klax went more into mysticism or bioscience rather than geology/mechanics?

I notice that Dr. Franxx seems to be the only (obvious) cyborg in the human faction, and that the metal half of his face has a metal horn at the same position and scale as Zero Two's horns. Given how much trouble Zero Two's cute little horns give her, I can't imagine Franxx did that just to look cool. Creator of Papa's plantation defenders or no, he seems like a nice guy and I'd totally believe him desiring to bridge the gap between core Humanity and the Klax (whatever they may actually be)
At this stage, I'm looking forward to more Darling in the Franxx. Even if the worldbuilding falls on its face, the character and action have been solid enough that I like watching even the characters I don't like as people (such as M and Ichigo). It would certainly be a blow to the show if all the mysteries resolved in unsatisfactory ways, but to an extent I'm looking at a “Langoliers” entry on my Steven King Scale of Letdown as probable damage, where it would be very difficult (though not impossible) to actually handle everything At least the show seems to have a clear vision of what kind of story it wants to be. Here's my current list of Mysteries.

  • What does Zorome “Probably not know” about Papa and the adults?
  • Why is Hiro famous?
  • What are the Klax, really?
  • Depending on the answer to that, how did the Klax/Human conflict evolve into the state we see now (if they really are just Kavu, this doesn't need to be answered)
  • Where did Zero Two come from and how does she have Klaxosaur blood? (I assume genetic engineering but she's so powerful, if she's a clone why is she unique? Wild mass guess of Human/Humanoid Klax hybrid via normal mechanisms. Dr. Franxx may even be her real dad...)
  • What is up with “the nines”/that “Nine Iota” comment at the end of episode 6?
  • How did Hiro recover from physical damage through the power of Heart? (I accept this may never be explained)
  • Sort of covered in the first question, but what the heck is up with Papa/Adults?

Despite the warnings, I feel hopeful that at least some of this will bear fruit.

But perhaps the Dark Tower draws ever closer.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2018 2:32 pm 
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An Aside
In case it changes next episode, I will say: I normally skip the end credits of shows (to go on to other things) but I will usually watch any given end sequence once. The one for Darking in the Franxx (Episode 2-5? at least) actually kind of intrigued me: It shows the characters (with particular focus on Ichigo and Zero Two) in a very different environment than the one they call home: A modern but desolate city that would be more familiar to something like Madoka Magica or Mekakucity Actors. It actually got me thinking, and... I would totally watch the (Maybe Urban fantasy: Zero two still has horns) High School AU of Darling in the Franxx, at least as things stand right now (having finished episode 6). While the Mecha battles have been really good, the show's strongest points have been the interplay of the characters. I may complain about Ichigo or Mr. M, but even though I don't personally like them, they make for good dynamics, and I'd like to see them in a different environment with a different main plot, possibly especially if the main plot of Darling in the Franxx turns out to be the problem. I mean, these characters aren't on the same level of the best of the best. They aren't as fun, personable or dynamic as the Mekakucity Actors cast (who for me at least pretty much leapt off the screen becoming the sort of characters you could believe were real, even wish were real) but they are the best part of the show and it would be kind of fascinating to see how you'd take a different path starting from the same square-negative-one.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:35 am 
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Seems like I'm just racing through this. Normally, my wife and I watch things at a rate of one episode per day, minus days with any sort of appointment to take care of, but on request Darling in the Franxx has been going a little faster lately.

Episode 7

This is legitimately a game changer. I know now what the message that Darling in the Franxx is about is. With Kokoro's discovery of the baby book, I'm pretty certain that Darling in the Franxx is building up to a message of “Have kids!”. This would make sense with the increasing consciousness in Japan of the problems with their aging population, and fits neatly into the main themes of the show (Boy-girl pairs and all the trappings thereof, all the innuendos, the Jian needing two to make one). There might still be an environmental message (We muse on Klaxosaurs being a reaction, rather than an action, here) somewhere in the text and subtext, but the “Young love is beautiful and should be fruitful” message is I'm pretty sure going to stand at least as obvious and loud. The otherwise total innocence of the Parasites is also thrown into even starker relief with the “what is a kiss?” nonsense with the boys, which was pretty funny.

Weird that the Beach Episode gives us our next dose of plot. The Omniscient Council of Vagueness tells us we're going to “Gran Crevasse” with Zero Two. THE TIME IS NIGH. Whatever that signifies. They were also kind enough to disambiguate that Hiro was the “special specimen” they talked about before. From context you could have guessed, but it also could have been Zero Two, the obvious special. There's a lot of talk in this show (and more in this episode) about “double digits” or lower codes in general being important. I can't help but wonder if Ichigo doesn't have some level of plot relevance left; her code is right next to Hiro's and one lower. Of course until and unless we meed 001 or 000, Zero Two will remain fairly uncontested.

Speaking of Ichigo, based on her opening narration it looks like she's moved to the phase of wanting her beloved to be happy. While not necessarily pleasant for her or super-healthy, it is kind of what she needed to do, a big step towards putting the needs of others above her own desires, which is – Wait, she's having a little hissy fit with Zero Two? And now she's obviously hitting on Hiro and saying the kiss in the mock battle was meaningful to her, and she's going to ask to be with him forever except she wishes it on a star rather than spitting it out when interrupted, once again successfully subverting any chance she had, however slim, of getting what she wanted while still striving for it like the time before the battle where she spouted that nonsense about siblings? OK, so Ichigo's decision to recognize that Zero Two is what Hiro needs didn't even last the episode. That's got to be some kind of record. She also did the big welcome that she obviously wanted to tell Hiro but that Zero Two legit needed to hear while Zero Two was away. I don't think that was intentional or malicious on her part (Everyone else just sort of goes with it, too. But I doubt ANYONE knows how much that would mean to Zero Two), but it really doesn't help her case.

Mitsuru continues to be an pain. Somehow he can look like a jerk even while saving Kokoro from a collapsing bookshelf and make Futoshi look like a goddamn hero stepping up for her earlier. Why must you terrorize the most sweet and vulnerable member of your squad? Isn't the constant, bitter fighting with your own partner enough? At least Ikuno can handle your sharp tongue.

Zorome will be hurt most of all when the answers start hitting. He wants adulthood, and Papa's attention, so very badly and you just know that the entire endeavor is more doomed than Ichigo's thing for Hiro. I wouldn't bet on it, because he's more of a funny character with a good heart under his prickly ego, but nonzero odds that the first time a rift forms between the Parasites and the Omniscient Council of Vagueness, Zorome stands on the far side. More likely, though, he'll be the first to really feel the massive weight of betrayal. Watching him revel in Papa's glory is a little like watching the Initiates on Amonkhet go through the Trials, living and dying for something greater than themselves that they truly believe in and that is going to betray their faith in the end.

The ruined town and abandoning the surface talk also confirms what I turned around on after re-watching episode six: this is a future earth. I don't know why this one town with a cove and a beach is full normal greenery while the rest of the world is Fury Road tier dead desert wastelands, other than so we could get the obligatory Beach Episode, but I don't particularly care right now. I said there's going to be the “Have kids” message, but that the environmental message isn't dead, and the talk about “Would the Klaxosaurs not have shown if we didn't extract magma energy?” is something right out of FFVII's brand of environmentalism that uses unobtanium as a metaphor for common natural resources, and giant monsters for the damage done to nature and consequences thereof. While I think the baby book is going to be as simple as it looks, though, I come back to the mechanical 'nature' of the Klaxosaurs and think that the Magma/Lifestream isn't going to be quite as clean as that.

And hey, there was a different ending sequence this time! I think it might be a one off, though, being a beach 'episode' for the High School AU we saw in the previous endings. This was an episode without any mecha battles and I still enjoyed it, so I guess reaffirm that I'd (right now) watch the other show being teased in those.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:24 pm 
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Episode 8

Midweek falls across the land
The grand finale is far from hand
Enemies are boring now
And characters, developed how?
And whosoever shall be found
With interest left in getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside this episode's shell

The foulest waste is on the screen
Useless this animation deemed
And contrived plots from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay invested
Your eyelids starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of... the FILLER

… but this one was fun Filler, so that's OK. This wasn't an episode where a lot got accomplished, but it was fairly entertaining. I don't know, it seems like it should have been cringe-inducing and awkward but I think the show has just sort of numbed me to that.

The setup was... really contrived. Seriously, Mr. Klaxosaur, what was the point of your voimt that specfically dissolves the suit material without harming Franxx plating or human skin? You must have been top of the Klaxosaur class with that one! “I can suck in lines to fire mouth lasers!” “Oh yeah, well I can burrow and be ambi-ended in my attacks!” “That's nothing, I can be really huge and transform into a rocket powered battering ram!” “All of you suck, I can vomit goop that should make those rascly humans embarassed and uncomfortable when it disrobes them!” And all the other Klaxosaurs just stare at that one and its diabolical plan of achieving world domination through nudity.

What follows the immediate breakdown is, I could hardly believe it, the ACTUAL GOD DAMNED LINE DOWN THE CENTER OF THE HOUSE CLICHE. I didn't think that was a thing... it was supposed to be a Dead Unicorn Trope, the kind of motif that nobody actually ever used, but shows up in parodies enough that you assume bad sitcoms might use it? Apparently it's good enough for Darling in the Franxx. I don't know, maybe there's a cultural translation thing going on, where since it would have been an American TV trope (allegedly) the writers didn't actually know it was associated with a bad, sloppy, or overblown presentation and thought “hey, that could be fun.”

And like I said before, it WAS fun. Let's get the plot out of the way. The baby book from the last episode is absolutely a big thing and Kokoro is learning about human reproduction. OK, could have guessed that from last episode, though her speech to the girls really does hammer home that this is where the show is going. The previous Squad 13 was wiped out and apparently the plantation decided that putting caution tape over their doors was better than leaving them open or actually cleaning out the uninhabited space? OK, Zero Two basically told us that the predecessors to Hiro & Co had suffered TPK back in episode 3, so that's not news except that somebody on plantation staff is lazy and didn't feel like junking dead flowers and unowned photographs. Great, but I don't think we need to know that there's a hell of a lazy caretaker.

The conflict was actually good. I admit the comedy was low-hanging fruit, but it was delivered really well, especially by Miku and Zorome as the ones both spearheading the conflicts (even if Goro was allegedly the boys' mastermind) and suffering the most whenever things didn't go their way. And there was some good focus on Zero Two. I liked her speech to the girls, ending with that little memento mori that helps explain why she might seem to live so much in the moment. And I liked her deciding to “spice up” the conflict with the provocation at the bath and stealing/scattering everybody's clothes. Her reasoning was also interesting... wanting to engage in order to be, or at least to seem, more human is a motivation that fits with what we know of here (again, not news) but the method she pursues it by is a new one (though we didn't need a whole episode for that). I guess, like the beach episode, there might have been enough material here that maybe I shouldn't have gone calling it Filler, but it didn't feel as pointed or weighty. A dozen little things add up, sure, but I feel like they could have come aside larger points. Well, if you can't have a point at least be funny, works for me. Mitsuru is still taking pills and still really standoffish, though he was less downright nasty to Kokoro this time.

And at least Ichigo didn't really screw up this episode, the worst you can accuse her of is a jealous look out the window, and that might be less jealousy and more “Zero Two is not cooperating with our line thing.” And even if it was jealous, I totally grant her that.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:46 pm 
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Is that filler poem original? A Google search turned up nothing.

You're totally right that Goro should have been the leader. Ichigo's main leadership qualification seems to be her low numerical designation, which is you know, real important for leadery stuff. Maybe it's a Japanese thing. I mean, they give out promotions based on age and middle school test scores determine your whole future, so maybe it's a deep cultural insight? Or maybe it's just for drama.

I found the "have kids" message to be preachy and off point with what came before it.

Looking up the episode list to refresh my memory I noticed that the ones you really like 4, 6 and 7 (somewhat) were all directed by studio trigger, while the rest were directed by A-1 Pictures. If the pattern continues, the next episode might fall a little flat, but the one after will be much better.
Starting about halfway through, Trigger stops getting the directing credit and a 3rd studio comes on board. I'm starting to wonder if there was some drama behind the scenes.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 8:51 pm 
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TPmanW wrote:
Is that filler poem original? A Google search turned up nothing.

It's an alteration of Vincent Price's narration for "Thriller"

TPmanW wrote:
You're totally right that Goro should have been the leader. Ichigo's main leadership qualification seems to be her low numerical designation, which is you know, real important for leadery stuff. Maybe it's a Japanese thing. I mean, they give out promotions based on age and middle school test scores determine your whole future, so maybe it's a deep cultural insight? Or maybe it's just for drama.

I found the "have kids" message to be preachy and off point with what came before it.

Looking up the episode list to refresh my memory I noticed that the ones you really like 4, 6 and 7 (somewhat) were all directed by studio trigger, while the rest were directed by A-1 Pictures. If the pattern continues, the next episode might fall a little flat, but the one after will be much better.
Starting about halfway through, Trigger stops getting the directing credit and a 3rd studio comes on board. I'm starting to wonder if there was some drama behind the scenes.


The studio thing is interesting... we shall see.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 4:07 pm 
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Another Aside
I tend to draw a lot of comparisons in Media, and as I was thinking about the cast of Darling in the Franxx it struck me how it is a fairly similar cast (though with massively different interpersonal dynamics) to the cast of Mekakucity Actors

I called out having finished Mekakucity Actors on this thread right on the heels of watching the last episode, and wasn't super kind, calling it “a really pretty and sometimes emotionally effective mess”. When I got around to writing up a full review, and actually took some time to go back and review how I felt, I found that while the storytelling of the anime was still kind of in the gutter, the characters were either a 10/10 or very close. Since first being introduced to the songs and their attendant PVs I've been really digging into KagePro in general, and am hoping to find time and opportunity to sit down with the much-praised Manga version of the story. Months later, I'm still thinking about that world and those characters fairly regularly. So, the fact that I can connect the Franxx characters to the KagePro characters actually says a good thing. But perhaps it's also a bit of bias.

Mostly for my own amusement, 1:1 comparisons


That was a whole lot of nothing, I know. I will return you to your regularly scheduled episode writeups... when I watch episode 9 later.

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The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:50 pm 
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Episode 9

I thought this one was... OK. The Klaxosaur was unique and threatening, at least its power of creating contrived scenarios was actually one that it could actually use to fight unlike the joker from the last episode. Goro continues to have more wisdom and understanding than everyone else put together, and Ichigo actually showed some conviction. If this is a turning point for Ichigo, I'll be happy. I am glad, though, that she didn't immediately turn around and accept Goro's confession. I wouldn't expect her to change her mind in a heartbeat and that would be really sloppy writing. I also like that I can believe her still basically being the same character through her dramatic actions this episode, the flashbacks, and the previous 8 episodes of material. Except PERHAPS in the little kid flashback, which we don't get her perspective on, she still does have a fairly selfish core. Her motivations never feel altruistic, like she's doing the 'right thing' because it assuages her guilt or makes her personally feel better and not because it helps anyone else. If she continues growing up without losing that core attribute, I might peg her as a decent :b:-aligned heroic character.

While Ichigo showed off some decent character this episode, I did also find Miku verbally tearing into her (to the raw terror of Zorome, which was hilarious) to be really cathartic, as she basically spoke for my opinions on Ichigo up to that point.

I would say more about Goro, but the short version basically covers it. He's wise, perceptive, and extremely graceful despite the sucky position he finds himself in. I believe, at all times, he's acting in the best interest of others first, and himself when he's already seen to those who need his help. In that way, he's basically Ichigo's complete opposite. He derived the lesson Zero Two told the girls last episode (“If you want to say something, say it now because you'll die one day”) for himself, and acted on it with full decorum. I'm proud of that kid, he seems like he's got his situation together more than anyone.

The “Presents from Papa” setup was actually interesting. Considering how little in the way of personal effects the Parasites have, it's very much a velvet glove tactic, and it clearly works. More powerful was Hiro's gift of the hand mirror to Zero Two. Something tells me that this is going to come back in a big way – Zero Two has some pretty serious image issues, so a Mirror, while a very thoughtful gift (Hiro basically saying “I see you as someone who deserves to be seen”.) if and when she's in a good mood, could easily turn sour in a moment as her reflection can't help but remind her of her inhuman traits. I don't know whether that mirror is going to pull her out of a really bad emotional state by reminding her of Hiro's feelings, or get smashed dramatically as she spirals into one, but I'm calling that we haven't seen the last of it.

All the same, while it had good material, this episode felt curiously rushed or flat. I don't really know what it was, but none of the emotional moments landed the way the ones in Episode 6 did. Maybe that's because, while Ichigo and Goro are basically the beta couple, focusing on them still makes this more of a lower deck episode, and they (and especially Goro's feelings and Ichigo's still unknown feelings) don't benefit from the kind of setup that Hiro and Zero Two have. I almost wish that we'd gotten the presents scene including Goro's talk with Hiro, and then did another plot and came back to "Goro's first falling for Ichigo" flashback another day and "Goro in the bombosaur" a third, maybe after some more development for Ichigo. Putting those all together kept a tight focus, but I guess some of it didn't quite feel earned. It wasn't bad, but the same material could have been really powerful if it had been better spaced out, each moment having a chance to sink in and be fully absorbed (and possibly reinforced by smaller moments) before the next piles on.

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 Post subject: Re: Anime
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:05 pm 
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Episode 10

So, um, Zorome gets a “lower deck” episode this time like Goro (& Ichigo) did just before except... woah. Alright, there's actually a lot to get through this time, though I think I can do it fairly quickly.

First point, we had another Omniscient Council of Vagueness scene. While some of their lines were a bit excessively hammered in, it did a good job at setting up the Council going forward. Previously, we just sort of knew they were in charge of all of this, and probably not on the up-and-up. But the only reasons we actually had to suspect them were... kind of the vehemence of Papa's speech in Episode 1, and just the fact that a council of masked elders with inscrutable goals guiding a weird and vaguely dystopian society is always going to be at least slightly evil. Now, we know their species of dystopia. Since they exalt a future of peace through conformity, they're pretty clearly our Cybermen/Borg/Communists, the class of sci-fi villain that has its main villainy in erasing individuality (and thus person-hood). That's not a terrible call. I mean, it's one of the classics, but in making them human and acting at least primarily through culture rather than giving them tools to literally strip people of their individual natures, I feel like they could bring a view on this sort of dystopia that's a little different than the hive mind of the Borg or the identical bodies of the Cybermen. APE has now identified itself as something other than an Omniscient Council of Vagueness

I think this fits Darling in the Franxx and some of the secondary themes that we've been introduced to before with Squad 13 better than would some of the other classic dystopian archetypes. For instance, I think it fits a good deal better than the Daleks/Fascists, given that we should ultimately want to protect the same humanity they're shepherding (even if those people do need to be shown a new way. Well, old way since part of the conceit is that the Parasites are in a very antiquated way of life). It also fots better than the Orwellian Police State because it's more eerie and insidious about how it handles dissent. There's no need to ship people off for re-education, no gulag, no coercive control – they've poisoned people into thinking that this is the right path. We kind of saw this before, when we interacted with Squad 26 and the leader of that squad, talking about how the individual natures of Squad 13 and their Franxx seemed to go against the grain. To an extent, this is set up with numbers instead of names. It really does click into place. Not in a way that nothing else could, but in a way that makes me think of the broad dystopian visions, this is probably the right one to have gone with.

Which makes me really wonder about Doctor Franxx. We know he must be very important to the “Old Geezers”, but unlike their masked selves he seems to both be highly individual himself (See his unique design, the fact that he's the only real cyborg we know of, the fact that he chooses to have a little horn on his cyber face, the fact that he seems to revel in Squad 13's zest for life...) and actively trying to prove APE wrong with his little test case. And they're letting him do it. True, Squad 13 is clearly serving a greater goal, one that we got before in episode 7 but that is reiterated more clearly here: Deliver Zero Two to Gran Crevasse. Why this is critical? No idea yet, we'll find out.

It occurs to me at this stage that, with the exception of members of a Conrad Class Pack being like each other, no two Klaxosaurs have been identical, or even close. Even the two groups of Conrad Class (the one in Episode 3 and the one in Episode 6) are very different from each other. They're basically 100% individual, as opposed to the goals APE to have uniformity. Somehow, I think they're not going to just stay shrieking kaiju monsters.

The Award Ceremony was mostly what you'd expect: kind like the Episode 1 ceremony, but with far less force and verve because it's essentially off the cuff. We do get one tidbit: Zero Two is referred to as a "former Nine", so presumably she was the Nine Iota referenced in Episode 6? We get to see more of the City than ever, though, and... yeah I see what Zero Two meant about it being lifeless back in Episode 3 (which the show helpfully reminds us of here). Zorome picks up on it, there's hardly anyone there. Also, I notice that it's incredibly sterile. The white hallways are, of course, more conventionally sterile, but even the “beehive full of honey” look for the majority of the city doesn't have a lot of life to it. It's beautiful, but its also largely static (to the point where a lid opening is a wonder) and oddly monotonous. I'm reminded, oddly enough, of The Langoliers, and how the Past was said to feel. Flat, dry, tasteless, like a hollow imitation of reality with some critical life sucked out of it. The more Zorome sees, the more Zero Two basically seems to have the right idea: the city is lifeless; however many people it hosts, most of them aren't living.

Zorome's interactions with the Old Lady who may or may not be his mother/grandmother are both kind of sweet, which how much of an exuberant puppy dog Zorome is, and chilling as a window onto the world of the Adults. While the Old Lady seems nice enough, and I can believe that she (and most Adults) are basically decent people underneath the repression of their society and culture, the silence and sterility of the Adult world really does sink in here. I think the most potent moment is the Old Lady's partner being in a Skinner Box, and the implication that he's been in that Skinner Box for so long that the Old Lady can't even remember his voice. Old Lady may not have retreated into a box, but clearly the world is pretty dull and gray for her since she no longer takes gustatory pleasure.

The solitary nature of Adult existence also struck me – the Old Lady indicates that partnership is seen as an outmoded concept, and suggests that the old days must have been bad because people had to rely on one another. Of course, Humans are normally social creatures by nature and while I know some people wouldn't really care about pair bonding, making every man an island is clearly too far gone. In a way, it's not even a society anymore without individuals making up a greater whole. This, once again, seems to make a good connect-the-dots with the other themes of Darling in the Franxx, particularly the views on the Jian espoused in episode one, with Zero Two's opening narration becoming dominant over Hiro's depressive but seemingly fitting-with-adult-culture take that such a creature would be pitiful. Naturally, the Old Lady mentions procreation, which seems to be a big message.

Again, there's some bit of common knowledge that Squad 13 has been denied. “He probably doesn't know” “That would obviously be impossible.

And to cap it off, apparently the kids are 'infected'? This is new and seems pretty big. I wonder, are Nana and... male handler who never does much also infected, and not 'adults'? Is Dr. Franxx? I also wonder if there's really a pathogen, or if it's either a lie or some other concern couched in disease terminology. I'm leaning towards either a real pathogen, or at least a common belief in one based on a few things. First, there's how the Adults in this episode seem to treat Squad 13 as biohazard material. See the medal-awarding guy's reaction to Zorome's handshake, the fact that the Old Lady spreads disinfectant everywhere, the people that pick Zorome up wearing basically hospital masks/gas masks while dealing with him and doing something with/about Old Lady's Heart Thingy. As a second note, there's the clinical sterility of the city. It very much feels like a “Pathogen free” sort of affair. Nothing's alive there... and nothing is dirty or out of order. For the third, and perhaps most direct, Hiro supposedly had a “yellow blood cell” count, for which there is a normal value that skyrocketed (the reverse of the normal reaction) after riding with Zero Two. The Pathogen might be some sort of double-edged sword with a connection to Klaxosaurs and Franxx.

As a final note, I think giving all this heavy plot and worldbuilding stuff to Zorome at this point in the show was a really good idea. In my write-up of the previous episode, I mentioned that Goro's arc could have been a lot more powerful if they'd taken time to establish it better beforehand, rather than having the idea he might have real out-of-mind-meld affection for Ichigo be limited to that one part of one scene in Episode 5. (Speaking of Goro, though, in his one scenelet in this episode he continues to show that he wins all “Bigger man” awards) Well, this episode had a lot of bombshell to drop, and it dropped it with a character who HAD been fully primed for the delivery. A lot of Zormoe's screen time had been wrapped up in his interest in and idolization of Adults, and I'd even commented on that before. So, when we need to pay off with “stuff about adults” we quickly understand Zorome's stakes in the entire visit to the city and his discoveries about how Adults live, because we've known for a while how much something like that would mean to him. I think the structure of the show and the characterization to this point benefited this episode much more than it did the last.

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The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


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