“The Jian, also known as ‘the bird that shares wings,’ has only one wing. Unless a male and female pair lean on each other and act as one, they’re incapable of flight. They’re imperfect, incomplete creatures. But, for some reason, their way of life, struck me as profoundly beautiful.”
— Hiro’s interpretation of the Jiān bird of Chinese mythology.
About the anime “Darling in the Franxx.”
It is set in the distant future of a world ruined by mysterious giant creatures called Kyōryū. People live in mobile fort cities called Plantations. These are defended by giant mecha called Franxx, piloted by boy-girl pairs of teenagers raised from birth for the job. They know nothing about their own cities or the outside world. Their days consist of battles and struggles to discover who they are and how to live.
Resolution of the gender wars will come from the creation of new ideas about the ways men and women can combine for work, play, and love. “New” means recombining and reconceiving our biology and the countless forms of life developed since we invented tools. Fiction is our laboratory. Japanese anime is one of the best.
I have watched only a few anime since my first, “Star Blazers“, in 1979. But “Darling in the Franxx” is the best I have seen. Its exploration of gender relations makes most US TV dramas look like chalk drawings on the sidewalk. We can learn much from its evolution in the first 15 episodes. This show has had an impact, as seen in large audience and the massive body of commentary about it (there are 170 pages of comments at Crunchyroll, where it streams).
Building new relations from scratch
The teens in this show know little about life. They are raised with no knowledge of romance. They have never heard of kissing, let alone sex. They discover these things for themselves. They are a thought experiment in the nature – nurture debate. “Darling” shows teens raised in a small team with absolute equality between guys and girls. The team alpha and team leader are both girls. The girls are the sexually aggressive ones.
They build their relationships starting with nothing but their BIOS, their hard-wired drives. Pairs are linked by working together as pilots in mecha, brought to a union that is physical, mental, and spiritual.
We see this process working in several pairs, most strongly in the protagonists Hiro and Zero Two. Hiro wants to bond in order to pilot a Franxx, since he is nothing otherwise. She needs a partner but despises the dependency it brings, as seen in her interpretation of the Chinese myth of the Jiān bird.
“The book I read about it a long time ago said it can’t fly unless a male and female support each other. They’re pitiful creatures. Unless it finds a partner, it must hide among tree leaves, wait with bated breath, and dream of the day it can take flight into the skies.”
In episode 15 they merge complete in their machine, making it incredibly powerful. It is an inspiring story of romance for teens in the 21st century, told with great skill to boys and girls in Japan and around the world.
Love as the solution to the gender war
Drawing on deep sources in western life, Rousseau created modern romance as a means to counterbalance individualism and preserve the family structure (details here). Marriage was a business partnership, often arranged by the parents. He (and others in the 18th century) refounded it on love. This was one of the most successful philosophical inventions ever. It became the heart of our literature, as seen in the success of Jane Austin’s books (still selling well in their third century). Romance is by far the largest literary genre for adults.
Now some propose doubling down on love as the solution to the gender wars. Work and home become a great fusion between equal loving partners, a couple with harmony in all parts of life.
These stories draw on the shift over six decades of romance from the home to work. The partners shifted from women and men as different kinds of people with different roles to essentially similar buddies (gender bending is a common trope). Diana Rigg set the mold in “The Avengers” (1965-1968), the independent kick-ass partner in both work and play. The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” took the next step, showing the work team as a “family.” Now such stories outnumber stories of romance and family at home.
This is, of course, insane. HR executives must howl with horror at such shows. Work buddies screwing are disruptive in the office. People trying to form such relationships generate sexual harassment claims. Those that break up generate more claims. But those are the small problems with the these work-and-love buddies stories. Where do they go next? Do they marry and have perfectly equal home relationships? Does the kick-ass independent heroine and her usually subordinate partner settle down to domestic bliss?
Such stories could become the equivalent of the 1950s and 1960s family shows. But we do not see many of them because they do not work. If shown, people would see them as less plausible than fairy tales. In the real world peers meet at work and develop relationships (despite HR executives best efforts). Their marriages are part of the 40% to 50% that end in divorce. They are part of the problem, not the solution.
Love is not the answer. The search continues for new ideas to end the gender wars.
Revealing trivial details
As usual in modern shows, it describes guys looking at girls as “perverts. ” This is the opposite of its former meaning, and another indicator of the project to make masculinity a pathology.
Large body of anime about young and men jointly piloting giant robots, using these as metaphors for life. For an introduction to this genre see “When Mechs Equals Sex” by Nicholas Dupree at Anime News Network.
There is the usual prudishness by nerd commenters about portrayal of girls with large breasts. Many Dr. Who fans freaked out over Perpugillium “Peri” Brown. Star Trek fans freaked over the Orion slave girls in the “Enterprise” episode “Bound” (considering it “exploitive”, (SPOILER) although in the end we learn that the girls were the masters – and the men were the slaves.
There are the usual complaints over “Darlings” “straight-dude-perspective.” Why isn’t it “a scathing critique of heteronormativity?” Why does lead couple evolve into a partnership: “I’d like to believe we as a culture can properly appreciate good domme girlfriends.” Many feminists were outraged (of course) at this show. Example: “The outdated gender politics of DARLING in the FRANXX” by Caitlin Moore at Anime Feminist. That’s strange, since the show is hard-core feminists. The girls are leaders. The girls take the sexual initiative. The boys are betas in training (although there are hints in episode 15 that this might be changing).
See it for yourself
The animation is excellent, as are the dialog and characterization. It is streamed at Crunchyroll. See the Trailer…
For More Information
Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- Do we want to bring back traditional marriage? What is traditional marriage?
- Classic films show what marriage was. Facts show its death.
- Taylor Swift shows us love in the 21st century.
- Music videos show romance in our new society.
- Modern movies show the hidden truth about romance & marriage: they’re dying.
- Love in the new world, after the gender wars – Allan Bloom on the ‘fall of Eros’, from Love and Friendship.
- Second thoughts about romance in the #MeToo age.
- A college course teaches students to date. Fun & sad.
Two books by Professor Regnerus that help explain the situation
Strongly recommended: Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy (2017).
See my posts about Cheap Sex: Misadventures of a young woman in modern America. and Cheap Sex is the Inconvenient Truth in the end of marriage.