It’s no secret that two of the most common anime Darling in the FranXX seems to be compared to are the 1995 and 2007 classics from Studio Gainax, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The more the anime continues, the more clear this becomes. As mentioned in the review this analysis is a supplement piece to, FranXX structured itself around those two series in several ways, failing at every turn. As such, this will be an analysis on that prospect.
*Spoilers for Darling in the FranXX, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Please note that the way this is organized makes the most sense to one who knows what I am referring to, a several things I bring up won’t be explained much.*
Darling in the FranXX review: https://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=283213
How FranXX replicated Gurren Lagann’s structure
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann can very much be split up into two halves: the first 15 episodes, and the final 12. Darling in the FranXX operates the exact same way, except instead of 12 episodes in its final section, it’s 9. The first 15 episodes focus on fighting to reclaim the surface from beasts that have forced humans to operate in underground systems to survive, whilst introducing a colorful cast of characters and mechs. Episodes 16 onward are about adjusting to a new life before aliens crash the party and force our protagonists to fight them and their purple final boss in space. This is the rough outline that both series follow.
Gurren Lagann starts out as such. A boy named Simon, simply a part of this underground system is inspired by his best friend -or rather, his bro- Kamina, as a mech operated by Beastmen crashes in before a sexy vixen shows up to fight it off and help introduce Simon into a whole new world where they will fight in and for: the surface world. FranXX’s opening episode is similar, except for the fact that the person the protagonist -Hiro- is enamored by and the beautiful girl who kicks the ass of the beast that endangers everyone -the Kalaxaurs- are actually the same person. This person is Zero Two, who functions both as the deuteragonist and the mascot of the show.
Another key difference of the two early on is in regards to its characters. Firstly, while Simon is getting introduced to most of the characters he works with in his squad meant to fight off their threat, Hiro is already familiar with most of his teammates. Secondly, the characters in FranXX are mostly just caricatures with one or two traits often exploited for childish drama, whereas Gurren Lagann’s cast is colorful, humorous, genuinely varied, and full of camaraderie. This is simplifying things to be sure, but it goes a long way in establishing why we care about the latter cast far more than the former, especially when people start dying -rest in fucking peace, Kamina-. We do not listen to cardboard characters yell out or internally monologue their problems and feelings while seeing the narrative arbitrarily change its mascot character’s personality in order to fit with their plans. We see characters have chemistry and consistency, and see them deal with their problems in natural, often comedic ways.
The way the two series end up reaching their mid-season conclusions is far too different to warrant much comparison. However, this is not the case for their second halves. We start with the protagonists adjusting to a newer environment. Simon and the rest of Team Dai-Gurren have adjusted to the surface world that they have reclaimed, rebuilding it whilst dealing with the problems that come from this. Hiro and the rest of Squad 13 have patched things off mostly offscreen after what happened before their mid-season finale, and now have to live in a different version of their home. Now, with everything being ravaged in spite of their victory, the crew has to live without any automation, causing them to have to find resources for food and water, becoming more independent in the process. Trouble comes in the form of some of whom they used to work with causing problems before a brand new threat appears.
The problems faced are entirely different but the concept still stands. Additionally, the alien threat in Gurren Lagan appears soon after we are introduced to their new life, whereas FranXX takes another 5 episodes before that comes into play. Also, where the initial mastermind of the beast threat -Lordgenome- in Gurren Lagann was dealt with in episode 15, FranXX only now introduces the Kalaxosaur Princess, whom will be upstaged in episode 20. Regardless, both do end up aiding our protagonists later on when the alien threat appears. Gurren Lagann of course does this much better, given that this was foreshadowed, what with the idea of what Lordgenome did and how he said he was doing this to protect the world. FranXX just pulls this aspect out of nowhere in conjunction to another reveal in episode 20 that will be mentioned later when looking at the Evangelion side of the issue. Additionally, not only did Gurren Lagann had 10 episodes to work with once the aliens showed up whereas FranXX only had 4, but TTGL’s narrative and world was far more consistent with itself than DarliFra’s was.
Once the threat first hits, both shows take the time to have its characters experience the fallout of this and the drama unfold as character arcs begin or end. For Gurren Lagann, we have Simon’s imprisonment as a scapegoat by Rossiu so that the newly established government doesn’t have to take the fall of riots after the invasion. He then has to team up with Viral from the first half who had been causing trouble again, while the invasion continues and Rossiu slowly suffers mental deterioration, and Simon’s girlfriend from late in the first half -Nia- gets kidnapped and used as a messenger for the new alien threat, the Anti-Spirals. All of this lasts until episode 23 when everyone reunites and heals before heading out into space for the campaign against the Anti-Spirals. FranXX has it so that after the battle, the Strelizia Apus that Hiro and Zero Two were piloting after the Kalaxosaur Princess became corrupted and fatally damaged by the alien threat VIRM, somehow went to space with Zero Two controlling it with her subconscious while her body is reduced to a walking vegetable that feels the damage of the mech…somehow. Everyone is cultivating while Kokoro deals with her pregnancy with Mitsuru by her side as the two have to deal with the amnesia administered in episode 18. This lasts for all of one episode, with everyone organizing the faintest idea of how to leave for space in episode 22.
Episode 23 begins the assault in space. Gurren Lagann has this for 5 episodes whereas FranXX has it for its final two. In TTGL, death and despair surrounds everyone yet time after time, even with the several characters that die and the mind-bending, realty-warping threats our heroes face, they still pull through with several memorable, heartfelt moments until the final conflict with the main Anti-Spiral in one of the most memorable battles in anime history. This purple being was meant to bring equilibrium to the universe in harsh ways, stating a cycle that could be felt deeply in retrospect with the events that caused the first half of the show. This all leads into a series of powerful moments that truly cement this show as a legend that would be remembered for years to come. FranXX’s final conflict is far less exciting, with few participants involved, and nothing making any sense in that show’s already broken logic. One could argue that TTGL relied on handwaving but it had a unique logic that wasn’t exactly easy to contradict, unlike FranXX. There is no reason as to why each of the mechs is a completely different color than they were before, and the visuals aren’t remotely exciting or filled with any spectacle unlike the show that inspired it in this regard. The final antagonist is entirely uninteresting, just being secret VIRM that became part of APE, the organization that orchestrated the war against the Kalaxosaurs for their ripoff Instrumentality Project goal that eventually resulted in their kind shooting up Earth as they became this weird purple being that stole weapons from this planet and ravaged the Kalaxosaur princess, all in the name of assimilating everything because that’s just what VIRM do. We have absolutely no reason to care about the fight between them and the Stelizia Apus’s true form revealed when Hiro rejoined Zero Two, especially since they don’t even fight and VIRM simply lets them fuck off and reincarnate after they destroyed its army. Speaking of which, that form, for its reference to Giant Rei from EoE, is also somewhat of a reference to the Super Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann looking like a monumental extension of Simon given that Strelitzia Apus does the same thing with Zero Two.
Darling in the FranXX follows the leader known as Evangelion
FranXX doesn’t exactly have a structure copied from Eva, especially since until episode 19, few of its similarities to Eva were narrative based. The core conceit of a shady organization being responsible for teenagers who pilot symbolism-drenched mecha to fight a threat to their species while they have a core location underground for their operations, remains. However, a majority of the similarities for most of FranXX’s runtime is in regards to its characters instead of the direction the narrative takes everything in.
The characters are emotionally warped teenagers who, when not piloting, are often arguing with each other. Certain characters even bare resemblances to those in Eva. Miku vaguely resembles Asuka, and her bitchy tsundere personality is one of many who were seen as a trend started by Asuka -despite her not being a tsundere and just being a cantankerous girl who wanted to be acknowledged as an adult-. Then we get to Dr. Frank, though we best save his similarities with Gendo Ikari for later. There’s also Nine Delta, who is similar in design to Kaoru, both in terms of looks and in terms of them both being interested in the exploits of the characters around them before they make damaging decisions of their own and later choose to die.
Evangelion units are biomechanical beings who have the souls of the pilots’ mothers in them in order for the pilots to be able to synchronize with them. This makes it to that the symbolism in this show if Freudian. This extends to Asuka having mommy issues and Misato and Shinji having daddy issues. Rei has a father figure in Gendo, who is Shinji’s actual father. Given the processes for Eva units, this means that teenagers without a mother are the best possible candidate, hence why everyone in the main setting -Tokyo 3- are all good candidates for pilots, including Shinji’s friend Touji, who actually becomes a pilot for a short time in episodes 17 and 18. There’s certainly more I believe I have gotten the point across, as we don’t need to explain everything here given that the two shows don’t have the same kind of symbolism. FranXX does have a little bit of this present in the vague being of APE being referred to as Papa by everyone, and there being people -Nanas- who give the squads their missions and watch over them. However, sex is the primary piece of symbolism here. FranXX mechs are typically piloted by one male and one female, in the doggy style sex position, with their whole beings -and perhaps even their fluids? The show never makes this clear as to how any of this works- coming into each other. I could go on but the point has been made. One similarity that comes of all this is the selective breeding in both series to make sure its teens can pilot.
We slowly see the terrible upbringing the main characters went through and why certain characters are attached the way they are. Obviously, we care about the Eva pilots way more, as each character is distinctly human, with actual hobbies and extended periods of time devoted to diving deep into what makes each broken human being tick. As mentioned previously, FranXX’s cast is mostly one-note. The most we get to the show diving deep is with Zero Two’s backstory and how frequently she shifts as a character. Additionally, Shinji from Eva and Zorome from FranXX have two reasons for piloting as opposed to just one. Everyone does it because that’s what they’re meant to, but these two also do it for the appreciation from good ol’ papa (the being in FranXX’s case and the actual dad in Eva’s case). After the halfway point, this stops being a factor. Speaking of after the halfway point, this finally takes us to Dr. Frank, the Gendo Ikari of the series. Their backstories are similar: both joined their shady organizations for the sake of mankind and developed the main method of fighting we see in these shows. Both had a lover who died in the very first mecha they used, and that death affected them greatly, causing them to have goals that at least somewhat differ from their main organization despite going along with their plans. Gendo just wants to reunite with his wife by initiating the Human Instrumentality Project whereas Dr. Frank, enamored by the Kalaxosaur princess sometime after his wife’s death, hopes to reunite with her in order to pilot his greatest invention -Strelizia Apus- with her. Most of this is explained in the backstory episodes, and of course, FranXX’s manages to snap the already shattered world-building in two for several people, whereas Eva’s only made things make more sense.
The midpoint is also where these shady organizations send people to deal with any alarming irregularities to keep things in check. In episode 15 of Evangelion, Kaji, who had been getting information for Gendo, was assassinated whereas in episode 18 Darlifra, Squad 9 is sent to stop Kokoro and Mitsuru from marrying each other now that they know information about people that no one should know of. This results in the two having their memories altered. After the final important battle takes place for each show, and the last obstacle in each organization’s way has been dealt with, we then get to episode 20, which tries to go End of Evangelion on everyone. Certain APE members -because apparently not everyone was on the same page for some weird reason- reveal themselves as VIRM and reveal their plans which are to to cause everyone to merge into it and be assimilated into one being, similarly to the Human Instrumentality Project being designed to return everyone to one primordial state of being. Of course, our protagonists fight this off, but this is effectively part of the core conceit of the final 5 episodes of the show much like in EoE: stop humanity from being forced into becoming one being.
One last thing to bring to Eva’s side of the story is that the iconography present in FranXX occasionally becomes blatantly similar to Eva. Episode 6 had the wings -courtesy of the Jiro bird symbolism- that have been deemed either similar to those Eva unit 1 sprouts in EoE. I personally think it more looks like the wings of Adam from the first impact. Episode 19 has the grave of Dr. Frank’s wife, which resembles Yui Ikari’s grave -awfully fitting given that Gendo and Dr. Frank have similar backstories-. We then have True Apus, who has been pointed out to bear resemblance to Giant Rei in EoE.
Looking back, the show probably bears more resemblance to Gurren Lagann than Evangelion, but the resemblance to both is more than strong, especially towards its final episodes. However, FranXX is badly written from its narrative to its world to its characters, so it doesn’t carry any of the same weight in its actions as those two do, as pointed out in the original review. Another series the show resembles is Eureka 7, what with the dynamic of Hiro and Zero Two who are in the midst of a war being similar to that of Eureka 7’s protagonists. However, as I have next to no knowledge on that series, I chose to not dissect that at this time. I’d spend a bit more time contrasting the world-building of each show, but trying to even piece together how much of a headache FranXX’s world-building is can only be described as a surefire way to madness. Thank you for your time, and if there are any similarities I have missed, let me know so I can include them in.