Protected: DARLING in the FRANXX Episode 5: Choices and Consequences

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Protected: DARLING in the FRANXX Episode 4: Does Anyone Else Wonder Why Zero-Two Has Security Clearance?

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DARLING in the FRANXX Episode 2: Logically, No Machine Would Ever Be Designed To Operate This Way

Review:

Just thinking about how these machines operate, or don’t operate, it just seems so incredibly illogical in terms of design and operation. I’m hoping there’s some explanation given later as to why you would set the system up this way, but really there isn’t going to be any satisfying explanation other than a flimsy rationalisation for why we’ve got a girl bent over with a guy behind her in the cockpit.

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That isn’t actually a criticism of the show, because the show has actually been pretty fun, but it is a criticism of the world building and concept behind the show. Basically, this show needs to keep the pretty and shiny happening or we all might start questioning what they are asking us to swallow with this story and that might just leave it looking more than a little bit off.

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That said, it isn’t as though the show is going out of its way to be subtle. While Ichigo might act confused about knowing what a kiss is, we get endless dialogue that is almost too blunt to even consider a double entendre.

What I did like this episode was that we got to know the rest of the squad a bit and their personalities, that and we pretty much confirm that Hiro is going to be partnered with Zero Two because otherwise he’s not going to have much purpose in the show. His attempt at partnering with Ichigo ends pretty pathetically, though it is through the practice match that we learn a bit more about how things work.

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All and all, this is working for what it is. There are quite a few parallels between this and Evangelion (as well as a few other shows) and yet this definitely has its own kind of feel and tone. Whether that ends up being a good tone I guess will depend on where the story decides to go now.

Final note: This was voted as the show to be reviewed for patrons only so all future episode reviews of DARLING in the FRANXX will be password protected with the password provided to patrons. If you wish to become a patron, it is only $1 a month (unless you choose to provide more support). All other episode reviews from other shows this season will remain freely accessible.


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Karandi James.

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DARLING in the FRANXX Episode 1: This Season’s Entry Into Teens Piloting Robots

Overview:

The distant future: Humanity established the mobile fort city, Plantation, upon the ruined wasteland. Within the city were pilot quarters, Mistilteinn, otherwise known as the “Birdcage.” That is where the children live. Their only mission in life was the fight. Their enemies are the mysterious giant organisms known as Kyoryu. The children operate robots known as FRANXX in order to face these still unseen enemies.

– From Crunchyroll

Review:

Well DARLING in the FRANXX doesn’t really do subtle and it isn’t really trying to hide the many other shows that have clearly had an influence. Yet being heavily influenced by predecessors isn’t so much an issue if you can still tell a decent story and the set up in this first episode is decent enough. Though the pair symbolism with first birds and then flowers really was a little bit excessive and hammered over and over as if the audience was likely to forget it.

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While I’m not totally sold on the look of the characters here, overall it is pleasant enough to look at and the enemy and robots kind of look cool.

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And of course the main character, Hiro has failed at the start of the series and is about to leave when all of this happens. The plot here is pretty straight forward and I’m pretty sure most people could have written out the events of this episode without a lot of prompting. Again, predictability isn’t that much of an issue. The execution is done well enough and the pace of this episode works well. There’s not much to surprise you but all the elements of a reasonable story are here and I’m actually a little interested in the two leads because while we’ve seen both these types before they managed to pull it off fairly well here.

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So I’m adding this to my watch list. It isn’t my favourite genre or anything like that but I haven’t watched a mecha since Iron Blooded Orphans so I was probably ready for another series to come along.


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Knight’s & Magic Series Review: It Is Going To Take More Than Duct Tape To Fix This Mess

Overview:

A guy who is apparently a genius programmer (the synopsis told me so) is killed but then is reborn in a fantasy world where he can use his somehow remembered understanding of programming to use magic and build robots. Now he wants to build his dream robot.

Review – Some spoilers:

I was watching a video review of this anime the other day (sorry, cannot remember which blog I was on or I would link) and they said (heavily paraphrased) that they didn’t know why this was even an isekai story as the fact that the guy was originally a programmer in our world literally added nothing to the story. This was something that kind of bothered me while watching the show as well. Other than eating up precious minutes in the first episode where we meet our robot obsessed programmer and then watch him die, there is zero mention of him coming from another world ever again in the anime. He does weird things occasionally and certainly a lot of his ideas are derivative of things he could have seen in his former life but he could just as easily have been a genius ahead of his time. There was no reason to add the extra complication of reincarnation. It added nothing to the story and it wasted set up time on a set up that wasn’t needed.

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And basically that explains a lot about what is wrong with Knight’s & Magic. It has a lot of things in it that aren’t necessary and what it doesn’t have is any clear or focused narrative. The premise is super cool. I love that they decided to mix mecha and fantasy. The mix of robots and magic is perfect because for once I’m not rolling my eyes at giant robots being able to move and jump or do anything that they are doing because they are powered and moved by magic so they can do whatever they like. The initial setting in the fantasy world where people are attacked by beasts and the robots are needed to fight them gives a fairly wide range of possible story lines and works well enough even if it is pretty standard, and the weird main character who doesn’t understand the concept of impossible could have been really fun.

This show should have been amazing.

The final battle takes place between a flying robot and a mechanical dragon. How do you manage to make that lame? Well, let Knight’s & Magic teach you.

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I guess we all should have been tipped off by the unnecessary apostrophe in the title. That bugged me all season but now that I reflect on the show it kind of matches it perfectly. It has an idea but wants to make it look even cooler than it is so it goes just that one step too far. Genius kid develops robots for his kingdom? We can do better than that. That kid is a reborn programmer from Earth who loved model robots. It adds nothing but it sounds cool.

While I’m being petty I’ll also take aim at the opening song. There’s actually nothing wrong with the opening as it visually works and the song, while fairly generic, is entertaining enough, but for some reason each week (and I’m not sure if they did this from the start or it if came along later on) they felt the need to break the song up with dialogue from the upcoming episode. Kind of jarring and a little spoilery. Right up there with those previews they used to give us for Sailor Moon back in the 90’s and then Serena would tell us to stay right there because they’d show us what happened. Only, we just kind of saw it in the preview so doesn’t that take a lot of the fun out of it?

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If I look at this more objectively, my biggest issue with Knight’s & Magic is the story. Or maybe it is the lack of story. A story implies that things are building toward a climax where as this is a series where stuff happens, the characters react, they overcome the challenge (which mostly doesn’t end up even seeming like a challenge) and then in the aftermath of the previous event, something else happens. So there’s a few issues.

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The first is the reactionary nature of the characters. Ernesti wants to build his own mecha. Great. That’s a character goal and something to work towards. And he does work toward that goal but he does a lot of stuff that seems superfluous to that goal along the way and seems to take great delight in the destruction of enemies even if they never stood a chance. The other characters however, don’t seem to have any goal. Kid and Ady are hanging with Ernesti. Because they made friends with him when he was young? Because they have zero ambitions or goals of their own? What do these two want? It is never made clear, they just kind of hang around as Ernesti’s entourage for the entire series. Other characters also seem to just get dragged along in Ernesti’s wake and even the villains for the most part have very little in the way of actual motive or vested interest in anything that is actually going on. So no one is driving this plot. Except maybe the narrator who is literally dragging the audience through months and years of development in a matter of a few minutes of perfunctory narration.

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The second is the lack of a clear antagonist. Ultimately the series chooses the war with some country whose name I don’t remember (it started with a Z as mandated by all derivative fantasy writers – close second if it started with an X) and we get a bit of a face off between Ernesti and another designer who is also a genius. This had me wondering whether other genius was also reborn in this world and that’s the only way someone shows any signs of intelligent thought (because the side characters sure didn’t) or whether he was this world’s version of a real genius and Ernesti just stomped out the evolution of an entirely different kind of technology for his own amusement. Yet other than one early encounter where technology is stolen from Ernesti by a character who returns later only to be cut down in seconds, there’s no sign of this Kingdom or any kind of political tension until very late in the series. Instead we see Ernesti handle the beasts (which are what we are introduced to in the first episode as the problem), then they disappear as we see Ernesti challenge another development lab, and then we see new robots fighting beasts, then Ernesti meets some not-elves and learns all the secrets of how to build a robot. All that happens before we get any hint of a war looming ahead. I know we need some background but could the show try foreshadowing.

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The third issue is how anti-climactic the climax is. Ernesti never loses. In the penultimate battle he is fought to a draw but even then it isn’t like his robot blows up or anything. There isn’t a single moment of actual tension in this series because you know Ernesti will win. Usually very easily. So even though the final battle works hard to make you think there might be some tension, by this point the audience knows how the story goes and you can almost narrate the story for them. It is an aerial battle with a mechanical dragon and I was bored. There’s something very wrong when a show can’t manage to make you worried that maybe the mechanical dragon might actually be an effective weapon against the protagonist.

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I’m not actually opposed to happy endings and the main characters having a triumphant return. But I’d like to feel they worked for it and earned it and to be honest this didn’t do it. Likely this is because not one of the main characters is even crippled let alone killed. Only one of them is even in any kind of danger during the entire final battle and other than some strategic blood on his face from unseen wounds, there’s no actual sign of injury. And after the battle, he’s fine. No recovery period. Okay, the robot broke, as did a few others, but not one main character left with any kind of lasting scar from a full on war that they fought on the front lines of? This feeds well into the idea that this is self-insert wish-fulfillment but it does not make for an interesting story.

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Basically, I really wanted to like this show. I kept hoping that the next week would do something with the really interesting premise that caught me in episode 1. Unfortunately this show had no interest in developing characters or plot and ultimately was nothing but a disappointment. A good-looking disappointment with some cool mecha designs, but still a disappointment.

I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 13: Some People Are Just Sore Losers

Review:

Well, this ended pretty much the way everyone predicted and managed to be pretty pointless right to the end. Ernesti fights the drake and shows off a few new tricks (though I’m not certain splattering it with oil and setting it on fire counts as a new trick).

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We then get the engineer from the otherside (name has totally escaped me at this point) and Ernesti having an argument which may have only been occurring in their heads or may have been broadcast, I don’t know as it was unclear, about the aesthetics of robot design. Because that’s super important in a life or death battle.

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All of this is interspersed with the side characters storming the fortress below and one final fight with the sword mecha which ends as expected before the captain of the drake decides to ram the Princess. This is where my mild irritation with the generally stupid writing decisions in this show blew up into full of rage as the Princess stubbornly insisted she wouldn’t move because she believed that she would be protected. Lady, there’s a giant robot dragon falling out of the sky about to land on you. Would it kill you to take three steps to the right? No, instead Kid has to have a moment to jump from one airship to the drake to fight the captain and then jump out of his mecha and into Ernesti’s hand because I guess Kid hadn’t done anything useful in a few episodes because wasn’t his mecha powering the airship? Oh yeah, his mecha was powering the airship. His and Ady. So why is it still flying given he’s just abandoned ship? So frustrating.

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Anyway the war wraps up, we get some more Kid and Princess stuff before they all head home. But this is my favourite part of the episode. The Smiths that actually build the machines that have made everything possible finally get official recognition for their effort. Then Ernesti begins plotting his next steps and we end the show. Of course nothing is resolved because opposing designer guy survived and is looking for a new hire, the King or whatever of the country that started the war hasn’t been defeated, the sword guy is still alive and heading home, and there’s new tech coming out everywhere changing political and economic landscapes, but sure, let’s just end the story here. Why not at this point?

I’m kind of looking forward to a full series review of this show. I think it is going to be fun to write.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 12: Are We Sure Ernesti Isn’t a Villain?

Review:

I had a lot of time for thinking while watching this episode, mostly because other than super dramatic music and various bits of magic zipping across the screen not a lot was going on in the first half. The fights may look visually impressive for the first two or so passes, but as Ernesti circles the ‘Drake’ and we get the same animation of its lightning defense etc, it all just starts looking a bit samey and I kind of tuned out what was going on until Ernesti hit the ground. Points for the ‘villains’ for finally knocking him out of the sky.

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What I started thinking about was Ernesti’s character and how he pretty much exhibits every characteristic you would expect of a B Grade villain. He chuckles gleefully when he destroys his enemy or creates a new machine designed to kill. He has no qualms about stealing his comrades machines if it is convenient to him. He has no loyalty to the actual rulers of his country and really would sell his loyalty to whoever would give him the access he wants to innovate with his robots, and don’t threaten the future of that robot design or he’ll take it very personally.

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That made it much harder for me to actually care about the villains and their actions given I don’t know enough about them to care personally, and their actual fighting style has been practical and not as underhanded as Ernesti’s.

Anyway, there’s one more episode of this and it is another show I’ll be glad to see off my watch list. The narrator of this show is getting my vote for most annoying character of the season.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 11: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No… It’s a Giant Mechanical Dragon?

Review:

This show was definitely written by a bunch of people sitting around saying “You know what would be cool…”

“Yeah, giant robots that fight with magic.”

“Totally.”

“Wait, what if they had like four magic wands?”

“Too cool!”

“And then what if some of them looked like horses?”

“That’s fantastic!”

“And we’ll paint some red. Everyone loves red!”

“Awesome!”

And then the conversation starts to devolve and eventually we get to…

“And then the enemy just builds a freakin’ dragon and it burns the whole city down!”

Stunned silence for a moment.

“Woah! That is amazing! Write it! Write it!”

So yeah, that’s how I imagine the planning meeting for this story going and to be honest watching this show is rather like being a fly on the wall for one of those conversations. The participants look like they are having fun, but it isn’t fun.

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We had one antagonist in the prince who was dispatched almost without a second thought but that kind of left room for the designer guy from the supposed bad guys to become an antagonist. Only we know absolutely nothing about him other than he is on a serious ego trip, which more or less puts him on par with our apparent hero, Ernesti, that we know nothing about other than he is good at everything because he was a programmer in a previous life.

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And all this leaves me asking what the point of all of this is for the audience? Maybe the writers are having fun. Maybe Ernesti is having fun somewhere. But for the audience we are continuing to watch a series of events strung together only through narration about characters we know literally nothing about and have little reason to care.

Maybe I could just shrug and agree that a flying mechanical dragon is cool. Okay, it is cool. I love dragons. This one burnt a whole city in one breath and looks pretty awesome. Only, I know how this will go already. Even if I choose to buy into the cool factor this week, next week or the week after, Ernesti will tilt his head, come up with some weird idea and laugh as he rushed into battle and that dragon is going to end up either a flaming mess of scrap parts or Ernesti is going to take control of it. Either way, I’m pretty sure I am not going to be satisfied with how it goes.


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Karandi James.

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Knight’s & Magic Episode 10: Who Needs Characterisation and Motivation When We Have Narration?

Review:

Once again this show has a general lack of respect for narrative as we gloss over huge problems of resourcing the build of new (or upgrades to) existing robots, cram in a Princess rescue, a cheer up the Princess date episode, and the thief from earlier comes back with the potential to actually be a character but then gets cut down in about two seconds. Because, hey, why actually make any one of these things a focus or give it the time it needs to be interesting when we can gloss over events and trample on our characters and just have the narrator fill in the blanks with a few lines of inane dialogue.

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It is kind of a shame because Kid finally got to do something other than be Ernesti’s hanger on number two and they still just kind of glossed over that fact. Given he so far hadn’t done a single actual narratively noteworthy thing and his existence was fairly pointless other than rounding out the screen when Ernesti and Ady were there, is seems kind of mean to give him a moment and then just glide right past it.

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Not to mention we finally met someone kind of smart on the other side and the narrator tells us he’s important and his meeting with Ernesti (kind of) in this episode is important, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the show given he’s there and gone.

This show is making a good run for most flawed show I’ve watched to the end this year and that’s in a year when I watched Hand Shakers.


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