“What an ugly sight. Did she devour her stamen again?”
Throughout history female sexuality has been portrayed as this monstrous force with a startling narrative insistence, embodying sexual anxieties of the day with a woman’s agency feared. Questionable in their explicitly masculine-coded display of sexual politics (Kill la Kill stumbling through triumphant bursts of agency marred by lurid objectification; Kiznaiver presenting queerness as a phase to be transcended, sending an explicitly queer character off staggering into the margins in order to facilitate a heterosexual union perceived to be more legitimate), Darling in the Franxx appears to be Studio Trigger’s narrative zenith in terms of portraying a realm in which male and female characters are explicitly branded “flawed” unless united. A select number of chosen children are raised deep within the limitations of a sequestered environment, later paired off in male-female units and acting as surrogate parents to a shared mecha. It is rather suggestively labeled their sole purpose in life, biologically-driven to a cold and calculated degree as adults gaze down at them, heralding these children as beacons of light; harbingers of hope. Those that aren’t fit for such a virtuous model are to be cast aside, intrinsically lacking in value much like the oft-referenced Jian bird and its single wing. You are to reproduce (pilot a Franxx), or society has little – if any – use for you.
The world of Franxx distinctly adheres to claustrophobic structures in which heteronormativity and conventional modes of reproduction are revered while any form of sexual variance is subjected to abnegation, 02 this destructive anomaly armed with propulsive eroticisms. Presented as a corruptive force, her transgressive existence serves as gossip material; male Parasite gleefully regaling to the rest of his troupe how any (presumably masculine-coded) Parasite doomed to ride alongside her will have their blood drained, ultimately perishing. Allusions to vampirism as this subversive mode of sexuality threatening to disrupt an otherwise conservative hegemony are deliberate, feminine desire posing a threat with purity worshiped. Another male Parasite replies in a typically presumptuous manner whereas a female Parasite dismisses the accusations, an unusually tacit display of feminine solidarity. Beyond the parasitic farce of a court however 02 is visually distinct with her ‘monstrosity’ on show, fangs and horns physical penance almost, vilified at every single turn with attempts at subjugating her uncomfortable in their persistence. Upon idly musing that she wants to swim in the ocean, an aged man in a position of power tells her to show some self-control – fecundity lacking in such a starving land.
Upon giving into her desires 02 is ridiculed by those governing over strictures that bind, allusions to stamen-devouring striking for their culture suggests she is going against the natural order, deliberately dispersing pollen aimed at her own pistil. Taking matters into her own hands is an “ugly sight”, explicitly labelled a “monster” for these perceived transgressions, mutters of awed “Partner Killer”s rarely out of earshot. Klaxosaur blood coursing through 02’s veins is yet another explicit means of Othering her, society collectively parsing her as this fearsome being representing sexual anxieties to be shunned. She is not like them, so she is to be avoided.
02’s fascination with Hiro stems from their mutually aberrant approaches to rigid modes of sexual suppression, Hiro similarly resisting all that has been expected of him as a ‘chosen one’ and stamen. Their connection thrives on physical magnetism, unusual within their society which eventually culminates in a feminine-coded mecha that pierces the Klaxosaur – presenting a viable alternative. Although Franxx’s society is steeped in conventional modes of sexuality, perhaps something will at last change through 02 and Hiro coming together.