Only 1 episode as of this video, so I’d assume you’ll take this with a grain of salt.
Firstly, I wanna talk about the character designer Masayoshi Tanaka as I am sure this name rings true to the ears of many who know of his work with Your Name. Personally, I am indifferent towards him. I mainly knew him for his work with Ano Natsu de Matteru and Anthem of the Heart. Which are two very different shows that I think tell a lot about his preferences when it comes to designing characters.
When he tackles a more realistic series like Anthem of the Heart or Your name; he seems kind of pigeonhole’d into doing… Well, more realistic characters. This is what I like to call the “plain jane” approach. But you can kind of tell he doesn’t like this. So much so, he often tries to make the hair look a little different compared to what someone would normally see in this kind of male protagonist characterization. In Anthem of the Heart, Takumi’s hair was very shaggy. Additionally, his face had more defined features; almost like he wanted the character to look a little more manly to suit his personality. For the female, it was Jun Naruse and at a glance, you can easily spot the differences. She has short hair but is very fluffy, for some reason. Instead of her bangs going straight down in a rectangular shape; it goes off to her left side and maintains sharp ends. This is easily his most impressive design. Your Name designs was very plain jane and I didn’t care for them at all. But when he’s not doing realistic sort of shows I noticed he has a very… Colorful approach to how he designs his characters; almost redundantly so.
If you’ll look at Toradora! where most of his impressive work lies at, you’ll see very different design elements. But the biggest thing is: he color codes his characters. He does this typically when he wants to emphasize the personality of certain characters like the protagonist, Ryuuji having blue hair because he’s the protagonist. Minori because she’s the fiery redhead. Ami who I believe is supposed to have more of a violet hair color but seemingly just became blue during the adaptation, I actually don’t know but you get the point. He did a similar thing with the characters of Ano Natsu de Matteru and Joshiraku and plenty more including Darling in the FranXX. Personally, I think he’ll run out of colors to connect with characters. He’s resorted to just doing different variations.
The tsundere archetype he seemed to think was more suited to the color orange as he did with Taiga (or maybe it was just a loli thing since he did the same with the loli character in Ano Natsu de Matteru) but the tsundere in Darling in the FranXX, Ichigo, has short and blue hair. Short, I presume, because she’s more of the “fighter” kind of tsundere and blue for the sake of diversity.
Everyone else besides Zero Two has a fairly common design choice that makes it easy to tell their personality traits. Not because it’s clever but because the same designs have been overdone. I’ll go down the list of characters and personalities, though, I am mostly guessing based on how they look, so, if I am wrong don’t hesitate to call me out on it:
- Ikuno: Know-it-all that may appear stoic but is easily influenced by perverted actions. Since there’s no obvious lesbian connection, I’d assume she’ll share a dynamic with Zorome the presumed perverted rat of the party.
- Zorome: The annoying weasel guy. Probably is gonna be the direct cause of many fan-service scenes and bloody noses.
- Gorou: Oh! The nice smart guy! I bet he’s plenty nice and smart!
- Hachi: (Insert gorilla sounds here)
- Kokoro: The rich girl. Judging by the look of her eyes, I don’t think she’s actually the snobby type. Though, I am almost certain she has a “dark side” to her. Watch out for maniacal laughter from this one folks! (insert sarcastic goofy laugh here)
- Miku: Fiery redhead that’ll also take the brunt of Zorome’s antics. I think Tanaka would’ve preferred to make her a pure redhead instead of a ginger but couldn’t, in good conscience when considering Minori from Toradora!. This chick will probably just act eccentric and that’s about it.
- Futoshi: The guy that eats a lot.
- Mitsuru: Dick.
- Nana and Dr. Franxx: I might as well put these 2 together because they’re already confirmed to share the stereotypical dynamic that carries the 2 archetypes of wise but perverted old man and young but prodigious and hot assistant. What should I say? Lame. Boring. Pandering.
Of course, I will talk about the main character and Zero Two. While I do that I’ll talk about the first episode simultaneously. So, Zero Two is about what you’d expect to be the “interesting” factor of this entire narrative. Almost to the point where she became uninteresting as a whole. The episode opens up in a very “light-novel” way. We get a glimpse of things to come and are lead to think “Oh wow! How do we get to that? What is even happening?” and then the show actually starts. If you, at least, watched SukaSuka last season you’ll know what I am talking about. After the light-novel opening we open with Zero Two who’s the “Weirdo” archetype. Which, I mean, doesn’t exactly have a commonly set up personality, I’ll give it that. But the idea still rings true: She’s weird but hot and we’re supposed to like her for that. It also helped with the hero and heroine light-novel encounter. Which, if you don’t know, basically just boils down to: the hero HAS to see the heroine naked or strip down in their first meeting. She REALLY wanted to bathe because she “doesn’t like how she tastes or smells” which is also gonna be a common thing driving out many fan service moments.
As for Zero Two herself: Eh. She’ll have fans because she’s designed to be the most interesting character aesthetically and narrative wise. I doubt Tanaka even had much say as to how her design was gonna look; only how it works. And I strongly dislike how uniform the small horns look. It just looks like a removable headband with horns on them. Hiro is hero, just as you might think. He’s going to represent the typical self-insert hero you’ve, more or less, always seen. That said, I will give props where it is due: he’s more my kind of protagonist. His story is, of course to match Zero Twos’, is more about the pain of loneliness. But like, that’s not going to be prevalent throughout the entire series. It might come up in the end where he and Zero Two get into an argument and then Hiro has to make some kind of big speech where he describes that he was alone too until she came along and got the entire party to be BFFs! Then, they completely trump whoever the big bad guy is and return to the Suite Life.
Well, I am being a little harsh. There’s still two more things that I found to be well done and it lies within the direction department. Mainly in the scene where Hiro would be running down a curving hallway adjacent to the big fuckin’ monster that is objectively needed to bring the hero and heroine together. I thought that scene was incredible for what it was even if it doesn’t quite match the chase scene in Yorimo‘s second episode from this season. I also really liked the mechs… I just did. Don’t judge me.
In conclusion, for an original it just feels like a light-novel filled with the same set of rules of pandering fan-service, typical “eventful” story line that ends up hardly effecting the status quo and continuous romantic subtext that never gets paid in full. Additionally, lackluster animation except for very specific scenes, of course. Interesting uniforms, though!