Evangelion, FranXX & Near Misses.
Posted on July 7th, 2019
Filed under: Reviews — Karl Olson @ 11:14 pm
So, I’ve run into an unexpected side-effect of the renewed Evangelion discourse: kind of reconsidering Darling In The FranXX. I still think Franxx is quite problematic in how and what it tried to say; however, through one narrow angle, I can see better what it meant to reference/respond to in Eva but fumbled at best. Two of the big ongoing themes in Eva are the folly of man in chasing self-perfection to the point of losing essential humanity via exploitation of the young, and the value of continuing to live despite the massive pain of ego-distance that existence can incur. Those messages resurface in other Gainax works – obsessions with hyper-perfection are always folly when that gets in the way of embracing yourself for who you are at this phase of your life. It’s the same for Shinji, Noata, Sasshi & even Nadia, while their villains share that toxic obsession with their idea of perfection with different manifestations.
Which brings me to FranXX. Ultimately, it stands as a rejection of transhumanism as post-scarcity technological immortality when it also sacrifices (very traditional) relationships, the future of the youth & the Earth’s ecosystem as we know it. Missteps aside for a moment, it is trying to lift from if not comment on Eva: to save humanity, embrace flawed existence over the obsession with perfection. Where FranXX loses it, is that it heavily implies throughout its run that valid human existence has a very narrow definition. FranXX fails to get that the exploitation of youth Eva alludes to can include the narrow definition of validity that FranXX elevates at every turn, and that such narrow definitions of validity are in ways their own toxic obsession with perfection. This is to say, FranXX’s over-specific meditation on and response to Eva misses a key point that Eva, most other Gainax bildungsromans and most derivative works thereof make: it’s not the who, but rather the how of connection that matters. Further still, to make that connection, those works often suggest it requires a kind of self-embrace that often means rejecting some norms and/or letting go of the pursuit of those norms if they result in the destruction of self. FranXX implies the who and so dramatically narrows the how of connection throughout its run, then hurriedly tries to broaden its thesis at the finish line with a couple of wordless montages. Eva didn’t have to try to save it at the end because it never boxed itself in to start with & if anything broadened its scope as much as possible given the focus on a solitary lead character.
Ultimately, this doesn’t save FranXX much for me, and if anything, having a better sense of what it didn’t understand in the work it owes its greatest debt to is kind of a bummer, but at the same time, I better appreciate when other works with Eva in their genealogy manage to get it right even when not made by any of the same staff. The Big O, the FLCL sequels and SSSS.Gridman (to name a few) all got Eva‘s point and iterated on it more effectively than A1 did in FranXX.
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