Anime is a genre that often can tell challenging and unbelievable stories, which feel impossible to explore in any other medium. Darling in the FranXX takes many of these themes into account. It portrays an interesting analysis of the mecha genre – while also delivering its powerful message.
Based on an original idea and concept, Darling in the Franxx is a science fiction, mecha and romantic anime that also features elements of drama within it. Taking place in a futuristic setting that’s rarely seen within animes, this show allows us to see the kind of life teenagers experience as they become pilots of giant robots that protect their plantation at such young ages. The storyline follows these children who have been thrown into danger against threats, both personal and professional alike, where even what seems like common sense isn’t always right or true.
Content Navigation (TL:DR)
- 10. Gunbuster (1988)
- 9. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
- 8. RahXephon (2002)
- 7. Koukyoushihen Eureka Seven (2005)
- 6. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007)
- 5. Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto (2010)
- 4. Guilty Crown (2011)
- 3. Kill La Kill (2013)
- 2. Parasyte -The Maxim (2014)
- 1. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt (2015)
Humanity was driven to near extinction by giant monsters known as Klaxosaurs. Forced into the safety of massive fortress cities: humanity’s only weapons left are mecha called FranXXs, a machine that can be piloted by two individuals – one male and one female.
Children here are trained to pilot giant FranXX; Bred for the sole purpose, they know nothing about what is outside and; burdened by the notion that they have to prove themselves worthy of life by putting it on the line: they defend the plantation from any threats that appear.
Hiro, an aspiring FranXX pilot with dreams of standing out and flying high in the sky, felt defeated after failing his aptitude test. When Hiro’s class is set to graduate, instead of joining them on stage at their ceremony, Hiro retreats into the forest where he encounters Zero Two. Zero Two, a pink hair; two-horned; teenage girl, was an infamous Franxx pilot known widely as the partner killer. But before Hiro’s brain can process and appreciate the weight of this encounter, a Klaxosaurs attacks.
Zero Two engaged in a fight with the Klaxosaur and found her FranXX heavily damaged during the skirmish. Finding her partner dead, Zero Two invites Hiro to pilot with her, and they easily defeat the Klaxosaur. With a new partner by his side, she’s giving him a chance at redemption for his past failures – but at what cost?
When A-1 Pictures and Studio Trigger team up, it’s no surprise that Darling In The Franxx rose through the ranks. This action anime touches on some dark themes and heavy drama aside from the mecha action. Darling in the Franxx should be in any anime fans collection with the art style and musical score. However, there is still plenty of anime series you can watch with similar messages and themes.
10. Gunbuster (1988)
Humanity has taken its first steps to discover new galactic territories and reveal a great race of insectoid aliens in the near future. These Space Monsters seem dedicated to eradicating humankind as they get closer and closer to Earth. In response, humanity develops giant fighting robots piloted by hand-picked youth from around the world.
Noriko Takaya, the daughter of a famous deceased space captain, enters training school despite her questionable talents as a pilot. There, she meets her polar opposite and is unexpectedly made to work together with the beautiful and talented Kazumi Amano as they attempt to overcome the trauma of war.
This little classic shows how heavy the responsibilities of young mecha pilots are. Although it was Noriko’s choice, what we follow is the journey to becoming a good pilot, like what we witness in Darling in the Franxx.
9. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
The world is in danger. Humanity’s last hope may be the Evangelions, giant robots that will defeat all of Earth’s enemies threatening to destroy it. Gendou Ikari has a special organization called Nerv, and he seeks pilots who can work with these machines, so humanity isn’t destroyed like before by Angels. Two people support this group: Misato Katsuragi, Head of Tactical Operations, and Ritsuko Akagi, Chief Scientist.
Shinji Ikari knew his life would never be the same again when he was whisked away to a new world, but little did he know that it wasn’t just Earth that needed saving. When Shinji is thrown into Nerv and told by Commander Gendo Ikari – who’s also his estranged father– for him to become the pilot of Unit 01 with all humanity on his shoulders.
Darling in the FranXX explores how children pilots are often made to feel like tools of destruction more than humans. It shies away from answering some hard questions that it poses, but Neon Genesis Evangelion doesn’t hold back and adds religious symbolism into its themes, as well as a challenging narrative on birth and death. Anyone who likes Darling in the FranXX will adore Neon Genesis Evangelion for evolving these ideas even further.
8. RahXephon (2002)
High school student, Ayato Kamina, was living his normal life when suddenly futuristic fighter jets start taking over Tokyo. Amidst the chaos, he encounters a woman called Haruka, who claims to be from an organization called TERRA. She reveals that he has been living in a time-bubble named “Tokyo Jupiter” put into place by Mulians—humanoids from another dimension trying to isolate and take over Japan. And TERRA has been trying to breach the barrier ever since.
The day Ayato’s life was turned upside down by a revelation, he panicked and fled. He ran into his classmate Reika Mishima who led him to the Shrine of Xephon. There, they find an egg. Reika starts to sing, and an unknown power starts to connect Ayato to a being called RahXephon that breaks out of the egg. Shortly after, Ayato meets Haruka again, and she persuades him to join them in fighting the Mulians.
Caught in the crosshairs of Mulians and TERRA, Ayato is struggling to figure out who he really is. He has been thrown into a world where his memories are altered, and nothing feels real anymore.
Are you looking for a mecha anime that exploits the turmoil and depression of the main character in finding out the purpose of their existence? Don’t worry; you’re not alone in the anime community.
7. Koukyoushihen Eureka Seven (2005)
14-year-old Renton Thurston is in the backwater town of Bellforest. He wants to escape, but his grandfather insists he becomes a mechanic, and pressure from his dead father’s legacy confounds him. His only relief is riding Trapar waves as they drift through the air like surfing.
Renton’s life changes for the better when he comes in contact with a mysterious girl, Eureka. They take off together as pilots of the Nirvash typeZERO, and she requests that Renton tune up her robot. It marks his beginning as part of Gekkostate, where he will be able to fly alongside such an enigmatic woman.
In the world of mechs, teenagers are at their best. Eureka Seven is another series where children battle and use superior technology to make a change in society that lasts forever. While Renton Thurston isn’t coerced into piloting like Hiro was with Darling in FranXX, he still fights for his right to be part of this elite group so they can more efficiently bring about equality among all.
6. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007)
Kamina and Simon were born and raised in a deep, underground village. Kamina is an impulsive, wild card who wants to make his mark on the surface world, while Simon has no real aspirations other than being content with where he lives. One day when excavating, Simon stumbles upon a mysterious object that turns out to be the ignition key for an ancient artifact of war they dub Lagann. This artifact helps them fend off a surprise attack from the surface successfully thanks to Yoko Littner: A hot-blooded redhead wielding her massive gun!
In the aftermath of their battle, Simon and Kamina set out on a journey to explore the surface alongside Yoko. They soon join forces with other survivors in order to fight against a group called Beastmen who terrorize humanity using powerful robots called Gunmen. Although they face some challenges along the way, including setbacks at times, these three bravely fought this new enemy while unravelling an even bigger mystery.
Aside from being a mecha anime, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann shares the same art style and character design as Darling in the Franxx.
5. Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto (2010)
The Glittering Crux Brigade is a mysterious group that has just started gathering from deep beneath the surface of the Southern Cross Isle. The organization’s members are particularly interested in Cybodies, large stone giants which can transform into humanoids when entering “Zero Time.” By finding and shattering the seals of four seal maidens on this island, they hope to find their way out of Zero Time and use these creatures anywhere they please.
Takuto Tsunashi is a young man who washes ashore on an island and is rescued by Sugata Shindou and his fiancée Wako Agemaki. He quickly befriends them both after they wake him up. Takuto enrols at their local academy, where he meets many of his fellow students who are secretly members of Glittering Crux. The truth is, Takuto has a Cybody called Tauburn that can be summoned in Zero Time. The Tauburn will play an important role on the battlefield against Glittering Crux and preventing them from breaking Wako’s seal!
These two anime both start with a similar idea – teenagers that have the ability to control powerful robots. Star Driver’s version of this involves Cybodies, robotic giants restricted to an alternate dimension. The goal becomes freeing these enslaved giant cyborgs from their own world and using them in ours. One thing is for sure; after watching either one, you’ll never look at mechas quite the same way again!
4. Guilty Crown (2011)
Japan, 2039; ten years after the outbreak of “Apocalypse Virus.” Japan has fallen under the rule of an independent military force dedicated to restoring order known as GHQ. Funeral Parlor: a constant thorn in the side of GHQ ever since Gai Tsutsugami founded them; is an infamous group of guerilla freedom fighters that offer the only opposition to the cruel despotism of GHQ.
Inori Yuzuriha, a key member of Funeral Parlor, has just met the weak and unsociable Shuu Ouma during what is supposed to be their most crucial operation. The result? He gets “The Power Of Kings”—an ability that allows him to draw out an individual’s personality–or voids. Now unwillingly dragged into the struggle against GHQ, he must learn how to control his newfound power if he wants to take back his country.
Guilty Crown follows the action-packed story of a teenage boy who is dragged away from his boring life and thrust into a war, possessing an ability that will help him uncover secrets. However, he soon learns that the truth comes at a far greater price than he could have ever imagined.
Guilty Crown exhibits the versatility of the mecha genre. Much like Darling in the FranXX, Guilty Crown excels with action, drama, romance and even mystery. If you are looking for an anime that tackles corrupt organizations as well as individuals who can be turned into weapons, then this is just right for you!
3. Kill La Kill (2013)
After Ryuuko Mato‘s father was murdered, the teenage girl wandered the land searching for his killer. Her only lead—the missing half of his invention, the Scissor Blade—takes her to the prestigious Honnouji Academy, a high school unlike any other. The academy is ruled by the cold-hearted student council president Satsuki Kiryuuin and her powerful underlings: the Elite Four. This school has a brutally competitive hierarchy. Those at the top are awarded clothes called “Goku Uniforms,” that grant the wearer unique superhuman abilities.
Having been thoroughly beaten in a fight against one of the students, Ryuuko retreated to her razed home. There she stumbled across Senketsu – a rare and sentient “Kamui” or God Clothes. Kamui connects with the girl after coming into contact with blood, giving her immense power that will help her take a stand against some of Satsuki’s Elite Four and maybe finally uncover the truth behind her father’s murder.
The similarities between these two anime are that they both feature insane action scenes but differ in story and tone. Kill la Kill is set at a high school where the students wield murderous scissors, while Darling in the FranXX features mecha pilots fighting against evil forces. The main similarity to note here is the animation style of exaggerated carnage with an artful flourish! Well, they did come from the same animation studio: TRIGGER productions.
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2. Parasyte -The Maxim (2014)
Parasitic aliens descended upon Earth and quickly infiltrated humanity by burrowing into the brains of vulnerable targets. These insatiable beings acquire full control of their host and are able to morph into any forms they wish in order to feed on unsuspecting prey with little-to-no warning.
A sixteen-year-old high school boy, Shinichi Izumi, becomes a victim to one of these parasites, but it fails to take over his brain and is trapped in his right hand. Unable to relocate, the parasite, now named Migi, has no choice but to rely on Shinichi in order to stay alive. Thus they are forced into an uneasy coexistence and must defend themselves from hostile parasites that hope to eradicate this new threat to their species.
Though this one does not have mechas, what we see is the same direction and pace of character development as the main characters go through turmoil and confusion on what’s the next best thing.
1. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt (2015)
Universal Century 0079: both forces of the Earth Federation and Principality of Zeon engage in a battle within the Thunderbolt Sector in the One Year War. Known for its constant strikes of electricity: this section space is a dangerous battlefield where Federation pilot Io Fleming charges on against Zeon’s ace: Daryl Lorenz. With fighters on both sides proving to be formidable soldiers, neither side willing to back down as they fought strategically amongst what remains of colonies. But when Io gets a hold of some prototype Gundam, Daryl will have to make a sacrifice in order to obtain enough power and crush his enemy. Or watch on helplessly with painful terror as his comrades are slaughtered.
In this mecha anime, we see the psychological effect on mecha pilots as the two ace pilots slowly lose themselves as they fight to win. The musical score, the depressing and strong story and the framing brings Darling in the Franxx to mind.
One final thought before we part, anime fans. We have reached the end of our list, and it’s time to say goodbye for now. If we missed your favorite mecha anime that was like Darling in the Franxx, please don’t be mad at us! We are trying our best to be recognized as people, too and not just raised to protect grown-ups all day long. Give us a shout and leave a comment below; share your thoughts! Enjoy!