Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives. He also has a martial arts background.
A Generic Mecha Anime
Initially, I was not too excited about Darling in the Franxx. I thought the opening was too generic for a mecha anime. I also thought that there was too much fan service. I would describe Darling in the Franxx as a childish (and more sexualized) version of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Nevertheless, the series began to grow on me as it progressed. This was partly due to that pink-haired girl with horns.
Aside from the fact that she reminded me of a real person I met (a hyper female office mate), Zero Two stands out from the rest of the female characters in the series. For one thing, she is eye-catching. Her character design, which incorporates red and pink shades, horns, and fangs, sets her apart from the already attractive but more muted designs of her peers. She also has a great personality. Zero Two is a complex character. She is laid back, liberated, fun-loving, rebellious, tomboyish, flawed, strong, fierce, and sometimes unsympathetic before she becomes more humane. And speaking of humane, her character development was lauded by fans and critics alike.
All in all, I can say that Zero Two was what drew me to the series. Darling in the Franxx is not a perfect series, and it still needs a lot of work to match the Evangelion series, Macross, and even the Gundam franchise. However, Zero Two is a memorable waifu character that rekindled my interest in mecha anime outside of those three series. Even after I finished the anime, I still couldn't move on from it, and I wanted more. Whether or not we will see a sequel is still debatable, but after surfing the net to know more about the horned chick with a huge fanbase, I managed to compile some secrets behind the girl we call Zero Two.
1. She Was Originally Designed With Black Hair
Aside from the horns, the eye markings, and the cute sets of fangs, the pink hair is another distinct feature of our beastly babe. It is hard to imagine Zero Two missing her brightly-colored crown, but during her initial concept design, Zero Two was presented as having black hair. In fact, as Masayoshi Tanaka (the character designer for the series) explained, they first conceived the character as a "badass transfer student” who was more muted and subdued. Back then, Zero Two’s initial design was a small and quiet girl who wore a black uniform that matched her flowing black hair. Eventually, the team decided that the design didn't work, and they dropped the black-haired Zero Two. We then ended up with the striking and more colorful Zero Two, who had more personality.
And by the way, the black-haired Zero Two is the stuff of nightmares. She looks more demonic and sinister!
2. Her Color of Choice Has a Deeper Meaning
Zero Two’s pink hair helped well with marketing, as was always intended. Her hair matched her red uniform very well.
In Japanese culture, red symbolizes heroism. In the case of Zero Two, red helped flaunt to the world her strong personality, her liberated nature and her being hot-blooded. This is a rather aggressive chick, which contrasted with the rather passive Hiro. Red also conveys a clear and present danger, as Zero Two proved to be dangerous to other male characters. She is as dangerous as she is alluring.
Bear in mind that in mecha anime, red is usually worn by a special kind of character. The Gundam anti-hero Char Aznable made red his official color, and coincidentally, the original Zero Two was portrayed as an anti-hero in the beginning of the series.
3. Her Animal Qualities
Bestial is the best word to describe her. The wild girl has horns and fangs, not to mention feral habits. Sometimes, her horns could be ears, and her penchant for licking is similar to a cat. Additionally, the Stampede Mode of her mecha, Strelizia, is a big cat, a lion, to be exact.
But if there is one animal that best describes her, it’s the black widow spider.
Like the venomous arachnid that kills its mate, Zero Two is a partner killer. She is alluring but deadly to work with, and the way she ensnared the hapless Hiro is comparable to how a spider traps its prey. The theme song “Kiss of Death” fits the show indeed!
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Since Zero Two is notorious for partner killing, she could be seen as the mecha anime version of a known horror character.
4. Zero Two Is Like a Vampire
Everyone knows how vampires operate. They seduce their victims before draining them of their blood. The same fate awaits the partners of Zero Two; she drains them of their life force until they are goners. In fact, Zero Two once described Hiro as fodder.
Going back to her prominent color scheme, red is also associated with vampires. Zero Two’s fangs are also similar to vampiric fangs.
5. She Resembled an Oni
The color red highlights Zero Two's nature as being half-human. In Japanese folklore, red is the skin color of a yokai known as an Oni (demon). The Oni has a lot in common with the Western iconography of a demon, such as horns, claws, fangs, and wild hair. Zero Two, clad in her red uniform, will bring an Oni to mind.
And just wait till you see her other versions.
As a kid, she didn't just resemble an Oni, she was one. She barely looked human with her weird eye color and red skin. Her full demonic glory was revealed in episode 12.
It seems that the Oni has had a special place in mecha anime since the rise of the Evangelion series. The famed EVA units are based on Onis themselves, and coincidentally, Darling in the Franxx seems to be following in its footsteps by featuring a demonic character.
But in my opinion, Zero Two reminds me of a Hannya mask.
6. Zero Two Could Be Translated as 0-Ni (Demon) in Japanese
Here’s something fun. We know that Zero Two has Oni features. And if her name is translated to Japanese, it will appear as 0-Ni. Now in Japan, the number zero will appear as it does in the West. But the number two in Japanese is “Ni." If you translate her name in Japanese and write it in Hepburn (non-Japanese character), it will appear as 0-Ni. Which resembles Oni, the Japanese demon.
7. Zero Two Is Similar to Rei Ayanami
Zero Two is also a classic example of a mysterious and overpowered mecha leading lady. We got C.C. in Code Geass and Rei Ayanami in the Evangelion series. Though some fans likened her to Asuka Langley of the EVA series due to her womanly aggression, Rei Ayanami is a better fit for her. Like Rei, Zero Two shared a special bond with the rookie male protagonist. And yes, their other halves are rookies while they got all the skills and experience. Both are also overpowered half-humans that could trigger the apocalypse if they wanted to. In fact, I’m just looking for a fan theory that says Zero Two was an alternate version of Rei Ayanami and that the Klaxosaurus are just clones of Angels.
8. The Odd Couple
It has been a trend in mecha anime since the 90s. There were probably more that came before them, but Heero Yuy and Relena Peacecraft were the first to popularize this trope. Shinji and Asuka came next, and more followed. I am talking about the unconventional couple engaged in an unconventional romance. The pairing of Hiro and Zero Two was an odd one. Their story is basically a gender reversal of Beauty and the Beast. Granted, Zero Two is a beauty while being the beast.
Oddly enough, we have a masculine girl and a feminine boy here, with the boy turning into a human Klaxosaur near the end of the series.
9. Zero Two Is the Tallest Girl in the Squad
Zero Two is taller than any of the other female members in the squad. She is described as being tall and athletic. She is even taller than most of the boys, and she towers above her consort, Hiro. This seems to reflect their “masculine girl, feminine boy” pairing. The more refined Hiro got an aggressive, rebellious, and somewhat outrageous girlfriend. And if being an Amazon is not enough, her Klaxosaur blood enables her to throw their misbehaving squad members around. She almost killed Ichigo, though this might please most fans.
10. She Reminded Me of a Fairy Tale Character
Zero Two wants to be human. That’s why she wants to kill as many Klaxosaurs as possible; she believes that this will make her human. Ironically, it made her more bestial and savage, to the point where she becomes more and more like a Klaxosaur. If you are a fan of classical fairy tales, you will be reminded of Beast from Beauty and the Beast. This comes as no surprise as Darling in the Franxx is basically a gender-swapped version of this story. The anime also brings Pinocchio to mind. Zero Two's goal is similar to the famous puppet's desire to be a real boy.