The story is set in the distant future. The land is ruined, and humanity establishes the mobile fort city Plantation. Pilots produced inside Plantation live in Mistilteinn, also know as the “birdcage.” Children live there knowing nothing of the outside world or the freedom of the sky. Their lives consist of battling to carry out missions. Their enemies are mysterious giant lifeforms known as Kyouryuu, and the children pilot robots called Franxx to face off against them. For the children, riding the Franxx proves their existence. A boy named Hiro is called Code:016, and he was once known as a prodigy. However, he has fallen behind, and his existence seems unnecessary. Not piloting a Franxx is the same as ceasing to exist. One day, a mysterious girl known as “Zero Two” appears before him. Two horns grow out of her head.
Darling in the Franxx Synopsis
Episode 1: Alone and Lonesome
In the distant future, humanity is forced to reside in massive fortress cities due to fear of attack by giant monsters called Klaxosaurs. Klaxosaurs can only be fought by Franxx, giant robots that can only be operated by a male and female pilot working in unison. Dr. Franxx and 002 arrive in one such city to develop his latest Franxx. Hiro, meanwhile, is left depressed after failing his test to become a Franxx pilot and encounters 002 by chance, who briefly flirts with him when he shows no fear of her horns. As Hiro’s classmates attend the welcoming ceremony to become official Franxx pilots, Hiro debates leaving the city when a Klaxosaur attacks. 002 deploys in her Franxx, Strelizia, to fight it, but ends up getting injured and her partner is mortally wounded. Hiro volunteers to become 002’s partner and she kisses him response, activating Strelizia’s true form. Strelizia effortlessly defeats the Klaxosaur, and it is revealed that 002 is a human-Klaxosaur hybrid who has a reputation for killing her partners.
Episode 2: What It Means to Connect
Despite being able to pilot Strelizia with 002, Hiro has no memories of what happened in the cockpit, leading some of his fellow pilots to be skeptical about what really happened, since it is rumored 002 is capable of piloting a Franxx on her own. Hiro’s fellow pilots are also wary of 002 due to her reputation, especially Ichigo who is concerned about Hiro’s safety. Meanwhile, the leadership of APE decide to further test Hiro’s abilities and instruct him to participate in a mock Franxx battle, though he is forbidden from partnering with 002 or using Strelizia. Ichigo volunteers to partner with him in Delphinium. Zorome and Miku volunteer to be their opponents. During the mock battle, Hiro is briefly able to connect with Ichigo and pilot Delphinium, but suddenly loses his connection with her and is unable to restart Delphinium. This breaks Hiro’s confidence in himself and leaves Ichigo frustrated that she can’t do anything to help Hiro.
Episode 3: Fighting Puppet
Following the mock battle, Hiro’s fellow pilots are assigned to their first sortie, with the task of defeating a Klaxosaur under the city, but as they are about to leave, Ikuno and Mitsuru’s connection falters, thus the pilots of Delphinum, Argenta and Genista proceed without them. However, the situation turns to the worst when they end up surrounded by a horde of Klaxosaurs and are forced to flee. 002 asks to assist them on Strelizia, but she is not allowed to sortie with Hiro, until Mitsuru, determined to prove he is a better pilot than Hiro, offers himself to pair up with 002. Together, Mitsuru and 002 defeat the enemies with ease and rescue the others, but when they return, they find a heavily wounded Mitsuru, as a consequence of pairing up with 002, who reaffirms her claim that Hiro is the only pilot compatible with her.
Episode 4: Flap Flap
Mitsuru begins to recover, but it traumatized with his experience with 002. In fear of what happened in the last battle, 002 is called back by the authorities to return to the front lines. As 002 is escorted to a transport with Strelizia, a Klaxosaur appears and attacks. The other pilots are dispatched to face it, but are overpowered by the enemy. Seeing 002 being taken away, Hiro finally makes his mind and urges her not to leave and become his partner instead. 002 then disobeys her orders and boards Strelizia with Hiro,which he manages to successfully pilot. The two then help the others to defeat the klaxosaur. Afterwards, Plantation 13 lifts off to rendezvous with Plantation 26, and Hiro resolves that he will pilot Strelizia with 002, even if it kills him.
Episode 5: Your Thorn, My Badge
Plantation 13 links up with Plantation 26 in order to transfer much needed magma fuel. However, the process is sure to attract klaxosaurs, requiring the Franxx pilots of both Plantations to work together. Meanwhile, Hiro becomes an accepted member of the squad but Goro notices that Hiro’s health has been declining significantly, with a blue tumor-like growth growing on his chest ever since he rode with 002. Hiro manages to convince Goro to keep quiet about his condition. Klaxosaurs are detected heading for the Plantation and a plan to defend against them is made, though the pilots of Plantation 26 express their misgivings about 002 and Strelizia being involved due to them suffering losses in a past mission due to 002’s actions. That night, Ichigo confronts 002 in an attempt to convince her not to put too much of a burden on Hiro’s body, but fails. Ichigo and Goro are then both left feeling frustrated over how neither of them can help Hiro. Hiro meets 002 the next morning, and despite her warning that this would be his third ride with her, which may result in his death, Hiro reaffirms his desire to ride with her.
Episode 6: Darling in the FranXX
As the horde of Klaxosaurs, accompanied by a massive structure approach the Plantations, the Parasites make a line of defense with Squad 26 on the front, Squad 13 on the middle, and Strelizia on the rear guard. After the minor Klaxosaurs are defeated, the structure reveals itself as a giant Klaxosaur that overpowers Squad 26. Squad 13 then rescues them and join for a combined attack to give an opening for Strelizia to give the final blow. However, Strelizia fails to destroy the enemy and Hiro collapses from exhaustion. He then accepts his death until seeing 002 fighting back desperately and decides to not give up, recovering from his tumor and joining with his companions to destroy the giant Klaxosaur. As the pilots celebrate, Dr. Franxx rejoices upon the prospect that Hiro may one day realize 002’s wish. 002 on the other hand, affirms that there are many more Klaxosaurs for her to kill in order to attain it.
Episode 7: Shooting Star Moratorium
Due to their achievements in the previous battle, 002 is permanently assigned to Squad 13 and Hiro is officially recognized as a Franxx pilot. Squad 13 is then rewarded with a vacation to a nearby beach. As Squad 13 plays around, they observe Hiro’s relationship with 002 and begin wondering what exactly a “kiss” and “love” are. They then stumble upon the ruins of a town nearby and begin exploring them. They are perplexed at the existence of the town since they initially believed civilization only existed in the Plantations. 002 explains to them that humans used to live on the surface but were forced to abandon it for the Plantations. Later that night, 002 decides to go for a swim while Hiro and Ichigo walk on the beach and admire the stars, catching sight of a rain of shooting stars.
Episode 8: Boys × Girls
The female pilots get into a fallout with the males after a battle where the females’ clothes were destroyed by the enemy Klaxosaur’s acid, much to the boys’ enjoyment. The females then set a line across the dorms and forbids the boys from crossing over. Zero Two ignores the fight at all and willingly crosses back and forth to get close to Hiro and even sets up a trap for the boys who end up seeing the girls naked in the bath by accident. With the situation out of control, Nana steps in and reprimands the pilots for their behavior, and while the boys and the girls discuss the situation in separate, Miku decides to flee. When the others become worried and decide to look for her, they find her in one of the sealed off rooms in the dorm, where they discover items related to the previous members of Squad 13, which were possibly killed in battle long ago. After that, the boys and the girls finally make amends and resume their duties together.
Episode 9: Triangle Bomb
Squad 13 is dispatched to take down another massive Klaxosaur en route of collision with the Plantation. During the battle, Delphinium is caught by the enemy and Goro ejects Ichigo to save her, but becomes trapped in side the creature while the others are ordered to retreat. Once back at the base, the others contact Goro who affirms that he has a plan to take down the creature himself, while the other pilots are informed that despite Goro’s situation, they will fire on the Klaxosaur should it approaches the Plantation. The others then decide to fight the enemy again, but Ichigo insists to come with them, fearing for Goro’s safety. Just as Goro is about to activate the self-destruct sequence to Delphinum’s energy tank, sacrificing himself to destroy the enemy core, Ichigo dives inside the creature and reaches him, allowing Delphinum to escape to a safe distance as the energy tank destroys the creature. After the battle, Goro confesses his feelings for Ichigo, but claims that he is not in a hurry to hear an answer from her.
Episode 10: The City of Eternity
The Seven Sages decide to reward the members of Squad 13 for their numerous victories against the Klaxosaurs and they are briefly allowed into the city to be awarded with medals. The ceremony is short and sweet, but on the way back, Zorome drifts away from the rest and falls after seeing one of the few residents. When Zorome awakes, he is greeted by the woman who saved him and he questions her about adult life. Her life seems worlds away from his experience and it is implied that the parasites will never become adults as their physiology is completely different because she had to use diagnostic instruments for animals to analyse his injuries. As they talk, Zorome can’t shake the feeling that they have met before, but the woman denies it. The authorities arrive to pick him up, and treat him as if he carries an infection, then they quickly send him back to the dorm. He spends the following days wondering why the woman was so familiar to him, but immersed in his activities his memory of her gradually fades.
Episode 11: Partner Shuffle
Squad 13 guards one of the facilites for the top secret S-Planning, when Mitsuru collapses in the mid of battle. As he is treated it is revealed that he underwent a dangerous procedure with only 15% of survival rate to become a parasite. Later, Nana asks the Parasites if they want to switch partners. Ikuno asks Ichigo to partner with her, but the two girls fail to synchronize. Kokoro offers to partner with Mitsuru, breaking a promise she made to Futoshi to stay together, much to Futoshi’s despair. When a massive Klaxosaur appears, the Parasites dispatch with Mitsuru and Kokoro piloting Genista and Futoshi piloting Chlorophytum with Ikuno. During the battle, the pilots decide to use Genista’s close range attack to open a break for them, but cannot reach the core. Mitsuru gives up, still disheartened about Hiro forgetting the promise he made to Mitsuru in the past, so Kokoro attempts to cheer him up before unsuccessfully and dangerously trying to pilot Genista by herself. Regaining control, Mitsuru and Kokoro manage to synchronize and open a big hole in the enemy to expose the core for Strelizia to destroy it. After the battle, Futoshi reprimands Mitsuru for his behaviour, but Mitsuru promises that he will protect Kokoro in future.
Episode 12: The Garden Where It All Began
Squad 13 is sent back to The Garden to undergo some tests, the place where they were raised. They are greeted by the Nines, Zero Two’s former squad, and their leader Nine Alpha who wonders what Zero Two, formerly coded Nine Iota, saw in them. Disobeying orders, Hiro and the others visit the old facilities where they used to live hoping to meet Naomi again, but she is nowhere to be seen and the adults refuse to tell them where she is. They also discover that the children from Garden are being developed into Parasites at a much earlier age, in response to the increased number of Klaxosaur attacks. When a group of Klaxosaurs attack the Garden, Squad 13 is dispatched, and Hiro notes that Zero Two’s horns and canines grew further. During the battle, a desperate Zero Two ignores orders and attacks alone, claiming that she must kill more Klaxosaurs in order to become truly human. After the battle, Hiro asks the meaning of her words, but she refuses to answer. Meanwhile, Ichigo eavesdrops on a conversation between Nana and Hachi in which they affirm that the Saurification process in Zero Two and Hiro is intensifying, much to her horror. When a second wave of Klaxosaurs attacks, Squad 13 sorties again and once more Zero Two turns rogue. She starts attacking Hiro when he attempts to stop her, causing Hiro to have visions of a past he has long forgotten.
Episode 13: The Beast and the Prince
Hiro and Zero Two recall their childhoods in the Garden. Hiro was a successful subject of the Parasite program who easily became friends with his peers, giving them names instead of numbers and promising Mitsuru that they would pilot together prior to his Elixir injection. However Hiro was plagued by unanswered questions. Zero Two was an experimental subject with animal features undergoing painful research into her regenerative abilities, her only comfort being a picture book of “The Beast and the Prince”. After encountering Zero Two, Hiro was horrified when he discovered her tortured treatment and eventually broke her out of her cell and convinced her to escape with him. Unable to comprehend language, Zero Two saw a parallel in the storybook and her time with Hiro, vowing to become human and be with him. They are eventually hunted down and captured by security forces. Their memories were erased, including Hiro’s memory of his promise to Mitsuru, leading to his anger at Hiro. Back in the present, Ichigo in Delphinium warns Hiro to get away from Zero Two as she will consume his energy, but Hiro suddenly remembers that Zero Two is the girl from his past.
Episode 14: Punishment and Confession
After the battle, Zero Two also remembers her childhood experience with Hiro. Meanwhile, Hiro is hospitalized while Ichigo and her friends forbid Zero Two from seeing him. As Hiro rests, Squad 13 is informed that they will take part in a large scale operation involving the Nines and squads from various Plantations, and that Zero Two will be transferred back to the Nines. Before the operation begins, Squad 13 works to prevent Hiro and Zero Two meeting. She finally convinces them to let her see him, but Hiro left his room to meet her so they discover his room empty. Believing that she is being deceived by the others, Zero Two attacks them. When Hiro returns to his room and sees Zero Two’s behavior, he reprimands her, calling her a monster. Contrite, Zero Two believes that this is her punishment for her past deeds, and accepts that she must leave his side. As the operation is about to begin, Zero Two leaves the dorm to rejoin the Nines, but just when Hiro decides to go after her, Ichigo holds him back and confesses her feelings for him.