DARLING in the FRANXX Creators Talk TRIGGER and Zero Two at CRX 2018!

“Exploring the Insights and Revelations: Panel Highlights from the Director, Character Designer, and Producer of DARLING in the FRANXX at Crunchyroll Expo 2018!”

Amidst the myriad attractions and bustling energy of Crunchyroll Expo 2018, there was one event that commanded an exceptional level of anticipation and excitement. The trio of Atsushi Nishigori, Masayoshi Tanaka, and Yuichi Fukushima, comprising the esteemed director, character designer, and producer of the breakout mecha anime series DARLING in the FRANXX, took center stage. Engaging in press interactions and hosting two jam-packed panels, they delved deep into the creation and behind-the-scenes intricacies of their wildly popular anime. Their presence at the convention served as a testament to the immense success the series achieved in such a short span of time. With Evan Minto as the host, these discussions offered fans an extraordinary opportunity to gain insights into the concept, production, and aftermath of the captivating series.

During these captivating panels, the trio captivated audiences with their wealth of knowledge and artistic prowess. They kicked off the sessions by unveiling a treasure trove of original concept art, providing a glimpse into the evolution of DARLING in the FRANXX. Additionally, the audience was treated to a live drawing session by the talented Masayoshi Tanaka, who skillfully depicted the beloved characters Zero Two, Ichigo, and Zero One. These panels served as a platform for Nishigori, Tanaka, and Fukushima to share their experiences, anecdotes, and creative decisions, shedding light on the series’ development and enduring impact.

Atsushi Nishigori began by recounting the origins of the series, expressing his desire to bring together his favorite creators from his time at GAINAX and collaborate with the renowned character designer Masayoshi Tanaka. The concept for DARLING in the FRANXX emerged organically as these two teams merged their unique strengths. The ex-GAINAX staff from TRIGGER specialized in action and mecha, while A-1 Pictures excelled in drama and character animation. With a vision of creating a mecha anime with a stronger focus on drama, the plot gradually took shape as Nishigori incorporated his personal influences and preferences into a cohesive narrative.

While TRIGGER was brought on board due to their past relationship, the team confessed that reining in the studio’s exuberance presented its own set of challenges. Nishigori described the process of refining and channeling the wild and unconventional ideas proposed by TRIGGER’s creator, Imaishi, to align with the overall vision of the series. He humorously shared instances of incorporating rejected concepts, admitting that many of them eventually found their rightful place in the story.

Fukushima provided insights into the actual production process, highlighting the seamless collaboration between the studios. Each episode was meticulously crafted, with the production responsibilities shared between the two studios. Nishigori’s core team ensured the consistent quality of the series. Tanaka, on the other hand, shared his personal experiences of redrawing key scenes, such as the poignant kiss between Hiro and Zero Two in episode 15. Nishigori playfully recounted Tanaka’s fervent communication with TRIGGER, jokingly attributing it to his tendency to evoke emotional reactions from his female fans. Tanaka couldn’t help but agree with a smile.

The panels also treated attendees to a glimpse of the original Franxx designs showcased at the TRIGGER panel during Anime Expo. These designs, created by Shigeto Koyama in a strikingly stylized Yoji Shinkawa/Metal Gear Solid-esque fashion, featured a more pronounced “robot” aesthetic. The concepts boasted diverse silhouettes, with the Genista resembling a formidable tank-like machine and the Chlorophytum evoking bird-like qualities reminiscent of the Anubis from Zone of the Enders. However, the creative team explained how they eventually refined the mechs’ designs, aligning them with the series’ dramatic and character-driven direction. Nishigori emphasized the importance of conveying characterization even during intense mecha sequences, leading to the inclusion of expressive faces on the Franxx units and a streamlined appearance to mirror their respective pistils.

Unsurprisingly, a significant portion of the discussions revolved around the enigmatic character Zero Two and her captivating design. The creators delved into the evolution of her concept and appearance, tracing its development from initial vagueness to the iconic portrayal seen in the series. Zero Two was envisioned as a charismatic exchange student tasked with seducing Hiro, and her original concept depicted her as a petite, reserved, and diligent girl. Tanaka shared early designs featuring a black-haired Zero Two, which ultimately didn’t align with their intentions for her aggressive demeanor and equal partnership with Hiro. As a result, they made adjustments, increasing Zero Two’s height to establish a balance with Hiro while Tanaka transformed the original design into the mesmerizing queen of the Klaxosaurs.

Zero Two’s journey mirrored the overarching vision of DARLING in the FRANXX itself, serving as a microcosm of the series. She encapsulated a collection of Nishigori’s favorite attributes, and the decision to adorn her with pink hair and eyeshadow was intended to make her visually distinct. When Evan inquired about the inspiration behind Zero Two’s horns and her endearing habit of addressing Hiro as “darling,” Nishigori revealed his deep admiration for Rumiko Takahashi, the author of Urusei Yatsura. The creators unanimously agreed that their aim was to create an iconic character who would serve as the flagship of the series, a goal they undoubtedly achieved judging by the countless cosplays and fanart dedicated to Zero Two.

The meticulous attention to detail extended beyond Zero Two, encompassing the design of the other characters, particularly their uniforms. The creators showcased an array of different designs, discussing their pursuit of a naval-inspired aesthetic infused with a futuristic touch. Ultimately, they settled on the distinctive X and Y lapels as thematic elements for the series. While Zero Two’s design underwent an additive process, Tanaka described his approach to the remaining characters as a reductionist exercise, striving to retain their recognizability while streamlining their appearances. The panel delved into the heated debate surrounding Ichigo’s design, specifically the deliberation over whether to include bangs or reveal her forehead, with Nishigori exerting his authority to ensure the final decision.

Reflecting on the unique production journey of DARLING in the FRANXX, the creators expressed their satisfaction with the series’ two-cour duration and consistent quality. When questioned about future collaborations, they humorously pondered the idea of revisiting the project while swapping the responsibilities, with TRIGGER handling the drama and A-1 Pictures focusing on the action. The insights gained from these panels provided an enlightening experience for fans, deepening their appreciation for the anime. Witnessing Tanaka’s live-drawing session and glimpsing the groundwork images constituted a rare treat, even though photography was prohibited. As both studios gear up for their upcoming projects, audiences can eagerly anticipate the future works of these talented individuals and the rest of the FRANXX staff.

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