Darling in the Franxx is is not a copy of Evangelion

IW: 2021-06-06

A friend of mine once said

"By the way, the fact that there are people who watch Darling in the Franxx and their brain tells them "wow! This anime is a copy of Evangelion!" is honestly incredible. There should be an anthropological study about it."

and while he is right (the fact is outstanding) here I would like to speak my mind about the crime of thinking that something is "a copy" of something else; particularly with respect to anime (and art, more broadly speaking) under the assumption that there's no objectivity. From now on we will use "Darling in the Franxx" and "Evangelion" as general names, just because they are funnier than "X" and "Y"; this has really nothing to do with mechas.

The following are usually the first kind of thought that float into my mind when I hear "Darling in the Fraxx is a copy of Evangelion". As much refined and "rational" as they might seem, these are actually part of my gut reaction to the "it's a copy" argument; together with a ton of rage. Upon a more rational analysis only the last one will survive.

  1. First of all the reddit pill: this is not an argument. If the goal of the argumenter is to show that Darling in the Fraxx is bad then no reference to its external (or contingent) properties should be made; the argument should be valid in every possible world. In our case let's imagine to be living in a world where Evangelion does not exists; then "Darling in the Fraxx is a copy of Evangelion" is obviously false (or, at least, devoid of meaning) for the inhabitants of this alternate world but then does this make Darling in Fraxx good? Obviously not; what makes something good or bad must be a property of the thing itself that does not reference contingencies around it.

  2. Second of all: it's a clearly stupid and false statement (almost every time); this of course depends on the definition that one gives to the word "copy". However, if you ask people to unravel the meaning of their words, you usually find that there is no plagiarism to be find. They usually have completely missed some of the aspects of a show that are not present at all in the other, focusing instead on the similar parts. Another frequent phenomenon is that of mistaking references for plagiarism; this last phenomenon is particularly interesting as you can usually see people calling a reference a "copy" if they don't like the show doing the reference, but praising it for its "awareness of the classics" if they do. Moreover, and this might come as a bit of a punchline, there is no easy way of determining if something is a copy or not. Yes it is the case that Darling in the Fraxx came out after Evangelion but the author could have written the whole thing before the first episode of Eva even aired. Another, always forgotten, possibility is for two similar anime to be produced independently one from the other; we have many examples of this phenomenon in science, I see no reason to assume it can't happen for anime.

  3. Third: it is very dishonest. Due to the fact that plagiarism is perceived as a major breach of work ethics by pretty much everyone, saying that Darling in the Fraxx is a copy of Evangelion is a quick and (apparently) effective way of dismissing the first without discussing its (potential) merits. It's a powerful sentence not very different from the use of buzzwords in the current political discussion ("racist", "misogynist", "homophobe" and the like); an easy to say magic formula that puts your opponent in the condition of having to defend himself while looking like an asshole for doing so.

The points above might be able to win you a discussion or two, but are ultimately (except the last one) just as bad as the argument they try to counter.

The first point is a shortcoming of formal logic. While it is true that "Darling in the Fraxx is a copy of Evangelion" is a fallacy we can't just ignore that people naturally compare one thing to another for their entire life; this act of comparing is the essence of living. Moreover in point 1 we were assuming that our opponent wanted to show that "Darling in the Franxx is bad", but this sentence (if you don't believe in objectivity) is a nonsense. So it must mean something else.

Point 2 is equally stupid. This over technical reasoning breaks down very quickly once the meaning of the word "copy" is properly explained by the argumenter. Again we have a misunderstanding of what "Darling in the Franxx is a copy of Evangelion" really means for the other person. But then why do people make this argument all the time? And what do they mean by it?

Humans are strange creatures: they can feel easily when they like something (or not like, or like something more than something else), but that is never enough. They also need a reason, a rational one, to back that up; as if the physicality of it isn't enough. When an individual does not have a reason (or, worse, is uncapable of finding one) for liking (or not, or ...) something he is miserable because that means that he does not even know himself. In such a state it's as natural as it is wrong to search for an easy way out and that is exactly the ultimate essence of "Darling in the Franxx is a copy of Evangelion": a cope. A way to push problems in the corner of one's mind, to stop oneself from engaging in the endeavor that is thinking things through; that very endeavor that is the only way we have to better (and hopefully one day, fully) come to understand what we really are.