Darling in the Franxx (or Studio Trigger does Evangelion), takes its inspiration for the Franxx pilot suits from an unexpected direction–traditional Shinto wedding attire.
The eponymous Franxx robots in Darling in the Franxx are piloted by male/female pairs. The show equates the mental and physical connection between pilots necessary to operate the giant machines to sex using none too subtle innuendo and abundant flower metaphors–the girls are called pistils and the boys are stamen. The emphasis on a deep connection between the pilots is reinforced by the pilot suits, which are patterned after Shinto wedding attire–a detail that is likely lost to viewers outside Japan and unfamiliar with Shinto marriage ceremonies.
In traditional Shinto weddings, as in Western ceremonies, the bride and groom wear distinctive clothes. For brides, the white ensemble is called a shiromuku and and for grooms it is montsuki. The Franxx pilot suits utilize the distinct details of the wedding kimonos. For the male pilots, the suits echo the black/grey color scheme of the montsuki. The few details on the suit accentuate the similarities with round white circles on the chest piece mirroring the white circular mon, or family crests, on the haori jacket of the montsuki. The final connection is the third circle at mid-torso below the black chestplate, which are accentuated by thin white lines that disappear under the chestplate. This detail reflects the haori-himo, the white cord and decoration that holds the haori closed in formal occasions.
The biggest connection to the shiromuku for female pilots is the color of their suits and the wataboshi, or hood. Not all brides opt to use a shiromuku with a hood but it is a particularly distinctive look. Although the photo to the left shows a bride wearing a wataboshi, other variations are larger and closer to the size and shape of the hood worn by women in Franxx.
The gendered division of the piloting duo in Darling in the Franxx is not unusual in anime, although Studio Trigger is certainly playing up the sexual connotations. During the connection process, the girls of the piloting duo appear to merge with the Franxx mecha, leaving the boy to pilot. The girl becomes an extension of the machine and the boy controls the robot by two control handles which connect to his partner’s posterior–like an Evangelion entry plug, except far more awkward but probably just as psychologically weird. Franxx is eager to throw in sexually suggestive comments about the connection/piloting process, although they play it it off by showing the young pilots are (mostly) sexually oblivious. While Kill la Kill, an earlier work by Studio Trigger, eventually undercut the hypersexualization of the outfits worn by protagonist Ryuko Matoi, it remains to be seen where Franxx will go with its the unusual and sexualized take on mecha pilots.