The Cactus Flower and revisiting flower language in Darling in the Franxx

In previous posts, I’ve written about flower language in Darling in the Franxx, including floral reproduction, basic genetics, and the names of the plantations themselves. The series’ use of floriography has been a straightforward roadmapDarling in the Franxx eschews subtleties for directness both visually and in its use of symbolism or literature.

There are a few flowers that have gone unmentioned that are far more relevant now — the hibiscus flower and the cactus — in addition to revisiting Kokoro’s Franxx robot: Genista. Hibiscus and various cacti appear multiple times in the Mistilteinn garden alongside the Franxx robots’ various namesakes. These flowers make up the backdrop of Kokoro’s conversations with Mitsuru, which later leads to their partner reassignments and, in the most recent episode, a sexual partnership.

Hibiscus has been noticeably present in the garden since Episode 5, when it frames a recovering Mitsuru choking down medication after his traumatic piloting experience with Zero-Two. Kokoro appears, having followed him into the garden, and expresses concern for his health. This is the first of many meetings in the garden between the two. Hibiscus appears at some point in all of them, but receives a special close-up in Episode 16, when Kokoro cuts Mitsuru’s hair.

The hibiscus flower is seen as a very feminine flower, especially in the West. It carries a meaning of femininity, beauty, and the ideal wife or woman. In Japanese hanakotoba, it means gentle. Red hibiscus flowers, like many other red flowers, also represent passion and romantic love. Given Kokoro’s temperament, growing desire to have a child, and burgeoning feelings towards Mitsuru specifically (whom she meets in the garden, in front of the hibiscus flowers) its easy to see how these flowers embody Kokoro’s emotions. This is further accentuated by the close-up of red hibiscus flowers as a transition between Kokoro accepting Mitsuru’s request to cut his hair — which carries another meaning in and of itself, especially after he somewhat came to terms with the state of his relationship with Hiro — and her dutiful attention to his hair one scene later.

I’m kicking myself for not connecting the dots between the cactus flower/succulents and Kokoro’s relationship with Mitsuru sooner because their continuous reappearance whenever the two were in the garden together was repetitive enough that I noticed it, but didn’t make the connection until Episode 16.

The cactus flower is an interesting conclusion due to varying meanings in different cultures. In Victorian and western floriography, the cactus symbolizes endurance — a nod to cacti and succulents’ abilities to stay alive in harsh conditions — and chastity. Japanese hanakotoba gives the cactus flower the opposite meaning of lust or sexual desire. Blooming cacti and succulents are visibly separated in jars and elevated around the garden. Whenever Kokoro and Mitsuru meet up in the garden, these cacti surround them, and often appear, unfocused, in the background during facial closeups. The garden is where Kokoro makes her first sexual advance, and it’s fitting that cacti have framed her actions towards Mitsuru in the garden throughout the series.

The final punctuation mark of the episode is the title reveal at the end of the episode: “Eden,” as in “Garden of.” So in case there was any doubt, yes, Kokoro and Mitsuru had sex.

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