DARLING in the FRANXX isn't all about the male/female pairings, you know. After all, every anime needs a little bit of homoerotic subtext.
- Ikuno blushes when Ichigo holds her shoulder comfortingly while encouraging her. Later, she's having trouble syncing with Mitsuru, so she touches that same spot, smiling nostalgically. This gets Chlorophytum working. The implication is that she has to think of Ichigo to do her duty as a wif- sorry, pilot.
- She shows far more concern and fondness over Ichigo than Mitsuru.
- She explicitly wants Ichigo to be her partner and asks that they try piloting together in the partner shuffle episode. It leads to crushing disappointment when nothing happens.
- The fifth ending has a scene where Ikuno is about to kiss Ichigo.
- After finally getting over her feelings for Hiro, Ichigo seems to be paying much more attention to Ikuno. And, in Episode 15, she does say that "All this boy-girl stuff is such a pain".
- There's the preview of Episode 18, where Ikuno acts unusually emotional before pinning Ichigo to the bed.
- In Episode 18 itself, Ikuno confesses to Ichigo. Ichigo just hugs her.
- In one of the 4komas, Ikuno rolls around in bed, wishing that she were the cat Ichigo was petting earlier that day. She puts on fake cat-ears so Ichigo will pet her too...and not only does Ichigo immediately understand this somehow, she complies."I'd pet you even if you didn't wear that."
- Miku and Kokoro were certainly comfortable with Miku laying her head in Kokoro's lap, as if they'd done this before (and the two are probably roommates). Miku even states it probably made all the boys jealous.
- At the end of episode 16, the two are sleeping in the same bed.
- The first thing Zero Two does upon meeting Ichigo is to lick her cheek, thinking out loud that "she tastes sweet". Fair enough (given Zero Two's hybrid instincts), but for the whole first quarter of the series, the only people she did that to were Ichigo and the guy Zero Two is openly in love with.
- In the beach episode, Zero Two is concerned about Ichigo's feelings for Hiro...so she corners her in an abandoned building, presses her against a wall, and asks Ichigo if she knows what kissing is like.
- Ichigo, although jealous of Zero Two, seems to want to like her: she makes Zero Two's bed for her, calls her and Hiro's names in horror when Strelizia is assaulted, and eventually comes to trust her enough to enact her (very dangerous) plan to save Goro.
- The third ED shows Ichigo feeding Zero Two a lollipop.
- The epilogue in Episode 24 indicates that Ikuno and Naomi have become quite close, to the point that it hints that they may have become romantic partners.
- Zorome tried to kiss Hiro, to find out what it was like. Probably the least serious ship, but that probably won't stop fanfic writers.
- Mitsuru constantly talks about Hiro, looks expectantly at him whenever Hiro says anything (before turning away when he is noticed) and tries to avoid watching Hiro and Zero Two interact together. Ikuno's noticed it, and she's likened his feelings about Hiro to her own romantic feelings about Ichigo.
- Episode 11 reveals that the reason Mitsuru resents Hiro is because Mitsuru wanted to pilot a Franxx with Hiro when they were children, and both of them even made a promise on that. Then after Mitsuru underwent surgery to have a better chance at piloting, when he went to inform Hiro about it, Hiro had already forgotten about their promise. Needless to say, the betrayal hurt Mitsuru so deeply to the point that he shed tears while ranting about it to Kokoro.
- If anything, this puts the events of Episode 3 in a new light. Mitsuru piloting with Zero-Two may have been an attempt to one-up Hiro not out of envy, but out of spite.
- His breakdown even implies that while he undoubtedly has a grudge against Hiro, he may still have feelings for him. Whether they're romantic or simply platonic, there's no denying said feelings are strong if he's still not yet over something that happened years ago.
- It's already made clear in Episode 11 that Mitsuru has a lot of hang-ups over what happened, but another proof is when they all visit the Garden in the following episode. A few characters comment that Hiro and Mitsuru used to go to the laboratory there, and Hiro's response implies that he doesn't even remember this, which causes Mitsuru to twitch in irritation.
- Episode 13 gives us a better look at the scene where they made their promise; the look on Mitsuru's face when they did was radiating with joy. Then, said look is replaced with one of pure anguish later on when Hiro's memories were wiped.
- It's somewhat suspicious that when Hiro and Zero reunite and make a grand Love Confession to each other, among all the other boys only Mitsuru's reaction to the scene isn't featured. Ichigo may not have been the only one who was struck with a certain painful realization...
- Episode 17 officially ends the possibility of any further subtext happening between the two, though it does end on peaceful terms with their conversation by the lake. In that scene, Hiro gently affirms Mitsuru about his feelings for Kokoro and implicitly apologizes for hurting him in the past, and Mitsuru responds that it's nice to have a friendly conversation with him again.
- Even then, there is the tiniest bit of subtext in Episode 22, and this is after Mitsuru underwent a Laser-Guided Amnesia. A few examples are him asking Hiro for guidance after learning of Kokoro's pregnancy, and what is likely him bidding Hiro farewell and expressing hope that he would come back alive. While it's not specified how much of Mitsuru's memories were removed, whatever feelings he had for Hiro must be strong enough to respect him like how he used to in the past, even when he forgot about his budding romance with Kokoro.