The following may contain spoilers for season 1 of Pacific Rim: The Black.
Director / Masayuki Uemoto, Susumu Sugai, Takeshi Iwata
Production / Legendary Television, Polygon Pictures
Development / Greg Johnson, Craig Kyle
Release Date / March 4, 2021
While I can’t say Pacific Rim is the most financially successful of franchises, it has definitely generated a following. I mean giant robots beating the living daylights out of giant monsters? Who wouldn’t want that? The first film was cheesy but had an engaging story. The second film went over-the-top but lost some of the charm of the first. Both films established a rich lore and universe that warrants further exploring. So I really appreciated that Legendary thought of the same when they revealed Pacific Rim: The Black. This is the franchise going full circle from an homage to old school animated super robot and kaiju shows to being an animated super robot and kaiju show itself. If you just want my quick thoughts, then I highly recommend it and am eagerly waiting for the next season. But for those who want to know what makes this show click, then read on as we delve into season 1 of Pacific Rim: The Black.
The series opens in the middle of the kaiju invasion of Australia and doesn’t give you an idea of where it fits within the overall canon. We’re thrown in the middle of a battle where jaegers, including what appears to be Striker Berserker (an upgrade of Striker Eureka?), are duking it out against category 4 kaijus. We’re then introduced to our main characters Taylor and Hayley whose parents are also jaeger pilots fighting in the same battle. With Australia basically lost, the PPDC initiates “The Black” which is essentially abandoning the whole continent, leaving behind anything nonessential — whether its equipment, jaegers, or even families. Taylor and Hayley’s parents know this so they leave their children, along with other remaining survivors in one of the PPDC bases with the promise of getting help. Five years pass and help doesn’t arrive.
What is “The Black”? What happened to their parents? What happened to the jaeger program that appeared to be in full swing during Paciic Rim: Uprising? As the episodes progress, we get some answers and even more questions. They also inject references and name drops from the movies not only for fan service, but also as key elements to the story. The first episode alone leaves a lot of plot points that would keep you hooked through the season.
Pacific Rim: The Black also has character development which was a common issue with the live-action movies. From episode 1, Hayley carried the guilt of inadvertently killing her friends after stumbling upon Altas Destroyer and steers her and her actions throughout the season. Taylor gets the angst card which is quite justified, I mean he’s responsible in protecting what remains of their family after abandoning any hope of their parents returning. We are also introduced to “Boy” as he’s called early in the season. You just know something’s unusual around him after seeing him floating inside that tube of green liquid. And while he doesn’t have any dialogue, everything he does as the season progresses reveals more and more curiosities until the last episode where his true nature is exposed.
Kaijus are not the only villainous entities in this season. The middle episodes also introduce us to Shane and his group of mercenaries who are making the most out of this post-apocalyptic wasteland through kaiju and jaeger tech trade. This is where we also meet Mei who completes our main character roster. She also has her own plot point and an unfinished business with Shane. I also liked how they use “the drift” to flesh out the back stories of these characters without spending too much time pondering on them. In case you’ve forgotten, “the drift” is that space where both jaeger pilots share their memories to establish the neural handshake needed to pilot the jaeger. We get glimpses of flashbacks during these sequences and our characters immediately understand one another because they share the same memories. It is a smart concept and using it as a narrative device makes it even smarter.
I really like Loa, the AI of Atlas Destroyer who has a lot of personality and provides some comic relief. They even introduce a plot point regarding her and Horizon Brave, an old Mark 1 jaeger which made Loa glitch for some reason. It’s not explored in this season but I’m looking forward to how this develops in season 2. Oh and let’s not forget Copperhead, which is basically their rival kaiju for the season. It killed their friends during the attack at episode 1 and had many skirmishes with Atlas Destroyer, often ending with the kaiju escaping for whatever reason. It’s funny how even Loa was into the joke of the same monster appearing over and over again wherever they go.
Animation is handled by Polygon Pictures and you should, by now, have a fair idea of how they do cell-shaded 3D animation. Both jaegers and kaiju are slow and clunky, but move smoothly at the same time. Camera work also adds to the effect that these behemoths are very massive objects and they can easily crush you. Character animation is what you’d expect of this style, so others might like it while others might not. I really don’t mind this style as it fits the series. And the music, while not made by the same composer from the original films, tries to capture the guitar riffs that made those themes iconic. It’s not ripping off the themes but the beats and cues are there so it’s a nice connecting piece as well.
Pacific Rim: The Black has good balance between the grit and cheese of the first movie and the fun over-the-top action of the second, and adding great character development at the same time. It’s the kind of show that doesn’t appeal to a wide audience but if you like giant robots, giant monsters, giant robots beating giant monsters, and some anime shenanigans sprinkled in, then you’ll enjoy this 7-episode first season. Now, I have to add Pacific Rim: The Black along with ULTRAMAN and Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy and wait for their next seasons.