Pacific Rim: The Black: A Slow yet Surprisingly Enjoyable Crawl in the Drift


Pacific Rim is one of those franchises that has kept a steady output of content despite never really reaching a household name status. First beginning in 2013 with the original film directed by Guillermo del Toro, the franchise spawned a series of comic books, tie-in books, and even a 2018 sequel in Pacific Rim: Uprising (even though that film was a box-office bomb). In spite of this, you never really hear about this mech-versus-monster franchise outside of the cult following that the franchise has garnered.

In spite of that, the franchise seems to keep on going no matter what. Case in point: the March 4 release of Netflix’s Pacific Rim: The Black. As someone who was not familiar with Pacific Rim prior to this series, I admittedly found myself intrigued at what would be in store upon starting the show. After all 7 episodes though, I am starting to see the appeal behind the franchise. Although I imagine there are stark differences between this show and the original films, this story stands up well enough on its own to warrant watching no matter how familiar you are with the Pacific Rim franchise.

The show’s mostly strong writing, enjoyable art style, solid animation, and well-done voice acting, Pacific Rim: The Black shows that there are plenty more stories worth telling in the world of Jaegers and Kaiju, all while being a mostly accommodating first step into the franchise.

Pacific Rim: The Black

Taking place after the events of both movies, Pacific Rim: The Black takes place five years after the Kaiju have invaded Australia. Taylor and Hailey Travis, the son, and daughter of two Jaeger pilots that went missing after a supply run has been part of a small community for most of their adolescence. When the two encounter and activate an abandoned Jaeger in the form of Atlas Destroyer, they attract a Kaiju to their town, leading to death and destruction for everyone in their community.

Now left with nothing, the two are left to fend for themselves as they decide to go looking for their parents. However, once they enter the surrounding world, known as The Black, new friends and foes await them, making the start of their journey filled with both monumental highs and terrifying lows.

Netflix has made it a trend for them to debut 3D-animated shows, and the way they look can be hit-or-miss depending on which show one watches. For the most part, Pacific Rim: The Black, which was animated by Polygon Pictures (Knights of Sidonia, Star Wars Resistance), looks mostly pleasant throughout the show’s run.

Most characters’ movements feel natural and fit their character without drawing too much attention to them. This especially becomes clear in the few moments where Jaeger-Kaiju fights are featured. Though few and far between, each of them are spectacles to watch and will keep your eyes glued to the screen whenever they come on screen.

It is clear that large-scale fight scenes are what Polygon does best, and these are never a bore whenever they come up. That is not to say that the animation is perfect; in fact, there are some moments where the animation turns incredibly choppy, which can be jarring to watch, especially when these moments occur during high-tension moments. Nevertheless, the show itself looks beautiful most of the time, which is helped by its unique art style and clever use of visuals, making it a mostly solid time to watch.

Pacific Rim: The Black

Furthermore, the writing is mostly sound, though I do say that with a bit of hesitance. The characters are all enjoyable, with their relationships being believable throughout all their developments. Taylor and Hailey share a genuine sibling bond, and neither feel like caricatures of what a brother-sister relationship should be like. They both have good and bad moments, tease each other and build each other up whenever needed, and although their personalities differ in a lot of ways, you genuinely feel like they will protect each other to the end.

The writers also deserve praise for the supporting characters and how they are all characterized; despite the small episode count, enough time is given so that every character is fleshed out enough to the point where you can form feelings about them well enough. Without getting into spoilers, the show does well at characterizing a completely mute person, its villains, and its resident anti-hero all without anything feeling forced.

Pacific Rim: The Black

There are various shortcomings in Pacific Rim: The Black‘s writing, however, and those deserve notice as well. Even though the show does a decent job of characterizing its leads, at times it does feel like it is favoring one over the other. Taylor feels like he is the most active character in the show, which is good, but it comes at the cost of Hailey often feeling like a bystander at best and a damsel-in-distress at worst.

She does have her moments of moving the plot forward or solving problems, but those moments typically come in really early or really late into the season, making the middle episodes a bit disappointing for those who hope she gets a lot of growth in the show.

Pacific Rim: The Black also does not always do the best job of explaining its world’s rules to the audience. It explains most things well enough, such as the history of the world and how the Kaiju were brought about, but when it comes to details like how Jaegers work, it leaves things a bit vague. Perhaps the show assumes that most watchers have seen the preceding films, which is fair, but for newcomers like myself, it may take a Google search or two to fully comprehend the world as the show presents it, which is not something a show should rely on, regardless of its status in a franchise or otherwise.

Pacific Rim: The Black

Most notably about the show’s writing is its pacing. Not a lot of events occur in the show’s 7-episode run; rather, it focuses on the details of each event and on the character interactions that make up each of them. These moments are even packed with occasional moments of powerful sequences, such as hinting towards abuse and taking subversive steps in regards to some characters’ fates.

There were several points where I was floored by the show’s decisions, yet applauding it all the same. Even though the show does not do much story-wise, it never really feels slow. There are so many moments where the show surprised me that I was enjoying every moment the writers presented, although I do hope that the show advances its plot more quickly in Season 2.

The show is capped off by a very enjoyable voice cast, with each performance ranging from good to great. Calum Worthy (Austin and Ally, The Act) shows his acting chops as he goes through Taylor’s complex journey of learning how to fight and have hope again, with Gideon Adlon (Blockers, The Society) complimenting him as Hailey whenever she gets to show her empathetic side while learning to forgive herself and protect the ones she loves.

Furthermore, with side characters like Erica Lindbeck’s (Persona 5, Mortal Kombat 11) blunt yet charming AI Loa, Victoria Grace’s (Mirai, The Last of Us Part II) conflicted soldier character, Mei, and Andy McPhee’s (Dead Island Riptide) manipulative leader character, Shane, Pacific Rim: The Black shows that plenty of memorable and fleshed out characters exist in the derelict wasteland left behind by the Kaijus, and it is nearly impossible to get through the show without having at least some kind of feelings towards every character that gets a decent amount of screentime.

Pacific Rim: The Black manages to be a very enjoyable and intense time despite having shortcomings that are more prominent due to its short run. The animation may be choppy at times, the writing is not flawless and the pacing is a bit slow, but the positives outweigh the negatives so much that you will not notice these things until after the fact. The animation still looks gorgeous most of the time, the characters are most satisfying to watch, the plot is full of enjoyable (and sometimes unexpected) moments, and the voice cast is fully enjoyable no matter which people are given focus.

This was a great first dive into the Pacific Rim franchise, and I not only look forward to this show’s future, but I also hope to catch myself up on what I missed in the Pacific Rim films. In any case, Pacific Rim: The Black is definitely worth your time, regardless of your relationship with the franchise. This entry into Pacific Rim: The Black may just be getting onto its feet for the first time here, but it is such a great time that you will leave it excited for whatever the future holds for Taylor and Hailey.

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