“Pacific Rim: The Black” is Grim While Still Being Fun

Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1
Image: Netflix

Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1 continues the story established in Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster film franchise (Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim: Uprising). Set some time after the second film, Netflix’s brand-new anime series introduces us to teenage siblings Taylor and Hayley, who find an abandoned Jaeger and must use it to cross Australia in a search for their long-missing parents.

The first episode of Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1 sets the scene. Australia has been overrun by Kaiju, and mass evacuations have been ordered. Anyone who doesn’t make it to the evacuation point will be left to survive on their own. Brina and Ford Travis are escorting a bus of children – including their own – to one of the evacuation points only to discover that it’s been destroyed. Brina and Ford leave in their Jaeger in search of help, but they never return. Six years later, Hayley and Taylor, who along with the other kids have created their own village in an isolated valley, discover an old Jaeger. Powering it up alerts the Kaiju to their presence, and when the rest of the kids are killed, the two go off to find their parents.

Season 1 consists of seven episodes, all less than 30 minutes apiece. This allows for a nicely-paced story that both continues what was already established as well as setting up future plotlines. “The Black” seems to be what those who were left behind refer to Australia as and is now populated by warring factions who go around selling and stealing Jaeger pieces and Kaiju eggs; the Jaeger-Kaiju hybrids from Uprising are still around and kicking. But the biggest mystery of all is Boy, who Hayley and Taylor discover in a tube in the Pan-Pacific Coastal Defense (PPCD) facility.

Boy’s origins are shrouded in secrecy, but they aren’t at the forefront of the series. Hayley and Taylor’s biggest concerns are dealing with Bogan, the leader of one of the factions, who tries to steal their Jaeger and attempts to have the three kids killed multiple times, and the Kaiju who destroyed their village, who tracks them across the continent. The children find some allies in Joel, a Jaeger mechanic, and Mei, Bogan’s sort of adopted daughter. Boy becomes an important plot point later in the season, and who or what he is will no doubt be an overarching part of the next season.

Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1
Image: Netflix

While the length of Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1 worked in its favor for the plot, it didn’t feel like quite enough time to develop the characters. Obviously, we couldn’t spend that much time at the village, because we had to get the kids moving on their journey, but it’s difficult to feel the impact of death when you haven’t gotten the chance to get to know the characters. (There is an exception about midway through the season, but I’m not going to tell you because you should have the same gut punch that I did.) And because there’s so much plot to cover, I feel like the show doesn’t linger enough where it should.

I certainly wasn’t expecting this series to be a fun romp through the Australian outback, but it’s a lot darker than I was anticipating. It was more like Pacific Rim meets Mad Max. Any story that starts with the violent deaths of a bunch of children is not at all concerned with pulling punches, and this one is no exception. If you follow me on Twitter, I actually tweeted about it at one point – and if you’ve already seen it, you may have figured out which moment it was that made me think that. 

That said, this series is still plenty of fun in the sense that it doesn’t take itself too seriously with the science or the mechanics or the feasibility of two teenagers who’ve never really piloted a Jaeger managing to achieve it in such a short span of time. I mean, when you have a series like Pacific Rim, which is about giant robots fighting monsters, you really can’t focus on silly things like reality. It may be grim and desolate, but Pacific Rim: The Black is an adventure, and it’s just getting started.

Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1
Image: Netflix

Having seen both movies will probably be helpful before watching Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1. I’ve actually never seen the second film, but a lot of what they talk about in the series is a direct result of the events in that movie. It also helps you be able to spot the references. There is a scene where Taylor needs to pilot the Jaeger solo, and it mentions both Raleigh Becket and Herc Hansen, characters from the first movie. Later in the season, they’re in a combined Kaiju/Jaeger graveyard and the Jaeger mentioned are from the second movie.

As for the animation, I’m not really a fan of this style of CGI, as I feel it looks a little weird and oddly dated. But I really enjoyed the fight sequences and thought those were very well done.

The show may not yet have the hopeful tone of the films, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Pacific Rim: The Black. It’s probably better than it has any right to be.

Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.


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