For a small amount of time this year, it seems like the name of the game in anime is Giant Monsters vs Giant Robots. I say this in regards to some of the anime that have appeared recently with a Godzilla one that is currently locked up in Netflix jail, SSSS.Dynazenon, and Pacific Rim: The Black. Plus, there is that Godzilla vs King Kong movie that I have not watched yet, but am very excited to check out when it’s available in a Blu-ray form. I don’t have the money to afford adding HBO Max to my already large streaming subscriptions. I wish that giant robots and monsters stayed in the cultural consciousness for a longer amount of time, but I think having the context explode out of nowhere has its own rewards. It feels fresher is what I am saying because we aren’t covered in walls and walls of the same thing like super hero media, isekai, Star Wars, and things like that.
With that said, it’s time for an anime interpretation of Pacific Rim. It’s made by studio Polygon Pictures, so it is an anime despite anilist telling me that’s not the case. The most confusing thing about The Black is the setting. When does it take place? Is it before the Pacific Rim movie where the door to the kaiju world is closed off? Does it take place after the second movie with the rim opens up again? Or is it an alternate universe where that doesn’t matter? Either way, Pacific Rim: The Black uses the same technology and a similar setting to its advantage to give it short hand. People know what Yeagers (Giant Robots) are and how they work (the drift system). This series takes place after the fall of Australia from Kaiju attacks and knowing this shows how scary they can be.
Five years after Taylor and Hayley’s parents left them and a bunch of other kids in a small safe area next to what was a former Jeager base, all hell breaks loose. Hayley discovers a Jeager left behind at the base which causes enough noise to awaken a Kaiju completely destroying their home for the last five years with civilians that we barely met. That leads to Hayley and her older brother Taylor escaping from the Kaiju in their training Yeager The Atlas Destroyer and wandering across Australia to what was Sydney. They have entered “The Black”. So, it’s the adventures of these siblings fighting to survive from the terrain, different people, and some kaiju to possibly learn something about their parent’s disappearing maybe. It’s 7 episodes, so a long movie in length and it does the best it can with that time.
I have already mentioned short hand, right? As in with what logic and terms set within the Pacific Rim Universe. The problem is that there is a little too much of it that it can be a little basic sometimes. Hayley and Taylor are the lead characters of the show, but they are people with flat arcs that are supposed to motivate and collected other people along their journey. The journey itself can be pretty basic sometimes so there isn’t a lot, until the second half, to carry the weight of the show when other characters appeared. That one boy they find in a testing lab, for instance, is a plot device waiting to explode and until he does, he’s just a mute kid who cannot talk. My favorite character in The Black is also someone that shows later on when she is free and full of fun and sarcasm.
For a cg series from Polygon Pictures, I think Pacific Rim: The Black is very much one of their best-looking works. The character designs still suffer from looking the same but different like their other productions I’ve seen. Same with the frame rate issues because it’s very distracting to see everything else move around pretty well and then the humans themselves moving like stop motion legos. The Yeagers and Kaiju designs were very fluidly animated and very expressive. Especially in the most pivotal scenes to show huge and animal like the kaiju are. The Yeager designs, which are very Pacific Rim Yeagers with some variation after all, move like how a human would move so it’s funny to think that giant robots move better then human beings. The background designs and color of the series are also eye popping and just attractive to look at.
What Pacific Rim brings to the table aside from the films is an expanded use of the technology from the two movies and not aspects to insert into The Pacific Rim kaiju lore. One of them is drifting. We all know how drifting works, right? It merges two minds together in harmony in order to operate a robot. What about if a person merged with a memory file of a pilot from someone who was dead through ghost drifting? What happens if a person repeatedly drifts with lots of different people in a short space of time? Do they maintain who they are or does a different person emerged. What about if one party used drifting as a way to interrogate someone? These are things that the movies never covered because they focused on pilots joining together to fight robots. I think one of the endearing things about The Black is opening up these possibilities.
The kaiju and jeager merging together thing are something unique to this television series as well. There is a bit of backstory to information leading up to it along with some hidden elements in the plot waiting for this to occur, but it doesn’t manifest until the last couple episodes of The Black. Details like this add a bit more of a complicated narrative into the series other than “we need to find our parents” and “why do the kaiju keep attacking us”. I do not expect the parent plot to leave Hayley and Taylor behind because that is what keeps them going, but it is pretty clear that their parents got caught up into something beyond their understanding and now Taylor and Hayley are riding that line as well. How well that is executed next season or beyond, because season 2 is in production, will determine how good The Black is over all. For now, Pacific Rim: The Black is good with a lot of potential to get better.