Mecha. Check. Kaiju. Check. Let them fight.
What’s the Story?
Five years ago Taylor and Hayley barely escaped a Kaiju attack with their parents and a small group of others, taking shelter in a secluded basin. Their parents, Jaeger pilots, then left to try and find help and send it back for them. They never returned. After Hayley discovers a training Jaeger, she and her brother are forced to flee again when their safe haven is destroyed by a Kaiju. Now the brother and sister must step out into the wasteland that remains of Australia, something the locals affectionately call ‘The Black’. Gathering a ragtag team around them, including a mysterious boy found in a lab and a trained killer suffering from an identity crisis, they hope to somehow reach Sydney and maybe even find their parents somewhere along the way. There are many dangers in the Black though, and Kaiju are not the only threat they’ll face. Humans can be just as destructive and what of the Sisters and their Kaiju Messiah?
Pacific Rim was a great movie. Then the sequel was a critical and financial disaster. To say I was relieved when I heard they were making an animated series is an understatement of kaiju-sized proportions. Pacific Rim is a franchise that deserves to carry on, plus its mecha and kaiju all in one perfect package, what’s not to love? So, how does the series stack up? It’s a good start. There’s only seven episodes up on Netflix at the time of writing this so the series feels more like an animated movie when watching it all in one go. Each episode comes with consequences that are felt throughout the series, even if part of that is purely just sowing seeds for the next season.
Before we move on to the more plot and character specifics, let’s talk about how this show looks. Overall it’s good, there are some really nice shots and the action often has the appropriate sense of weight and impact, something that’s really important when you’ve got such giant combatants throwing down. Of course the series isn’t wall-to-wall action, you’ll find some sort of action sequence in each episode, but they don’t always involve the Jaegers or the Kaiju. While I wouldn’t mind a continual stream of mecha-on-monster action, doing things this way does bring some variety to the series and demonstrates the variety of obstacles the characters have to face. On the design front, the Jaegers and Kaiju all fall in line with the principles set out by the previous films. I would like to see a bit more variety in the designs, we tend to get the same three or four Kaiju across the series and the Jaegers don’t look that different either outside of their colour schemes. This is only season 1 though, and only seven episodes at that, so I’m willing to give them a pass on this, for now.
Let’s talk about the characters. As our leads, Taylor and Hayley are perfectly serviceable. They’re both young so I’ll forgive some of their more idiotic decisions, but that does bring in those consequences I was talking about earlier, which are a great benefit to the characters. After the first episode I was worried that Hayley’s guilt over getting everyone in their community killed was going to fade away, but it’s clearly still there. Her continual insistence on protecting Boy, and I wish they’d just a pick a name for the kid already, is partly out of that guilt and she brings it up when talking to the series’ best character, Mei. Taylor has his own consequences to deal with, not only the after-effects of that time he tried to pilot by himself, but to all of his decisions. They’re the protagonists so we know nothing truly terrible is going to happen to them, but the consequences make sure that we know they won’t necessarily get out unscathed.
Speaking of consequences, this series has one heck of a body count. It’s never gory, everything happens off-screen but there are several times were the characters end up with blood splattering across their faces. I mean they kill off the whole community at the start of the series, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. A few maybe, to hammer home the danger, but all of them? Not to mention the fact that there was one death later on that really made my jaw hit the floor. I did not see it coming and it adds to the sense of danger our characters are facing. Taylor and Hayley will certainly survive, but the same can’t be said for everyone else and the cast isn’t that big yet so it’s more than just fodder that’s biting the dust. The series also isn’t afraid to add to the mythology of the franchise and all of that bundles together to make this a really exciting series. I have no idea where it’s going, but I’m more than happy to enjoy the ride.
In the end, Pacific Rim: The Black is a great start to an animated series in this franchise. There’s plenty of Jaeger-on-Kaiju action without making that the only course this series has to serve. Actions have consequences and there’s a surprising body count to this series that creates a sense of danger around the few characters that do survive. The series isn’t afraid to lay down seeds for later season and add to the mythology of the franchise either. I’m looking forward to season 2, whenever Netflix decides to drop it on us. See you in the drift.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.