From The Shadows
Into The Black
Up and Running
Pacific Rim: The Black is a bit of a mixed bag. The picturesque backgrounds are gorgeous and there’s an intriguing enough mystery to keep you watching until the end. At the same time, this good work is undone at the expense of 3D animation which, quite frankly, pales in comparison to hand-drawn efforts.
The action here feels clunky and sluggish while the cookie cutter story simply lays the groundwork for a possible second season which is, at the time of writing, not confirmed. The result then is a more gritty interpretation of the Pacific Rim story, one that will likely polarize many people into two distinct groups – those who like and those who loathe this.
The Black feels like a show designed for fans of the franchise, and although newcomers can jump in and still enjoy what’s here, you’ll likely miss a lot of the more intricate history and world-building that this relies on.
Most of the early exposition and world-building comes from the opening credit sequence. In its simplest form, the story here revolves around monstrous creatures called Kaiju arising from the sea, bringing with them an all-consuming war. In order to fight back against these behemoths, mankind developed giant robots called Jaegers. These can be co-piloted by two humans locked together using a neural bridge.
Pacific Rim: The Black assumes you already know most of this as the action jumps into the heart of Australia. Multiple new Breaches have appeared across the country and these have forced the Pan Pacific Defence Corps to make a difficult decision. Deciding to cut their losses, the group move out of Australia completely and leave the survivors there to fend for themselves.
Two Jaeger pilots caught in the middle of this chaos happen to be the parents for our sibling protagonists, Hayley and Taylor. After dropping them off at a tranquil paradise, the duo head off to search for help… and are never heard from again.
Fast forward five years and our siblings are much older and wiser. Realizing that their parents probably aren’t coming back, they decide to head out and go searching for them.
Thus begins our fetch quest, as Hayley and Taylor band together with a strange test-tube child called Boy whom they free from a lab during episode 2. From here, the series settles into a more familiar post-apocalyptic romp where humans are shown to be just as monstrous and evil as the giant Kaiju.
It’s a pretty cliched trope in truth and one that fails to really shake off its veil of familiarity from other anime and shows of its kind – think The Walking Dead VS Pacific Rim and that pretty accurately sums this up.
Visually, The Black does fare a bit better than other 3D anime of its kind. The backgrounds and various different locations explored look absolutely gorgeous. There’s some great attention to detail put into this and the colour palette is exquisite… until one of the bland-looking 3D Kaiju rise up. Then the limitations of this medium become clear.
Much like the animated Godzilla project on Netflix, this gritty realism and 3D style does not translate well to the creature design and the Kaiju just don’t look that good. The human character models do fare a little better but there’s some pretty janky side-on views that don’t look good.
The lack of definition to a lot of the faces don’t help matters either, and while it’s not quite as plastic and disturbing as Saint Seiya was, the rendered action definitely feels similar. The abundance of long shots give the action a clunky feel and there are some strange point of view shots that don’t really work.
Thankfully, the personalities to a lot of the characters inhabiting this world help do a lot of the heavy lifting. The mystery is simple and well-paced, and there are some nice twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting. The ending of episode 5 in particular is absolutely shocking. No spoilers here of course, but your patience with this is definitely rewarded in the long run.
That reward though rests precariously on shaky ground, especially if Netflix decide to pull that well-worn cancellation lever. If they do, The Black is destined to go tumbling down the trap-door to the unfinished graveyard of other Netflix Originals. Is there enough here to warrant the show being renewed? This reviewer doesn’t think so.