It’s been three years since Pacific Rim The Black was originally announced back in 2018, but the day has finally arrived for the 3D CGI anime spinoff of the fan-favourite Pacific Rim franchise (which consists of 2013’s Pacific Rim by Guillermo Del Toro and 2018’s Pacific Rim Uprising by Steven D. Knight). You’ll probably remember the first one the most since the second movie was divisive and not as well-received at launch along with a poorer box office reception.
I was one of the few people who actually liked both Pacific Rim movies equally, but I digress. The question now is; should the franchise even be getting an animated adaptation after all these years? Perhaps the animation format would suit the franchise better, considering that the first movie was inspired by iconic mecha anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion in the first place.
I’m here to tell you that yes, Pacific Rim The Black is definitely worth checking out for fans of the franchise.
In the first episode, we’re introduced to the main pair of the series; the siblings Hayley Travis (voiced by Gideon Adlon) and Taylor Travis (Calum Worthy). The sister (Hayley) is clearly the one who’ll probably turn out to be not only the face of the series but also the eventual fan-favourite protagonist. She’s cute, likeable and enthusiastic, while her brother is quite the opposite. Sure, they’re forced to survive for years without their parents, and Taylor turns out to be the stereotypical cynic who blames almost everyone or everything else for every problem.
I wish I had gotten more of Erica Lindbeck as the voice of AI named Loa embedded in the siblings’ Jaeger; Atlas Destroyer. The rest of the English cast perform well enough that you don’t have to resort to changing the audio to Japanese. The story is grim (it’s still a post-apocalyptic setting), but it’s not nearly as dark or edgy as other mecha anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion or some of the more mature Gundam series.
As of now, it’s unclear where exactly Pacific Rim The Black takes place in the franchise timeline, but perhaps that question will be answered in future episodes. It’s still difficult to say if Pacific Rim The Black looks and feels more like it in common with Pacific Rim Uprising or the original Pacific Rim.
Jaeger-Kaiju fights take place during the daytime (instead of in the dark or at night), but the tone is sometimes dramatic and closer to the first movie than the second movie’s lighter atmosphere.
Pacific Rim The Black is produced by Polygon Pictures, the same animation studio behind several episodes/seasons of Star Wars The Clone Wars, both seasons of Star Wars Resistance and Netflix’s Godzilla movie trilogy. Because of their experience, their 3D CGI animation is pretty good despite still suffering from the style’s annoyingly-low framerate (at times), but their biggest problem in the past has always been the narrative more than anything. The facial expressions and character movements are expressive enough that they don’t look awkward or stilted, which many other 3D CGI animes often suffer from.
The scenes with the Jaegers and Kaiju feel awesome to behold, and they’re epic. Pacific Rim The Black definitely delivers on that front. What helps is that the sound effects of the Jaegers and Kaiju sound like they were ripped straight from the original live-action movies, which make the scenes even more immersive.
Still, the animation isn’t perfect. The limitation of the 3D CGI animation style means that some scenes still look awkward, especially one particular shootout involving human characters.
Thankfully, there was only one of those in the three episodes I watched, and the epic Jaeger-Kaiju scenes still make up for that.
However, keep in mind that episodes are pretty short, ranging from as low as 20 minutes long to only about 28 minutes in length. That’s not much time to show much of anything, so the aforementioned Jaeger-Kaiju scenes were sparsed and few in between. As a result, the pacing also feels a bit too rushed, and you won’t have time to get the bearings of what’s happening before the next thing happens.
For Mecha & Kaiju Fans
Unfortunately, Netflix Malaysia only gave us access to the first three episodes of Pacific Rim The Black Season 1 (out of seven in total for the first season). They’re not enough to provide us with a full picture yet but these were decent appetizers and they certainly made me excited to catch the rest of the first season when they eventually premiere on 4 March 2021.
FINAL SCORE: 70/100
We received an early access screener of the first three episodes of Pacific Rim The Black Season 1 courtesy of Netflix Malaysia. It is slated to premiere exclusively on Netflix on 4 March 2021.