There are certain things in life that are just cool. Motorbikes, the sound a Lightsaber makes when it starts up, giant robot mechs fighting alien sea creatures. Needless to say, when Pacific Rim first released in 2013 it captured the hearts and minds of moviegoers who were searching for their next thrilling action flick. The sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, while not as iconic as the original, added some extra excitement to the growing franchise, but it left the question of what's next? That question was answered pretty soon after, when Netflix announced that it was creating an animated show set in the same universe called Pacific Rim: The Black, and just a few days ago the entire first season released on the streaming platform. I sat down and watched the full season, and while it does provide an interesting alternative to the live-action movies, it does seem to lose some of Pacific Rim charm in the process.
Set after the events of the two movies, Pacific Rim: The Black is based in a version of Australia that has pretty much been abandoned after the Kaiju overran the continent. The storyline follows Taylor and Hayley Travis, two teenagers who have been surviving in the forgotten Australia after their parents (two Jaeger mech pilots) left them in search of help. After stumbling upon an old military base that houses a still functioning Jaeger known as Atlas Destroyer, the brother and sister duo are plunged into a dangerous new world, one where a terrifying Kaiju isn't the only hostile presence to be wary about.
The storyline is a little different to that of the movies, as the Travis children aren't trained Jaeger pilots when they first jump into the mech. Fortunately, a helpful AI known as Loa is there to guide them on their journey, but this storyline design does make for slightly less exciting battles, since the young adults are very unfamiliar with how to use the Jaeger to its strengths. It also doesn't help the matter that the mech was decommissioned before being abandoned and boasts only its fists as weapons against the towering Kaiju. Essentially, if you're coming to this anime show for some explosive action, Pacific Rim: The Black doesn't deliver all that much in comparison to the movies.
The plot itself is fleshed out and offers a unique take on the world of Pacific Rim that we usually only see from the eyes of the military and the best-of-the-best Jaeger pilots. But, at the same time, Pacific Rim has always excelled in its action, particularly showing large robots blowing Kaijus into giant gooey chunks of alien meat. Pacific Rim: The Black lacks in this regard, and because of the animated anime style, you also don't feel the scale and impact of the large fight scenes as is the case in live-action. Don't get me wrong, the show looks great and does its best to emphasise the proportions of the Jaegers and Kaiju, but it just doesn't quite deliver the same effect as the box office flicks.
Pacific Rim: The Black also primarily uses a human known as Shane to be the villain of the story, and while there are Kaiju (one in particular codenamed Copperhead causes a lot of trouble), they often feel like a by-product to the show's plot. Shane is an unforgiving and vicious foe, worthy of the title of a villain, but he's no match for a Jaeger, at least not in the same way a Kaiju is.
The animation style of Pacific Rim: The Black does look great. Considering the show was animated by the same studio who worked on the most recent Transformers: War for Cybertron series for Netflix as well as the gorgeous looking Apple TV+ show Stillwater, you can probably get an idea of the sorts of visual marvels in store. Polygon Pictures has done a good job at bringing the Pacific Rim universe to life in an anime form, but as I mentioned earlier, it does still frequently feel a little out of place using this animation format.
I don't think this show is bad, or unworthy of your time, but you will probably be left with the same aching feeling after getting to the end of season one as I did, in that you just really want another live-action movie instead. I still enjoyed watching the show, and considering you can go through all seven episodes available in around three-four hours, it's not exactly a massive time sink like a lot of anime can be. If you are a fan of the Pacific Rim universe, I would suggest giving this one a go. Just know, it isn't the most compelling Pacific Rim content out there, and that's by a long stretch.