TL;DR – This is a show with a lot of potential that would have worked a lot better had it not stumbled in critical places.
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this series.
Pacific Rim: The Black Review –
When you hear that there will be an American Animation TV Series, done in the style of a Japanese Anime, based in the Pacific Rim universe, and then set in Australia, well, that is an exciting combination if I have ever heard it. Good or bad, you want to see how it works. With that in mind, let’s dive into this fascinating if flawed world.
So to set the scene, we open in the days after chaos erupts across Australia as rifts open up the centre of the continent. After a valiant fight, it becomes clear that Australia is lost, and the call to evacuate is put out. Everyone had five days to reach Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, or Sydney. While trying to help with the evacuation, one Jager team stays back to stop the Kaijus because their children had yet to leave. They tried to get to the evac point, but they were too late. Instead, they took the group of civilians back to their home base Shadow Basin which was also destroyed. The parents left everyone behind in an oasis and leave to go to the coast to get help. Five years later, Hayley (Gideon Adlon) and Taylor (Calum Worthy) have a fractured relationship as their parents never returned. However, one day Hayley fell down a metal hole and discovers that not all of Shadow Basin was destroyed, with the Atlas Destroyer Jaeger and its AI Loa (Erica Lindbeck) still there. But that discovery becomes a beacon for all the danger in the world. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
The animation style of the show is something that I think will take people a little bit to get used to. It is a blend of 2D anime-style animation for the human characters and most of the backgrounds. While Vehicles, Kaiju, Jagers, and some terrain features are rendered in 3D computer-generated style. This does create a disconnect that can be quite jarring at the start. Once you get to see it flow in the motion, it becomes less harsh, but I am not sure it ever wholly jelled when you saw both elements happening simultaneously.
Another thing you need to warm up to is our two main leads Hayley and Taylor, who are just obnoxious in the first episode. They do get better as the show goes on, but starting them as almost petulant teenagers makes that an uphill battle. What pulls you through the first couple of episodes is the excellent casting of the AI Loa, who has some of the best dry wit dialogue in the business. Also, three episodes into the show, we get introduced to Mei (Victoria Grace), a deeply complicated character who has gone through some real trauma. She has also survived in a world where everything is trying to kill her, allowing her to counter the naivety of our two leads.
One of the interesting things about the show is how it is not very Australian for something set in Australia. You cringe every time you hear Bris-Bane. The crows sound wrong. Nothing feels right, to the point where it almost becomes an uncanny valley effect. Indeed, it is not until the aptly named Bogan until we actually hear an Australian accent. It also feels geographically confused in a way that I don’t think I have seen since Forza Horizon 3. While they reference Australian cities, we don’t ever visit one. Instead, fictional locations like Clayton City and Meridian substitute throughout the show. These are cities that could have been anywhere on Earth given how generic their design was (also, there are apparently still people out their pruning box hedges everywhere). They reference mountains behind them, but they are trying to go from the desert to Sydney, so they are yet to go through them. Look, this part of the show is a mess, and I just wished there had been one Australian in the room when they were writing this.
One area where I think the show does work is how it builds upon the Pacific Rim’s universe in exciting ways. After the very vanilla sequel Uprising, I wondered if there was anything more they could do in this world, and the answer was yes. Here we get to see the lousy underbelly of PPDC and some of the experiments they have been undertaking, and the extent they cauterise the Kaiju invasion. This is combined with the post-apocalyptic setting of ruined Australia to create a fascinating patchwork of world-building, which is added to with the twin reveals in the final episode.
In the end, do we recommend Season One of Pacific Rim: The Black? Well, it is a hard maybe. If you like the Pacific Rim universe, then absolutely. For everyone else, look, I think there is an interesting story and world here once you wade through the show’s missteps. However, if you didn’t want to take that time, I would understand.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Pacific Rim: The Black
Directed by – Jae Hong Kim, Hiroyuki Hayashi, Masayuki Uemoto, Susumu Sugai & Takeshi Iwata
Written by – Greg Johnson, Craig Kyle, Paul Giacoppo, Nicole Dubuc,
Created by – Greg Johnson & Craig Kyle
Production/Distribution Companies – Legendary Television Studios & Netflix
Starring – Gideon Adlon, Calum Worthy, Erica Lindbeck, Victoria Grace, Andrew McPhee, Leonardo Nam, Martin Klebba, Ryan Robinson, Alexandra MacDonald, Jason Spisak, Vincent Piazza & Nolan North with Camryn Jones, Cole Keriazakos, Ben Diskin, Bryton James, Ron Yuan & David Errigo Jr.
Episodes Covered – From the Shadows, Into the Black, Bogan, Up and Running, Escaping Bogan, Boneyard and Showdown.