Pacific Rim: The Black

At an unknown point in the future, a series of massive seismic events results in the mass release of monstrous alien beings known as kaiju upon the Australian continent. Despite the fact that humans have massive combat mecha known as Jaegers (German: “hunter”) with which to fight the kaiju, the human forces are defeated. As a consequence, the Australian landmass is abandoned, except for a few isolated strongholds. In a further effort to prevent the kaiju from locating human populations, a process called “the black” is initiated: all satellite and electronic communications are shut down. Five years later, Taylor and Hayley Travis are teenagers living in a remote desert community surrounding an oasis. Their parents were Jaeger pilots who left to get help after escorting a group of adolescents, children, and their adult caretakers to the oasis; however, despite promises to return, they never made it back. One day, Hayley accidently discovers a training Jaeger in the abandoned underground base that lies beneath the oasis; when she and Taylor activate the mecha, it attracts the attention of a nearby kaiju, who attacks the community and wipes it out. The sole survivors, Taylor and Hayley determine to start making their way toward Sydney, their parents’ last known destination. In a ruined city along the way, they rescue a strange, mute child whom they name “Boy”. They are also attacked by what appear to be wolf-like kaiju, but are saved by a mysterious creature that is seemingly a kaiju-Jaeger hybrid.  Escaping, they encounter a community of outlaws led by a sinister trader in kaiju parts called Shane. In the process of figuring out how to escape from Shane (aided by his abused adopted daughter Mei), Taylor and Hayley uncover disturbing hints from the past, involving the strange alien beings called the Precursors (who created the kaiju) and a devastating conflict known as the Uprising War, when Jaeger attack drones were infected with kaiju brain cells. They also discover that Boy might be more than just a strange mute; that he might, in fact, be something closer to the kaiju-Jaeger hybrid encountered in the abandoned city… 

Based on the “Pacific Rim” film franchise and produced by Legendary Television, “Pacific Rim: The Black” is a Netflix Original series animated by Polygon Pictures that first aired in March 2021. Animated with Polygon’s trademark stark character renderings juxtaposed against vibrant 3DCGI backgrounds, the opening series of six episodes sets up the main themes that will be explored in the already-commissioned second series; it also establishes the main characters, their backgrounds, and where the lines of conflict – or friendship – between them are likely to develop. In this respect, the first series is little more than an extended prelude; however, it provides plenty of bloodily entertaining combat scenes as well as some surprisingly touching insights into the main characters’ vulnerabilities and human frailties. Unfortunately, all the Australian voice actors (who, with the exception of Shane, are secondary characters) have accents straight out of the Paul Hogan book of ockerism, with some “yeah, nah, she’s right mate” dialogue to match (the outlaws even call their community Bogan, FFS!). This annoyance aside, “Pacific Rim: The Black” is a visually appealing and conceptually interesting homage to the old Japanese kaiju films that featured Godzilla and his many monstrous kin, as well as being an at times highly effective exploration of the themes of survivor’s guilt, abuse, memory, loss, and the quest to uncover the truth about a mysterious past. Fans of the monster and mecha genres will find enough in the first series of “Pacific Rim: The Black” to make the effort to see in what direction the second series takes our protagonists and the kaiju who hunt them.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.