It’s been three years since “Pacific Rim: Uprising” launched in theaters. The eight year-old franchise is apparently not finished, either. Enter the new Netflix-produced animated series “Pacific Rim: The Black.”
The franchise focuses on a futuristic earth under attack from interdimensional biological WMD’s dubbed “Kaiju,” a Japanese word roughly translating to “giant monster.” These skyscraper-sized beasts enter our dimension through rifts opening around the titular oceanic rim.
Earth’s united military selects and trains specialized troops to pilot equally large, mechanized suits called Jaegers. Giant robots versus giant monsters… there is an obvious influence from the Godzilla franchise and Power Rangers/Super Sentai.
The series opens up during the Kaiju assault on Australia and focuses on a pair of siblings – Hayley and Taylor. The brother and sister spend five years on their own after the disappearance of the parents who were Jaeger pilots.
Like its live action counterparts, “The Black” has plenty of action. The sequences are pretty spectacular, showcasing the scale and grandeur without getting caught up in hard-to-follow CGI. It is much less Rock’em-Sock’em Robots.
Unlike the movies, however, the animated series creates a greater sense of wonder and adventure while creating a character-driven and emotional narrative. While the siblings sincerely love and look out for each other, they don’t agree on their parents’ fate: Taylor believes they are still alive while Hayley has written them off as dead.
What follows is a homeward bound search for their parents while encountering threats across the Australian continent from Kaiju and survivors alike. Equal parts survival adventure and energetic romp, “The Black” seamlessly blends strong storytelling, stunning visuals, and compelling action set pieces.
But the stakes of survival are more intense than the primary protagonists anticipate; they aren’t seasoned veterans of this war, they are inexperienced kids forced to deal with the real world consequences of every choice they make.
That alone makes this entry in the franchise stand out. The writing’s episodic structure means viewers get more time learning about and investing in the characters than they would in a standalone feature film.
The story and scripting is concise, a product of the strong anime inspiration. One of the head writers is Craig Kyle, a long time Marvel/MCU writer and producer. Kyle’s experience writing comics, animation, and film projects brings a tightness to the storytelling.
The voice cast also draws from incredible talent. Longtime voice actors like Jason Spisak, Nolan North, and Erica Lindbeck lend their skills; this is where the writers’ words receive the best support because the engaging performances sell the series.
And the atmospheric music composed by Brandon Campbell (“Westworld”, “Prison Break”) helps charge the scenes with the emotional gravitas needed to keep viewers glued to the screen. Delicate piano pieces play during the more tender moments between Hayley and Taylor while amped guitar riffs drive the action sequences.
While the series is geared more for fans of the franchise and an audience ranging from teens to adults, the violence isn’t too graphic and the language is for the most part clean. It is advised parents check out the series before letting their kids watch it.
Garrett K. Jones is a local fantasy author. He currently has four books released in his ongoing series, and he produces a vlog on YouTube and the Creator's Corner podcast (available on Spotify, Google, & Apple). www.archivesofthefivekingdoms.com/ IG/Twitter: @gkj_publishing
Feel free to contact him with title suggestions of films you’d like him to review.
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