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'Pacific Rim: The Black' Review: A captivating, and worthy, successor to its films

If you walked away from 'Pacific Rim: Uprising' wanting a storyline that lives up to its predecessor, then new Netflix animated series, 'Pacific Rim: The Black' may just be the thing.

brown haired teenager and blond teenager in the cockpit of a mech
(Image: © © Neflix)

Our Verdict

'Pacific Rim: The Black' builds a fascinating dystopian world ripe with stories worth telling.

For

  • ▪️Engaging Action.
  • ▪️Eye-catching Animation.
  • ▪️Compelling Storyline.

Against

  • ▪️These kids are annoyingly reckless.
  • ▪️Key side characters are too underdeveloped.

Set after the Uprising War, Pacific Rim: The Black dives directly into the action in the first (of seven) episode as Kaiju inundate the continent of Australia forcing humans to abandon the country and the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps to initiate Operation Blackout (destroying satellites, evacuating Jaegers, and burying bases). While it's unclear exactly how long after Uprising, the pick-up feels seamless.

Pacific Rim: The Black follows Hayley (Gideon Adlon) and Taylor (Calum Worthy) children of Jaeger pilots who were forced to leave them behind in order to go in search of evacuation assistance in their Jaeger. Five years passed with no word and no rescue. Now teenagers, Hayley and Taylor live in a small hidden community (with the other children their parents rescued). Due to its isolated location, the community's been relatively safe from kaiju attacks thus far.

Taylor refuses to believe his parents aren't coming back. He struggles to keep his sister Hayley's given up hope and thinks they'd be better served leaving their haven behind. A moment of recklessness leads to the loss of their sanctuary. With no other choice, Hayley and Taylor set off in search of their parents in a decommissioned training Jaeger found abandoned underground in what was once a PPDC facility base. What starts as a quest to find their parents swiftly becomes a journey with a steep learning curve.

The next six episodes build out the Pacific Rim Universe by putting its overly confident (and woefully naïve) main characters in almost immediate peril. The pair must go into a city — on foot — in search of power cells for their Jaeger. After a series of anxiety inducing events, the siblings suddenly find their scavenger hunts turned into a rescue mission.  It's a smart move that forces the pair to learn on the fly and sets in motion events that pave the way for a Mad Max meets The Golden Child inspired plot rife with uneasy alliances, violence, desert chases, betrayal, and mecha v kaiju fight sequences absolutely worth the emotional rollercoaster ride watching such young (and inexplicably reckless) protagonists try not to get themselves killed takes you on.

Since Legendary Television produced Pacific Rim: The Black, do expect its style and aesthetic to call back to the feature films. It's best to buckle up because there are high-level references to both pilots and Jaegers from both feature films. In fact, a major part of Taylor's character development revolves around solo drifting and the concept of "ghost drifting." Definitely establishing the films as canon, The Black often introduces vital information (and the series' comic relief) and story elements via Lola (Erica Lindbeck), the training Jaeger's AI, the flashback montage sequences. The drift turns into a character all its own as these tweens learn to handle the neural link necessary to pilot a Jaeger. By the end of episode seven, a seamless timeline and compelling storyline emerge. 

The only notable downside — other than wondering where all Australia’s non-white population that didn’t manage to evacuate are — is how long it takes the siblings to stop going off halfcocked. Otherwise, The Black's entire narrative flows from a skillful blend of expected dystopian tropes (like warring factions of humans) and some of the most fascinating and twisted unresolved threads of that conspiracy to create kaiju-mech hybrids that went so very awry in Uprising. I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few theories living in the fandom found their way on-screen.

Pacific Rim: The Black offers a colorful dystopian world full of dynamic action sequences, conflicted characters, and far too many unanswered questions for anyone's survival to be guaranteed. Season one sets an intriguing stage for big things to come.  Mind those cliffhangers, they're a doozy.