In 2013, Guillermo del Toro brought Pacific Rim to theater screens around the world. The film that involved kaijus and giant mecha fighting each other was a huge homage to the kaiju films and mecha anime that del Toro watched while growing up. The film gathered quite a number of fans behind it, and it was one of the most enjoyable original blockbusters in recent times. Sadly, Del Toro went into other projects and the sequel was handed to Steven S. DeKnight who directed Pacific Rim: Uprising, a sequel that was in every way inferior to the original.
The sequel’s poor reception put the franchise in stagnation, but thankfully, Netflix, along with producers Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle, managed to bring Pacific Rim back one last time in the form of a CGI anime series called, Pacific Rim: The Black. The series also gathered a tame response, but it did well enough so that a second season could be greenlit in order to bring the story to an end.
Just like the first season, this second season consists of seven episodes of around 25 minutes in length. The show is still being produced by Polygon Pictures, with the writing being done by Greg Johnson and Craig Kyle themselves. This second season continues right after the end of the first season. It follows the journey of Hayley and her brother Taylor through the wastelands of Australia as they try to reach the last bastion of civilization where their lost parents could still be alive.
The first season of Pacific Rim: The Black was a mixed bag. The show, of course, has incredible potential, and yet, maybe because of the animation or because of the writing itself, it never reaches the heights that it could. Mostly, you could say that as the show began to stay away from the Kaiju vs Mecha theme and started to develop its own mythology, it felt like these two sides of the story could not be reconsolidated. It felt like two different shows were working to carve out the space needed to develop themselves in the proper way.
Season two is not much different, with a story that feels muddled and constrained by strange rules, weak villains, and rushed pacing. It becomes clear as the season moves on that the story was not planned to be over by the second season. The writers must have had tons of ideas they wanted to try out, but Netflix must have said, “no, this is the last season,” forcing the writers to close the story way before what was planned. The result is an ending that hits some of the important stuff that we wanted to see, while also leaving tons of things up in the air and not managing to create a satisfying ending at all.
Presentation wise, the show keeps being your standard CGI anime fair, which I have to say, I don’t think there are many fans of. 3D anime still doesn’t have the quality and majestic feeling that 2D animation can offer. The techniques are still in their infancy, and while it is good to see that they are being improved upon, it also feels like a waste not to present these stories in the best possible way from the get go. 3D anime still lacks the sense of composition that makes 2D anime a source of many iconic images. We will have to wait and see how the technology keeps evolving. Maybe the incoming Tekken show, which is being developed with the help of Team Red from Arc System Works, has the key to the secret.
If anything, the character work is what saves this season from being just a bunch of wasted potential. Both Hayley and Taylor finally come together as characters, and they are really good ones. It is sad because you feel that these characters just deserve a better show to be in, but at the same time, they are what makes the show they are in worth watching.
Hayley, in particular, comes off as a weird type of character in this day and age. She’s a strong, independent young woman, and yet the show doesn’t need to transform her into a badass or a female character that needs to project her insecurities onto men, like so many other shows do. No, Hayley is strong in her own way, and her personality is all but brutish. Her motherly sense comes through really strongly this season, as she takes care of the Boy, but this doesn’t make her weaker, only stronger and someone worth admiring.
Taylor also matures a lot throughout the season as well. By the end, he’s just a more reliable person and someone who has enough confidence in himself to admit when he is right and when he is wrong without making others feel bad. It is really nice to see character development done right. Mei and Boy on the other hand, do feel a bit short-handed when it comes to their development, a consequence of the season being the last when that wasn’t the plan.
Overall, Pacific Rim: The Black, could have been a much better show than it is, but it still remains an entertaining option to watch if you are a fan of the Kaiju genre or a fan of the Pacific Rim film.