Pacific Rim: The Black Review

I’ve been awaiting the Pacific Rim show for quite a while. From the start it looked like the show was doing all of the right things that the movies couldn’t quite capitalize on. I mean, I did enjoy both films pretty well to be honest and would definitely recommend them but the idea of Kaiju vs Robots has a lot of potential out of that. An animated format will always be the answer for taking something to the next level and The Black definitely pulls it off. I’d be game with them just continuing the rest of the franchise in this style.

The show starts off with introducing us to the main characters’ parents. They are trying to help with the evacuations particularly since their kids are still around but the government has declared this place as lost. The parents manage to protect everyone and then leave to go and find help. Unfortunately help never came and many years have passed. Taylor and Hayley are the two kids who couldn’t escape in time. As siblings they are quite close but have taken the loss of their parents in different ways. Taylor thinks he has to protect Hayley at all costs and wants to stay safe in the village until they return while Hayley is convinced that they are dead and thinks they need to leave. Well, their hand is forced when a Kaiju attacks. Taylor and Hayley take a test Jaeger (Giant mech suit) and escape. Their best bet is to try and find civilization but can they survive in this Kaiju wasteland?

There are 7 episodes out currently as season 1 concluded. I’m hoping we should get season 2 pretty soon. If they could fast track that and get it out quick that would be ideal. The show does manage to conclude a lot of the main plots pretty well but we’re just at the tip of the iceberg here. The show doesn’t reference the movies all that much beyond a few names you might recognize like easter eggs for the suit and the pilot. Otherwise this works as a standalone title which works for me. We’ve already got a pretty solid cast and world going on here after all. Then we can build to an eventual crossover so far. Right now we haven’t really had time for any aliens to show up for example so throwing that in will be cool.

A lot happens in these 7 episodes after all. We get a new villain faction and it’s hard to say if they are human or alien yet. My bet would be alien but it’s hard to guess. Either way they get the stinger at the end of the season and it’s a pretty hype way to get season 2 rolling. Then there is the bio form running around. Won’t get into specifics since that would definitely be a spoiler but it seems like an interesting take that’s different than what Uprising did. It’s another kind of fusion and based on the dialogue we should see some more of these soon.

Meanwhile the animation here is pretty solid. It looks like it’s straight out of a Fire Emblem cutscene. That video game kind of look works well and the animation’s pretty smooth. It may not be quite like Castlevania or a true anime look like that but it works well enough. The fights are also nice and colorful with the Kaiju and Jaegers. If you’re going to do CGI then this is the level you’ll want to be on. The soundtrack is a lot more forgettable though. I can’t say that I could really recall any themes by the end of this.

Taylor may take a little time to get going as one of the main characters but he does get better. Hayley handled the situation better initially but eventually Taylor came around. He still panics quite a bit and I see more character development incoming for him. At the end of the day he is ready to step in and help Hayley and is determined enough to reach his goal that he even goes through the solo diving process. Meanwhile Hayley is solid from the start with how she jumps into battle and always tries to have a plan. They make a good team and who knows, if Taylor had gone with her initially and helped with waking up the Jaeger then they may have had time to train a bit more.

Loa is the main A.I. for the bot and I like that she has some good personality here. The series is already hinting at an origin story for her. It’s hard to say how it’s going to play out. Is it simply that she used to be the A.I. for another Jaeger and the pilots have traumatized her or is there something more to it? A lot to explore here but she definitely helps to keep you guessing. Then you have Mei who is the best character of the season. She’s the right hand woman of Shane and so starts out as an antagonist. From the start you can see that she has a lot more humanity than the other members though. She’s not just going to destroy humans without giving them a chance.

She is also the most skilled human in the series. That doesn’t mean she will stand a chance against any of the Kaiju but it’s good to have a solid human fighter on board with how many corrupt people are out there. There’s no end to the humans trying to take them down. I imagine this will only continue as the seasons go on. Mei still has some more demons to get past since she isn’t quite 100% past them but I do think she’s at a point now where she is ready to actively participate and be a part of the team. I look forward to seeing this play out.

Then you have the main villain Shane. Effectively he’s a black arms dealer who sells things for a profit and makes sure that he always has some plan at the ready. The guy suffers a lot of losses to his troops though and doesn’t make for a great general. Just look at how he sacrificed so many brains in the experiment to try and get a pilot on the Jaeger. Not the smartest move when you already don’t have a lot of men and are living in a Kaiju wasteland. By the end of the season you’re sure he will be back but the guy doesn’t have a whole lot of resources left. You feel like it’s going to have to be a big coincidence that he ever catches up with them at this point.

Then you have Boy. Now, I think everyone will know exactly how his plot is going to go the instant you see him in the tube but I won’t say just in case. He has to be the weakest character though. Most of the time Boy is just holding the characters back. He doesn’t have much common sense so he runs off all the time picking on little animals. There’s nothing heroic about this guy for most of his screen time because a more heroic soul wouldn’t be attacking all these creatures. He gets the heroes into a lot of trouble all the time. I’m hoping he improves but his core personality is one that doesn’t usually change all that much so I admit that I am having some doubts here.

Then you have the mysterious Apex, a being that seems to be part Kaiju and part Mech. In the film we saw aliens piloting mechs by sort of infusing the two so this is like a more advanced version of that. It’s got a pretty great design and has a great role. Definitely one of the more hype characters and he gets a lot of really pivotal scenes. One of the best things about this guy is that he shows some real intelligence so I can call him a true character more than most. Whether we see an army of them soon or stick to just this one, I don’t see any passing the first. This guy will come in handy soon.

As for the Kaiju, we get to see quite a few as the series goes on. The Rippers which are like little dog Kaiju. I was a bit on the cuff with these guys. They were a little close to looking like real dogs. I would say there was just enough Kaiju where they weren’t, maybe in part because the blood is blue or they just didn’t show a whole lot of animal type mannerisms and mechanics compared to others. If any of them had been taken in as a pet or something it could have changed things entirely since the viewpoint shifts but it’s hard to say for this kind of thing. They are fairly weak though and only good against humans. Then you have the Eel who goes down awful quick. The best Kaiju personally is Acidquill. The two tendrills it shoots out are very impressive and I liked the fightstyle. That’s a good way for a Kaiju to stand out among its peers and this worked out quite well for it.

The Kaiju with the biggest role here is definitely Copperhead. He follows the heroes around quite a lot and is a very determined Kaiju. He gave us some solid fight scenes and made for a good opponent. Most of these Kaiju likely won’t be returning for the second season so we’ll see who the replacements are next time. As long as their are mechs, Kaiju will continue to show. Right now the humans are definitely on the back foot since the aliens can seemingly summon an infinite number of Kaiju to keep on bumping up the ranks. No wonder the humans are always running.

All right, time for a spoiler paragraph so skip this if you haven’t seen the show. It won’t be in depth spoilers but just my quick theories on things. So for the parents, I’m thinking right now that the Dad is dead but the Mom escaped. The reason for this is based on what we saw, the Dad definitely seemed to be crushed in the ship while the Mom did run out of the hatch in time. Now, why is the father’s body not there? Well, someone took it so perhaps the Sisters will turn him into a Kaiju or something like that. There’s a lot of possibilities so it’s hard to say for sure but it’s definitely going to be a pretty interesting path to watch.

Rim: The Black definitely has quite the body count at times. Someone’s head gets blown off, a village is blown up, etc. This is definitely not a world that has worked out very well for the humans. The show can have some violent moments on occasion like this but usually they are either mostly off screen or stylized quite a bit. The show has an intense atmosphere but at the same time by and large I wouldn’t call this a violent series all that much. Again, if the dogs had been more like real dogs then we may have had some real problems but as it is the show has stayed the course.

Part of what makes The Black so much fun is really just boiled down to the premise. Giant robots vs Giant monsters and the characters keep this working well. The main suit is Atlas Destroyer and I definitely like the design of this Jaeger. I also like that it becomes more of a hybrid later on which enhances the design anymore. I expect the main characters will be fighting a little more in the second season now that they are more experienced so that will be fun to see. There’s a lot of adventure and action throughout the show so you should be on the edge of your seat. The writing is also quite solid so the show ends up being really balanced and makes for good marathon watching. I saw all 7 episodes back to back after all and it definitely didn’t drag on.

As a final note, am I the only person who thinks Hayley completely looks like Link from Breath of the Wild? I think it’s due to using a similar shading system but you would really mistake her for Link easy. I’d also say she has a strong resemblance to Samus from Metroid. I guess you could say that some similarities can be drawn from Link to Samus by extension and I would say that is true at least in Breath of the Wild. Maybe it’s just a character design that is easy to make you think of other characters but the instant the trailers came out I remember thinking that right away and that never changed during the show. It’s just a random observation but it was interesting.

Overall, Pacific Rim: The Black is a great show. I had been pretty hyped for this ever since the trailer since it looked so dynamic and the show did not disappoint. It definitely ends up finishing in the blink of an eye but it really delivered on everything the show promised. The characters are a lot of fun and the fights are dynamic. The water type effects when trading out blows or when they are used in place of the blood is an interesting one. It could have been hit or miss but it works well in this one. The show opens up a lot of plot lines to be completed at some point in the future. I’ll be looking forward to how that goes. I’m sure there will be a lot of theories on everything going on right now. Lets see if Rim keeps going strong and finally re-establishing Rim as one of the premiere mech titles.

Overall 8/10

Pacific Rim Tales From Year Zero Review

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Pacific Rim got a lot of hype when it was coming out and I had pretty high hopes for it. It had a pretty epic trailer and the very notion of Kaiju battling robots was epic. It turns out that my hopes were probably a little too high for the film since it ended up underwhelming me, but it was still a solid feature. Checking out the graphic novel was a given. I was ready for some big fights, but unfortunately…they were nowhere to be found. This comic definitely isn’t going to help you become a Pacific Rim fan.

The comic takes place before the film as we get to see a little homage of Gypsy Danger as well as some of the old robots. We see one of the main characters as a child and briefly get to see the original Kaiju attack. After that, some new cadets are brought into the Jaeger program to give the outfit some new life. To pilot one of the mecha, you need a pair of individuals who are really in sync. A moment’s hesitation or distraction can be the difference in battle. Technically, the comic takes place after these events, but we see the story through an interview that a reporter is working on with various people. She actually contributes to the problems that arise though.

Well, the comic was really just a lot of filler. That’s to be expected I suppose, but you wouldn’t really enjoy the comic if you just picked it up at a bookstore. They talk about how dangerous the Kaijus are and how the mechs are being sold, but it’s hard to really care. The Kaiju don’t seem to be an imminent threat at the moment and there’s no sense of urgency here. In the present, the humans just seem down and pretty somber. I guess they are on the losing side, but it feels like the war is already over.

One of the main reasons why the comic is not good is that it resorts to cheap fanservice scenes. Neurolinking inside of the mech apparently means that you have to meet in astral forms that really resemble your normal body. You can at least keep on some sci-fi clothes so that the whole thing is less provocative. It’s pretty unnecessary and there’s no point to this. We also get a one night stand just for kicks and so the two main characters would have something to argue about. (Although, it’s tough to call them the main characters since they barely do anything at all)

The main reporter appears to be a decent character at first, but we see her true colors through flashbacks as the comic goes on. She hints that she’s changed since then, but the comic is too short for real character development so we can’t totally buy into this. The flashback definitely didn’t help matters and she just didn’t feel like a real character. She was there to give the reader some backstory, but that’s about it.

The brothers who are asked to pilot the Jaeger aren’t much better. They’re basically your average mainstream joe. They let romance cloud their judgment immediately and they definitely believe that beauty is only skin deep. Gone are the days when we had noble main characters who would really try to be heroes without any reward. It’s hard to sympathize with them at all during their fight over the girl and you’re just waiting for them to fight a Kaiju.

There’s also a subplot with two researchers who used to be friends, but then work caused them to drift apart among other things. They’re picked to help out in the research division and more romance drama ensues. The comic definitely put too much of an emphasis on romance and that’s certainly not what you want to see in an action comic that features Kaiju and robots. The only decent character would be the general guy who saved the kid in the film. He’s still the only character who can get things done here. It’s a shame that he only gets to appear for a few brief pages.

It should also be noted that the art is pretty bad. I would compare it to a fan comic or the titles that are aimed at older audiences so they try to just this style for effect. (Never works anyway) It’s definitely under average and after reading a lot of solid titles like Mega Man and Sonic, it really stands out. I haven’t seen art that was this bad since some of the random Free Comic Book Day comics from a while back. This certainly didn’t help the comic score either and the fight scenes didn’t look bad, but they were extremely brief. You can barely call a 2-3 page skirmish a fight since it’s over before it’s even begun.

So, the comic didn’t really have any notable positives to it. The comic could have easily risen up to a 6 if they had cut out some of the romance and included an actual Kaiju fight. As it stands, the cover is very misleading. I think it may have also been more engaging if we had experienced the events instead of just finding out about them through flashbacks and stories. That’s never the best way to show what happened in the olden days. A more interesting cast definitely would have helped as well. You’ll walk out of the comic forgetting all of the names because the characters just aren’t memorable enough to be remembered.

Overall, Pacific Rim Tales From Ground Zero was pretty disappointing. There isn’t really anything very good to say about it. The concept of this universe is pretty good and it has the potential to be a pretty great franchise. I’m still looking forward to the upcoming TV show and the film sequel should be pretty good as well. This prequel just didn’t add anything to the series and we really learned nothing here. There were no real action scenes and the main characters were all pretty bad. It’s hard to root for the humans, but the Kaiju don’t get to look very good either. Add in the fanservice and the romance and you have a losing formula. I was pretty close to giving this one a 5. It was neck and neck with the 4 star rating, but sometimes the score becomes clearer as you’re writing the review. This was one of those times and I ended up giving it a 4 since I would not recommend this one. Read a Transformers comic if you want some good mecha action with a superior plot. Tales from Ground Zero could not live up to its cover and I hope that future comics will be better.

Overall 4/10