“Pacific Rim: The Black” is Netflix’s attempt to create an anime that continues the story of Guillermo del Toro’s immensely popular science-fiction movie “Pacific Rim.” If you’re an anime or “Pacific Rim” fan (or both, like me), this show seems like an excellent idea. However, “The Black” is neither a good anime nor a good show. It falls victim to lazy writing, abysmal visual storytelling and ultimately does nothing meaningful to flesh out the world of the 2013 masterpiece it’s based on.
The premise of the original “Pacific Rim” is simple enough: Imagine a world where giant monsters rise from the depths of the Pacific Ocean to threaten major cities across the globe. The nations of the world band together to develop giant robots, called Jaegers, to battle with these monsters, called Kaiju. “The Black” follows where the original movie left off, in a world where the Kaiju have all but wiped out humanity, and the last remaining humans are left to fend for themselves under constant threat of attack.
But longtime fans of both anime and the “Pacific Rim” universe are left scratching their heads at this latest edition of the show. “The Black” shares no resemblance to a traditional anime in any regard. The animation style is choppy and lacks any texture or depth. The character designs are intensely boring; there’s hardly any difference between each character’s looks besides hairstyle and eye color. Unlike a traditional anime, no attempt is made to create a visual story. Each shot in the show is the same, with no creativity or life. It is a stark deviation from the experimental and fantastical visuals the anime medium is characterized by.
As a show set in the same world, “The Black” does absolutely nothing to expand on the universe of “Pacific Rim.” For example, the actual Jaeger and Kaiju designs lack any inspiration. In the original movie, Kaiju designs were based on actual dinosaurs, while a Jaeger’s looks depended on how old they were or what country created them. In “The Black,” each Kaiju and each Jaeger are basically indistinguishable — a far cry from the energy spent on their original design. The only instance of genuine world-building was the introduction of the villain Shane (Andy McPhee, “Living Space”), a megalomaniacal warlord who rules part of the ruins of Australia. While introducing a non-Kaiju villain is a step in the right direction, this turns out to be the exception that proves the rule.
This leaves “Pacific Rim: The Black” in a precarious place. The show is a strange and tragic imitation of better works. It is heartbreaking to see yet another foolhardy attempt at reinvigorating the legendary del Toro movie fall flat on its face, and even more disappointing to see an attempt to introduce Netflix audiences to anime completely miss the mark. If you are also a fan of giant robots fighting giant monsters and love the anime medium, my advice for you is to go watch an actual Japanese anime and the original “Pacific Rim.”
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.