In this review, I will be going into spoilers. If you don't want spoilers then I recommend you go watch the show first and then come back afterwards.
When Legendary first announced they were making an anime series with Polygon Studios my expectations were already low. I was expecting the show to not be very good based on my dislike towards Pacific Rim: Uprising and towards the Godzilla: Monster Planet anime trilogy movies. I do not like the use of CGI to mimic the style of anime because I thought it looked cheap and not as fluid when in motion.
After watching the first couple of episodes of Pacific Rim: The Black, I was hooked. The CGI and the animation vastly improved over the Monster Planet trilogy. There were times where the animation looked a little choppy here and there, but it amazes me just how much better the animation looks and with more color. It's not all covered with dull colors like blues and greys. Don't get me wrong, I still don't prefer using only CGI to make anime, but because the animation and story are really good the CGI doesn't bother me at all.
The story of the two siblings, Taylor and Hayley, trying to survive in the kaiju occupied wastelands of Australia and looking for their parents really had me wanting to see more of the show. What "The Black" stands for is basically a black out. The whole continent was let go after waves of monsters were appearing in Australia and the Pan Pacific Defense Force only took the essential Jaegers with them while leaving everything else behind. In the meantime, these siblings have been waiting five years for their parents to come back and pick them up.
In the first episode, Taylor is sort of in denial that his parents could very well be dead. He feels very strongly and passionate that they are still alive out there trying to get back to them. However, in the back of his mind Taylor knows that his parents could be not be alive anymore and is having a hard time facing those feelings of grief. Meanwhile, Taylor's little sister, Hayley, is more of a realist. She has come to terms with the possibility of their parents were killed by the kaiju were very high. So Taylor and Hayley get into an argument about it upsetting both of them and you can really feel the distress from having to live on their own. These kids had to learn how to grow up very quickly and you can tell that the bond between the two are inseparable. Most of the time, they won't leave one without the other. That is just how strong a bond these two siblings have.
The way the two travel around is by a training Jaeger called Alpha Destroyer that Hayley discovered by accident. Since it is only a training Jaeger, the robot is not equipped with weapons to fight monsters. So whenever the pair has come across a monster, they are forced to fight in hand to hand combat. There is also an A.I. programmed in the robot called Loa, which helps guide the siblings on their journey.
On their journey as the episodes progressed, they come across other characters such as a small kid that they name Boy, who the siblings find in a test tube. It gives the idea that this boy has been experimented on and the show gives it away that something is off about the kid. He is incapable of being hurt by any weapons, bites, or stings and acts sort of like an animal at times and the characters just brush it off as the kid being lucky.
Then, there is Mei, a girl that looks a couple years older than Taylor. She learns that her past is very cloudy and her memories may not be her own due to the influence of Shane, the bad guy of the show. You can see that she is struggling to make sense of everything around her and has a bad attitude whenever she is approached.
Finally, there is Shane, who is a ruthless mercenary and the bad guy of the show. He is on a conquest to take over as the ruler of Australia and he needs a Jaeger to do so. He is so calculating and cold that it makes you want to hate the guy and I love it. We don't get a whole lot of bad guy characters that are like that. In most stories these days, stories would make you empathize with the bad guy. They need a "greater good" reason for doing bad things. Not with Shane, he is not after the greater good and the show makes that clear. His goal is to be the strongest and ruthless ruler of The Black and he makes it clear that he will kill anyone that stands in his way of his goal.
I even enjoyed how the show goes into a little more detail about the drift and what happens if a person does it so many times. For instance, there is one scientist character that Shane forced into drifting so many times with so many people he can't remember anymore what every part of a Jaeger is called nor how they're placed, but picked up new skills he never had before like juggling. It also puts a strain on the pilot's body after drifting so many times. Taylor collapse a couple of times in a couple of episodes and especially after learning how to pilot a Jaeger without a second pilot. Loa even tries to warn Taylor and Hayley of the damage it could cause to the body if they are not in the best conditions and why piloting a Jaeger alone is dangerous.
There are many monsters that appear in the show and too few are fights between the monsters and a Jaeger, which makes a lot of sense since the pilots are inexperienced with combat and they have no weapons to fight a monster with. The main monster that appears is called Copperhead and it follows the main characters everywhere it hears the sirens from Alpha Destroyer blaring loudly and attacks them with every chance it got.
Then, there is the kaiju/Jaeger hybrid called Apex. We saw these hybrids in Pacific Rim: Uprising, but we learn that one of them survived, mutated, and has no alliance with anyone. It even has a connection to Boy and only shows hostility towards anyone or anything threatening Boy.
What I found interesting the most is that Boy turns into a kaiju himself, which is probably why Apex doesn't show hostility to him. In Boy's kaiju form, he looks a lot like a gremlin from the movie, Gremlins, and he just goes berserk on Copperhead. Boy does prove to be pretty weak in a fight, but I love the idea of a kaiju fighting another kaiju just to protect their care takers. I have always wanted to see a kaiju in this series to not mind controlled by the aliens and act on their own volition as well as see one of them help the good guys. So I am very happy that this series is taking the kaiju in that direction.