WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Pacific Rim: The Black, now streaming on Netflix.
It's been quite the spectacle seeing the Jaegers fighting giant kaiju in the Pacific Rim franchise. The films have been a little reminiscent of the robots from Michael Bay's Transformers going up against the monsters and machines Godzilla fought in the old Toho days, producing a unique experience overall -- especially for 3-D and IMAX audiences.
However, with Netflix's Pacific Rim: The Black evolving the series in another format, it has become pretty clear that anime is the best medium for the property.
In the Pacific Rim films, these 'bots can only do so much. Their mechanics and movement always feel a bit blocky because ultimately, the Jaegers were never be designed to be that fast, adaptive or fluid as the likes of animated Super Robots like Voltron. These limitations were also evident in the most recent Power Rangers movie, as well as the even more recent Godzilla vs. Kong's Mechagodzilla. This style of CGI grounds them a bit but it can only do so much to lend credibility to a story that already requires viewers to suspend disbelief -- but also, to make it so that the villains stand a chance. After all, giant robots being able to jump all over the place and move at the speed of light may well be unbeatable.
But in the anime medium, there's a lot more that can be done to make up for this, which plays up the grandeur, giving Jaegers a lot more impact and intimidation. In The Black, for example, Jaegers such as the Pan Pacific Defense Corps' Atlas Destroyer is a bit more formidable in battle. It's a training bot without guns or missiles, yet its movement feels more like that of a video game. And even the Jaegers that do have weapons cut even more awesome figures, allowing the series to dream big.
As such, when siblings Taylor and Hayley deliver a slobberknocker against the monsters they meet, the anime format allows the franchise's evolution to get even more bombastic. The Boy is another good example of this -- a human-kaiju hybrid whose transformation into a monster feels a lot more epic, as do the kaiju-Jaeger hybrids we saw in Uprising. That film didn't do them justice but The Black allows one of the latter to cut loose when it comes to the aid of the telepathic Boy.
The anime realm also allows the kaiju to be even bigger and badder to match, creating giants that feel more rabid and wild, a la Resident Evil and Monster Hunter -- a much larger, more ambitious scope, and something cheaper than live-action. The fact we're seeing kaiju-whisperers and dog-kaiju -- and that Pacific Rim someday wants to send humans into the Breach (i.e. the Precursors' world) to annihilate the aliens -- also means the bar's being raised in terms of the war to come. Continuing to tell that story using anime will be more cost-efficient but not less expansive. We could get season after season of badass stories, or many more spinoffs with all sorts of new weapons and villains, opening up a larger, sprawling, connected universe.
Co-created by Craig Kyle and Greg Johnson and produced by Legendary Television and Polygon Pictures, Pacific Rim: The Black Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.