Pacific Rim: The Black Is Solid Gold

I emerge from my blogging hiatus because I have something nerdly I need to gush about, and I just can’t keep it in.

A promotional image for Netflix's Pacific Rim: The Black.Pacific Rim is a franchise I want to like more than I do. The fantasy of giant robots punching alien kaiju appeals intensely to my inner six year old boy, but the films somehow never managed to be as fun as that premise should be. They’re decent time-wasters, but largely forgettable.

I’m also not a big anime guy, so when I saw Netflix had produced a Pacific Rim anime, my reaction wasn’t exactly feverish excitement. But there really isn’t a lot to watch right now (I’ve been watching Resident Evil let’s plays on YouTube for lack of anything more interesting), so I figured I’d give it a shot.

The first episode of Pacific Rim: The Black is a bit shakey, but it showed enough potential for me to try another episode. It was then that the show really took off, and my low expectations were completely shattered. This show turned out to be incredibly good.

The Black takes place in the ruins of Australia after the events of both films (though prior knowledge of the films isn’t really required). The continent has been abandoned and left to the kaiju, but pockets of survivors remain.

Among these survivors are teenagers Taylor and Hailey, children of jaeger pilots who left to find help but never returned. Early on, they discover an abandoned jaeger, and… y’know, shenanigans ensue.

The jaeger Atlas Destroyer in Pacific Rim: The Black.In a lot of ways, the arc of the show follows what you’d expect, but there’s enough surprises and twists to keep things interesting, and it’s in the execution of the show’s concepts more so than the concepts themselves where The Black really shines.

Going in, I saw that all the main characters were kids and assumed this was going to be a very sugar-coated, family friendly series.

It is not. The Black is a very intense, dark, and often brutal story that does not pull its punches.

But what really makes it special is that The Black doesn’t fall into the trap so much grimdark media does these days. It’s not all horrible, all the time. It’s not a show where every character is an unlikable monster. The challenges faced by the characters may be harrowing, but the characters themselves are good people who are worth cheering for.

The Black hits the exact tone I want in fiction. It’s dark, but it’s not cynical.

Not much else I can say without spoilers, but I will mention that I love how this show handles issues of abuse and PTSD. There’s some fantastic character work in this series.

My one major frustration with The Black is it’s yet another example of TV seasons becoming ever shorter. Seriously, seven twenty-minute episodes isn’t a TV season; it’s a movie with a bunch of credit sequences jammed into the middle.

Taylor, Hailey, and Boy in Pacific Rim: The Black.I will say, though, that as much as I’m hungry for more of this show, its quality doesn’t really suffer from the shortness of the season, unlike most shows these days. They somehow managed to cram an incredible amount of plot, action, and character development into very little time without it feeling rushed.

I’m just glad season two is on the way. I’m struggling to even remember the last time a new show impressed me this much.

I haven’t been doing numbered reviews as much lately, but this is definitely 9/10 territory. There are a few weird choices here or there, and the short season is disappointing, but there’s so much to love that faults like that are easily overlooked.

Blog Revamp + Valory Goodwin’s Book of Heart Now on DM’s Guild

Good news, everyone: I’ve done a minor revamp of Superior Realities interface to make things a bit more relevant to my current endeavours. Most notably, there is now a “My RPGs” page to go with the My Writing page, showcasing my published tabletop game projects.

It’s a little spartan right now, but I can tell you there will be more there before too long.

On that note, I can also announce another newly released Fifth Edition product I’ve contributed to. Valory Goodwin’s Book of Heart is now available on Dungeon Master’s Guild!

Cover art for Valory Goodwin's Book of Heart, a collection of positive player options for Fifth Edition.The Book of Heart is a collection of player options focused on positivity, love, heroism, and all things good. It includes role-play guides, feats, magic items, and at least one new subclass for every official Fifth Edition class.

We made an effort to present a diverse interpretation of “good” to fit any taste. The subclasses range from the light-hearted and fun, like the Toymaker artificer, to grittier interpretations of heroism, like the Path of the Revolutionary for barbarians. Whether you want warmth and cuddles or a more pragmatic take on do-gooding, the Book of Heart has options for you.

For my part, I contributed at least a little bit to every area of the book, but the lion’s share of my work was in the realm of subclasses, where I submitted four:

  • College of Recovery: Heal the emotional traumas of your companions with this bard college inspired by dialectical behaviour therapy and other real world therapeutic practices. I even consulted with my counselor to ensure I was representing therapy accurately.
  • Circle of the Forgotten: Unleash the hidden potential of nature’s most humble creatures and become one with the swarm with my most experimental 5E subclass to date.
  • The Honored Fallen: Seek eternal glory through deeds of valor and self-sacrifice with this warlock patron inspired by Norse mythology.
  • Oath of Truth: Uncover universal truth and cut through the lies of evil with this rational, scientifically minded paladin oath.

10% of all profits from the Book of Heart go to Doctors Without Borders, so you can feel like a hero outside the game, too.