Early in the film, Yancy and Raleigh stride out into deep water to try to save a fishing boat out at the wrong time. Stacker tries to stop them, but when they ignore him he switches to "Grab the boat and get out of there!" Before the kaiju rises up the second time they put the boat down. In-movie it's a bit of What Happened to the Mouse?, but in the special features on the DVD, del Toro can be heard giving directions to the VFX team, saying they need the boat to chug away, that no matter what happens they'll be okay.
Raleigh and Choi's "long time no see" big hug.
Herc Hansen trying to make amends with his son Chuck before the final mission.
Herc: I'm sorry for not saying what I should have. Chuck: It's okay, Dad. I know.
Their relationship is quite heartwarming on many levels. In the novelization, Herc had the Sadistic Choice of choosing to save his son over his wife, something that they both resent the other for. And yet, they were Drift-compatible and were an amazing team together.
Chuck mainly uses derisive variations of "Old Man/Dad", much to Herc's annoyance. But before Chuck performs a Heroic Sacrifice, he calls Herc "father".
Literally any scene between Chuck and his beloved English bulldog, Max. Despite all of Chuck's thorns and spikes, it's obvious that he utterly adores the wrinkly pooch, pampering and doting upon Max in a way that he can't bring himself to do with other humans or even his own father. And Max returns it all in spades.
Gottlieb choosing to Drift with Newt.
Even better, he isn't asked, he just up and types in some information and throws on the spare apparatus.
On that note, Gottlieb's reaction to finding Newt after the latter Drifted with the Kaiju. The two have shown nothing but disrespect for each other and disdain for each other's work, but Gottlieb gets him up, into a chair, and pours him a drink when Newt is clearly vulnerable. It's sweet, considering how they've acted towards each other, and really just hammers in the overall theme of basic human decency and coming together, even in the face of old rivalries.
Still better is that in the Man Machines and Monsters book there is a deleted frame showing that Newt seems to be in great emotional agony after Gottlieb wakes him up and Gottlieb is confused but still trying to comfort him.
The fact that despite their early bickering and snide remarks, Newt and Hermann are Drift-compatible.
They are a pair of dedicated but arrogant intellectuals with a chip on their shoulders about the superiority of their field. Of course they are.
Potential Fridge bonus: Drift-compatibility is found through fighting. Newt and Hermann fight all the time... verbally, but they still fight with words. It's as much a sparring match as Mako and Raleigh's, and they're clearly equals in that regard.
This is slightly Fridge, but the two were fighting and bickering and acted as if only one could have been right. But they were both right.
Mako's backstory. An orphaned little girl who was at the mercy of the monster that took everything away from her. All she could do was run and hide as the thing hunted her down. Then, suddenly something appears from the sky carried by helicopters, the monster leaves her to take on whatever has arrived. From Mako's point of view she can only hear the ensuing battle, then when everything goes silent she walks out from the alleyway. Tokyo is in ruins, Mako sees the monster dead, and the Coyote Tango is standing triumphant in front of the sun. Pentecost climbs out and the two stare at one another, and Mako, despite the tragedy around her, smiles.
Bonus points for Japan also being called the Land of the Rising Sun.
Mako's relationship with her surrogate father.
Raleigh: You don't have to obey him!
Mako: It's not obedience, Mr. Becket. It's respect.
This is a more subtle heartwarming moment, but it's clear that after Pentecost adopted Mako, he learned Japanese as Mako learned English. Stacker, the man who eventually becomes the commander of the entire Pan Pacific Defence Corps and in charge of the defence of all of humanity, still found time to learn Japanese, a difficult language to learn, just for Mako. Even though it would have been so much easier, given how children minds work, for Mako to just learn English. This is a subtle demonstration of his love for his adopted daughter.
Even moreso for averting The Big Damn Kiss. It just made it all that much sweeter. After all, they have shared minds, what else is there to say.
Chuck and Stacker sacrificing themselves to give Mako, Raleigh, and Gipsy a chance. And so Mako knows her father will be there if she needs him:
Stacker: Mako! You can finish this! I'll always be there for you! You can always find me in the Drift!
From the prequel comic: Tamsin Sevier, co-pilot to Coyote Tango, has been undergoing chemotheropy with much of her hair gone. Pentecost visits her and introduces young Mako who bows.
Mako: You saved my life.
Tamsin: *Moved to tears of joy*
Gipsy Danger totally destroying Leatherback while checking for a pulse just looks like Becket working out some of his It's Personal issues over his brother's death, yes. The kicker? It was Mako's half of the robot that did the shooting with the inherent implication that now It's Personal for her too because of their shared Drifting.
In its own way, the reaction of Cherno Alpha's crew to the destruction of Crimson Typhoon and the death of its crew. It's half Oh, Crap!, half Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and it shows just how close the last surviving Jaeger teams are. Too bad Leatherback had other ideas.
Cherno Alpha's crew itself are this trope. They are very definitely husky Russkies, but are one of the few Jeager teams that aren't related; they're married. Seeing as how most pilots are closely connected by blood (siblings, cousins, parents, and children), it just goes to show how deep their relationship must be.
Mako Mori adding swords to Gipsy Danger isn't just Rule of Cool or for having a melee weapon. In the Novelization, her family were sword-makers. Thus, in her own way, she continued the family tradition. Even better is that her distant family members did not believe in a woman carrying on the duty; and Becket asks, "Who believed the Moris would stop making swords?", filling Mori with pride.
Chuck's little nod to Raleigh after Gipsy Danger had saved him and his father's lives. And also shouting encouragement to Gipsy Danger when facing off against Leatherback.
Chuck: C'mon, Gipsy! Kick his arse!
Also, Chuck panicking and worrying after Herc had hurt his shoulder. Just the way he rushed towards his dad and even tried to assist with Herc climbing out of Striker to confront Leatherback.
From the tie-in comic Tales from Year Zero, the reason Stacker's sister Luna says when she volunteered to fight Trespasser "Because seventy years ago my hometown was getting bombed by Nazis and a handful of mad Yanks had the bollocks to come fly with us. It's time to return the favor." I'm not an American and I'm moved by that statement.
Fridge Heartwarming: "Not now, Mr. Gottlieb. I'm sure you can appreciate how important this moment is to me." Not much by itself, but then we learn that Stacker saved Mako's life, adopted her, and raised her as his own - and he's finally fulfilling his promise to let her join the fight against the Kaiju as a pilot in her own right.
A during-filming example — on the Crowning Moment of Awesome page, it's mentioned that Rinko Kikuchi was the only one who didn't come out of the gimbal-rigged Jaeger conn-pod set "torture machine" exhausted. When was asked how she managed to endure 12-hour filming days, she responded
Rinko: Sometimes I'd lose my concentration, but then Guillermo would sing the theme of Totoro. In Japanese.
A meta one as the credit scroll comes to the end: "Dedicated to the memory of monster masters Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda." Ray Harryhausen was a master of the stop-motion animation special effects technique and made many monsters, including the monsters from the original Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts, as well as the dinosaurs from the 1966 version of One Million Years B.C. Ishiro Honda is generally recognized as the creator of Godzilla.
Meta example: On Tumblr, several folks got together to hold a "JaegerCon 2013" on the weekend of August 9-11, since August 10th, 2013 is the date of landfall for Trespasser, the first Kaiju ever to attack. This consisted of not only arranging meetups in various cities world-wide for fans of the film to hang out and watch it again (for American fans right before it leaves theaters), but various giveaways, gift swaps, cosplay, and other fan-coordinated activities. The crowner of all this? Interviews with the cast and crew members of the film, up to and including Guillermo Del Toro himself, with Guillermo sending one of the people in charge of starting the whole thing the following e-mail:
I welcome you to this, our first Jaegercon in Tumblr with a message of great love. Love for all things giant and ungainly and out of place in this world. Love for Kaiju and love for dented, rusty Jaegers that guard the coasts and cities like vanquished mecha knights. Love for human imperfection in the hearts of the pilots that need to trust the neural link and love for everyone that showed up in a theatre to see Pacific Rim on the big screen — specially in glorious 3-D. I urge you all to celebrate one more time by seeing it in those conditions before it moves on to the confines of your TV, no matter how big it is. To experience it with family and friends one more time in a theatre in 3-D or in Atmos or in Imax. Regardless of your choice — I thank you for loving this movie as much as I do and as much as we all did in making it. Thank You for your time and dedication. By Guillermo del Toro. Toronto, Kaiju day 1, 2013
Travis Beacham is involved with the fandom online. When he'd accumulated enough tumblr followers he wrote this about the pilots of Nova Hyperion.
The first Kaiju Yuna has ever seen in her life is rising up from the water ahead like a mountain, and she's running towards it, if you can believe that, running towards it and the almost empty arena in its path — to save a girl who twenty minutes ago she would've sworn to you she hated. Sometimes the best part of you just kinda wakes up like that.
Charlie Hunnan (Raleigh) stated in an interview that, while they had filmed the scene, it was decided that The Big Damn Kiss at the end should be cut, and go with the Head Butt Of Love instead. Charlie thought that it was much more appropriate, as he felt that it kept Mako's character as a strong female lead in her own right rather than turning into just another Damsel in Distress.
Listening to Guillermo del Toro's commentary on the DVD/Blu-Ray. Every sentence uttered just gushes with his love for giant monsters, giant mechs, and all the people he worked with who made this movie possible.
And in return, just how many of the people who work with del Toro gush in return about him, his enthusiasm for the project, his artistic vision, and the way he treats his cast and crew. From actors to visual effects people, it makes it very clear just how much they admire and respect him.
Japanese child actress Mana, the girl who played young Mako, was embarrassed that she couldn't pronounce Guillermo del Toro's name so he gave her special permission to call him "Totoro-san" instead.