I like animation a lot. I like the idea of adult animation even more. I think there’s a lot of potential to tell a mature story with the medium and honestly, western made adult animation has had a great track record over the past few years, especially on Netflix. That’s why I was interested in Love, Death & Robots when it got announced however after it was released my excitement turned into caution. I saw several scathing reviews from several people that I respected but I also saw just as many remarks that gave it glowing praise. All of these conflicting opinions put a bit of a bad taste in my mouth but I still decided to go into the show with an open and unbiased mind. How did it go?
I couldn’t stand this series at first. I thought that the first half of Love, Death & Robots was tasteless, annoying, uncomfortable, and disgusting (for the most part). Then the second half rolled around and I thought it was brilliant, beautiful, and engrossing (again, for the most part). Very few shows have left me with this conflicting of an opinion after a viewing. The uniform complement that I can give the series overall is that every short is expertly animated and visually impressive, especially the computer animated shorts. The thing is though….reviewing the series as a whole is kind of difficult since so many of the shorts are wildly different from each other, so I want to try something a little different for this write up. Instead of just giving a blanket review for the show, I want to review each individual short on its own and give my thoughts on them. This may be a tad long but I think it’s the best way to do each of them justice.
1. Sonnie’s Edge
It’s probably not a good sign that the first short in this anthology is one of my least favorites. Sonnie’s Edge is about a woman named Sonnie who’s apart of an underground monster fighting ring and is offered by a rich businessman to throw the fight. After she wins the businessman and his associate try to kill her but everything ends up backfiring. While not the worst short on this list (Wait for two slots), I would call it uncomfortable. The short uses a lot of sexual imagery, one being a reference to rape and the other being used just to show lesbian intimacy. While I can kind of sort of understand the former, being used during the monster fight and to show that she knows how to fight back, I would still call it unpleasant. The latter though is just there just to show two women being sexual towards just as an excuse to show women groping each other and it comes off as a bit skeevy to me. I will say that I did like the twist at the end about her using her fear as the weapon and of course, the animation is absolutely superb (As is the entire series) but I just couldn’t get behind it due to all the sexual overtones.
2. Three Robots
Three Robots tells the story of a trio of automatons (I’m not saying the title again) exploring a post-apocalyptic Earth where all of civilization has been destroyed. It’s….fine I guess. The characters all bounce off each other very well and the humor is quick and snappy but a lot of the jokes range from either “Nihilism is funny” or “The funny robot said the Fuck word”. It’s not really my thing but overall it’s pretty good, I can see this short being a lot of peoples favorites. I liked the little orange dude that was played by Josh Brener.
3. The Witness
So much beautiful animation wasted on sleaze, god.
This short is about a woman who witnesses a murder in a hotel room across from her building and she has to try and get away from the killer. Let me start off by saying that I thought the twist at the end of this short was really fun and again, the animation in this short is absolutely stellar. It looked like they were using rotoscoped 3D and it looked fantastic. Everything else though? Schlock. The Witness uses WAAAAY too much nudity and sexual imagery and unlike Sonnie’s Edge, which was uncomfortable but did have a purpose, is only here just to show naked women just for the sake of it. By far one of my least favorite shorts in this anthology. Get your horniness out of my face.
Suits tells the story of a group of mech wielding farmers that have to fight bug-like aliens and protect their family and friends from getting hurt. It’s mindless, fast paced, and unbelievably fun. In terms of pure entertainments, Suits is my favorite Short in the entire collection. The short has an extremely appealing art style to it and enough fast and frantic action to fill a movie and I thought that it told a great, albeit simple story that really got you to care about the characters that were in it. It may be a bit mindless, but it was the first episode in LD&R that actually had me engaged and kept me watching.
5. Sucker of Souls
SPEAKING OF MINDLESS
Sucker of Souls is about a scientist and a group of mercenaries trying to find Dracula. It’s an 80’s hyper macho action film that has an overly jokey tone. I loved it but there really isn’t much to say about it. If you like really dumb action, this is for you.
You also get to see a vampire demon get shot in the crotch so there’s that too.
6. When the Yogurt Took Over
This is just an episode of Futurama. It’s fine I guess.
7. Beyond the Aquila Rift
GOD computer animation has come a long way, huh? This tells the story of a ship crew getting thrown off course while being in stasis. When they wake up, they meet a familiar face but everything is not as it seems. Beyond the Aquila Rift is really boring and tries to throw way too many twists at you. There’s seriously a point in the story where they reveal one revelation and then IMMEDIATELY jump to another one. I do think the final twist at the end is an absolute visual marvel and was genuinely awesome, but overall it’s whatever.
8. Good Hunting
Good Hunting was actually a pleasant surprise and was probably the turning point in the series for me because it’s at this point where I really started to fully see the appeal of LD&R. It starts out in early 20th century China with a monster hunting father and son searching for a creature called a Huli Jing. After a bit, the son meets the daughter of the monster they were hunting and starts to learn that the monsters aren’t what they seem and they both form a close friendship. After that, it fast forwards a few years later and the setting moves into a more industrialized world, even going into steampunk territory which is absolutely beautiful. All of the machinery in this short looks stunning and they all have such a great amount of detail, as does the rest of the animation. This short definitely has a lot more exposition and world building than most of the shorts in this anthology and does still have some sexual imagery that I can see people being uncomfortable with, but I actually think it’s handled better here than in something like Sonnie’s Edge or The Witness. It feels a lot less exploitative and it doesn’t use the nudity just for nudities sake. Overall I think this short told one of the better stories in the anthology.
9. The Dump
The Dump is about a redneck not wanting to leave junkyard. It’s funny, it’s well written, and it’s well animated. It’s a bit gross too but considering the subject matter and the types of cartoony characters that are in it, I think that it’s fine. The story is mainly told through a flashback scene and it’s pretty decent with a fun little ending. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s worth a watch at least.
Werewolves in the desert. Soldier werewolves in the desert. Werewolves that fight together, stay together in the desert. Humans are antagonistic and unfriendly to those that they don’t understand in the desert. The army sucks in the desert. Honestly this short didn’t really do anything for me. No strong feelings one way or the other.
11. Helping Hand
Helping Hand is definitely one of the more somber and quaint shorts in LD&R, but I think it’s one of the more tense experiences on offer here. It’s about a space engineer working on a satellite when she gets struck by debris which causes her to start floating away from her ship leaving her with only 15 minutes of oxygen. She starts to realize that she has a way to save herself but it requires her to make a pretty gruesome sacrifice. Now while I don’t really think the short follows the themes of LD&R that well I still thought it was a fairly gripping tale of survival.
12. Fish Night
Let me go ahead and say this. This is my second favorite short in the series. There’s no contest. Fish Night is absolutely stunning in its art direction, camera work, color usage, animation, everything. It’s about two traveling salesmen that get stuck in the desert and see the spirits of Earth’s prehistoric past. Every single frame in this short is a work of art and is nothing short of brilliant. I loved how the theme of love was used by having the younger salesman become obsessed with what he’s seeing and deciding to become a part of the spirits world. This is the short that made me finally see the brilliance and potential of LD&R.
13. Lucky 13
Going right off of the comes one of the best shorts in the entire anthology. Lucky 13 tells the story of a rookie pilot tasked with taking an older ship with the contemptuous nickname “Lucky 13”, a ship with a reputation for surviving battles with no living soldiers. Things change after she and her crew survive an ambush and every subsequent mission after that, both she and the ship become beloved and even form somewhat of a bond. Despite having a sub 20 minute run time, Lucky 13 tells a completing story about the relationship between human and machine and it all culminates with a surprisingly heartfelt ending that actually did hit me a bit. I can not say enough good things about this short, it really is that good, only rivaled by…..
14. Zima Blue
DING DING DING ANOTHER WINNER
Zima Blue is about a reporter going to visit a reclusive artist to report on his life and That Is All I’m Going To Say. The plot of this short is almost impossible to talk about without spoiling it so you know what? I’m just not going to type anything.
Fuck my review.
Watch Zima Blue oh my god it’s so good, dude.
Okay, let’s calm down a bit, we’re back to the dumb action. Blindspot is about a group of cyborg bandits trying to stop a train and recover an item from it. There’s a lot of high octane action and some fun animation and it has a bitter sweet ending, much like Suits and Sucker of Souls, so there isn’t too much to talk about but it’s another fun short in this collection especially if you enjoy stuff like Mad Max.
16. Ice Age
…Wait Topher Grace is in this?
This one is probably the most unique short out of the collection. Ice Age is about a couple who move into a new apartment and find an old refrigerator left behind by the landlord. After opening it up they discover an entire civilization inside of it, and they proceed to watch as that world evolves. At first I wasn’t feeling the idea of it as I thought the couple were going to develop a god complex and try to interfere with the civilization (which the short itself eventually pokes fun at) but as soon as I saw that it wasn’t taking itself too seriously I started to fall in love with it. Ice Age isn’t the most thematically strong or artistically driven short in LD&R, but it’s among the most entertaining and one of my personal favorites.
17. Alternate Histories
Hitler dies and that’s the joke.
18. Secret War
Secret War is the final short in this collection and it’s…it’s okay. It’s okay! The short is about a bunch of soldiers in the wilderness hunting horrible hell demons that a crazy weirdo summoned with a ritual. It’s basically the plot of Doom but in a snowy forest. Not a lot happens in Secret War but it does have some great voice acting and visuals (Again….like EVERY other short) so it’s fine enough. I’ve never been into the “Russian winter” aesthetic that I know a lot of people are into, but I can see the appeal of this short at least.
And that’s it! That is Love Death & Robots. Overall I think the series is artistically varied and beautifully directed but it’s also wildly inconsistent. I think too many of the shorts focused too many on throwing in shocking imagery and nudity and a lot of it really is unpleasant to watch and honestly many of the shorts don’t necessarily follow the themes of “Love”, “Death” and “Robots” but there ARE moments of brilliance that shine every now and then. Out of all the shorts, I’d more or less recommend all of them outside of “Sonnie’s Edge” and “The Witness” and maybe some of the shorter comedy ones if those aren’t your thing. Lucky 13, Zima Blue, Fish Night and Good Hunting all come highly recommended though.
I am never doing individual reviews for episodes again oh my GOD.