Animations can often be misjudged as a medium for just kids these days and though most of us grew up with crude yet revolutionary shows like Beast Wars and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, it’s hard knowing that there isn’t exactly a platform for new age inspiring animators to showcase their ideas and talents for the next generation. Our teenage years had MTV to thank in the 90s for shows like Aeon Flux and later Spy Groove in the early millennium but with TV and movies now focused on mainstream entertainment, where does all the niche for creative animation go?
Hello Love, Death & Robots!
This new anthology is Netflix’s latest venture into its promising run of great hits, similar to Black Mirror but now in the direction of adult animation. Each episode stretches from five to 10 minutes, showcasing one shot story through a distinct animation style that varies from one another.
Tim Miller, better known for his directorial debut for the Deadpool movie, is the creator of the series along with the help of David Fincher and Joshua Donen as producers. Love, Death & Robots is a reimagining of the 1981 animated anthology, Heavy Metal, which had similar adult themes but traditional had the same animation style. Miller and Fincher were in long development in the reboot of the series before eventually settling on Love, Death & Robots’ new approach.
The last time we were treated to such a spectacle was 2003’s The Animatrix, a collection of professionally animated one shots that chronicled the side stories of The Matrix franchise. I watched that DVD religiously after school in sheer amazement of how intricate the animations were on top of the stylized approach to every episode. I thought to myself, “One day, I would want to make an animation like this.”
Sadly, I’m stuck here writing this article you’re reading instead.
Love, Death & Robots celebrates a common theme which is pretty obvious from the title. What it also shares is a sense of dystopia with every episode, suspending you in disbelief of how such innovations and atrocities could actually be possible.
The first episode in the series, Sonnie’s Edge, is probably the best way to get the ball rolling. We’re introduced to this neon cyberpunk world where an illegal beast brawl is about to take place. What’s so cool about that? Think Pacific Rim meets Pokemon meets Blade Runner and that’s what you get. The central protagonist, Sonnie, bridges her mind to battle her beast against another in a realistic simulated death match. For an animation, it gets pretty surreal with the textures of humans marked with neon tattoos and cybernetics but once the action begins, it’s like watching a cutscene from a video game.
It really reminded me of the first time I watched Final Fantasy – The Spirits Within, which was considered the peak of realistic animation at the time, back in 2001 and was really wowed by how far we’ve come with CGI for the entertainment industry.
Things start getting pretty real once the vulgarity hits you in the face and some more explicit scenes happen between characters so be warned, this isn’t something you can watch with a younger audience. It goes to show we well curated each episode can be from its sound engineering to its diversity in voice acting that really sets you in the moment.
But not all the episodes are dark and Black Mirror-esqe. The ‘Three Robots’ episode combines satire with the child-like innocence of robots who explore the human world in its dystopian state. Though the animation isn’t as stunning as the opening one prior, it is entertaining nonetheless and keeps to the theme of the show.
The season packs a total of 18 episodes and though not all of them would keep enticed as the last one, there are certainly some gems in there that you wish would last longer than its short run. There are some about war, alien/monster invasion, robots, alternate realities, survival and even about intellectual yogurt. I personally loved Sonnie’s Edge, The Witness, When the Yogurt Took Over, Good Hunting, Fish Night, Zima Blue Blindspot, and The Secret War – all varying in story and style but tantalizingly entertaining throughout.
Ultimately, Love, Death & Robots is about storytelling taken to the next level – a perfect marriage of dynamic spectacles with the immersion of a captivating story.
Love, Death & Robots is just another great installation to Netflix’s grand array of movies and shows that often appeal to the niches but ends up being a great hit among the masses. If you’re a fan of indie works, stylised animation with the adult humour that brings you back to the good ol’ MTV days then this is a show you would not want to miss.
Love, Death & Robots – 8/10
P.S: Have a look at Heavy Metal as well if you’re curious of how far we’ve come since the 1980s of animation but if you aren’t into that whole futuristic Gwar-like explicit animation approach then it’s an easy pass for you. Proceed with caution!