No spoilers ahead.
Netflix’s Love, Death, and Robots was definitely something I would have devoured in one sitting (that is, if I didn’t recently make a promise to myself to take care of my body better). With every episode having a running time that ranges from 6-18 minutes, each installment manages to excite, wow, entertain, and make you anticipate the next in its own unique way. From the trippy to the monotonous, from the action-packed to the more dialogue-centric, people with varying tastes and preferences surely have something great for them in the 18 parts of the series’ first season.
Despite a few common favorites, different reviews and opinions on the different episodes show there truly was something for everyone, with its high level of diversity in terms storytelling and animation style (among other things). With that, I’ve decided to put together my personal list of the episodes with the only criteria being which ones left a lasting impact on me in its relatively short running time, and which ones made up for the best conversations to discuss and fuss about with friends who have also seen the anthology series.
5. Sonnie’s Edge, Episode 1
You know those pilot episodes that at the end of it make you think, “This is gonna be a hell of a good show.” Sonnie’s Edge was that for Love, Death, and Robots. With an animation style that reminds you of the more serious action cartoons that came up during the later hours of the night, coupled with fight scenes that give you all the gore and action the aforementioned cartoons lacked but you as a child admittedly wanted, and a twist that just makes you scream “BADASS!”—there was no better episode to set the tone for the rest of the series than this one. It’s a fitting foreword to tell you that the series will give you everything you wanted to see in a cartoon as a kid who skipped dinner to watch the likes of Zoids and Max Payne, but will also assure you that it caters to the more grown-up side of you by balancing it with more mature themes.
4. Beyond the Aquila Rift, Episode 7
This isn’t exactly a common favorite based on discussions with friends and other reviews I’ve read, so I guess my fondness for this episode stems heavily from how much I enjoyed playing Bioware’s Mass Effect trilogy. Set in the distant future of many technological advancements where space travel is normal, this episode is not all about fancy futuristic stuff or the exciting possibilities of space travel; it has a plot rich with its own drama that adds a level of depth to the characters and the overall storyline. It appealed to the side of me that loves drama as much as it appealed to the one that’s a sucker for science fiction. The characters were intriguing enough to cause you to invest heavily in them and be intrigued by their motivations and fears, effectively bringing you into their world. And a world where space travel is possible? That’s a world I’m sure we all want to be in.
3. The Witness, Episode 3
It’s literally aesthetic porn (not really a fan of that term, but I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it). Despite not being heavy on dialogue, its animation style, artwork, and sound design keeps your attention glued to the screen as you follow the main characters around the beautifully illustrated Hong Kong-inspired city landscape in which the episode is set. The entire short felt like a montage of artwork, or what I imagine it would be like to run around a museum of modern art. That’s how stunning the visuals were. Like Sonnie’s Edge, the way the story of this episode unfolds admittedly left my mouth slightly hanging open in amazement. The Witness manages to give you a visual treat without sacrificing a storyline or the depth of its characters, as many other visually stunning films are guilty of doing.
2. Good Hunting, Episode 8
I’m just gonna say it: I’m a fan of Nickelodeon’s Avatar series, both The Legend of Aang and The Legend of Korra, and that is why I ate this episode up. Its setting was very reminiscent of Avatar in the sense that it consists of the similar themes of spirits inhabiting the modern world, but still manages to add its own lore and own twist to the concept that the similarities would probably end there. Although it falls on the longer end in terms of running time with a length of 18 minutes, the pacing of the short manages to keep you engaged throughout the entire time, slowing down and escalating just at the right moments. The strength of Good Hunting is in its plot as much as in its storytelling, as it touches you as much as it shocks you, brings you to a world that amazes you at the same time troubles you, and acquaints you with characters you will easily root for but at the same time fear.
1. Zima Blue, Episode 14
This is my undeniable personal favorite. None of the episodes even came close. I’ll probably write a separate article on everything I want to discuss about this short—complete with spoilers—but for now, all I can say is that I never realized just how real an animated short could feel and how close it could hit home despite having a story so bizarre. The visual style was reminiscent of the artistry of Samurai Jack, and the narration seemed like something straight out of a 40’s noir film, and these two seemingly distant elements manage to blend together to tell a story so captivating in an 8-minute running time. The strength of this episode relies heavily on how it spends its earlier part studying the character of Zima Blue from a somewhat distant perspective, and then reveals more and more of him to you in the most dramatic fashion to slowly make you realize just how similar you are to his fascinating character.
Overall, Love, Death, and Robots is an exciting step in the right direction for animation, and probably film and television as a whole. David Fincher has given us a fresh take on what you can do with animation (and sci-fi, for that matter), by taking a medium that is usually reserved for kids and the kids-at-heart and mistakenly labelled as childish, and then reinventing it by making it totally NSFW and rich with underlying mature themes.
With Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse still fresh on the minds of people, Love, Death, and Robots carries its own weight in furthering the point that the capacity for creativity in the medium of animation is almost limitless, and definitely worthy of everyone’s attention.