Sci-Fi Guide Reviews – Love, Death and Robots:

Warning! Warning! The following is a review of Love, Death and Robots and so contains an extensive reference to the anthology series and all short-films within it. Contains minor spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…

I’m going to start this review by saying that the anthology series wears its 18 rating with pride. It is sexual, it is brutally violent and it is horrify at parts but saying that, it is absolutely fantastic. It’s refreshing to just see some mature animation for once (that isn’t anime or a comedy) and having them each be Sci-Fi short-films adds to my huge enjoyment of this series. This is honest one of the most consistently good anthology series I’ve seen. There’s honestly no bad episode/short in this series; they all have their own merits, style and story to tell. To critique the show properly, however, I would like to break down each episode individually in the next section of this review.

The first of the shorts is Sonnie’s edge, thinking of it as a pokemon battle to the death. This was a great introduction into what the show was, it’s mature, brutally violent, there’s heavy use of nudity and some great animation. The plot takes several turns throughout its short run time and is even terrifying in some places especially towards the end where a certain character is killed. There’s several twists and turns that help make the plot interesting plus having it being set in this grim cyberpunk world was a great choice for the first short of this series as a way to throw the audience straight into the deep end.

The second short is Three Robots, probably one of my favourites of the whole anthology series so far. The short follows several robots as they take a sightseeing trip across the Post-apocalyptic wasteland of Earth. Whilst the short is less about the plot, the short really shines in creating a new perspective, some fantastic animation and a more comedic tone. Unlike with the first short, the story’s maturity isn’t in the forefront of the scene but in the setting and the grimness of the situation. We watch robots walk through our grave, the past cities we once lived in, where we all killed ourselves in Nuclear War and hearing robots (which can be seen as a new civilization) talk about humanity in the same way we visit a tourist location or museum. Whilst it’s comedic, it’s darkly comedic and that’s so great about the show, that it can present a large range of tones, style and sub-genres to make something new and interesting. You see our corpses in the background, our ruined cities which gives you a new perspective when thinking of Pompeii and Auschwitz and how they have been made as tourist attractions. There’s also a comedic bit at the end with cats which I won’t spoil but is a charming way to end a short like this.

The third short is one I’m kind of mixed on. Taking on a more surreal plot, the short follows a character witnessing her own murder and how she runs away from her killer. When I say the plot goes into some bizarre surrealist Sci-Fi, it goes full up Predestination in this short. Whilst I think a lot of the more sexualised scenes were unnecessary in this short, they tied in with the main character, her profession and how her and the killer meet to start this weird surreal plot. The way it is told is, however, very well done using an entirely visual based way to tell the story which I really appreciated especially in how the animation was used and the unique style that enhanced the world and the characters. What really makes this episode interesting though is the twist at the end which sends the plot into a weird loop that I will definitely have to watch again. This is a weird one, I have a few problems but another great animated short film.

Whilst the fourth short is Suits which has less depth then the last three that I mentioned it has some great and interesting Sci-Fi action which has a similar style to games such as Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 which adds a cool video game element to the animation. The short is honestly just a lot of fun with a cool addition of a menacing threat with an interesting origin. There’s not much to say about this one but it is quite good and reminded me a lot of early Pixar and I quite like the twist at the end but the plot is quite simple and predictable which is the only complaint I have.


The fourth short, Sucker of Souls goes back to more of a 18 rating with a bang and this time we have some great 2-D animation to gaze our eyes on as characters get ripped apart by alien vampires. Whilst I’ve always loved Pixar and great 3-D animation, my heart has always been with 2-D animation. The short has a similar style to many great Cartoon Network and Disney XD shows such as Adventure Time and Gravity Falls with the touch of anime and some gritty and horrifying gore mixed in there as well. I think this one is honestly one of my top five favourites. It takes more of a fantasy approach to the world and the Sci-Fi concepts such as having Dracula and having him be an alien beast from ancient times was quite interesting. I’d love to see a whole show of this, disregarding what happens to the characters at the end. There’s some interesting set-up, cool characters and what could be a great premise with mature violence and with Anime and shows like Rick and Morty, I definitely see an audience for it.

The sixth short film is a pretty short one called When the Yogurt Took Over. The short is probably one of the weakest of the series but it still has a very fun concept and presentation. Most of it is just narration over some decent animation with a more cartoony style then most of the shorts here. It is probably one of the more strange shorts here and that’s saying something. Even in the cartoony style, it still has some interesting themes of the creation of intelligent life and disregarding something because of its appearance. Not much more to say but its a sweet and bizarre short.

The seventh short film is Beyond the Aquila Rift which is another one of my favourites. Whilst a lot of the sexual content in this one felt over excessive and a bit “Male-gaze-y” although it did make some sense for the twist that happens at the end of the short which was incredibly creepy and interesting, making it a short I will be going back to. It also adapted the short story extremely well and I thought it did a great job at executing its premise and making a more horror based Sci-Fi short. The over realistic animation, whilst it looks fantastic for the surroundings and when looking at characters from a distance wasn’t too pleasant in the facial area (although it was mostly fine). The story is incredibly interesting and is presented in a very well executed way even if it has some minor problems.

The eighth short is Good Hunting and this is another very interesting short that combines Fantasy and Sci-Fi elements together. I have similar thoughts on the short as I did Sucker of Souls but whilst this one is better, I’d love to see a show based around the concept and what is already presented. There’s a great metaphor for Nature Vs Technology and Humanity which is seen in the protagonists journey and adds a Sci-Fi link to the modernisation of Japan in the 19-20th Century. There some very interesting stuff here although this short is again pretty Male-Gaze-y, taking from more of a no holds barred style that is often told in anime (which don’t stray away from mature and adult themes).

The ninth short is The Dump and whilst it is another one of the weaker ones, it’s highly entertaining. The animation reminds me of a refined version of what’s seen in Up and Monster House. It really uses its 18 rating in a great way that allows the horrors to have more darkly comedic effect. It does have its problems as it feels like I’ve heard this exactly story before but it’s another short that is not so much Sci-Fi and more fun but gory monster adventure.

The tenth short is Shape-Shifters which is one I thought was great but still has problems. The plot concerns a group of werewolves known as shape shifters who work as part of the army. They are a keen part of the team but their powers are feared and detested by their fellow comrades. But whilst they act as an advantage to the US Army, the Iraq forces have their own breed of shape-shifters who brutalise several of the soldiers. It is up for the shapeshifters to take them down. This short is where I thought the gore was perfectly used. It shows the brutality of the situation without some of the unnecessary nudity as some of the episodes have. The story is a very interesting combination of fantasy/horror in a modern day setting with minor but interesting sci-fi context. It’s a great idea to see how were-wolves would be seen in the army and how they can be an advantage and a curse.

Now we come to short number eleven, Helping Hand. The story of the short is pretty simple, after a meteor hits a satellite sending an astronaut flying off into the void of space, she must use whatever methods she can to get to her shuttle and back to safety but the main problem is, her fuel is running and there is no back-up for miles. This episode has been done before in films such as Gravity but this is probably one of my favourite versions of the same story. It shows the risks of travelling into space, it’s a very dangerous place and anything could happen leading to certain death without rescue. It doesn’t take too long to start the story, it’s just the battle for survival, we get only the information we need to understand the situation and that is what is great this series as a whole, there is no required time-slot to fill, they have much more freedom to explore the situation and concept.

The twelfth short, Fish Night, is another weaker one, that doesn’t really have the same effect or utilisation of the mature rating but whilst it’s not as good as some of the others, I really love the characters and animation in this one. The plot is simple, it’s kind of weird and conceptual but nothing really to do with Sci-Fi. It’s more about ghosts and experiencing the animation. This short reminded me a bit of the when Jesse and Walter get stuck in the dessert in second series of Breaking Bad (which is nothing to really do with the show but it was a great episode of that fantastic show and reminded me of it tonally). It’s a cool short, one of the weaker ones, not much to say but I really got attached to the characters and loved the animation style.

Number 13 is of course Lucky Thirteen, an intergalactic army set short about a rookie pilot and her career with the ship once known as cursed by all other members of the fleet. Given, the left over ship, the main character must take a new crew to the battlefield, little does she know, there is surprise attack on the horizon, her ship is the only survivor and Lucky Thirteen is born. Honestly, I love this short. It’s interesting, there’s great elements of action mixed with character and story whilst staying mature and realistic (in a Sci-Fi context at least). There’s some elements that are maybe a bit far fetched such as the relationship with the ship and how it seems to be somewhat alive but it really just adds a cool element to the story. There’s some great action and animation in here as well. Great short, another one of my favourites and a nice spin on a rookie story.

Number 14 is Zima Blue and I honestly love this one, the idea and plot is fantastic, there’s some great animation and it has something really interesting to say. The short tackles art, the search for meaning and appreciating the simplistic moments in life. It feels both high concept but also personal. The main story of the artist Zima is actually a really cool story of evolution and trying to find meaning but who he actually turns out to be makes the whole story even better. I do have the main complaint though that the short, whilst there is no sex or violence, starts off like a porn plot, some of the initial dialogue seems a bit fake and I don’t know if it was the script or voice acting but that’s just how it felt for me (this is really just a nit-pick but the episode really picks up after that first very short introduction). Although I do have that main complaint, I love this short, it’s another one of my favourites, especially towards the end.

Blind Spot is number 15 and I don’t really have much to say here, it’s fine I guess, it’s really not one of my favourites, I’ve seen this type of stuff a lot in animation, it really just feels like a standard opening to a Sci-Fi Action anime. It’s one of the very weaker ones, I don’t see myself watching it again, not because it is bad, the animation is pretty good but it just feels very uninspired and I’ve seen this type of stuff done in so many things and kind of better. There seems like there’s stakes but nope, there aren’t, everyone is actually backed up on a computer and alive. Well then, how is this meant to be thrilling? Why should I care? This might be a problem I have will a lot of movies and series especially, once you have a select set of characters, you’re less likely to kill them off. There’s shows and movies that go against this like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad where main characters can die and there are repercussions that but many shows or movies don’t (this is also a major, major problem in comic books). This is really a topic for another post but that part of the short really annoyed me, if we are going to use the short format, we can have characters die without having to follow it up with something else or bring up them back but that might just be me.

Okay, number 16 and more to the stuff that I love where we go back to the Ice Age, this time it’s in a freezer. This concept has been seen before yes but I always love it everytime it does. It’s a fantastic concept, it allows us to look at a microcosm of the passage of time, our perception of reality and the rise and decay of society. There’s some very good chemistry between the main actors as well, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is great as usual and it’s cool to see Topher Grace again after such a long time. They play the concept for fun, it makes a great use of compositing the animation with real-life which was done in a very effective way. It’s a good watch and it does something very effectively for the time it has in exploring the concept. It is cool and fun to watch and much like Three Robots brings a levity in the darkness of many of the other shorts.

It’s nearly the end of this review, episode number 17 and it’s time we finally killed Hitler, well in a sense at least. Alternative Histories, number 17 is a short that acts as a simulation of how Hitler dies in multiple universes. The plot looks at the events after the death and how the changes in Hitler dying would change the future. The short is very tongue in cheek, it isn’t meant to be serious, it’s mature, violent and raw which makes it fun. It’s not meant to be serious, it’s a good bit of dark comedy, I enjoyed it and it reminded me a lot of the channel TedEd (which similarly presents animated shorts but more for education in Science, Art, Language and many other topics). With that note, the main complaint of this episode is that it seems like a YouTube short which isn’t really a negative but it just felt out of place out from most of these shorts. I think there could be a fantastic online series here though, I’d love to see more shorts like this for different historical figures and events in history.

This is the end, my only friend, the end as we come to the eighteenth and final short, The Secret War. I absolutely love this one as well, what a short to end on. There’s a great use of enigma and threat here. The violence and disturbed sexuality really adds to the creepiness and threat of the short. Even though we only get to see the Russian comrades together for a short period of time, I think the animation worked really well in making every character feel individual and make us feel for them. There’s moments of action, there’s cult rituals and there’s a mixture between Sci-Fi and Fantasy that works pretty well. There’s some great storytelling in this short and I was really impressed in how it was structured. The animation was also very good and honestly better in showing realism then what was used in Beyond the Aquila Rift where I felt some of the faces were a bit weird. The Russian accents were also surprisingly good and authentic which really helped in suspension of disbelief. I honestly don’t really have a complaint for this one other then I would have loved to see this one go on a tiny bit longer and know more about the war where the shortness kind of limits the final payoff and horror of the scene. I did find that having all the characters in the way they were did make it more interesting and actually added a real consequence of the scene and the mission. Overall, a great short and a great way to end the series off with a gory and dramatic bang.

Finally, we come to the conclusion of this review and my last thoughts on the series of shorts. I’m honestly really impressed with this series. It’s fantastic to get something as raw and creatively driven as this is. There’s so many different styles of animation, storytelling, comedy, drama, mystery which all go into telling a good Sci-Fi story. It’s great to have a large group of shorts that are produced with so much dedication and care in a way were they all had larger budgets due to being part of this project but never lost their creativity and mature 18 rating. There’s honestly some really great shorts that stand on their own as my favourites that I will be revisiting time and time in the future such as Zima Blue, Beyond the Aquila Rift, Lucky Thirteen and Three Robots but who am I kidding, most of these shorts are fantastic in their own way even if they do have problems and can be slightly too “male-gaze-y” at times. Although we do get some great animation directors here, I’d love to see some female Sci-Fi directors give their voice in the series as well which would be great and give a new perspective for next series but have the same maturity and 18 rating. There are some weaker shorts sure but none of them are bad, they are very well put together and there’s so much passion and thought put behind them. I don’t usually like to give star ratings or anything like that but I’d probably give it a A for Astonishing Animation, I guess. It’s a great series, even though we can see short films on Dust, I don’t think we have had a curated way to watch animated Sci-Fi short-films like this before and to this level of polish and passion. It’s a huge recommendation from me.

You can watch Love, Death and Robots on Netflix now. It is honestly a great series of shorts and I hope you enjoyed reading this long and over due review of the series. Again, it’s just so brilliant to see some actually mature 18 rated animation again that still has a great level of quality and passion behind it. To have it be Sci-Fi as well just made me so excited. I’m so glad David Fincher and Tim Miller put this project together, the animators and writers also did a fantastic job at realising each of these shorts. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on the short film series, future thinkers. Have you watched it?
What are your favourite and least short-films? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below…

Michael McGrady, Signing Off.

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