After finishing my last binge (watch) session, I was looking to try something new – and luckily, the Netflix gods gave me Love, Death and Robots. The show not only turned out to be one of its kind, trying its hand at adult animation, but also had my favourite auteur David Fincher written all over it. He has collaborated with Deadpool director Tim Miller and their combined craft shows in the production and storytelling.
Adult animation mostly means a lot of blood, gut, gore and nudity – and this show doesn’t shy away from that either.
Like another all-time favourite Black Mirror, LD+R is a futuristic anthology. The difference, though, is that it’s completely animated.
Each episode has been created by a different set of animators and writers, and it shows in the sheer range of topics tackled and the visual range displayed.
Netflix has also experimented with new AI technique that alters the sequence in which you see the anthology.
What Can You Expect From Each Episode?
What is the beauty of the show? There are 18 parts, completely animated – but no two stories have the same visual texture.
Being a fan of adult animation, this was a visual delight. I could take my pick from CGI, VFX, live-action, 3D, et al – you name an animation technique, they have it.
I’d say that the show has something for every viewer: the only catch is discovering it. From Kaiju-style fights to humorous dystopia to suit fights, there is a lot to choose from. Also, no matter how inconsequential an episode might feel, they all offer some form of commentary or food for thought.
Take ‘The Witness’, for example. Its animation and writing style really took the cake for me. It also boasts of some of the most stunning 3D live action animation that keeps you hooked. Bonus? It makes a comment on the rut of life we are stuck in.
At least that’s how I interpreted it.
And it’s this open-endedness that makes the show – you can make everything or nothing out of it, it’s up to you. Now, this aspect might not be appealing to people who like their shows to have a proper arc but, to my mind, it makes Love, Death + Robots honest.
Another episode that stands out is ‘Sonnie’s Edge’ which talks about a dystopian London where monsters, controlled by their ‘masters’, are pitted against each other in gladiatorial fights!
The episode deals with a rape survivor and her trauma. It also touches upon homosexuality and the power equations between men and women – both themes that really resonated with me. You watch men exert their masculinity, because they feel a need to, and a woman that is out for blood because she has had enough. Sonnie stays with you much after the episode is over.
Yet, when things start to feel too heavy (read: ‘deathy’), there is comic respite too. One really good example is Pixar-style animation in the episode ‘One Where The Yogurt Took Over’. Here, a sentient yogurt literally takes over and runs the world, and then conveniently leaves for space once it is done with humans. It’s a wonderful take on the current political scenario and its sometimes ominous hilarity will give you chills.
And then, there’s ‘Good Hunting’ which throws in a good dose of Chinese mythology. It talks about sexual violence and how men choose to assert their right over women’s bodies and how women exact vengeance.
Could We Have Some Trigger Warnings?
The technical brilliance is great – but I just wish that some episodes had come with a trigger warning. Some of the episodes do push things in using the female body as a trope.
Episodes like ‘Sonnie’s Edge’ or ‘Good Hunting’, particularly, talk about female autonomy and power – but just end up objectifying the female body and trying to build on the ‘femme fatale’ narrative.
after pondering it for a day love death + robots is just okay. a lot of it felt the same, there was almost always some sort of nudity that was clearly meant to appeal to a straight male demographic and there was always annoying excessive cursing. shame, some concepts were cool— Seiishin ✨commissions open✨ (@fox_seiishin) March 16, 2019
My sentiment was echoed by many others in the Twitterverse, who pointed out this use of evocative nudity. Many even said that, at points it seems to look like it is glorifying sexual violence against women.
now that we’re talkin about netflix’s love/death/robots, the reason why I don’t like watching media that glorifies rape/violence toward women reminds me of how many men in the world would love to rape and mutilate me bc I’m a woman, and how those things happen every day to women— Tessa Mag (@tessamag) March 17, 2019
Maybe some sensitivity is in order?
What’s the Verdict?
Even with loopholes, insensitivity and loose ends, the sheer visual variety has never been seen before on a streaming platform.
'Adult animation’ is a genre that is not extensively tapped into, but Love, Death and Robots seems to break that barrier.
Arguably, Netflix could have chosen quality over quantity, as many stories look a little too dragged out and definitely don’t remain suitable for many millennials’ attention spans.
Also, with themes ranging from power struggles and violence to environmental distress and apocalypse, some patience might be key to watching this visual masterpiece.
The bottom line? Love, Death and Robots, even with its flaws, is a path-breaker for Netflix and will give streaming platforms serious goals in terms of how far technology has come.
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