I watched all of Love Death + Robots on Saturday, and while much of the animation was impressive and parts of it were interesting, and I enjoyed a few of the episodes, as a whole, it was rather “meh”. They definitely weren’t kidding about the NSFW warnings, though: bloody, gory violence, language, and lots of nudity with a definite “male gaze” issue throughout many of the entries.
Speaking about the Netflix animated anthology series in a press release, Miller made it clear that viewers should expect mature content.
“I’m so f**king excited that the creative landscape has finally changed enough for adult-themed animation to become part of a larger cultural conversation,” he said.
While some of that excitement is justified – the vast majority of LDR looks great and many of its 18 short episodes are amusing, clever and shocking in the best possible way – gratuitous female nudity once again sticks the male and female characters on an entirely unbalanced playing field. Nudity on screen is fine – we’re all for it, in fact. But this is something different.
My personal rough rankings of the various pieces, from most to least enjoyable (if you’re cherry-picking episodes, for me, 1-8 are worth watching, 9-12 are not terribly objectionable, 13-18 are the most skippable):
- Three Robots: One of three entries adapted from short works by John Scalzi, all of which ended up in my top picks. Amusing story of three robots touring the ruins of Earth.
- Fish Night: I liked this one because it’s pretty and weird, though I’m not surprised to see it’s one of the lower-rated episodes on IMDB.
- Zima Blue: Neat animation style, and an interesting story with a fun ending.
- When the Yogurt Took Over: Hyper-intelligent yogurt saving humanity. Just silly.
- Helping Hand: When an EVA goes wrong, an astronaut has to figure out if she can save herself. Made me cringe, but because of what was happening, not because of how it was presented.
- Ice Age: Another short and silly entry. Remember to clean out your freezer!
- Alternate Histories: Goofball explorations of possible timelines prompted by killing Hitler in various ways.
- Good Hunting: I really liked the overall arc of the story of this one, though it’s also the first (in this ranking, not in presentation order) to use sexualized violence as part of the plot.
- Blind Spot: An average high-speed heist story, with a rather unsurprising final resolution.
- Suits: Farmers in mech suits defend their fields from an invading horde of aliens. Shrug.
- Lucky 13: I’m generally not big on military SF; most impressive for digitizing actress Samira Wiley so well that I actually recognized her character as the actress (and checked to see if it was really her, or if they’d just designed a character who strongly resembled her).
- Sucker of Souls: Archaeologists and mercenaries against vampires. With cats.
- Beyond the Aquila Rift: Not an entirely uninteresting story, but spent a little too much time on the sex scene (and sure, there was arguably a shock payoff for that at the end, but still…). It felt more like a “look what we can render/get away with” scene.
- The Dump: Relied too much on hick stereotypes and male-nudity-as-(unfunny) humor.
- The Secret War: WWI Russian soldiers battling an unstoppable enemy. Similar reaction as with Suits, only that one was was slightly more interesting due to the mechs.
- Shape-Shifters: Werewolves, lots of gore, and hoo-rah! militarism.
- The Witness: While the story itself wasn’t bad, and the animation style was neat, it ends up being primarily watching a terrified naked woman run away from a male pursuer.
- Sonnie’s Edge: Mentally controlling giant beasties to fight each other is rather cliché, but using off-screen gang rape as a motivating factor and more “look, they’re letting us animate naked women (at least until we kill them)!” scenes failed to impress me.