Finally Volume 3 of Love, Death & Robots is here!
To set the tone for the rest of this review you can gauge my feelings about the animated sci-fi anthology from my review of Volume 1 when that initially came out. And to take this even further I revere the show enough to have made something "creative" which I feel encapsulates LDR fairly well. You can take a look at this for yourself at the end of the article, but needless to say my expectations for Vol 3 were at a hopeful high.
As for the reason why I’m only doing a review for Vol 2 now and lumping it together with the current release? Well, it’s simply because LDR’s second outing didn’t feel like it was a full season especially in comparison to the first (more on that later). With that said let’s just dive in!
Quality vs Quantity
Existing fans are already aware of this, but for those of you that aren’t I’ll start with the big elephant in the room which is that Vol 2 had significantly less episodes compared to the first – 8 instead of the original 18 episodes to be precise. In all fairness, animation is labour intensive, creatively draining, and a massive render dump for any computer to handle on any given project let alone a single short. Hence, rather than let us the audience starve and demand for more content the producers and showrunners had a plan to ration out their content over 2 years instead of splurging all at once.
Honestly, this was a pretty smart move, however even though I’m grateful for this approach this still didn’t stop bittersweet feelings from taking root. It was sadly inevitable that since Vol 2 was the first step in said plan, the animated series suffered due to it.
Variety is the Spice of Life
With this volume LDR as always did provide picturesque animation driven by intriguing stories. Nonetheless, something wasn’t there for me – a missing spark - the big appeal that made me and many others get into the series to begin with. The lifeblood of any anthology in my opinion is its unique diversity, and there was a lack of it in Vol 2 which even applies to the current Vol 3 to a certain extent.
With the exception of the first episode, Automated Customer Service, volume 2 on the whole was not as fun or light-hearted as I came to expect from LDR. Most focussed on elements of drama, conflict and a generally more serious undertone, which I agree are intertwined in all engaging stories and captivating concepts through some form or another. But on the other hand I personally missed the tongue and cheek goofball approach that predecessor episodes had. Suits and Sucker of Souls to name some were at its core vulgar and gratifyingly violent, all marketable hallmarks of a mature brand for a series with the name Love, Death + Robots. More significantly, this levity allowed audiences to take moments to breath between episodes and let us laugh along with the crazy situations unfolding in front of our eyes.
Food for Thought
This being said the true strength of this volume and the best shorts it had to offer were the ones that made you think. The prime example that comes to mind for me is Pop Squad which takes place on an overpopulated Earth. Amongst immortal inhabitants it’s the numbing job of an investigative detective to find and exterminate any and all “breeders” who would choose to have a child.
What led to this world being born? How is immortality scientifically attainable? Would I actually want that kind of life? The topical theme of overpopulation, the proposed ethics around the right or even desire to have kids, are all a part of a thought experiment which drives and give momentum to short stories which inherently don’t have long to win you over. Like many others, I believe the charm and spectacle from the medium, and this show specifically, comes from its ability to impact the viewer well after the 5-20 minute runtime. Volume 2 succeeds and then some in these regards.
Snow in the Desert
All through the House
Back to Basics
Now we’re into a new volume it seems LDR is back to its old self, by which I mean this recent addition show signs of the original fun and intrigue that got me hooked into the franchise to begin with. From the sexual allure to the graphic action, I feel not only that this volume is overall better than its predecessor, but also that the NSFW anthology has made a successful return to form. Jibaro and The Very Pulse of the Machine being standouts in these regards. Honestly, I’m surprised to come to this opinion myself given they’re both bizarre much like Fish Night from Vol 1 which was my least favourite.
I appreciated that LDR wanted to go somewhere different tonally speaking. Pulse of the Machine offers a bit more sense and rationale for me to grip onto at least in comparison to the aforementioned Fish spectacle which just came across as a visual showcase for the animation studio.
And this volume’s finale especially is uniquely incomparable, from its art style and animation cinematography, to the uncontrollable dancing knights, Jibaro is an odd fish in a blood soaked lake. For me I’m still trying to wrap my head around... well everything, and yet I found it refreshing to find something completely new. For me it kindled some hope of breathing renewed life into a series that is in my humble opinion dangerously treading towards becoming samey and stagnant. This however did not entirely dispel my existing fears from the previous volume.
Live, Die, Repeat
Whilst watching Vol 3 something felt off to me that lasted well after I binged everything possible. Eventually I pinpointed this to the idea that multiple episodes shared what seemed like glaring similarities.
Tim Miller is the creator of Love, Death + Robots, but he also founded Blur Studio which worked on many of the shorts across the entire series. Do you see where I’m going with this? Vol 1’s miniature civilisation in Ice Age and Vol 3’s Night of the Mini Dead share a small concept. An Ipswich Collectibles store shows up both in Vol 2's Pop Squad and The Drowned Giant. The Three Robots short literally had a sequel to headline the current volume. And the list goes on... literally, I did some research about what animation studios worked on what and a list is there below for you to look at:
Vol 1 Episodes + Studios
Vol 2 Episodes + Studios
If you take the time to watch the credits and acknowledge the talent behind some of the shorts you’ll see that Miller had a hand or Blur Studios left a mark in pretty much every episode. Not even looking at the fact that other separate studios have worked on multiple episodes, sometimes in the same volume. Now I know what you're thinking, but hear me out.
This isn’t completely fair to say because duh, of course there are many other individual studios that I left out who have not churned out multiple episodes for LDR. And more importantly neither should any of them be denied a chance to return. Even though I talk of repetitiveness I eagerly await another short akin to Digic Pictures’ The Secret War because it was that outstandingly epic. Axis Studios and Unit Images to mention some, have and should absolutely come back because there is a rightfully positive response and massive demand for their incredible work. Thanks to LDR I have a newfound love of military based stories, dark fantasy mysteries, and all the likes the series portrays, but this being said there are so many more unexplored themes to delve into.
Why not expand on the core ideas of Love, Death, and Robots by finding additional talent with a new perspective on things? Instead of leaning on the same tropes and falling into repetitive traps LDR should try and recreate the feeling when the show first came out – the pure originality of something that we hadn’t been exposed to or experienced before. Come back to Digic Pictures at a later date and shine a spotlight on new undiscovered talent because it’s great if audiences respond well to existing episodes, but that should never stop the creative impulse and ideas to stop flowing. Whether they be artists, animators or writers the joy LDR has to offer comes from the boundless infinite imagination from all these people. Let other studios walk so that the show can run.
Despite this, the awe inspiring, cinematically engaging pros of Love, Death + Robots far outweigh the nit-picky cons I have of this short series. To end the review I simply recommend you go watch it for yourself, and as promised at the start here is that "creative" thing I worked on. So just sit back, relax and hit play as you enjoy the visually stunning F#&$%’d up wonders that LDR has to offer.