The Netflix Animated Sci-fi Anthology from the mind of Tim Miller explores different fictional worlds and stories from many different lenses. It brings together different respective animation studios to produce 18 standalone episodes, all of which are short stories that entertain and envelop the viewer in wondrous, action-packed, sometimes horrific (and NSFW) ways.
If you watch a lot of TV, your first thought I imagine is to compare this to the likes of something such as Black Mirror; Love, Death + Robots (LDR) however uniquely stands apart from the competition in more ways than one. How you ask? Well, each individual episode revolves around, you guessed it, three central themes: Love, Death, and/or Robots. It’s a pick and mix allowing for some crazy combinations of characters, styles, and fictional worlds like a slot machine on drugs.
For starters let me make something perfectly clear; anthologies and short stories are amazing and under appreciated. The sub-genre’s concepts and subjects can cover any and everything which makes the creative potential unlimited. Nothing is more interesting or intriguing to me than a speculative fictional world I can dive right into.
Also, when you strip down the episodes to their core elements, storytelling is at its core, and like all good stories they explore the things we relate to in the real world. Whether it's an empathetic character we can resonate with, or an engaging truth to be told in the narrative, it’s so hard to actually pull off but some of the best stories stick to simplicity. Their running times actually helped with this and LDR made me fall in love with the short story form. Speaking of...
Short + Sweet
You can dress a story up with explosions, guns, high stakes, whatever... all of which are of course entertaining and enthralling, but at the end of the day there’s something about a well executed, simple concept that I appreciate akin to a fine wine, or the “art” of taping a banana to a wall I guess. The beauty is in the way the genre’s structure is able to draw you in wanting more because LDR actually benefits from the viewers’ imagination filling in the blanks. Sparking imaginative thoughts on the world-building of a fictional universe is enjoyably thought provoking, but the show leaves enough room to just casually admire the spectacle in front of you as well.
In my opinion, all the teams behind these creations have made something truly incredible to admire. Skillfully detailed and varied animation styles with stories expertly told. Visually and narrative wise LDR is a showcase of directors and animators working together at their best. Gems like this should hopefully remind people that there are plenty of gifted and talented people working in the industry. You just don't know about them yet.
This is an easily bingeable series with the longest episodes being just under 20 minutes long, and yet that doesn’t undermine the fact that each story feels fulfilling in a way that some big budget blockbuster franchises don’t seem to grasp all that often. Maybe that’s the nature of some feature length epics or hour long dramas, but if that’s the case then a short story anthology like LDR should be a palette cleanser that I highly recommend you take a look at for yourself.
Now I won't spoil anything but I can’t help but shout out some really good episodes and give some overviews of them. Who knows maybe one will interest you?
(The 13th and my favourite episode of the anthology)
After the drop-ship Lucky 13 loses two crews, no pilot would fly her. Rookie pilots don't get a say in the matter though.
“They recovered the ship and the dead, or what’s left of them. A ship surviving when all her crew dies is unusual, but twice? Then there was the matter of her serial number: 13-02313. It not only started and ended in 13, the digits totaled 13... Pilots are a superstitious bunch. ”
The Secret War
In WWII, whilst Russia is occupied with German forces in the west, elite units of the Red Army are dispatched to deal with an unholy evil in the ancient forests of Siberia.
“There are places like this scattered throughout the dark forest. Old places. My people believe they are cursed... I’ve heard rumours of an operation focused on exploring arcane peasant myths. Operation Hades.”
A community of farmers use their homemade mechs to defend their lands and families from an alien infestation. Just another day in the life of a farmer.
"Yeah. "Quit your job," they said. "Become a farmer." Never f#!$ing mentioned the goddamn f#!$ing insects!"
The first two examples are war stories but the others are quite different ranging from philosophical topics and alternate futures, to straight up twisted horror. So why not do yourself a favour and check it out.