Netflix Now: Pushing the Envelope for Animated Anthologies: Love, Death & Robots (2019)

Love, Death & Robots (2019) was originally meant to be a revival of Heavy Metal, a cult classic adult animation anthology that came out in 1981. While that exact project never came to fruition, this set of eighteen shorts channels the feel and aesthetic of Heavy Metal and that might not sit well with some modern viewers. Many of the shorts dip into genre fare like sci-fi mecha, cyberpunk, and horror complete with all the tropes that come with them for better or worse. 

Personally, I loved seeing unfiltered stories and visuals with all the nudity (male AND female), sex, gore and adult themes. Many different animation studios contributed content and my main negative with the series is that it could have used more variety of animation styles. Eleven out of eighteen shorts were CGI and it would have been fun to see more 2D animation or stop-motion.

With the sheer amount of shorts some are bound to be better than others and I have decided to highlight my five favorite picks:

Fish Night

Based on a short story by Joe Lansdale, Fish Night is an excursion into the fantastical. An older man and a younger man break down on a lonely road in a desert. They have to spend the night there before making a long trek back to find some help. The older man recalls that he has been on this exact road before and that the last time he was there he saw a surreal a magical occurrence. The desert turns into an ephemeral ocean with ghostly fish and wondrous sights. The animation for this short is gorgeous with its cel-shaded look and colorful effects. Fish Night is captivating all the way up to its haunting ending.

Good Hunting

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

--Arthur C. Clarke

One of the few 2D animated shorts, Good Hunting takes its inspiration from Chinese mythology. The story centers a young male "spirit hunter" who forms an unlikely bond with a huli jing or fox spirit who can take the form of a beautiful young woman. As time passes, and Western influence and industrialization overtakes China the magic that lets the huli jing change forms wanes. The young boy has become a man and a brilliant inventor at that so he promises to help the fox spirit regain her magic in a new way--with advanced technology. Good Hunting puts a steampunk spin on ancient Chinese legends and also manages to tell a poignant and empowering story as well.

Beyond the Aquila Rift

The crew aboard a spaceship called Blue Goose are traveling to a job and put themselves into hyper sleep. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction and they are thrown off course, light-years away from where they are supposed to be. Thom, one of the members of the crew, awakens from his sleep and is greeted by Greta, a mysterious woman from his past. She seems like she wants to help him, but she also appears to be hiding a terrible secret. Of all the shorts in this show, this one affected me the most. While the story itself is nothing new, the execution of it is absolutely fantastic and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

Zima Blue

This is the most philosophical short with its musings on self-actualization and art. Zima Blue is the name of a cyborg artist who makes giant avant-garde pieces of art that intrigue millions. All of his works center around a specific shade of blue. After a hundred years he decides to tell his life story to a journalist as he is about to unveil his greatest and final piece of art to the world. While the aesthetic of Zima Blue is beautiful, the story it tells about a robot trying to find meaning in life and its place in the universe is universal and touches on a lot of feelings that most of us have from time-to-time.

The Witness

The Witness is an assault to the senses, a chaotic thrill ride with bizarre visuals and breakneck pacing. A woman in a hotel room witnesses a murder in a building across the street. The murderer sees her and begins to stalk and chase her through a stylized city (which feels very Tokyo-inspired). While this short doesn't have much of a story, the imagery is outstanding, with a multitude of colors and an almost manga style look. This is also the most sexually charged of the episodes with tons of nudity and BDSM/fetish scenes. It's exhilarating and erotic with a creative ending that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

--Michelle Kisner