Reviewing a show like Netflix’s “Black Mirror” is difficult. With each episode bringing in new directors, actors and narratives, it’s tough to make statements about the series as a whole. Talking about the streaming service’s newest anthology series, “Love, Death and Robots,” adds a new variable to that same equation: animation.
The show’s 18 episodes are animated by 14 different studios, giving each a distinct tone and visual style. Some, like “Secret War” and “Shape-Shifters,” attempt a hyper realistic style that flexes the muscles of current CGI and rendering technology. Others, like “Zima Blue” and the cel-shaded “Fish Night,” use more flamboyant animation styles to help bring their subject matter to life.
As the show’s name would imply, the narrative of each 6-to-18 minute episode focuses on some mix of love, death and robots. The episodes don’t limit themselves to traditional interstellar or post-apocalyptic settings, either; one episode takes place in early 20th century China, while another explores the icy forests of WWII Russia. Though focused on the same three themes, the sheer amount of variety in the 18 episodes gives the series a wide appeal and the potential for an easy yet engaging binge.
The nature of the show allows for a very specific form of narrative. The brevity of each short restricts plot depth, but most of the episodes manage to capture interest and lead it all the way to a satisfying conclusion while maintaining an efficient economy of time. The hits, like the beautifully morbid “Three Robots” or the thought-provoking “Zima Blue” show how effective an animated sci-fi anthology series can be. The misses like “The Witness” provide, at worst, a brief yet gorgeous exploration of storytelling and animation.
The impressive visuals alone make “Love, Death and Robots” worth a watch. Netflix has allowed an all-star group of studios to create a charcuterie board of the best animation that the streaming service has seen to date. The engaging, fun and thoughtful stories are just the cherry on top.