Cyberpunk Review: Love, Death + Robots Vol. 2
Love, Death, & Robots is a series of animated shorts, an anthology all loosely related to love, death, and robots. Which means that many of which are also cyberpunk related. Volume I released in 2019, and we here at Cyberpunk Matrix covered the cyberpunk-related episodes here. Well, it took a couple years, but I’m happy to report that Volume II is finally here. So fasten you seatbelts, punks, because we’re about to dive into a new wild series of surreal, curious, cyberpunk worlds.
4 Cyberpunk Episodes, 8 Episodes Total
The first thing one notices about Volume II is how short it is compared to Volume I. While Volume I was a generous 18 episodes in length, Volume II contains only 8 episodes. Volume II’s longest episode clocks in at 18 minutes in length, although a considerable part of all episodes contain credits and thus shorten the actual run time, and the shortest runs at 7 minutes in length.
It’s hard to tell with these episodes which ones would truly be considered cyberpunk and which ones wouldn’t, since they are all so short, but since here at Cyberpunk Matrix we’re used to considered if something is Cyberpunk, I’m fairly confident with the episodes we selected. So here it is, folks, all the episodes related to Cyberpunk from Volume II of Love, Death, and Robots, complete with my own thoughts and review of each episode. Ironically, these four episodes are also the four that are first in the 8-episode anthology series
Cyberpunk episodes from Vol. 2:
- Automated Customer Service
- Pop Squad
- Snow in the Desert
Cyberpunk Episode 1: Automated Customer Service
This episode reminded me a lot of the episode called blackhead from Black Mirror: a small, automated robot which threatens a nearby human with its cold, relentless hunt of the human it’s searching for. Unlike Blackhead, however, this episode is delivered with a side of dark humor, a parody of automated customer service answering machines that is as much critical and social commentary as it is ridiculous. It features a future society in an elderly community where all electrical devices have been made automated, so as to give the elderly people who live there as assisted an experience as possible. All seems well and good, a prime utopian experience, until of course one of the automated robots malfunctions and starts threatening every living being inside the home it’s supposed to be cleaning.
I personally didn’t care for the animation itself, with its sharp angles it felt much too similar to a badly rendered videogame. Nonetheless, it ended up being very funny in the end, and as always I’m a sucker for a film, whether it be short or otherwise, that takes something that exists in present day and shows the negative sides of it by speculating what would happen if we took that same system to the extreme.
Basically, if you like dystopian futures with robots, and you like dark humor, then you’ll love this episode.
Cyberpunk Episode 2: Ice
Ice is a coming of age story about a teenager who is struggling to fit in with the other kids at school. A classic tale, of course, except the twist for this one is that the town they live in seems to be in the middle of a frozen tundra, with only oil wells of some sort and the residences of the workers who maintain them. Oh and the majority of the kids in town are genetically augmented, which makes the only un-augmented younger brother feel out of place and thus compelled to prove himself that much more.
At first I wasn’t going to classify this entry as a cyberpunk short, until I considered the genetic augmentations, the drugs, the punk-like artwork, and the rebellious nature of the teens sneaking out of their homes to take part in dangerous games to demonstrate their fearlessness and ability.
If you like stylistic artwork, high contrast, and a coming of age story with a dramatic thrilling end, then you’ll like Ice.
Cyberpunk Episode 3: Pop Squad
Pop Squad was my personal favorite of all eight episodes. Closely resembling a film-noir style set in the future (which is just like what Blade Runner did to pioneer the cyberpunk style), Pop Squad features a government operative, a detective of sorts whose mission is to find and process unregistered, or illegal children. Illegal children in this world doesn’t mean immigrants, however. Rather, it’s a type of population control police force to ensure that humanity isn’t having too many children, or any children at all for that matter, which seems to be a luxury reserved for the rich and powerful. This society also seems to have solved the problem of ageing, allowing many of its citizens to live hundreds of years. So what happens when one such population-control detective develops a conscience? Well, you get pop squad. The voice acting, visuals, and acting are all incredible. The episode also asks the question of what makes life worth living, where we as a society place our values, and why seeing the world through a child’s eyes is important.
Cyberpunk Episode 4: Snow in the Desert
Perhaps the most fun, interesting, and well-animated episode of all (it seems to be a favorite for many), Snow in the Desert is about an albino bounty hunter with an unusual physiological special ability that everyone wants to kill him for. Set on what looks like a desert planet similar to Tatooine from Star Wars, it features some calm moments and some exciting moments, with a surprise ending that really drives home the Cyberpunk elements. The animation for this episode was incredible–it really felt like live action even though it was digitally animated. I was also left wanting more, and Snow himself reminded me a lot of an old, grizzly Han Solo.
If you like desert planets, high-quality digital animation, action/mystery and great visuals, then you’ll like Snow in the Desert.
Final Verdict: 8.5/10
For the quality of the visuals, the great voice acting, the action and compelling stories delivered in these short segments, I give Volume 2 a high rating of 8.5. I only wish we got more episodes, 8 is a woefully low number considering how short each episode is, but otherwise I felt the quality of all the episodes were really good. If I had to pick I would say Volume 1 was better, simply because there was more there so they had some better episodes and some worse episodes overall.
But what were your thoughts? Which episodes were your favorite? Make sure to let us know in the comments below.