Levi and Azi relax against Azi's motorbike with a vast sky before them in Scavengers Reign.

‘Scavengers Reign’ Review: A Gorgeous New Animated Sci Fi Series

4/5 hostile aliens

What do you get when you take Alien, add some Annihilation, and then drop in a tiny bit of Akira? It may look something like Max’s new animated sci-fi survival horror series, Scavengers Reign.

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The premise of Scavengers Reign, expanded from the short film Scavengers, is simple. Catastrophe has befallen the spaceship Demeter, with several survivors landing in escape pods on the planet Vesta. These survivors roam the planet’s surface, trying to find a way back to their ship, so that they can wake up the rest of the crew from cryosleep and go home. The show largely focuses on five ragged crew members: the resourceful Azi (Wunmi Mosaku), who’s accompanied by her childlike robot companion Levi (Alia Shawkat); Sam (Bob Stephenson) and Ursula (Sunita Mani), who try to survive by working together as Ursula documents the terrible wonders around her; and Kamen (Ted Travelstead), who quickly finds himself corrupted and changed by Vesta’s ecosystem.

The first thing you should know about Scavengers Reign is that the plot is very thin, especially in the first half of the series. Azi and her crewmates’ main goal is to survive, but the problem is that the land wants to devour and transform them. Although the action eventually picks up, the series isn’t the survival thriller you might expect. Instead, it’s a meandering, hallucinatory journey through a mind-boggling landscape.

Azi and the other Demeter survivors aren’t really the main characters of Scavengers Reign. Vesta is. The planet and its denizens—flora, fauna, and organisms that defy classification—dominate each episode, as they reveal wondrous properties and subject the humans to grotesque body horror. Despite the lack of heart-pounding action, the series works because it taps into anxieties around our relationship with the natural world. Here in the anthropocene, as comfortable and complacent apex predators, we’ve thoroughly disenchanted nature. We largely view it from the safety of windows and screens, as scenery on hiking trails, as a backdrop to the dominant human world.

In Scavengers Reign, though, humans are the outsiders. Azi and the others have nothing to stop the inscrutable creatures around them from dissolving their barriers and invading them, whether it’s through implanted eggs, creeping roots and ooze, or good old fashioned stingers. Some of these invasions seem benign, plugging the characters into a larger intelligence. Others are instantly lethal. The strange beauty of Vesta reminds us that the world around us is vast and incomprehensible, even when we think we’ve conquered it.

Don’t watch Scavengers Reign for the plot. Watch it for its beautifully rendered alien landscapes, its bestiary of unsettling creatures, and its languid eco-horror. Azi and the others may want to escape Vesta as fast as possible, but you won’t want to leave.

(featured image: Max)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>