15 February 2010 | xamtaro
Diversity over Quality
Halo Legends is an anime anthology series in a similar vein to "Animatrix" and "Batman: Gotham Knight". It consists of 8(but actually 7 since two of them are just parts 1 and 2 of the same story) short animated stories that explores areas of the rich Halo game universe which were previously only the stuff of rumors. Different anime studios and directors worked on each segment as as such, the quality of both the stories and the animation varies a lot from one clip to the next. Some for the better, others less so. Overall, the whole production plays the "diversity over quality" card. There is something for everyone to enjoy but at the same time, something that a anime fan might like, a Halo fan might consider it as a great insult to a great game. It also requires viewers to be well versed in at least the most basic of Halo jargon. Curious little piece but not quite essential viewing for either anime or halo fans.
I'll rank the segments from my favorite to the least favorite
1) The Package, Directed by Shinji Aramaki(Appleseed).This one is for the fans of the game as it looks just like one of the in-game cinematic cut-scenes. For the only time in the whole anthology do we finally get to see Master Chief 117 in action. First, an amazing scene of space combat that rivals even Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Then all out Guns-a-blazing action as Master Chief and a team of Spartans attempt to retrieve the titular package John Woo style. So many little easter eggs including a short FPS sequence and an important cameo appearance, easily make this segment a fan favorite for sure.
2) Origins 1 and 2 directed by Hideki Futamura(director of "Genius Party" Key animator of Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust) with animation produced by Studio 4C(Transformers Animated, Spriggan). Cortana narrates out the history of Halo from the ancient time of the forerunners to the events of the game. Though it plays out like some slideshow, the animation is richly detailed combined with the best 3D CGI used for backgrounds and vehicles. They even used a older 1980s animation style for the ancient history segments to give it that aged look.
3) "The Duel". Boasting a graphic style reminiscent of classic Japanese watercolor paintings courtesy of Production I.G (Ghost in The Shell: Innocence, IGPX), it really is refreshing to see an anime studio try something new. With themes of honor and betrayal, the costumes worn by the characters and even the traditional woodwind music, it is safe to assume that the directors, Hiroshi Yamazaki and Mamoru Oshii(Ghost in the Shell, Sky Crawlers) intended this to be a homage to traditional Japanese folk tales and art. We follow a tale of an Arbiter named Fal who fears that the covenant's ways are dishonorable. The prophet uses this to accuse him of heresy and has Fal's wife killed in order to lure him to his death. It is action intense while also giving a glimpse into the Covenant's inner workings.
4)"Prototype" by studio bones (rahxephon, FullMetal Alchemist).Directed by Tomoki Kyoda of "Eureka 7" fame and new comer Yasushi Muraki, it seems that someone got lazy and just edited a story outline of a Gundam episode with new names and Halo terminology. I would have ranked it higher if it weren't so unoriginal. Basically its about a Platoon commander "Ghost" who suppresses his human emotions in battle. He steals a weapon laden mobile suit and attempts to hold off the Covenant forces while the humans can escape. Imagine Gundam Wing's Heero Yui as a Halo marine and you have Ghost. While this was a heart wrenching little anecdote, it suffers thanks to its unoriginality.
5) "Homecoming". another unoriginal story. The main character is a SPARTAN II soldier named Daisy 23. While the story takes place during a mission in present day, flashbacks reveal the sad origin of the SPARTAN program where children are kidnapped to be surgically augmented and trained to be super soldiers. The flashbacks tell the tale of a failed escape attempt by Daisy and some other trainees and how she finally comes to terms with her role in the coming war. Homecoming tries to tug on the heartstrings but ends up a mildly boring mess. The flat 2D art and uninspired character designs clash badly with the beautiful backgrounds. Whats more, the tough SPARTAN soldiers are portrayed as angsty emo teenagers. One of the weakest entries in the whole movie.
6) Odd One out. 1 word summarises it = stupidity.The title not only describes the main character SPARTAN 1337 but the entire segment itself. While other clips focus on dark gritty war stories, Odd one Out focuses more on lighthearted slapstick comedy. It is no surprise that director Daisuke Nishio, who also directed the Dragonball anime, would imbue this with all the staples of those long running Shonen action series. Exaggerated hand to hand combat, quirky characters, super powered kids, cheesy dialog. Even the flaws like repeated scenes and inconsistent animation is present here. A real insult to Halo.
7)"the Babysitter". Not only is this little story one of the weakest in terms of narrative but in the animation too. The story does not have the emotional impact of the previous ones and only serves as a reminder for the Halo fans that the production team has not forgotten about the Helljumpers from "Halo: ODST". Toshiyuki Kanno's animation is flatly colored and clashes with the detailed CGI backgrounds. Character movements are painfully stiff except for one or two shots.
In closing, Halo legends has something for everyone and something to put everyone off. Where Animatrix and Batman Gotham Knight had constant running themes or common characters throughout each of its separate segments, Halo legends lacks that cohesiveness.