2010 saw the release of Halo Legends, overseen by 343, the appointed managers of the hugely successful Microsoft Halo gaming franchise. It is a seven part anthology (eight if you count the fact that “Origins” is split into two episodes), consisting of episodes ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each, and produced by some of Japan’s hottest anime studios and directors, including work by Studio 4°C, Production I.G., Casio Entertainment, Toei Animation, and Bones, never mind the fact that the applauded director Shinji Aramaki also wades in on the act.
So this is the marriage of the Western Halo gaming franchise with Japanese anime, a mix that doesn’t always work that well in practice, but which does actually stand a fairly good chance to successfully translate this time around, thanks mainly to Halo’s focus on mecha and space ships, one of the staples of anime design!
Anthologies are not my cup of tea as the short nature of the stories means that you don’t easily get sucked in, and if they aren’t linked up in a coherent storyline like say Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic or Green Lantern: Emerald Knights managed to do, it becomes somewhat of a waste of time in my opinion.
And this turns out to be very much the case.
Ignoring the slapstick “Odd One Out” episode which is completely out of line in terms of tone to the rest of the DVD, the short stories are all haphazardly placed in the Halo mythos, and apart from Origins which at least gives us a deeper look into the historic timeline of the franchise, the rest of the stories really matter very little indeed.
In other words, unless you are already a hardcore Halo fan, there really isn’t all that much for you here.
In terms of the animation, each studio uses completely different techniques, resulting in a very disjointed affair, reminiscent of the problems that plagued the poor The Animatrix anthology release back when it was originally published. That said, the animation employed by the various studios do all for the most part work and work well, with particular mention being made of the absolutely gorgeous and fluid CG used to render Shinji Aramaki’s The Package insert. However on a similar note, the horrid watercolor effect completely destroys Hiroshi Yamazaki’s The Duel piece, and while Toei’s Dragonball Z-like animation suits the tone of the “Odd One Out” story, it just serves to re-enforce how much this episode really doesn’t belong in what would otherwise be a pretty serious group of tales.
One thing that does however work across all the episodes is the great choice in voice actors cast to fill the characters’ shoes, as is the splendid music that often serves to provide a hauntingly beautiful and epic backdrop to each and every one of the stories being told.
All in all, Halo Legends is probably something best left to the fans of the series, especially those who are interesting in the single player storyline of the Halo franchise, and not those just in it for the multiplayer. For me it suffers from the same sense of pointlessness of the other anime-inspired anthologies that have come before it, in other words The Animatrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, meaning that I really can’t recommend it to anyone other than those aforementioned hardcore fans.
Still, it’s not like it doesn’t have its pretty moments though…
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_Legends