Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Halo Legends



From Master Chief to Cortana



Halo Legends is an 100 minute collection of short anime stories from the Halo game universe and franchise. The already massive multimedia franchise spans four major games and several novels! Naturally only a matter of time before Anime gets it's turn. Comprised of eight self contained episodes all created by different studios from around Japan the package has a little something for everyone. Hardcore fans may not care for some the liberties taken, while non Halo game fans and players may enjoy it. Similar to The Animatrix which told small stories of The Matrix trilogy and Batman Gotham Knight which told stories from Batman between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Halo Legends each has their own canonical interpretation on an expansive storyline.

The Episodes

Halo Legends contains eight short episodes packaged on one DVD and Blu-Ray Disc each with their own short story to tell. The stories take place at various times and places in the Halo universe.

Origins I & Origins II

Plot: Created by indy studio Studio 4°C the same team behind The Animatrix create a portrait of the backstory 100,000 year long Halo universe. It is comprised of two parts.

Thoughts: This is perhaps the worst inclusion of the collection. No doubt Halo has a long expansive history all of which is probably intresting, but the way the episodes present this is one long narration by the character Cortana (voice of Shelley Calene-Black taking over from Jen Taylor) over some animation and a lot of stills. It's the most uninteresting backstory and dullest presentation I've seen. Granted the universe is probably big enough to fill one full movie with it but this tells us everything quickly over the span of two 15 minute episodes. I could have saved my self the $20 and go to Wikipedia to read it.

The Duel


Plot: Created by the acclaimed studio Production I.G the minds behind Ghost in the Shell and the animated segments of Kill Bill: Volume 1 The story takes place long before the Human-Covenant War, Duel tells the story of an Arbiter, Fal 'Chavamee, who refuses to accept the Covenant Religion.

Thoughts: Acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) helped bring this episode to life with a young new director Hiroshi Yamazaki. Unfortunately for I.G this wasn't their better work. The story is infamous for taking extreme creative liberties with canon material and serves up a very uninteresting Samurai morality play. No surprise Samurai are long staple of Japanese fiction but the overly experimental style wasn't pretty. Clunky CGI models combined with a bad photoshop water color motif make this a visually unpleasant story. Combined with a cheesy skyward scream of NOOOOOOOOO, this episode nearly prevented me from continuing the series. New creative styles are always good, but this was neither the time or place to use it.

Homecoming

Plot: Created by the lesser known and many times disliked Bee Train (Noir, Batman Gotham Knight: Field Test) this story focuses on the tragedies involving the SPARTAN-II recruitment in 2517, and the SPARTANs coming to terms with their origins. After SPARTAN Daisy-023 and a group of fellow Spartans escape they find themselves confronting ghosts of their past.

Thoughts: The very fact that directors KĊichi Mashimo (Noir, Blade of the Immortal) and Koji Sawai (Ranma 1/2, Blade of the Immortal) were attached to this project is what made me pick this up to start! Though after the waste of Origins and The Duel, I was growing more skeptical that the rest of this project would turn out decent shorts. Homecoming actually proved to be the strongest episode yet! For being so short, it packed plenty of story and emotion in one small punch. The very iconic anime style art proves to be deceptive as the story is quite dark and tragic, and truly was one of the best of the collection. It's a bit unfortunate that studio Bee Train gets little to no credit for this, no surprise when you see the big I.G logo down in the corner of the poster, considering this is probably one of their high points. Bee Train being a former subsidiary of I.G this project really kind of fell into their lap as opposed to being directly approached like 4°C, I.G, and BONES. Homecoming is one of the strongest episodes of this series and probably will make you cry.

Odd One Out




Plot: A non-canon and satirical interpretation of the Halo universe featuring SPARTAN-1337. 1337 crash lands on a strange planet, who's inhabitance include Dinosaurs, cave children and a AI simply known as "Momma." The screwup of a Spartan fights to get off the planet and show his worth.

Thoughts: Odd One Out comes to us as a fun off canon episode from Toei Animation the studio that brought us the Dragon Ball series, no doubt making many childhoods! I guess it comes as no surprise a vast majority of Halo players hate this episode for being a stylistic self parody of the Halo games and universe, and not being a Halo Player my self, that probably explains why I like it as much as I did. The episode is the only real breather episode in a collection of otherwise very serious (narm aside) stories. The episode is a fun shout out to Dragonball and One Piece. The animation is silly and zaney and a lot of fun, but again loyal Halo players will probably take offense to it.

Prototype


Plot: Taking place during the Battle of Algolis, Prototype tells the story of a Marine who, despite orders to destroy an advanced prototype armor, uses the suit to buy time for civilians evacuating from the planet.

Thoughts: Created by Studio Bones the people behind Fullmetal Alchemist, Prototype returns the serious and gut wrenching formats following the breather episode Odd One Out. Featuring creative interpretation from the acclaimed Shinji Aramaki this episode features more impactful drama as seen in Homecoming. This episode is splendidly animated and written and is my other favorite of the collection. After thinking no one could top the great job in Homecoming, Prototype proved me wrong, it wasn't another action episode it had a lot of the human drama that I enjoy in a story like this. When I think of Halo I don't think of a real storyline quite like this but I think this proved me wrong. If you asked me which do I like better Prototype or Homecoming, I simply cannot choose because both episodes are easily the very best of this collection.


The Package


Plot: An all CGI Film taking place during a SPARTAN-II raid on a Covenant Assault Carrier using Booster Frames to recover "the package".

Thoughts: Created by Casio Entertainment and Shinji Aramaki this episode doesn't have a lot to say for it. As a story it's pretty shallow and not as deep as the other stories presented. It is pure action and feels like something out of Star Wars (not that's a terribly bad thing). Dai Sato the writer behind such shows Cowboy Bebop, and Wolf's Rain doesn't craft an elegant story in this case but rather a pretty typical action story. Hardcore Halo fans will be disappointed even more to find Master Chief and Cortana are voiced by different people for reasons unknown instead of Jen Taylor and Steve Downes. The Package is mediocre but not terrible.

The Babysitter


Plot: story about the rivalry between the SPARTAN-II Commandos and the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers as they're sent to a Covenant-controlled world to assassinate a Covenant San 'Shyuum.

Thoughts: Studio 4˚C concludes the collection with one more episode, thankfully this one was rather good. A good story of comeradery in battle between soldiers and the friction between units it's a good story with a good plot. Animated nicely this is a great conclusion.


Halo Legends is rated PG-13 and is available from Warner Home Video on Blu-Ray and DVD. The two disc edition includes a 60 minute making of featurette and the Blu-Ray includes a look at Halo 3: ODST.

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