Monday, October 24, 2011
Anime review: Halo Legends
Halo Legends is a series of short animated stories from the Halo storyline, and reaches beyond the constraints of the games. The episodes visit planets and characters explored in the books and comics, while others are completely new to the franchise. Since this is the first review I have done of this sort of collection, I will be providing each individual anime entry with its own rating (out of a possible five ranking), and then providing an overall rating for Halo Legends as a whole (which will be out of the standard ten-point ranking system I use). Please note that the overall rating is not an average, rather a rating based on how well the sum of the Halo Legends's parts work together in delivering stories and expanding the Halo universe.
Origins serves as a quick recap of the events of the original Halo trilogy, and is divided into two parts. The first half, drawn in a style akin to that of American comic books, tells the story of the Forerunners and struggle with the Flood. This covers everything from their first encounter with one another, to the Forerunner’s construction of the Halo array and subsequent demise.
Part two does the same, except for the subject is that of the Humans. This is presented through a much more detailed and gritty animation style, with many of the background images something of a blur between painting and photography. Cortana explains how humanity acted throughout their history on Earth, and though they sought prosperity among the stars, ultimately carried their destructive, militaristic nature into space. Despite this humanity unites under the threat of the Covenant, and the two unite in turn under the returning threat of the Flood. It’s all visually pleasing, but is only going to be eye-opening for anyone who is jumping feet-first into Halo: Legends with little knowledge of what happens in the games. For the rest, it’s recycled information.
3 out of 5
The Duel explores the tale of one of the former Arbiters and his fall from the graces of the Covenant hierarchs. His dissent arises from concerns over the well-being of his home planet of Sanghelios. The pride of the Elites is used as very direct comparison to the honor code of the Samurai, which is made even more evident through the Shogun-inspired armor donned by Covenant forces and the watercolor animation present for the entire episode. It’s an interesting look into how the role of Arbiter went from ‘honored right hand of the prophets’ to ‘branded with the mark of death’. But the Japanese style is so forced that it draws away from the story.
2 out of 5
Homecoming follows a Spartan named Daisy, who wears the CQB armor variant. The episode is presented as a parallel of two stories - her present-day mission in a Covenant-occupied city, and her experiences as a young inductee to Dr. Halsey's program. In the present, Daisy puts her life on the line to escort Marines to an extraction zone so they can escape, while the past has her running away from Halsey and coming face-to-face with the flash clone that has become her replacement in the civilian world. Both present and past storylines build up a great deal of tension, but in different ways. The animation style is an interesting hybrid between that of the American cartoon/comic book and early digitally colored anime, like Gundam SEED.
4 out of 5
Odd One Out is the most directly comedic entry into the collection, and features Spartan 1337 as its protagonist. After this new Spartan falls out of the back of his Pelican, Master Chief and Cortana assure the crew that 1337 is capable of taking care of himself. At the same time, the prophets send a biological experiment named Pluton to fight 1337, believing him to be Master Chief. What ensues is a ridiculous parody of Dragonball Z and Halo that manages to balance its humor with a halfway-decent, if not bonkers, storyline.
3 out of 5
Prototype utilizes a very pleasing animation style, heavy on glow lighting in sparks and gunfire, while still paying attention to finer details. There is a nice utilization of smoke and mist effects, and the episode is surprisingly colorful for having an overall dark, industrial color palette. Beneath this layer of visual goodies lies the story of a group of Marines trying to provide cover fire for escaping civilian transports. When the Marines become pinned down, their squad leader, Ghost, activates a prototype Spartan suit that is more mechanized than the armor worn by Master Chief or most others. Though he is defying orders, Ghost states that he will destroy the suit and all of its data once his squad has safely escaped. The fight sequences snowball into one continuous adrenaline rush, akin to Gundam Unicorn, and utilize a number of interesting and varied camera angles. The story of Ghost as an individual is also explored, specifically his belief that he is responsible for the death of his entire former squad.
5 out of 5
The Babysitter follows an ODST squad on a mission to assassinate a prophet. Their camaraderie takes center stage as some of the sqaud members have trouble accepting a Spartan along on their mission. Along the way, some other minor points are touched on, such as the dangers of the drop pods (or 'helljumping', as the ODSTs refer to it), and Forerunner structures. The animation is something of a cross between Cyborg 009 and Gundam 00, with characters having slightly exaggerated facial features and bright color palettes. The lighting effects are top-notch, and breathe life into the forested planet the ODSTs have been sent to.
4 out of 5
The only pick of the bunch to be fully rendered in 3D animation, The Package follows one of Master Chief's missions between the Halo novels and games. Dr. Halsey has been taken prisoner by the Covenant, and it's up to Chief and four other Spartans to fly to her rescue, mounted on booster frames that bear more than just a passing glance resemblance to Gundam 0083's Dendrobium. The space sequences are phenomenal, evoking a Star Wars feel, while the occasional shift to first-person view during the on-foot sequences inside the Covenant ship is a mildly amusing, nostalgic nod to the Halo video games. There are some slow-mo action scenes, though these are used sparingly. The inclusion of Fred and Linda will be a treat for those familiar with the novels. For those who aren't, it will make the narrative that more interesting, with more than just Chief's perspective presented.
5 out of 5
Halo Legends is an interesting collection of short episodes that expand upon the sci-fi universe introduced through the games. The first few episodes aren't the best start to the collection, but it gradually picks itself up, pressing forward on its own two feet by the final episode. There are a few characters from outside of the original trilogy that make appearances, and though most of their roles are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, fans of Halo 3: ODST, Halo Wars, and the various novels will enjoy connecting the dots.
My rating: 8.0 (out of 10)