Halo is probably one of the most played video games series in the world. I have played several instalments but I never really was too interested in them (although I do think the “Don’t make a girl a promise” quote is great). Film is what I’m more interested in and after learning there was an anime film about the Halo universe produced I thought I would track it down and watch it.
Halo Legends stars Shelley Calene-Black, David Wald and John Gremillion and is directed by Toshiyuki Kanno, Hiroshi Yamazaki, Koji Sawai, Tomoki Kyoda and Yasushi Muraki. The film follows seven different stories in the Halo universe, based on several characters over thousands of years.
Instead of a single story based on the video game (which has apparently been in development for several years, once with Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg as directors), Halo Legends decides to be an anthology series, swapping between four different anime houses. There’s Production I.G. (creator of Ghost In The Shell), Studio 4C (who created The Animatrix) BONES (Full Metal Alchemist), Casio Entertainment and probably the most well known, Toei Animation (Dragonball Z). It’s a mix of art styles and keeps the visuals changing from story to story.
The most visually striking segment is The Duel, a samurai/ronin style film, featuring the alien species, The Elites. It’s created with CGI, but then retrofitted with a watercolour feature, making it look like an in-motion painting. It looks beautiful during the sweeping shots of the battle, but looks a bit odd during dialogue sequences. There is traditional anime in Homecoming with Prototype, Origins and The Babysitter being more broad in their animation styles. Odd One Out, created by Toei, is very reminiscent of their Dragonball series and The Package is CGI, looking like an overlong cutscene.
While the stories take different characters and situations, most descend into action sequences. If you have no interest in violence then Halo Legends will not be for you. While certain stories (like Odd One Out) are over-the-top comedy violence, others like The Duel are filled with blood. Sure, the blood is green and purple, but it’s still very graphic. All the rest of the sections are filled with machine guns and rockets and is your standard action/war film.
Despite being violent, the sections do have some good storytelling. Homecoming brings up the ethics of torture and taking children to become soldiers and the opening to Prototype discusses ideas of survivor guilt, but loses a bit of sparkle during the second half. The Duel is standard samurai affair, and The Babysitter and The Package are very generic in their story, despite The Babysitter being one of my favourite segments. Origins, narrated by series female AI Cortana, is a re-cap of the entire Halo back-story. Even to someone like me who doesn’t really like Halo, it was interesting and is another favourite section. It actually makes me want to go back and play, but then I remember that there is literally no story in the video game.
Odd One Out is probably my least favourite section. This section is the only out of canon in the anthology, and the influences of Toei’s Dragonball Z don’t really mesh with the Halo Universe. There are martial art students, three orphans, a T-Rex and an gorilla who can control electricity. It feels out of place, and the comedy is very forced.
The music from the game, by Michael Salvatori and Martin O’Donnell, is reused in Halo Legends, and despite the change in the medium it fits very well into the stories. There are remixes and new scores created by Tetsuya Takahashi, Naoyuki Hiroko and Yasuharu Takanashi, mainly for The Duel, and despite radical changes it still feels thematically similar to Salvatori and O’Donnell’s work.
In conclusion, Halo Legends is a well-executed experiment. It will appeal to Halo fans, as well as general sci-fans and anime/animation fanatics. If you don’t fall into one of those categories then maybe this will be one to miss.
Score: 7/10 A fun sci-fi romp that is visually stunning.