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Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Review: Halo Legends

Halo is pretty popular. The games, five in all with a sixth on the way, have sold millions and millions on the Xbox360 and PC. There’s also books, comics, and a movie was even considered at one point. Whether you love it or hate it, the series is here to stay. It seemed inevitable that the series would eventually find its way to Japan and on February 16, 2010 it did, in the form of an anthology of short movies about the characters and the universe. The project was overseen by Shinji Aramki [director of Appleseed and Appleseed: Ex Machina] and financed by 343 Industries.

Origins: Part 1 and 2

This is a strange set of movies. There’s almost nothing in the way of characters, aside from Cortana [who narrates from within a trashed space ship as Master Chief slumbers in suspended animation]. It tales the story of how the ForeRunners battled the Flood and ultimately destroyed all of the thinking species in the universe as a last ditch effort to save life. It’s very surreal and detached, but the story it tells is a compelling one. The second part delved into humanity’s clash with the Covenant and their eventual cease-fire as they unite to fight the Flood. Overall, I liked the second part than the first, the animation felt much better overall as was the direction. Both parts were animated by Studio4C and directed by Hideki Futumura. 7.0/10 overall, but part 2 is 7.5/10.

The Duel

A short movie that plays out like a samurai tragedy. The Arbiter defies the Covenant and, because of this, another Elite is sent to kill his wife. The Arbiter embarks an odyssey to find those responsible and prove his honor in battle. After battling through hordes of underlings he find the Elite who killed his wife and the two face off in single combat. The animation style is very strange, with 3D characters and backgrounds overlaid by filter that makes it appear almost like an oil painting. The story is well-worn, despite the setting, but that doesn’t hinder it from being an interesting take on the universe. Animated by Production IG, directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki, and overseen by Mamoru Oshii. 7.5/10

The Babysitter

On the ODST’s next mission, they have a Spartan tagging along to replace their sniper. Their old sniper isn’t too happy about the swap and makes it clear that he doesn’t think the Spartan’s up to it. It’s a fairly straightforward entry into the anthology and focuses on action more than anything else. It looks pretty good and it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to do something too deep or complex for such a short run time. The animation is really good too. Overall, decent entry, nothing really all that special though. Directed by Toshiyuki Kanno and animated by Production IG. 7/10

The Package

Definitely the showpiece of the anthology. With this one, rather than doing 2D animation, they’ve gone for full 3D animation. In the entry, Master Chief and several other Spartans are sent to recover a package that has been capture by the Covenant. The problem is that the package is sitting in the middle of a fleet and they don’t have much time to complete the mission. This time around, there’s really not much story at all. It’s all action all the time, with very few lulls in the fierce combat. It looks pretty good, although some of the faces suffer from a somewhat limited budget. The action is fairly well-done for the most part, although it does go a bit overboard with a few flashes of first-person views that mimic the videogames. That was just a bit too much, I think. It was one of the most “fun” of the entries and it goes by the quickest. Directed by Shinji Aramaki and animated by Casio Entertainment. 6.5/10

Homecoming

A female Spartan leads her crew on a long journey through enemies lines to reach their extraction point, a journey which mirrors one she made previously after escaping from a research facility and trying to make her way back home. There’s a split here between the drama of the Spartan’s early life and the action in the present. It’s a pretty depressing short, but it’s reasonably well made and one of the more interesting of the seven. The only real problem I have with this one is that the action scenes feel a bit under-directed, as in they’re feel a bit flat and don’t feature the sort of tension and force that they should. It could have been better. Animation was handled by Production IG and directed by Koji Sawai. 7.0/10

Prototype

Well, here’s another depressing one. A sergeant who’s infamous for losing all of the men in his company and not showing any emotion at all about it, once again finds himself under fire from the enemy and close to losing all his subordinates. This time, he decides he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure they escape using a prototype power suit that resembles something out of the Gundam series. The action in this one is fierce and furious and among the most well done in the series. The story is mainly confined to the beginning and the ending, while the entire middle is one huge action scene. Animation was handled by Studio Bones and directed by Tomoki Kyoda. 7.5/10

Odd One Out

This entry follows the midadventures of Spartan 1337 [or “leet”, as the kids say]. Although a highly trained warrior, 1337 has a habit of letting rather unfortunate things happen to him, such as falling out of his own ship or beating almost eaten by a dinosaur. When push comes to shove, however, he shows himself to be more than just a helpless numbskull. Most of the entries take themselves very seriously, but this one is the exception. Everything is goofy and over-the-top, with the battles more closing resembling something out of Dragon Ball Z than Halo. It actually works too, as the dark, depressing mood in many of the other entries gets to be a bit oppressive after a while. Directed by Daisuke Nishio and animated by Toei Animation. 7.5/10

The series as a whole is pretty good. There aren’t any segments that are bad, but none of them are really amazing either. Overall, I’d probably give the whole package a 7.5/10 as someone who is mildly familiar with the Halo universe but not really a huge fan. Someone who is a huge fan, might add another point to that.

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May 1, 2010 - Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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