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What has started as a go big or go bankrupt video game for a once small video games studio named Bungie, Halo has become one of science fiction’s most expansive universes that rivals long established universes like Star Wars, Star Trek and Warhammer. Outside of the Xbox and Xbox 360 video games, the Halo franchise has expanded its fiction through a series of well written novels, comics under the Marvel banner and now anime with Halo Legends.
An anthology Animatrix-style of eight shorts, Halo Legends, overseen by the (now) franchis’s caretakers 343 Studios, was developed by some of the greatest minds and studios in anime. Like the Animatrix, Halo Legends presents each short its own style of animation and writing from their respective animation studios and each short film provides story and tidbits of information about the universe that brings in new insights and revelations to questions that may have been addressed in Halo’s video games and novels, while couple of shorts serve as a more a what if scenario. Here is the breakdown to each one.
In the same fashion as the Animatrix, Halo Legends starts off with Origins, a two part history breakdown of the franchises fiction with untold stories from the universe brought to light for the first time while being narrated by Cortana. Those familiar with the Animatrix may notice the style of Stuido 4C and Hideki Futamura (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.) The art of the Origins looks very much the same as Second Renaissance but some added new touches.
The Babysitter follows a group of ODST marines plus a Spartan on an assassination mission of the highest priority while re-examining their own rivalry if they wish to succeed. Also developed by Studio 4C and Toshiyuki Kanno (Black Lagoon), The Babysitter is an action film where the story matters little except to the most diehard fans of the Halo fiction.
Prototype is about a commander’s final hours on the frontlines of battle as he reflects on a time during the Covenant-Human war that has haunted him the most. Probably dramatically the strongest of all the short films, Prototype was created by Tomoki Kyoda and Yasushi Muraki and Studio Bones (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Fullmetal Alchemist) the story is as gripping as the action sequences look much like it was from the Gundam series.
Homecoming shows the moral price of what it takes to create the perfect super solider as well the toll it has taken on those involved. Developed by Production I.G. (Blood, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh), Homecoming presents a familiar art style in the same familiarity of Ghost in the Shell the TV series while story has much emotional investment to the female lead as she has a heart wrenching revelation about her past.
The artistic standout is The Duel. The Duel’s story follows an alien known as the Arbiter as he defies his role as he seeks revenge. A traditional/CG hybrid by Production I.G., the visuals look as if it were from a traditional Japanese watercolor painting while story plays out like the tale of the samurai.
The CG action packed The Package by studio Casio Entertainment and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed, Appleseed EX) follows the Master Chief and his team on a rescue mission in enemy territory. Visually the action scenes are breathtaking as the Master Chief and Co. race through space dodging enemy ships and sprinting through the halls destroying anyone in their way.
Lastly, Odd One Out developed by Toei Animation (Dragonball series, Sailor Moon, One Piece) is a funny piece that asks what if Halo was turned into a Saturday morning cartoon. Visually Odd One Out will look the most familiar as it feels much like an episode of Dragon Ball Z minus the melodrama that slowed the pace most of the series’ episodes.
All in all Halo Legends provides something for almost everyone. Hardcore Halo fans will enjoy seeing their favorite characters and viewing franchise through different eyes. Anime fans may find something to enjoy in Halo Legends but may feel very familiar to the Animatrix. With the tenth anniversary approaching, Halo Legends is a good companion to the ever expanding mythology and universe to a major franchise.