Those who have been reading this blog for a while now probably know that I’m a big fan of those compilation-movies: the ones that challenge all kinds of different artists and storytellers to produce a short animation film of 10 to 20 minutes, and combine them all together into one. The fact that Halo Legends is based upon an American franchise makes it even better, giving these films an international flavour, combining east and west.
Overall, even though I’ve played none of the games, I was very pleasantly surprised by Halo Legends, there are some true gems among these stories. Here are some individual comments on all of them:
Origins – I – Just a background story of the world the games are set in. It’s a standard post-apocalyptic story, but well paced. It’s got a great soundtrack all-round, and the art looks pretty nice. The animation however… not so much.
Prototype – I went into this without any background story whatsoever, so I did miss who these characters were, but that was the beauty of this episode: it possesses enough characterization and background to make them stand apart anyway, and the holes in their background added to their mysterious characters. This one produced a great feel of the battlefields that the Hal-games envisioned.
The Babysitter – This one starts out mundane and boring, but ends as the best one yet. Despite the weak set-up it continues to push the right buttons and even gets some development into the short time-frame. The graphics also move from rather ugly to utterly gorgeous, and you can really see that the guys from Studio 4C are trying out a ton of different animation techniques.
The Package – Entirely rendered in CG – yes, even the characters’ faces. It looks great, but this episode tries to be a bit too much like a game, and the formula hurts a lot. Game adaptations are great, just because out of all possible adaptations they require the most input from the creators of the adaptations, in order to really work (there’s no way to animate game-over screens, after all), and this one took too little liberties, and just went for the eye-candy. I like eye-candy, but not when I don’t care about the rest of the story.
Homecoming – Whoa! Another excellent example of how much you can do in just fifteen minutes. Instead of showing a random story, the creators succeeded in showing a character here, one with actual depth that gets explored perfectly in such a short time-frame. Oh, and best soundtrack yet, and the backgrounds are also gorgeously detailed. The characters’ faces were a bit too much of plastic, though.
Odd One Out – And now for something completely different. Odd one out has no depth, it’s got a basic story, premise and lacks any sort of intelligence. What it is, however is a fun ten-minute shounen episode with lots of loud people fighting. Nothing special, but the characters all have their charms, and that’s what I think the creators of this one tried to achieve.
Origins – II – Oh, the graphics in this short kick so much ass! No frame feels the same, every frame is full of imagination and incredibly varied. This one is again back-story, and the slide-show it presents while the central character has her story does wonders to illustrate her narration. This drew me in far more than the first Origins, and smartly uses the build-up provided by the former.
The Duel – This one also is done entirely in CG, but with a really weird filter put on top of it. It’s… intrusive to say the least. In any case, what sets this one apart is the classic Japanese style of storytelling: here the creators took an evil alien race, and turned it into a Japanese-esque tribe of pride and stubbornness. The characters are pretty static, though, and the scenario was a bit too predictable at times.
If I’d have to rank these eight from least favourite to most, it’d be the following:
8. The Package
7. Odd One Out
6. Origins – I
5. The Duel
3. Origins – II
1. The Babysitter
The top four were a bit of a weird experiment. For those who were looking forward to Mamoru Oshii’s involvement: don’t. He only worked on The Duel, and while it was an interesting attempt to show that animation is more than just 2D and 3D CG and Japanese or American, it was 1) too Japanese for that to really work, and 2) you could clearly see that it was just 3D CG with a random filter. Anyone with a video editing tool could do that.
The bottom four however, were definitely worth it, and Bones, Bee-Train and Studio 4C did an amazing job bringing these short stories to life. I especially loved Homecoming and the Babysitter: even though the characters looked a bit weird in the beginning, they made up with it with some amazing eye candy and a ton of personality. It’s very difficult to get sympathetic characters out of just 15 minutes, but these two more than did it.
The best in terms of graphics came from Studio 4C; while just about every episode aside from the Duel looked great, Origins and The Babysitter push good looking even further by not focusing on extreme detail, but instead on creativity. Their shorts are a visual feast, mostly because they throw in so many different artworks that are varied, bold and all kick ass. The music… hell, do I need to even say it? While the music was excellent for every short, Homecoming had by far the best soundtrack.
All I can say is: Studio 4C, Production IG, Bones, Bee Train, and just about every other anime studio who’s ever participated in these kinds of projects: please keep doing them! The beauty of these projects is that with so much diversity, there are so many interesting and different stories to tell. Sure, there will be some disappointing episodes, but even then the nice ones are bound to make up for them.
|Storytelling:||9/10 – Prototype, Origins II, Homecoming and The Babysitter make excellent use of their short time-frame and put forth a truly engaging story.|
|Characters:||8/10 – A bit held back by the cardboard characters of Odd One Out and The Package.|
|Production-Values:||9/10 – Gorgeous and varied graphics, though at times the animation itself could be better.|
|Setting:||8/10 – I’ve never seen Halo, and I’m impressed at how they portrayed such a seemingly cliched back-story.|