Halo Legends mixes anime with Bungie's hugely-successful SF war video game franchise, and the result is curiously less than the sum of its parts. The animation is great, the backstory interesting... So why doesn't it work?
Like similar projects The Ani-Matrix and Batman: Gotham Knight, Halo Legends lets various Japanese animation houses take a swing at concepts and characters from the video-game universe to create an anthology of shorts and, also like the earlier projects, the results are definitely mixed. Only problem is, the range goes from "Okay" to "Wait, what was that?"; there's almost nothing here that's really worthy of the Halo reputation.
Visually, it's never less than interesting, and occasionally borders on brilliant; Studio 4°C's work on "Origins" is amazing, especially in the first chapter; it's beautifully clean, in contrast to the subject matter it's tackling, and dissonance really works in its favor. Less successful are Production I.G's impressionistic "The Duel", which looks muddy, unfinished and Photoshop-filtered instead of the painterly feel I presume was intended, and Casio Entertainment's CGI "The Package," which may look like the game, but lacks the freshness of Clone Wars, but the whole thing is never boring to watch, as much as it may occasionally be boring to pay attention to.
Most of the problem is the writing; nothing manages to convey anything approaching an appropriate feeling of scale or oppression - Either the vignettes are too small ("The Duel", "Homecoming" and "The Babysitter" in particular, focus on smaller interpersonal relationships within the larger framework, and weirdly enough, reduce the larger framework by doing so - Having maybe one or two of these stories on the disc would be fine, but three out of eight began to feel repetitive) or too large, reducing what should be epic into standard-issue SF (the "Origins" two-parter, and "The Package"). None of the stories manage to make Halo seem like anything more than a generic Space War story - In fact, "The Package" and, to a lesser extent, the best of the shorts "Prototype", both feel very much like episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars at times - and that feeling, the let-down of missed opportunities, permeates the entire viewing experience. It's not that Halo Legends is bad, ultimately, just that it's not as good as it should be.
Halo Legends is available now on DVD, BluRay and as digital download.