Halo: Legends copies the idea of the Animatrix for the Halo Universe, a group of the most famous and notorious anime and manga artists, writers and producers/directors get together to give Bungie's and Microsoft's sci-fi universe a new media presence, alas, that's all they truly achieve.
Once the incredible excitement and joy of seeing your personal characters, and the Halo Universe as a whole, animated, alive and moving passes and the time to see Legends from a critical point comes, it is a little sad to notice that it doesn't seriously offer much in ways of true tales, even short ones, or in new lore, or old one. Some of the stories can even be mapped, almost too precisely, to what is seen in the Matrix inspired animated collection.
Although Legends offers insight in the Halo Universe to just about anyone interested I believe people who have played the games will be more attracted to it --obviously--, but it will be the people that have read all or most of the novels who will truly feel that they know about those extra bits hidden among the context, the dialogue and the visuals. It really is a set of stories meant for the true --multimedia-- Halo fan.
Like with the graphic novels/comics what this animated short story collection lacks is, ironically, good stories. Most of them don't manage to tell anything nor add, nor reflect, nor elaborate, not even provide a cool glimpse of the extense material that the Halo Universe can offer. And those that do, focus on the wrong thing. Like with the static art fo the comic books and graphic novels they focus too much on the action, forgetting that to get that we have the games.
Seven stories, seven teams, seven tales?. Origins (directed by Hideki Futamura) comes in two parts and is a narration by Cortana of how the Universe of Halo came to be as she and the Master Chief float in space after Halo 3 (I believe). Much like the first origin story in Animatrix. She tells about how the Forerunners fought a losing battle against the Flood and how the Halos came to be, as well as how Humanity eventually had to face them again. The story does try to be interesting and add something but I don't think it truly succeeds, there is too much against the idea of war while at the same time it touches the subject of the need for warriors. Visually its nice although the whole Forerunner section reminds me too much of the Ultra Seven and Ultraman (and Ultramen) characters of the Japanese TV superhero series (and movies).
The Duel (directed by Hiroshi Yamazaki) tries to tell more about the Covenant faction, in particular de civilization that are known to us as the Elites --the Sangheili. They are presented as a Shogun-Era race with a deep sense of honor like the Samurai. The environments also reflect such inspiration although they add some out-of-this-world look to give it the alien feeling. Sadly the story doesn't really go much deeper than the honor idea and the inevitable fight that one would expect from the title. Visually its very nice, and the fight scenes remind me of the movie Hero (2003) with Jet Li, we also get to see why the Sangheili are such incredible warriors and battalion commanders.
Homecoming (directed by Koji Sawai) tries to explain who the Spartan II are and where they come from. It is a very fan-oriented short film, without the proper background it is almost devoid of context. It doesn't add anything to the existing lore, it does, however, offer a nice I-know-that feeling to whom has read the novels, in particular Halo: The Fall of Reach by Erik Nylund. Other than that it is a rather weak story with no depth and very little to say or show.
The story Odd One Out (directed by Daisuke Nishio) deserves that title at more than one level; it is a parody of the setting rather than an attempt to extend it or explore it. It feels like a weird Dragon Ball Z episode with Halo Universe elements and characters. As stories go it is one of the less interesting and meaningful of the collection, although it does have a couple of silly/funny moments that should provoke a short smile/grin from the viewer --in particular if said viewer is a fan of the adventures of Son Goku, or just Goku, as well.
Prototype (directed by Yasushi Muraki, co-directed by Tomoki Kyoda) starts as a story that wants to be deep but it doesn't take long for it to abruptly change direction and become one that has nothing but enough material to give some sense and a sort of reason to the battle and destruction that follow.
The Babysitter (directed by Toshiyuki Kanno) is another weak story that tries to show the resentment between ODST squadrons --formerly THE best and toughest-- and the Spartan super-soldiers. It also tries to introduce us to a Helljumper squad and their life in the battlefield but like the related graphic novel it ends up lacking depth and true narrative. Even the twist at the end becomes meaningless to the overall setting.
The Package (directed by Shinji Aramaki) is probably the best assembled overall story although it lacks depth just as much as the others do; even so, it has small bits of cool hidden knowledge that will only mean something to those who have read the novels, otherwise its just another Spartan II inspired action battle using CGI animations. The timeline would probably be before the events of the original Halo and even Halo: Reach, or more precisely the battle for Reach. We get to meet, although by no means learn about, two very important characters whose lives and adventures are better told in the novels by Erik Nylund (The Fall of Reach, First Strike and Ghosts of Onyx).
Personally I had higher hopes for Halo: Legends, just like with the graphic novels/comic collections I expected more. Many single episodes of Robotech, Star Wars: Clone Wars and the CGI Spider-Man series (to name a few) offer deeper narrative that what we see in this group of tales. I truly can't understand why the writers/teams couldn't come up with material and short stories to tell a little more with everything they have in the Halo Universe; I know it takes time, I know it means more effort but it would also be much more rewarding to the fans, and even to those who just wanted to see the animated stories. There seems to be too much focus on showing action rather than telling something, and they don't seem to be finding a good way in which to mix both.
Halo: Legends is a good collection if one is just looking for everything-Halo. Visually all stories have their own almost branded feel and look. But once the excitement of watching it for the first time wears off there truly, and sadly, is nothing else to come back to. And, like with all non-videogame media associated with the Halo franchise, with the obvious exception of the novels, it becomes a collectible, memorabilia, --just-- another piece of mechandising. At least right now it can be found at prices that make much more sense for what it offers, sort of.
If there ever is a second collection I hope they decide to make the Halo Universe justice; it deserves adventures, stories and characters that even if on short animated films have to have a timeless quality that can be enjoyed over and over by fans and non-fans alike. Something we can look forward to watching again, rather than something that is forgotten and left to gather dust.