Halo vs. Mecha Designer/Director Shinji Aramaki: A Halo Legends DVD Review

April 1, 2010

by Terence Daniels

Before getting to far into anything about Halo, I confess that I know very little about modern gaming.  I don’t even own any of the 3D consoles and still enjoy my Sega Genesis.  But having played Halo on several occasions enough to get the feel and enjoyment of gameplay, I can understand wanting to see more of it in a different medium such as films, animations, ect.  Nevertheless, on the business end of things there are three reasons any developer(Microsoft) is looking to do this; AND THEY ARE…

1)Expansion of the in game universe without using game assets.
2)Enhancement of the fun and excitement in game and around the franchise itself
3)Collaboration and innovation with other artists as a showcase of it’s(their) talents

I offer a few tidbits of information and perhaps criticism in leu of these factors.  Shinji Aramaki, who is famously known for his transformable mecha designs for Mospeda, and more recently his direction of a whole new genre of film involving game cinematic style CG(Appleseed, Appleseed EX Machina, Vexille) features, was picked to head up this project.  This was altogether, an excellent move, knowing the unsung quality that was acheived in Ex Machina.  In theory if he had created a similar feature for Halo, fans of the game itself would be well enough pleased.  The concept of anime characters in association with Halo seems rather foreign to myself.  The game cinematics themselves would seem a very promising prospect as most in game trailer, sequences are of superior quality to the game.  Instead of facing this challenge on a large scale, a Matrix(animation) multi-story format was chosen as a showcase for multiple anime style sequences, each slightly different in style.

A bit of backstory concerning expansion of the Halo Universe via
Hollywood.  For months it had been rumored that Peter Jackson(Lord of the Rings) was set to direct a movie based on the Halo universe, but he bailed.  Halo, regardless continued to do amazing sales on the XBOX and the third installment did $170M in the first 24 hours of it’s release.  Therefore, Microsoft andBungie made the decision to produce this straight to XBOX(subscription), and then to DVD animation.  Up to and before it’s release there had been some efforts to capture and expand enthusiasm for Halo thru the Machinima series available on DVD called “Red vs. Blue”.  It is basically the game itself with voices over the action.  Blech!  On the brighter side of things, an American based animation team sponsored by Rooster Teeth created a five minute tradigital short which I consider the best non-CG effort thus far. http://www.crunchyroll.com/media-500142/red-vs-blue-animated-short/?hires=1

Again, I haved played Halo but I tend to space out during the cinematics with a lot of talking and story to them and as a result the history and terms such as Master Chief mean very little in the context of my daily battles.  Aramaki’s team, despite my shortcomings, has endeavored to expand Halo beyond even our wildest imaginings via landscapes by Mobius, Warhammer styled machinima dream sequrences, and trips to a miltitude of planets; and that’s not even the anime!  The three aspects, the anime style(s), the childish no limits to our frachise attitude from the get go, and a misunderstanding of the American perspective on playing this game all fight with each other, spoiling our imagination of what the next Halo will include.

In reiteration of my prevous statement, a better approach to generation of hype for this release would have been to have Aramaki direct the the entire film.  In fact, if you follow the credits, some sequences such as
Homecoming actually lack a true director but instead have a screenwriter and a storyboard artist at the head.  Anime fans are familiar with Aramaki at this point and respect his work. Add to this fans of Halo who long to see all that Halo can be and you have a jumping off point for getting more people on board the Halo paddy wagon.  Without a doubt people love this game and what makes it fun is the talking alien garble in the background, the sneak up and destroy, the insurmountable hordes.  With the Aramaki directed sequences(The Package and Prototype) being the exception, this presentation is horribly lacking in sensless violence.  The kind of deathscreams that made you whoop and horay in the game are not introduced, but are replaced by a cast of familiar anime talkies.

Back to reality; in support of this segmented multi anime (Matrix) style approach, the facts are that the average anime worker makes less than 25 thousand a year due to factors which should by now be obvious to anyone reading this.  Not to mention the absence healthcare for a lot of artists.  Even though I found it rather mind numbing to be introduced to a different anime version of the same subject every five minutes, I loved the Gundam style action(Prototype), the Dragonball fighting humor(Odd One Out), and as always all the tricks associated with well crafted anime action sequences.  Other than that, the drawing(animation) of the Halo armored suits was a bad choice.  Many films have done this with more enthusiasm than seems to have been done here notwithstanding the gameplay itself.  It’s a wonder why Micorsoft didn’t put more of their purchase power behind this.  The Aramaki sequence blew doors off the in game cinematics and do more for my itch to follow Halo than anything else I’ve seen.  With this I really feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse of what the games could become and a look at the future of the moviemaking medium as well!


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