Review Date: 2/20/10
Almost identical to "The Animatrix" (2003) in style and structure, this is a collection of short stories from various Japanese animation studios that explores various elements of the "Halo" universe. Unfortunately, it's as bizarre and disappointing as the "Halo" graphic novel was, and fails to be interesting. Perhaps that's because the "Halo" universe is inherently uninteresting, and merely a battlefield for intergalactic war? Indeed, war is the central theme to every story, which is ironic since almost every story strikes a strong anti-war stance. The only exceptions are the extremely goofy and light-hearted "Odd Man Out" and Shinji Aramaki's outrageously over-the-top heroic action piece, "The Package." Aramaki is definitely in his element here, providing mecha designs and utilizing the same CGI techniques from his previous "Appleseed" films.
Production wise, the animation varies as much as the writing does. "The Package" is definitely the centerpiece to the collection, much like "Final Flight Of The Osiris" was in "The Animatrix," but unfortunately, the voice acting is laughably awful. I find this odd because the voice acting for all the other stories is quite good, even though the talents of Jen Taylor and Keith David are sadly absent. On a side note, I noticed that Yumi Touma (Lei-Fang from "Dead Or Alive") provides the Japanese voice for Cortana, which was a nice surprise. The stories themselves range from pure exposition ("Origins"), to samurai drama ("The Duel"), to slapstick comedy ("Odd Man Out"), to sacrifice ("Prototype"), and the all encompassing emotional and psychological horrors of war. With the exception of "The Package" and "The Duel," everything is traditional anime-styled 2D animation married with 3D scenery and effects. The character designs are good for the most part, but the Spartans tend to look a little odd. In fact, they tend to look like fat old men instead of muscled super soldiers.
By far the best element of the show is the epic and emotionally moving soundtrack, which features some new material along with remixes of Marty O'Donnell's original video game scores. Great stuff. Overall, if you're a big "Halo" fan, then this is a "must have" for your collection. However, part of me wonders if this is really what the "Halo" crowd wants to see? Otherwise, it's marginally entertaining, but probably not worth your time.