Rising Anime Star Toshiyuki Kanno Discusses Direction of “The Babysitter” Episode within Halo Legends

Dec 17th 2009

Warner Home Video to Distribute Compilation DVD on Feb. 16, 2010

Toshiyuki Kanno, one of the rising stars in anime, brings his distinct action style to the world of Halo with an innovative, yet uniquely familiar approach to the episodic film “The Babysitter,” one of the seven stories within the upcoming Halo Legends.

Warner Home Video will distribute Halo Legends on February 16, 2010 as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-Ray™, as well as single disc DVD and available On Demand and Digital Download. The DVD anthology of episodic films based within the mythology of the popular game Halo is produced by 343 Industries, a unit within Microsoft Game Studios.

Kanno worked with Studio 4oC (and producer Eiko Tanaka) to create the Halo Legends episode, “The Babysitter,” which focuses on the intense rivalry between the ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) and the Spartans. When given an assignment to assassinate a high-ranking Covenant Prophet, a four-man team of ODSTs must accept a Spartan Sniper to their strike force. Each discipline learns something important about the other as the mission progresses into hostile territory - and old rivalries must be reexamined if the mission is to succeed.

The episode emphasizes the differences in ability and style between the two soldier types, and features a few familiar faces – Dutch from Halo 3: ODST and his teammates Private O'Brien, Master Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Checkman. The Babysitter was first previewed for Xbox Live subscribers on November 7, 2009.

Kanno has rapidly established himself as a force within the anime industry, building a reputation for directing stylish action anime in such productions as Black Lagoon, Fighting Spirit, Aquarian Age and Zone of the Enders. He also worked on special effects for Digimon: The Movie.

Kanno provided some further insight into the production of “The Babysitter” via the following Q&A. Read on …

Question:
How does Halo lend itself to anime/animation?

Kanno:
Halo is a property filled with so many exciting characters and detailed story settings with a very vast/huge background, and I believe that the property has a lot of room to create episodes. Thus, I think that various ways in anime development can suit the property in whatever style the creators employ.

Question:
What was the inspiration for your artistic vision in your episode of Halo Legends?

Kanno:
What inspired me the most are the "ruins of an unconfirmed space alien.” Of course, we had a premise that the ruins are Forerunners, and Microsoft/343 Industries provided us with a good deal of leeway to create new elements. We have tried to incorporate a Japanese taste as much as possible to the buildings, costumes, and other visual things to try to add greater depth and expand the Halo realm.

Question:
Were there any particular images within the Halo realm that helped shape or drive your creative vision?

Kanno:
We found inspiration in all of the art books provided by Microsoft, especially the beauty of the nature shown in the image boards as well as in the game itself. I tried to incorporate a similar beauty in my episode. In addition, the costume and the weapons of various characters such as the Brutes, Elites and Prophet provided me with inspirations in creating the characteristics of this episode.

Question:
Why were you the right person to direct/design/write this episode?

Kanno:
The original script describing a story relating to the relationship between Spartans and ODST was been provided by Mr. Frank O'Connor. I discussed with Ms. Tanaka, the producer of the episode, that we needed to brush up the story to make it more understandable and impressive, and proposed the new script to Microsoft. I believe that the script has become better suited to animation.

We had a very strong design and animation team. I was in charge of character designs and focused on creating designs to easily express emotions of each of them. I employed Mr. Hayashi and Mr. Suzuki to design mechas, such as those involving the Spartan, ODSTs and Covenant. They have been very good in creating mechas that are simple but very cool designs.

Mr. Sasaki was in charge of background designs, and his ideas helped realize a very distinguished world of “The Babysitter” – giving our anime sensibility, but retaining the Halo taste. He has created an original UNSC spaceship and the design seemed to please the Microsoft staff.

Both Ms. Miyuki, who was in charge of coloring, and Mr. Watanabe, who headed the CGI as well as the screen plan, focused on keeping a balance throughout the entire episode. I believe that they contributed a lot in accomplishing a profound screen play.

Question:
What did you set out to accomplish in this episode, and why do you think you achieved or exceeded your goals?

Kanno:
The most distinguished characteristic of this episode is that this is the only episode in Halo Legends where ODST characters appear. During the production of this episode, a new Halo game “Halo 3: ODST,” featuring ODST characters, was released – and our episode has some common characters with the game. Thus, we felt an intense pressure to make the episode very enjoyable to the newcomers to the Halo world and, more over, to ensure that the episode would not betray the trust of the game fans.

I, myself, was a quite a newcomer to Halo at the beginning of this project, and it was a very hard process to understand the vast realm of Halo and to create new things out of it. Consequently, I have found out that the episode has become very exciting and much better than I had originally expected. I believe that this result comes from the efforts of each and every member of our production staffs. This was a very collaborative effort.

Question:
How important was having Halo gaming experience to bringing the world to life in anime?

Kanno:
I am not at all good at playing video games, and I have not played that much. But my staff played a great deal, and both myself and my staff spent a lot of time viewing the long-playing movie many times to ensure we understood the Halo realm as well as the details of its settings.

Question:
Are there any hidden images or behind-the-scenes “Easter eggs” – special little things you included for the devout Halo fans – that appear within your episode?

Kanno:
It was simply tough enough for me to understand the Halo universe during such a short period of time, so I did not have time or room to create such “hidden images” etc. However, I strongly believe that every viewer will feel the enthusiasm of all of our creative staffs in the episode.


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