In 2012, Rooster Teeth announced a new web series called RWBY. I had already watched all of Red vs Blue, Rooster Teeth’s other major, long-running series, so the “Red” trailer for RWBY truly captivated me. Soon I realized that its creator, Monty Oum, was the same choreographer behind the action in seasons 8, 9 and 10 of Red vs Blue. It’s safe to say that there was plenty of reason to be excited.
One year and three character shorts later, the first volume premiered. It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the word, but I was having fun all the same. By all accounts, I am still a fan, which is strange because if you talk to me about it, and you may think I hate it. Of all the time spent talking about RWBY to my friends or to myself, half the time I talk about all the things I don’t like about it.
There have been plenty of problems with this show from day one. The episode lengths of Volume One, an overabundance of characters, insufficient development for the lead character, and plenty more. This is before Monty Oum’s passing in 2015, after which it became clear that RWBY was becoming a very different type of show without Monty.
RWBY is a mess, but it has somehow kept me watching for its characters, it’s concepts and even it’s action despite a dip in quality I plan to address. How it has managed this is a much more complicated manner and since I have miraculously never written about RWBY before now, this is the perfect time to talk at length about everything I love and hate about RWBY.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
Red, White, Black, and Yellow
It would be unfair to review this series without first reviewing its trailers because they are to this series what OVA’s are in an Anime series. There were four trailers released from 2012 to the series premiere in 2013, each focusing on one of the four main characters of the series. They were all created by Monty and paint the most accurate picture of what RWBY is, what it can be and what it should be.
It is often assumed that action is either a result of prior narrative or the leadup to a narrative, but on the contrary, action is it’s own form of storytelling and performed well enough, it can be just as effective as character dialogue. Still, many will be of the mind that action cannot hold up a story on its own. This is a notion that Monty Oum didn’t necessary disprove, but tested in spectacular fashion throughout his career.
“Show, don’t tell” is said a lot in discussions about storytelling and exposition and Monty is a connoisseur. In his uncompleted web series Dead Fantasy, he pits characters with drastically different fighting styles against each other in expansive, two-sided, minutes long battles in which we quickly learn how to distinguish the characters. The way characters performed synchronized attacks or conveyed their thoughts without speaking made for some exquisite visual storytelling. Plus any voice acting Monty could afford probably wouldn’t have been that good.
In this same vein, each of the four RWBY trailers introduces us to the color-coded ladies of the series through a variety of aesthetics, opponents, music and especially the fighting styles. You can tell so much about each character through how all of these components come together in these trailers.
Ruby Rose is concealed by a bright red hood stands along a snow-covered cliffside, staring at the grave of her mother. She turns and walks through a dense forest and as she comes upon a large clearing, she stops. She is surrounded by a pack of beowulfs. As they pounce, she disappears, reappearing in the sky amidst the full moon. From her hood, she grabs a hulking mass of red steel- a sniper rifle- and blows off one of the beasts’ heads. As she lands, it morphs, revealing a large, menacing and almost beautiful scythe. The prey has some bite of her own.
Ruby’s red outfit amidst the black and white, snow fallen woods and the beowolves bring to mind the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, a poetic choice to further enhance the twist when she begins slaying the beasts. Once the slaughter begins, Ruby’s fighting style is revealed to become both creative and adorable.
Since she is wielding a giant scythe called Crescent Rose, she resorts to using the recoil of its built-in sniper rifle to swing it faster, compensating for her own weight and dealing damage twice as hard. It says a lot about her adaptability but apart from this added detail the trailer really didn’t prepare me for who Ruby ended up being when the series began. Her temperament and expressions made me expect a completely different type of character. Not even the music tells a story about her particularly.You will learn very quickly that RWBY’s music tends to tell much of the story just in its lyrics alone. I say with very little sarcasm that you could create a RWBY musical based on the songs already written for the show. You don’t have to read the lyrics that much to understand a lot about the characters those songs are about. The song in the Red trailer, “Red Like Roses, Part I” doesn’t really tell a story and has no lyrics for the latter majority. Later in Volume one, we get Part II of the song but I’m not sure it really matches who I found her character to be.
The White could arguably be Monty’s best work of all time. Weiss Schnee is given center stage, singing for an audience of presumably hundreds as she recalls back to a fierce battle against a giant knight. Her posture, dress, and rapier both give her a royal look and even her fighting style is refined and elegant, akin to a ballet dancer. It’s not hard to infer that she is of a higher social status.
Monty’s works tend to push characters to use every tool and skill at their disposal over the course of the fight. Weiss’s ability (or semblance, as the show refers to it) allows her to generate glyphs through which she can perform a number of magical attacks. Which ability that is performed depends on the type of “Dust” (RWBY’s magical substance) loaded into the revolver-like cylinder of Myrtenaster, Weiss’s signature rapier.
The song during the trailer is a beautiful orchestral piece that alludes to Snow White through its title “Mirror, Mirror.” Like the Red trailer, there is no dialogue, but the singing the song is Weiss, and as the camera pans to her literal mirror image on the ground, transitioning to her flashback of a battle with a giant metal knight, it becomes clear that the song is about her.
Watching this trailer again, having seen the whole series, I can appreciate the characterization so much more. As she becomes lost in thought as the song ends, only coming to her senses as the audience applauds, its almost as if her songs are her way of expressing the things she can’t express normally.
If I have any complaints about the first two trailers, it’s that while they are both awesome showcases of choreography, they didn’t convey the personalities of the characters. Show anyone who has never seen the series these trailers and then the first few episodes of volume one. They will undoubtedly be taken by surprise. Thankfully, the next two trailers give us a better idea of the characters’ personalities.
While the White trailer may be the best trailer overall, I still find myself favoring the Black trailer the most. It has one of my favorite songs in the series, beautiful scenery and strongest characters, from an aesthetic standpoint. It follows Blake Belladonna and her male partner Adam Taurus fighting through a large cargo train guarded by robots. This trailer is the first to feature actual voice acting and the results are mixed.
Blake’s voice actress, Arryn Zech, does a fine job but Adam’s voice actor is woefully corny and hard to take seriously. Still, I get a far more accurate portrayal of Blake’s personality than the previous two trailers, thanks to the way she is portrayed.
Blake’s full frontal assault fighting style is one of the fastest and coolest in the series. She often attacks head-on, overwhelming her opponent, and her semblance lets her avoid damage by spawning an empty copy of herself to take the hit while she evades. She is even able to use the trajectory out of her shadow clone to give her a boost in any direction. When the show was airing though, I only really knew what her power was cause she flat out states that in volume two.
Her weapon is called Gambol Shroud and its design, while confusing in some manners of practicality, is pretty frickin’ cool. What appears to be a giant cleaver actually turns out to be a sheath for a Katana, the blade of which can fold down towards the hilt, which houses a small pistol. It doesn’t even stop there. The pistol, when attached to the ribbon’s around Blake’s arm, can be thrown almost like a kusarigama. And if I ignore the mediocre voice acting, Adam is even cooler.
He is like a more corny, edgy version of Vergil from Devil May Cry who is a total cunt. His fighting style is a similar quickdraw technique and the sheath itself actually has a built-in shotgun, causing the sheath to shrink and morph into a more conventional shape for a shotgun. It also allows for gun-assisted quickdraws which Metal Gear Rising taught me to love. Plus, his semblance, which seemingly allows him to absorb energy and impact and deal it back even harder with a quick draw of his sword, leading to one of the coolest shots in the series.
At the time of release, I actually liked the fourth and final trailer the least. It had more voice acting than any of the previous and it was of questionable quality. We even got to hear Ruby talk for the first time and my first impression was not a positive one, although it would grow on me when the series started (mostly). However, I think this trailer has aged incredibly well.
Yang Xiao Long rides onto the scene in a bright yellow bike that screams inspiration from 1988’s Akira. She walks into a bustling nightclub, staffed by guards brandishing bright red axes and swords that contrast the stark black suits as a spiraling light rig above the dance floor projects colors and holograms across the entire club.Yang’s fighting style is that of a brawler and her weapon, Ember Celica, personifies that. She’s loud, confident and cheerful, kicking ass with a smile on her face. Sound is a big part of immersion in Monty Oum fights and I will never tire of the combination of hand to hand combat and the ever-invigorating sound of a shotgun blast.
YouTuber Cake made an analysis of RWBY’s animation, where he described how constructing a good fight means thinking about who the characters are and make their fighting styles differ from one another. This forces the animator to think laterally in order to craft a fight where the two style clash.
In this trailer, we see Yang face off against two characters with very different styles. One has blades on her wrists and the other has blades on their boots. The hands versus foot dynamic, simple as it is, works wonders on a conceptual level and actually is a reoccurring theme throughout the series. All in all, this trailer’s biggest strength is the variety of fighting styles between combatants in the fights.
The music playing in the club is a mix of the songs from all of the three previous trailers before Yang’s song, “I Burn” kicks in during the final showdown. It is brief, but it feels earned and what we were shown of Yang already did a suitable job of showing who she is, unlike the Red trailer, which hooked me on its action and aesthetic but set me up for some disappointment. Although, I suppose all of the trailers did that.
Sure I may be able to appreciate all these trailers more now, given that I can savor the fight choreography and the work put into them that much more, but these trailers set expectations that would sadly not be met by the first volume, which was anything but great.
There are three- possibly four- good episodes in all of RWBY Volume One. Episodes one, eight and 16. In fact, these were the only episodes I actually would consider full episodes worth waiting week by week and even then they are only 12 minutes typically, half the length of a standard TV episode. Watching this series week by week was painful.
The shortest episodes come in at about 4 minutes. Several of these episodes would be 10 minutes if they weren’t split into two parts. Granted, anyone who gets into RWBY nowadays probably won’t mind this because watching all of Volume One takes a little more than an hour. So how good is the show when it’s packaged neatly together, without any week-long breaks? Average, as it turns out. Still, a hell of a lot better than when it was airing.
The premiere commits what many writing aficionados refer to as a cardinal sin. Subjecting the audience to an exposition dump via narrator right at the beginning. We learn that in the world of Remnant — where the show takes place — that there are monsters called Grimm. Humanity has established major kingdoms and fights back against the Grimm using a combination of superpowers called semblances and elemental properties called Dust.
In RWBY, these warriors are called Huntsmen/ Huntresses. They are essentially the exact same as Jedi from Star Wars. They are all-purpose badasses with the broadest job description ever. Our main hero, Ruby Rose, happens to aspire to be a huntress. Now despite my gripes with her as a character, both given her place in the story and how she is written, episode one got me pretty amped for her journey.
In the kingdom of Vale, Ruby witnesses a robbery at a Dust shop and attempts to apprehend the culprit, Roman Torchwick (probably the best villain in the series). She ends up being assisted by a huntress named Glynda Goodwitch (one of a few OZ references amongst the cast). Sadly, neither of them apprehend the target that’s to the interference of another villain and then RWBY is scolded for acting recklessly.
Impressed with her fighting (that was conveniently caught on video at the exact same angles as it was presented to the audience), the headmaster of Beacon Academy, Professor Ozpin (See what I mean?) offers her the opportunity to skip two years and advance to Beacon Academy. Why? Well, that doesn’t get revealed for another two seasons. Her fighting skill alone is sufficient to excuse such a big decision, but an extra scene could have been put in to make the audience question what makes Ruby so special. So Ruby and her older sister Yang are off to Beacon Academy and we launch into what I call…
The Initiation Arc
Basically, the main four girls all meet but don’t necessarily get along yet, we meet some of the supporting cast and then all the characters are literally thrown into a forest. Here they are meant to fight monsters, team up with other students and collect chess pieces, which upon returning to the school they pass initiation and are put into teams together. Oh I wonder what team Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang will end up on?… [pause for canned laughter]
Remember when I said the trailers didn’t always properly prepare me for how some of these characters would act? Well while I could tolerate what Ruby ended up being, Weiss is a total bitch in Volume One. In fact, now that I think about it, almost every conflict between members of team RWBY in Volume One is a result of her bitchiness. As for the rest of the team, Blake is a quiet bookworm with a quick wit while Yang is loud and adventurous with a smile on her face until you piss her off and she goes super sayian.
But that’s not all. We are also introduced to team JNPR, another four-person team consisting of Jaune Arc, Pyrrha Nikos, Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie. On paper, this team’s presence in the show isn’t justified all that well. It’s an odd move focusing on JNPR when the show is called RWBY. However, there is one effective use of this team and Jaune Arc, despite how much I intend to criticize him later in this review, has a meaningful purpose in the initiation arc that I appreciate.
We later find out in volume one that Jaune actually forged documents to get into Beacon academy so he could uphold his family legacy of being a Huntsman, so realistically he doesn’t know jack shit about a lot of things. This makes him a perfect intermediary character. Given that he is paired up with a character like Pyrrha, who is established to be a prodigy, the writing can get away with some exposition and world building.
The best example of this is in episode six, where Pyrrha explains Aura, which is the means by which characters can heal and withstand damage through willpower. Instead of just hearing about how aura works, we actually see Ren fighting a giant two-headed snake as Pyrrha explains the mechanics. Those same mechanics can be fairly inconsistent throughout the series and parts of this scene haven’t aged well, but the scene found a clever way to dispense exposition that didn’t feel forced.
As for team RWBY, the only members who really have time in the spotlight are Ruby and Weiss, primarily because of their tension. Weiss thinks that Ruby is too reckless and inexperienced and Ruby thinks Weiss is being too strung up and just wants to be friends with her. Yang and Blake, on the other hand, don’t really get much screen time. After Yang lands in the forest, she fights some bears, meets Blake, and then they both show up where the chess pieces are in time for episode eight when everyone comes together.
For those who were watching RWBY weekly and beginning to feel a bit let down by the series, episode eight was undoubtedly what got us hooked. Both teams were united together, Ruby and Weiss came to an understanding, and we were treated to an awesome fight between the two teams and some gargantuan Grimm. I compare this fight to the third act of the Avengers, where every character plays a pivotal role in the battle.
One of Ruby’s strongest assets as a character is her intelligence and her ability to come up with plans to defeat her opponents. It’s a shame this side of her only comes out during these fights and isn’t expanded upon more because it led to the highlight of the battle you can watch above. Jaune showed traits of a leader as well and while not as active of a combatant, definitely pulled his own weight. The beasts are killed and the teams which I’ve been referring to are officially assigned during a school ceremony. Eight episodes in, but it felt like RWBY was just beginning.
Watching it all again, this arc was so much more enjoyable. It wasn’t perfect, from the animation to the writing, neither of which has aged well, but I’d be lying if I said that this arc wasn’t fun as hell by the end of it. It is just a shame that the show went back to mediocrity immediately after episode eight. While the first half was more or less one arc, the second is a collection of three plot arcs. One of which is bad, the second of which is terrible and the third of which is good, but a really weird place to end a season.
High School Bullshit
I’m an Anime fan. I have no problem at all with high school drama. My only stipulation is that the drama has to actually be well-written and not laden with cliche. Sadly the second half of RWBY is just painfully rushed not very well written.
Episodes nine and ten focus on RWBY settling into their dorm and going off to class, where Weiss gets annoyed by Ruby’s fooling around in class. Weiss then volunteers to fight a Grimm in the lecture hall and despite being given good advice by Ruby, Weiss tells her to shut up and kills the Grimm. See, Weiss is angry because she wasn’t appointed the leader of the team. The conflict feels somewhat forced and only makes Weiss more unlikable, especially after Ruby proved herself to be a great leader and tactician in the previous arc.
Perhaps if the actual conflict emerged from a longer arc the conflict established would be more interesting. Imagine if team RWBY had to prepare for an exam where their cooperation would be tested. Ruby’s recklessness combined with Weiss’ misgivings about not being appointed leader would lead the team to falter and the two would have to reconcile in order to structure a plan. As it stands, the arc is too rushed.
On the bright side, both Ruby and Weiss have a conversation with an elder who helps them to overcome their struggles (Ruby talks with Ozpin while Weiss talks with Professor Port). The resolution is satisfying, but the conflict that preceded it is lacking. But boy oh boy the next arc of the story takes the bullshit to a whole new level in what is probably the worst arc of RWBY. And it all has to do with Jaune Arc.
Jaune Is Such A Little Bitch I Swear To God
It still baffles me as to why four episodes out of 16 were dedicated to a secondary character with no ties to team RWBY other than the fact that he and his team are friends with them. Look, I can understand that Rooster Teeth’s animation department at the time of Volume One’s release, was not as large or as efficient as it was during Volume 2 or as expansive as it now. The short episodes are evidence of that, but all the more reason for the writers to consider what is important enough that we need to tell that story in that short amount of time.
Episodes 11-14 are evidence of that thought being non-existent in the production of this Volume. I have no problem with secondary characters having time to develop but in the grand scheme of things, Yang doesn’t have a lot of development in this Volume, nor does Ruby really. But Jaune gets to have a complete, albeit lame, character arc? With the limited total amount of time in Volume One? This is just ridiculous.
My opinion of Jaune is one that fluctuates based on the different seasons. I hated him in Volume One, loved him in Two and Three and grew to dislike him once again in Volume 4 onward. His arc begins with him getting defeated in a sparring match by Cardin Winchester, the painfully cliched bully character and leader of team CRDL, a team of complete fuckboys. He is continually bullied and both team RWBY and the rest of JNPR express concern, but Jaune brushes it aside.
Pyrrha being a reasonable person offers to help Jaune train so he can become stronger and stand up to Cardin. This is when we learn that Jaune forged documents to get into Beacon and shortly after that is where any reasonable viewer loses all sympathy for him. He actually turns down Pyrrha’s offer and complains about not wanting to be the damsel in distress who needs saving. I’m pretty sure training would ensure that you stop being a damsel in distress but whatever.
So he tells Pyrrha to go away but the OH MY GOD CARDIN OVERHEARD THE WHOLE THING! So now Jaune turns into Cardin’s errand boy because otherwise Cardin will tell the school his secret and get Jaune expelled. So during a field trip to a forest to collect tree sap (You know… like heroes do), Cardin plans to make Jaune throw a container of sap on Pyrrha to attract Grimm. He refuses and team CRDL is about to beat him up when a Grimm shows up.
Ruby, Weiss and Pyrrha rush to their aid, but Jaune actually defends Cardin and kills the grim. Cardin agrees not to reveal Jaune’s secret as thanks and promises not to mess with Jaune’s team again. He apologizes for being a bitch to Pyrrha and they agree to train more. The bad acting, the poor writing and the high school bullshit in general finally come to an end with just two episodes left in Volume one.
Speaking as someone who is completely caught up with RWBY, I can say right now that this entire arc could have been cut out and it would have almost no effect on the narrative. Jaune having forged documents hasn’t come into play since Volume One and it only existed to explain how he had no knowledge of anything at all. Frankly, that could have been revealed during the initiation arc. Likewise, Pyrrha using her semblance to guide Jaune’s shield to block the Grimm’s attack was only important for revealing what her semblance was, something that also could have been elaborated earlier.
In the end, this arc forgets exactly why people became enamored with RWBY and lazily attempts character development for a character who isn’t even a main character. I’m glad the last two episodes actually focused on Blake and – surprise- another conflict with Weiss.
Black and White
Mercifully, the show follows team RWBY as they walk through the city of Vale. Here the town is beginning to start hyping up the Vytal Festival, which is RWBY’s (kinda) tournament arc. However, this doesn’t even happen until volume three and since it doesn’t happen until the end of the school year, I’m not sure why the show was hyping this up this early. Typically you’d expect a school to start preparing students for the tournament later in the year.
There will be plenty of time to talk about RWBY’s weird logic concerning the festival and transfer students. The important thing is that team RWBY is walking through town because Weiss wants to welcome the visitors from other academies, to which Blake quips that she only wants to observe the competition. As they head towards the docks, they see that another Dust shop has been robbed.
The whole Volume, there have been mentions of a species of people with animal-like physical characteristics called the Faunus. So they are basically furries, but the point is that they are discriminated against and there is a civil rights group known as the White Fang that stands for their rights. As team RWBY approach the robbed Dust shop, they hear rumblings that the White Fang may have been involved.
The conflict of this arc is that Weiss is prejudiced against the Faunus, which doesn’t sit right with Blake, who is sympathetic to the White Fang and doesn’t like Faunus being judged for the actions of the organization. They argue as Ruby and Yang try to mediate and ask why the White Fang would want to rob a Dust shop, implying that it doesn’t make sense. They are interrupted by commotion from the docks where a Faunus is running away from the cops after being caught as a stowaway.
As he runs by team RWBY, he winks at Blake and then Yang says, “Well Weiss, you wanted to see the competition, and there it goes.” Hold on. Now, I’m aware that Sun later turns out to be a student from a huntsman academy in the Kingdom of Vacuo, but how do they know that. Nothing about what they have seen of him even suggests he is a huntsman. Furthermore, since he is a student, why the fuck was he a stowaway? Why couldn’t he just head to Vale with the rest of the students?
Anyhow, the team chases him because Weiss wants to observe him, even though her later dialog suggests she wanted to apprehend him. This whole scene feels awkward because it’s all just a poor excuse so that the viewer can be subjected to RWBY’s awful run cycles and then Weiss can run into a girl on the street. And that’s just so they can introduce us to a new supporting character. Speaking of which…
A big problem that I have with RWBY is the overabundance of supporting characters and simultaneously the limited amount of development for Ruby as a protagonist. I’m not saying that these characters aren’t interesting or that they shouldn’t have proper time allotted to introduce them, but that development shouldn’t come at the cost of the protagonists. This volume’s questionably timed character introduction award goes to Penny Polendina.Penny is a very curious and socially awkward girl who gravitates towards Ruby after she refers to her as a friend, leading to some admittedly humorous moments. It isn’t clear immediately what purpose she serves in the narrative or why she is introduced here, but as she introduces herself to team RWBY, she says she came to Vale for the Vytal Festival. It’s all going well and good, but then the show awkwardly tries to transition back to the fight that Weiss and Blake were having.
Penny kinda disappears as the scene transitions to Weiss and Blake continuing their argument in the dorm room, where Blake tells Weiss that attitudes like hers are the reason the Faunus turn to rebellion. Weiss retorts, explaining that she is prejudiced against Faunus because the White Fang has targeted her family and their business, the Schnee Dust Company, for decades. This led to a difficult home life for Weiss. Weiss calls the White Fang liars, thieves and murderers, which finally makes Blake snap and reveal that she is a Faunus herself.
Hiding the cat ears with a bow was a cute touch to her character design, but if you watch the Black trailer and listen to the lyrics or recognize that Adam is a Faunus, it’s pretty easy to decipher that she is too. Much like Penny being a robot, Blake’s secret doesn’t come as much of a shock. Side note: why does she also has human ears in addition to cat ears? Are the cat ears vestigial or does she hear out of those too? It’s just an odd design choice, to be honest, but I suppose it would be too obvious otherwise.
Aside from some of the writing, I think the conflict between Blake and Weiss is interesting and far more so than the conflict between Weiss and Ruby over the leadership of the team. However, Being assigned to a team with Weiss, given her family’s treatment of Faunus should have laid the groundwork for her character arc throughout the second half of the season. Sadly, Blake didn’t get much screen time until this arc right now. Once again, if we didn’t waste four episodes on Jaune’s high school bullshit, we would have more development for the rest of the cast.
So Blake runs off, realizing she as outed herself as a Faunus, and encounters Sun Wukong, the Faunus boy they were chasing earlier. The show actually has an exposition scene in a cafe- which writing classes will tell you not to do- where Blake explains that she used to be a member of the White Fang before it became more militant after the original leader stepped down. Blake left because she didn’t agree with the organization’s methods and decided to become a huntress to encourage change in her own way.
I find Blake both compelling and flawed but I can’t tell what elements of her were intentional or not. She disagrees with the methods of the White Fang after its change of leadership, yet defends the organization when Weiss calls them criminals. There is a conflict in her beliefs. I tend to interpret Blake and her struggle as a reflection of modern social activism. She wants to stand for something greater, but she isn’t quite sure how and it leads her to have a conflict between her beliefs and her actions.
After Blake tells Sun her story, the two agree to investigate the string of Dust robberies themselves to see if the White Fang are really behind it or not. Meanwhile, the rest of team RWBY look for Blake, although Weiss isn’t exactly being very proactive in the effort. Yang and Weiss abandon Ruby when Penny shows up, offering to help look for Blake. The whole encounter is pretty funny and there is a sweet exchange between Ruby and Penny, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
Blake and Sun go to a dockyard where Dust Shipping containers are being unloaded. Much to the dismay of Blake, they find that the White Fang really are the ones behind the Dust robberies, but they are being led by Roman Torchwick, the villain behind the robbery in episode one. Blake, not understanding why the White Fang would work with a human such as Torchwick, moves in closer and puts her sword to his throat. She tries to interrogate him, but reinforcements arrive and Torchwick gets the upper hand on Blake.
The third major fight of Volume one begins and its pretty sweet. Like I said, there are only three good episodes in Volume One and episode 16 is one of them for this fight alone. Sun proves himself to be more than just comic relief with a cool fight with the White Fang and one of the most elaborate and fascinating weapons in the series. It sucks that beyond this fight scene, Sun rarely is as cool in the series as he is in this scene, so savor this battle.
It almost looks like Ruby is about to join the fight which would make for a nice roundabout conclusion to the Volume since it started with their confrontation. Sadly she is taken out almost immediately. The purpose behind this is so that Penny can come in and show off her skills as a fighter. As it turns out, here ability allows her to magnetically control several swords, as well as fire lasers out of said swords. The fighting style is a callback to episode six of Monty Oum’s unfinished Dead Fantasy series, which you can check out below.
There are two reasons why Penny is being introduced. The first reason is that we need to establish a connection between Penny and Ruby because of later events involving her. The second is because when Volume three does roll around and the tournament arc begins, logic would state that you need to establish the abilities and power levels of certain participants beforehand.
I have plenty to say about RWBY’s attempt at a tournament arc and Penny’s place in it, but for now, I’ll say that Penny’s integration into the finale of Volume One felt out of place, but ultimately cool. As I will go on to say throughout this series, I don’t like how little development Ruby gets. In the end, this arc wasn’t really about her, but since Ruby was the one that suggested that maybe Torchwick was the one behind the robberies, it would have been cool if Ruby took a more active approach towards investigating him.
As Penny wreaks havoc and takes out the rest of the White Fang Soldiers, Torchwick makes a hasty retreat. After everything died down, Weiss and Yang show up. Blake goes to Weiss and begins to explain herself when Weiss interrupts her and tells her that after having time to think about it she has decided she doesn’t care… wait, what? The last two scenes Weiss was in, she showed no signs of being resigned to anything. She even said to Yang “the innocent don’t run” and now she’s fine with everything.
It’s not the most satisfying resolution, but I think I only have a problem with it because Weiss’s journey to reaching that conclusion isn’t shown to the audience. She says she had 12 hours to think about things, but only a couple hours before it looked like there was no change in her attitude. Hell, imagine if Yang was the one who helped her reach that conclusion. She hasn’t had anything else to do for the whole second half of the volume so it would go a long way to developing the cast.
Weiss tells Blake that next time something happens, she will turn to her team for help. It’s actually pretty sweet seeing it all resolve. And that is the end of Volume One. Team RWBY is reunited, Penny is driven away by presumably some handlers that didn’t want her wandering around getting into danger, Professor Ozpin receives a message from Qrow, Ruby’s uncle, warning him of more nefarious plots on the horizon and we even get a look at more of the antagonists in an after-credit scene.
RWBY Volume One is not good. Visually, the show lacks the polish of the original four trailers and has tons of awkward visual glitches, poor run cycles and attempts at emulating Anime that don’t work in 3D. The writing isn’t very good and the narrative feels unfocused and unorganized. I don’t feel like Ruby had any significant development passed episode eight and Yang had almost nothing at all. Blake and Weiss got ample development by the end but I can’t help but wonder how much more could have been done if all those episodes with Jaune were replaced with more episodes for the titular four-girl squad.
All this makes it all the more perplexing how Volume Two is actually really good. It’s as if whatever time constraints, budgetary issues or creative differences that stood in the way of making Volume One a good show were resolved and Monty and his team were at their A-game. Volume One is very, very short. If you watch all of it together, you can get through it in little more than an hour. The question is whether or not it’s worth it to get to Volume Two. But that is another story.
I’m going to thoroughly praise Volume Two while also discussing Ruby’s flawed characterization, the missed opportunities and how it could have been even better.
To Be Continued in Part Two…
RWBY is available for legal streaming on Crunchyroll, RoosterTeeth.com, and YouTube
I hope you have enjoyed Part One of a review that has been a long time coming. I can’t even imagine how I would have covered the whole series in one post like I initially planned. I want to reassure everyone that I am in fact a fan of this series, no matter how much I shit on it. Tell me what you thought of the Thanks for reading, and as always, I’ll see you next time.