Featured Image by 权- on Pixiv
Last time, I took a long look at the beginning of Rooster Teeth’s Animated Web Series RWBY, both the incredibly promising promotional material and the lackluster first Volume. However, as the title of this series suggests, there are things in this show that I actually like, believe it or not. Volume Two is one of those things that I love. I’m of the mind that there has never been a truly great Volume of RWBY, but of the ones we have gotten, Two may be the closest to fulfilling the promise of the original four character trailers.
With that, I want to spend time focusing on exactly what changed in order to make this Volume so much more memorable and enjoyable. From a much more focused plot to enhanced visuals and direction and even the little tiny details. It’s not all perfect though, and for all its promise, there are some things that make this series incredibly hard to recommend.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
A Promising Start
The effort put into fixing all of the biggest issues of the series really shows you how much love the team put into this sequel. Firstly, the background characters are actually fully modeled now. In Volume One, everyone who wasn’t a key character was just a black Silhouette. That type of thing works in the Monogatari Series, but in RWBY, it doesn’t blend with the themes well and the creators weren’t very consistent with their application of the technique.
For instance, when Sun showed up in episode 15, the people on the boat and the two cops both had character models. Some of these exceptions can be explained by Rooster Teeth having put several references to their other projects throughout the first Volume, a practice which didn’t quite land comedically and that has been dialed back in volumes since then. Needless to say, it was nice having actual character models for the background characters this time around.
The visuals also receive an upgrade. Stuff like more realistic hair movement is one thing but the wider range of facial expressions is what really impresses me. Being able to express more subtle changes in emotion without feeling the need to explain how a character is feeling or what they are thinking is a great aid to any animated series and it doesn’t disappoint here. This is further aided by phenomenal motion capture. There are still issues of clipping and occasionally bad run cycles, but for the most part, the show looks better.
Perhaps the most promising change in the new Volume was that all episodes were at least 12-15 minutes long. Half the length of a typical tv animated episode, but 10 million fucking times better than what we got before. The only consolation was that we still got a new “Tales of Remnant” episode every three to four episodes to expand on the world, but at least it was a bit more of a fair trade-off. All the changes above were apparent withinVolume Two’s glorious first few minutes.
The premiere begins, rather peacefully, in downtown Vale as we meet two new characters: Mercury Black and Emerald Sustrai. They share some funny banter before heading into a bookstore run by a man named Tucson, a Faunus who seems hesitant of the two. After chatting up the shopkeep, they reveal that they know he’s part of the White Fang and that he is planning on leaving town. When he fights back, they actually kill him and the two leave the shop as if nothing happened.
This could be the most well-written scene in all of RWBY. Whereas so many characters are introduced only to get no development and feel pointless, I already both like these characters and know what makes them interesting. I know that Emerald is a skilled pickpocket who acts nice to deceive people and that Mercury gives off a carefree vibe but is smarter than he lets on. The two have tension but they work well together as a team. In establishing them as villains, it helps that they are the first in the series to actually murder someone.
After the opening scene, we are reunited with our Anime girl quartet in Beacon’s cafeteria. Even the comedy and dialogue between the four girls is funnier and shows that the girls have gotten closer since in Volume One. It’s also funny to hear Yang make bad puns, much like her voice actress, Barbara Dunkleman is known for at Rooster Teeth Productions.
Outside the cafeteria, we see Sun and his teammate Neptune. A brief aside; Sun is a bit of an enigma to me. Nothing we have learned about him indicates that he has any interest in being a huntsman. Hell, we still don’t have a good explanation for why he was a stowaway on a boat when he came to Beacon rather than, I don’t know, traveling with the other students from his school. Anyway, Sun is excited to introduce Neptune to the gang but walks in on a food fight between teams RWBY and JNPR.
[Disclaimer: In part 1, I mentioned that Sun went to the academy in Vacuo but that is false. In fact, he goes to Haven academy in Mistral but was BORN in Vacuo.]
Honest to god, this is the first big, Monty Oum directed fight scene of the Volume. I won’t even pretend this fight has any meaningful significance to the plot. I’ve heard friends call this scene pointless and a waste of time, but to me, this is what I wanted from Volume One: more cool shit. It isn’t poorly written high school bullshit or lazy drama meant to cross “character development” off of a checklist. It’s a funny scene made better by the action that made RWBY popular.
It went a bit too far though, seeing as how in the process of this fight, they cause a fuck ton of property damage. They break tables, stone columns, and Nora even hits Yang through the fucking roof. It all ends with Ruby winning by using her speed to create a vacuum and pull all the debris and food and smashing it into JNPR. Thank god Professor Goodwitch can apparently turn back time because she puts all of the tables and columns back into place and presumably repairs them.
Hilariously, Professor Ozpin tells her to “let it go.” I mean I guess no one was critically injured and Goodwitch can just fix shit with her Overpowered semblance (whatever the fuck it is), so no harm was done, I suppose. And really it’s just an opportunity for Ozpin to offer some foreshadowing, saying that they are still kids and that “it isn’t a role they will have forever.”
Finally, we are introduced to the woman from the series premiere. Cinder, voiced by popular cosplayer Jessica Nigri, is as comically evil as evil can be and is essentially Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist with fire powers. She’s sultry and seductive with a cool aesthetic, but other than revealing that Torchwick is under the bootheels of another, darker villain, she doesn’t offer much more than that. Anyway, Torchwick is given new orders and it’s stated that Cinder’s plan is “proceeding to phase two.”
Altogether, the first episode was pretty awesome. We got one of the more memorable and funny fights in the series, some new characters whose introductions felt actually important, and the technical aspects saw pleasing improvements. Episode two sees the show take a more active approach at establishing an actual goal for the main girls to reach by the end of the Volume.
Blake reveals she is still feeling uneasy about Torchwick and the White Fang teaming up together and can’t stand sitting around doing nothing. So the girls decide to investigate the series of dust robberies on their own and hopefully catch Torchwick in the process. It’s nothing groundbreaking but at least there is an established goal at the end of the road. After all, up to this point, there hadn’t been any long-term objectives apart from “learn how to fight good and graduate.”
As for the rest of the episode, Ozpin’s friend General Ironwood from Atlas arrives at Beacon with his army, cautious of the threat Ruby’s Uncle, Qrow, warned of. He and Ozpin disagree on whether the military presence is necessary and Ironwood questions whether Oz thinks his students can win a war. Simultaneously, as transfer students arrive at Beacon for the eventual tournament arc, it is revealed that Cinder, Mercury, and Emerald are undercover as transfer students to get into the school.
These first two episodes managed to make me forget how disappointed I was with the first volume and simultaneously doubled down on everything that made me watch the series in the first place. Time would tell if that attention would be deserved.
Episodes three and four see the girls kicking off their investigation in style, with new alternate outfits for the arc that I almost wish would have replaced the standard outfits when I first watched it. It bears mentioning that a lot of the new character designs in Volume Two are top notch, especially the newer characters like Mercury, Emerald, and Neptune. Taiwanese artist Einlee, the first artist to work on RWBY, has created some truly phenomenal works for the series, including the original four character posters.
Joining the girls on their journey are Sun and Neptune who mostly serve as comic relief this time around, although savor moments like these because if you are like me and you enjoy these two in Volume Two, I guarantee you won’t in future Volumes. Anyway, the girls split up to go gather intel. Yang and Neptune to the club from the Yellow trailer while Blake and Sun go to a White Fang recruitment meeting.
Good and Bad Exposition
Ruby tags along with Weiss as she goes to the “Cross Continental Transmit System” (or CCTS) to call her family company for any files regarding Dust robberies. We are treated to some humorous dialog and world-building, the latter of which is Weiss explaining that the towers were her homeland’s gift to the world after the Great War, an event 80 years ago.
Interestingly, Weiss states that they are only there because Ruby wanted to see the tower and that they “could have just as easily made the call from the Library.” I could possibly dissect RWBY’s established rules regarding communication or Ruby wasting time just to do some sightseeing, but I honestly don’t have many problems regarding this scene. If your exposition is blended in nicely and doesn’t waste too much time, I can’t really complain about the results.
And it’s funny that I praise them here for good exposition because the show seems to do the exact opposite every volume, with the Tales of Remnant series. It is a series of short 3-4 minute videos that are just exposition explaining parts of the world. To me, this is the worst kind of exposition. Storytelling where the information being given is being told in such a way because it wasn’t integrated directly into the plot through flashbacks, lessons (the characters are students, after all), or simple dialog dispersed throughout.
The worst part is that despite the aforementioned scene in Volume Two explaining the CCTS, the writers still put a Tales of Remnant episode in Volume Three explaining them, which only succeeds at blatantly foreshadowing that the tower will be destroyed at the end of that volume. It’s sad, but it seems that for every good instance of exposition in RWBY, there are two more that are lackluster.
The Twist No One (Except Most People) Saw Coming
It seems that the writers didn’t give Ruby much to do during the investigation portion of these two episodes because they had a much more sinister plan. That plan was to develop another character. This time, it was Penny, who at this point has been absent since the end of the last volume. She pretends not to know them and runs off, to which Ruby tells Weiss to make her call and goes after Penny. It was sure nice of Ruby to take Weiss to the tower when they could have made the call somewhere else only to ditch her at the last second.
Anyhow, when Ruby convinces Penny to explain everything, she tells Ruby that she was told not to speak to anyone and that she wasn’t supposed to be off on her own. They are cut short by a presentation in the city’s main square where we see some new Atlas military tech on display and then a few soldiers spot Penny and begin chasing her. Ruby helps her escape with the help of her speed abilities and for once we actually learn that her speed is only meant for a short range. This becomes apparent when she suddenly begins to tire and ends up collapsing in the middle of a road.
Penny stops a truck from hitting Ruby with her bare hands and runs off when she begins attracting attention. Ruby tries to calm her down and then learns that Penny is a robot. In fact, she is the first synthetic human capable of generating an aura. The scene is pretty touching and Taylor McNee’s performance as Penny really captures the fear and desperation of the character in that moment. Maybe I’m just a sucker for cute robot girls seeking friends.
On a side note, I’m not sure if the creators intended for Penny’s true nature to be a big reveal or dramatic irony. The implication behind her outfit is that she hides the fact that she is a robot by wearing a backpack, thus making it seem like the swords are being deployed from the backpack. However, when the backpack opened at the end of Volume One, it looked like the swords were coming from a black void inside her spine. This, combined with her already robot nature, was a dead giveaway. If it was meant to take us by surprise, it failed immensely.
The fourth episode begins with Ruby telling Penny that she doesn’t care whether she is human or not. Fans of the series tend to take this to be a reflection of Ruby’s love of machines and weapons, an element of her personality that I wish was expanded upon further, but I assure you I have plenty of things to say about Ruby at the end of this part. The two of them part ways and we resume the main plot.
The Incredible Fights of Episodes Four & Five
Around here is when it sinks in that Volume Two is actually good and not just a handful of good episodes in a sea of mediocrity. The visual quality and direction are consistent and Monty and his team were spoiling us with great fight scenes. The first of which comes at the end of “Painting the Town,” between team RWBY and Torchwick.
Blake and Sun manage to find Torchwick at the White Fang meeting as he convinces them to work with him, by appealing to their mutual disdain for the kingdoms’ governments. He reveals a stolen Atlas mech suit shown earlier and sure enough, as the new recruits line up, Blake and Sun are spotted, leading to a chase as Blake phones the rest of the team for an assault.
In one of the stupidest decisions made in the entire series, Blake and Sun lure Torchwick, now in a mech suit, onto a busy highway. There have to be dozens of civilian casualties and even more when Torchwick starts throwing cars behind him towards Yang’s motorcycle. Sun and Neptune get knocked out of the scene pretty quickly and soon its just team RWBY and Torchwick below the highway.
Of the little characterization we get for Ruby, she is still at her best during scenes of comedic levity or in a leadership role in combat. The latter shines in the fight scene below. Her quick-wittedness and ability to formulate plans are her most interesting traits. This fight has one particularly cool mechanic, in that Ruby calls out attack names corresponding to combinations of their abilities. Funnily enough, these names have also been used as the ship names for each of these characters.
The fight shows not only shows how much closer the whole team works together but takes time to explain Yang’s ability when she is seemingly incapacitated. Her ability allows her to get stronger the harder she is hit. It’s the magic of Monty’s choreography and visual storytelling with some explanation to help where visuals can’t. It’s the “Show AND Tell” approach that made scenes like Pyrrha’s explanation of Aura so enjoyable in Volume One. Except here, it goes a step beyond.
Torchwick escapes with the help of his new henchman, Neo and the girls go back to the drawing board, having lost him. The next episode seems to take place several weeks or possibly months later after the investigation concludes and features another fight immediately, this time a sparring match between Pyrrha and team CRDL, who mercifully is only present to have the living crap beaten out of them, almost as if the show is actively kicking the shit out of everything that made me hate this show.
Pyrrha is set up to be a sort of prodigy among the other huntsman but this is the first time she has gotten a significant fight on her own. Although next, we get ANOTHER fight scene. Mercury volunteers for the final sparring match of the day and asks to fight Pyrrha, to which she agrees out of a sense of honor. The fight is a lot slower than typical RWBY fights, but it’s by design.
Without any dialog between the two combatants or any explanation from the onlookers, we get the sense that Mercury isn’t fighting Pyrrha for fun. He is a scout, testing his opponent and trying to find their weakness and when he finds it, he doesn’t even give his opponent a chance to do the same. Mercury forfeits the match, now knowing that Pyrrha’s semblance is polarity. Given the pacing and the length of the fight, it is perhaps one of the most focused and well-directed fights, with some inventive low angle shots and even slow motion. There is much to be learned from a fight like this.
[Both fights occur within the first six minutes of the episode below]
In regards to other fights throughout the Volume, they are all great for the most part. Episode nine is more impressive for narrative reasons I will explain later, but like the fight between Pyrrha and Mercury, there is a sense that the animation team was experimenting with different types of fight scenes. Particularly, this episode plays around with the aspect ratio and dividing up the screen into panels, showing characters and shots from different angles. It is an interesting experiment, but I’m thankful they have refrained from doing it more.
A Much Needed Break (Or, A High School Arc That Doesn’t Suck)
The remainder of episode five, as well as episodes six and seven, lets the show take a breather from the trifecta of god-tier fights and enjoy some high school levity that is made considerably more important by the character development within. Firstly, Blake is still feeling uneasy about Torchwick and the White Fang being on the move.
Team RWBY witness Blake turn down Sun’s invitation to Beacon’s upcoming dance. They sit her down back at the dorm and tell her that they want her to go to the dance to unwind. We are told that in the time between the end of episode four and the beginning of episode five, Blake has become increasingly unstable.
Her biggest struggle this whole season is not being able to enjoy life as a student because there is so much at stake. She has a lot of stake in this conflict against Torchwick. The organization she used to be a part of could be plotting an attack that could set civil rights for her species back decades and the man leading them is most likely using them for personal gain.
With Volume One’s four-episode arc on Jaune, I felt like I was being ripped away from the part of the story I liked and thrown into a shitty journey I had no interest in. Here, the conflict is more meaningful because it directly ties into the main events and makes a point of saying that a silly high school dance might be exactly what these characters (and the plot) need. Ozpin even says as much to Ruby at the dance. Given how the first three volumes of RWBY conclude, scenes like this have a lot of weight to story.
Even after the team talks to her, she doesn’t have any intention of taking a break. From there, Yang takes it upon herself to change Blake’s mind, and the result convinced me the writers had learned their lesson since last time. Yang hasn’t gotten much development up to this point. At most, we know that she’s a thrill seeker by the way she acts and that she has a bad temper, goes super saiyan and gets stronger the more damage she takes.
So when she sat Blake down and started telling her about herself and her family, I was honestly shocked. Although in truth, the scene had me when Yang got Blake’s attention using a laser pointer. Anyway, Yang tells Blake about her and Ruby’s mom, Summer Rose, and how she left for a mission once and never came back. Yang also reveals that around Summer’s assumed death, she learned that her mother was not Summer, but another woman.
She goes on to tell Blake of a time when her quest to find her real mother almost got her and Ruby killed, the moral of which being that Yang isn’t telling Blake to stop, but that she can never let that search control her. They argue about it, but end up sharing a sweet moment that convinces Blake to get some rest and go to the dance. Yang even promises to save her a dance. This is when I officially started shipping Blake and Yang. Bumblebee for life, fuck all of you.
My only complaint is that Barbara Dunkleman’s performance during the scene was dodgy at best. At times it’s really nice and genuine, but her line reads during the flashback scene didn’t match the tone at all and sounded more like your friend telling you about a mild inconvenience they experienced rather than a life or death encounter.
Remember when I spent a significant portion of my first RWBY review talking about how much I hated Jaune? Well, credit where it’s due, he’s a lot better this time around and his side story acts as a counterweight to Blake’s. He tries and fails to convince Weiss to go to the dance with him. Pyrrha gives Jaune some advice, but it’s all for naught when he sees Weiss ask out Neptune. Assuming the worst, he goes to the dance alone.
However, this is as much Pyrrha’s character arc as it is Jaune’s. For one thing, it is made clear that Pyrrha has feelings for Jaune and it’s the first real moment that the show implies that either of them has feelings for the other. Jaune doesn’t notice anything is wrong because he assumes that Pyrrha has tons of guys going after her- he even tells her as much. The truth, however, is more complicated.
Episode seven is all Jaune and I’m totally okay with that. After hearing from Ruby that Weiss got rejected by Neptune, Jaune gets mad. He’s about to go white-knight like no cucked young male has done before, but decides instead to go talk to a considerably depressed looking Pyrrha. Pyrrha explains that because of her status as a prodigy amongst huntsmen and huntresses, people see her as unattainable. The reason she likes Jaune is that he had no idea who she was and saw her for who she was.
From there, the episode just gets better and better. Jaune gives Neptune shit for turning down Weiss just cause he can’t dance and actually gets him to talk to Weiss. Then, because he said that he’d wear a dress if Pyrrha didn’t get a date to the dance, the motherfucker actually does it and team JNPR does a short synchronized dance. Anyone who has watched Monty Oum’s dead fantasy series or the many vids of him playing DDR knew this scene was a long time coming.
The rest of episode seven centers around Cinder infiltrating the CCTS in disguise so she can tamper with the mainframe. Ruby leaves the dance, sensing something is wrong and gets into a short but sweet fight before Ironwood arrives and Cinder disappears just as suddenly. And with that, RWBY managed not only to make me like Jaune but offered a high school arc that felt as impactful and fun as any of the episodes that came before it. Are we sure this was written by the same people?
The Field Trip, RWBY’s Comic Relief, And “Being Like Anime”
The final arc of Volume Two centers around the four girls going on their first official mission, where they will be supervised by a professional huntsman. Their plan is to pick a Search and Destroy mission close to where they believe Torchwick and the White Fang to be. It’s implied that Ozpin knows about what she and her team is doing and is letting her continue her investigation because he trusts her.
In a funny twist, the girls are in despair when they realize they are paired with Dr. Oobleck as their Huntsman, a hyperactive teacher voiced by Joel Heyman. Joel is one of the funniest guys at Rooster Teeth, and I get that his character is supposed to read his lines in a very rapid fire way, but some of his line reads are slurred and hard to understand due to how quickly he has to read the dialog. Additionally, the inflection of his voice can be pretty annoying as well, almost as if he is whispering loudly.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that Ruby and Yang are sent a package in the mail that can only be described as comic relief incarnate. Zwei is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who is sent to Beacon because… I got nothing. He’s just comic relief. Anyway, because Ruby makes the accurate assumption that leaving the dog alone in the dorm for several days is a horrible fucking idea, she smuggles him in a backpack with her for the trip.
Zwei is not going to be pivotal or essential to the plot in any conceivable way. He will come into play during combat later in a way that is supposed to be funny but you could take him out of this Volume entirely and not much would be lost. He isn’t necessarily a detriment, but he adds absolutely nothing.
I haven’t really talked about RWBY’s comedic writing and I suppose that’s because it doesn’t amaze me enough to eloquently praise it beyond saying “I laughed” nor is it bad enough to decry it… most times. One of the most common complaints of the first volume was how the Anime-inspired art would occasionally try to express its comedy in the same way that hand-drawn animation does. But that doesn’t always transition well to a 3D animated character.
This is in service of being “like an Anime” but like many things that try to be like Anime, it forgets that there is more to Anime than the style. Anime is not a style but a medium with its own plethora of tropes and genres within. Honestly, RWBY’s comedy is at its best when it isn’t trying to imitate Anime, but relying on its own writing and visual style.
Character Development, and the Problems With Ruby Rose
For the final part of my review of Volume Two, I want to address the elephant in the room. The small, squeaky, admittedly cute elephant known as Ruby Rose. Ruby is not a good main character. By all accounts, she is a terrible main character, not because she isn’t likable in her own ways, but because she has had no substantial development or screentime to truly flourish in her role. This was true in Volume One, it is true here and it has sadly been true for every single volume up to now.
There are many missed opportunities in this show but the one that perfectly encapsulates my point is episode nine, Search and Destroy. It doesn’t so much stick out because of the action within, but rather how the show decides to dig into the reasons the girls all decided to become huntresses in the first place. Oobleck doesn’t fight the Grimm in the city but observes the girls as they do what they do best, while occasionally asking them why they have chosen this line of work.
Yang’s is simple enough to decipher. She does what she does because she is a thrill seeker. To her, saving the world is a bonus to going on adventures. For Weiss, she wants to uphold her family’s legacy to make up for the mockery of it that her father is responsible. It’s surprising to think how much more likable Weiss is this season, probably because she was the source of so much conflict in Volume One and isn’t this time.
As for Blake, she want’s to fight against injustice and inequality. The one big problem is that she doesn’t quite know how. Bafflingly, Ruby is never asked that question. It feels like that moment is about to occur when Oobleck asks to speak with Ruby privately while the others set up camp, but Ruby asks Oobleck the question instead.
I honestly don’t mind her reversing the question on Oobleck. His answer, being that he want’s to learn how humanity has failed so that he can teach younger generations to go farther, is interesting. I don’t even mind the show directly calling out the fact that Ruby wasn’t asked that question, almost as if there was a point behind it. The Problem is that point is never quite made clear.
One conclusion is that Ruby already knows why she wants to be a huntress and Oobleck is asking the other three because he gets the feeling that they don’t. When the girls make camp for the night in episode ten, the three of them talk more about it while Ruby is on guard duty, leading to a mature moment where they address their faults and agree that whatever it is they are searching for is secondary to their mission.
In the last three episodes of the volume, Ruby’s dramatic connection to the plot becomes even more blurry. It starts with Zwei running outside, prompting Ruby to follow him when suddenly she sees members of the White Fang. She follows them to their hideout, but a hole opens up beneath her and she falls into what looks like an underground city.
She falls into the underground city and realizes that her scythe is gone. Now understandably, she is at a disadvantage but then she tries to punch a White Fang goon, fails, and gets knocked down in one hit. Are you fucking kidding me? She is capable of wielding a high caliber sniper rifle that doubles as a scythe and she can’t throw a punch to save her life? I’m not asking her to be an expert, but at least have her put up a reasonable fight before she is kidnapped.
Moving on, they bring her to Torchwick while Oobleck and the rest of team RWBY discover she is missing. Oobleck explains that when Mountain Glenn failed, they started building the city underground, with a railway system that leads directly to Vale. They go rescue her, forcing Torchwick and the rest of the White Fang to start escaping on a train heading directly for Vale.
As they all board the train, they realize what Torchwick is planning. They are going to disconnect the train cars, loaded with bombs, opening holes for Grimm to enter the tunnel. Then the train will crash through the closed subway tunnel and lead the monsters right into the city of Vale. Oobleck SPECIFICALLY asks everyone expect for Ruby to go down into the train. Meanwhile, Ruby, Oobleck and even Zwei stay on top to fight some more stolen Atlas mechs.
Below deck, the three girls each face an opponent that reflects the character arcs and flaws of each character. YouTuber cake, in her animation analysis of RWBY, pointed out this scene as an exceptional display of character in animation. Torchwick’s All three of the fights above are exceptional, but it is hilarious to think that the writers consciously excluded Ruby from this when the train fight is constructed from the ground up to force characters to confront their personal struggles. Then again, we don’t exactly know what Ruby’s struggle is, probably because she doesn’t really have one.
Why does Ruby want to be a huntress? The most we are given by Ruby herself is that she wants to help people, like the huntsmen in the books Yang read to her when they were younger. That was within the first three episodes and Yang reiterates this during her heart to heart with Weiss and Blake. But if the point of Oobleck asking these girls that question was to push them to think hard about their motives and grow up, then Ruby needs more help than any of them.
I would say that Ruby Rose is a poorly done version of Shirou Emiya from Fate/Stay Night. Shirou also wants to save people and be a hero, because his adoptive father who saved his life talked about wanting to be one. Out of respect for his father, Shirou strives to be the hero that his father gave up on trying to be.
The biggest difference between these two characters is that Shirou is told that his dream of being a hero is childish and that he can’t save everyone. His entire role in Unlimited Blade Works is fighting for his belief in justice and that is what makes him such a compelling character. Now, this show gets very close to moments like that but then forgets to offer Ruby a major part in any conflict.
After the Initiation Arc, she is either not the focus or in a position where she is aiding in another’s development. In “The Badge and The Burden,” it is Weiss who develops by the end of that arc and accepts Ruby as a leader, whereas Ruby just continues doing what she was doing in the first place. In Jaune’s arc right after, Ruby is the one who offers advice to Jaune, telling him that he can’t afford to fail as the leader of the team, implying she has already taken to her role as leader. No arc since then has challenged her, developed her, or revealed more about her.
The only other reason I can think of for why Ruby would be sidelined in this way is if her moment to shine was supposed to come at a later time. Sadly, Episode 12, Breach, is one of the biggest missed opportunities in the series. The previous episode ended with the train crashing into Vale, the city alarm blaring ominously, as Grimm flood the streets and civilians run scared. Ruby looks upon the city in horror, and the screen cuts to black as her expression turns to one of determination.
I had high hopes for the final episode’s big confrontation but there isn’t much of a narrative arc to the battle except for Cinder, Mercury and Emerald having to clean up Torchwick’s mess. Because the attack has happened earlier than they planned, they need to actually help the heroes so that the Vytal Festival isn’t canceled. It means that when Mercury and Emerald “turn in” Torchwick, it’s just so that the powers that be don’t ruin Cinders plan because they think they’ve caught the bad guy. It’s an interesting move and it says a lot about Cinder’s adaptability, which I like.
Aside from that subplot, the battle just involves RWBY kicking ass without any plan or struggle really, with guest appearances by team JNPR as well as Sun and Neptune (who do absolutely nothing). Just like how Volume One introduced Penny to set her up for the tournament arc, Volume Two introduces team CFVY (coffee), who is introduced for the same reason. They are also introduced because one of the members, Velvet, a Faunus who we see being bullied in Volume One, is a fan favorite character.
The Atlas military shows up and guns down the remaining Grimm and Professor Goodwitch uses her overpowered abilities again to close up the breach like it was nothing. It’s mission successful and despite not doing shit, Sun and Neptune have the balls to fist bump like they contributed. Team RWBY consider it a win and despite there still being a lot of questions, they call it a day.
Torchwick is in the custody of Ironwood, RWBY now just has to worry about the tournament at the moment, and Adam Taurus makes his return, revealing that he is working with Cinder. The only other thing worth mentioning is that Yang’s mom makes an appearance, saving Yang after she was seemingly knocked out following her fight with Neo on the train. She comes through a portal and disappears just as quickly as she appears, leaving before Yang comes to her senses.
Every one of Ruby’s issues could have been addressed if this episode were longer and had a self-contained character arc. What if Ruby, witnessing innocents suffer at the hands of the Grimm, begins to think that she has failed. Then, have her affirm her beliefs and reasons for being a Huntress, uniting with the other characters and forming a plan to close the breach herself rather than waiting for Glynda to fill the hole like it were nothing.
Instead, none of what makes Ruby interesting is expanded upon. Not her leadership, nor her beliefs and values and certainly not her reason for being where she is. I feel like I’ve gotten to know all the girls so much better over the course of this volume, but Ruby is for all intents and purposes, a secondary character.
Like I said, there has never been a truly great volume of RWBY. Ruby’s failings as a protagonist and the lackluster finale are evidence of that. Yet despite that, Volume Two is the closest that the show has gotten to living up to Monty’s vision. If Monty were still alive today, I have no doubt that Volume Three would have been absolutely phenomenal. Sadly, the next we saw of RWBY would be very different from what came before. As for whether it was good or bad, is a story for next time.
To Be Continued in Part Three…
Thanks for reading! This part took even longer to write and get out. I really should put more thought into my schedule before committing to these big projects. Anyhow, what did you think of Volume Two and more importantly, what do you think of Ruby as a character? Leave a comment below and share this with your friends. I hope you enjoyed, and as always, I’ll see you next time.