The First Truly Good Season of RWBY?

Having watched RWBY since the beginning, I would consider myself a fan, despite how much I rag on it. It’s always been “good” but there was always some sort of caveat attached to any praise I could offer when the volumes were airing.

Volume One – It’s good, except the episodes are sometimes too short, which made it a pain to watch week-by-week. Ultimately, the only episodes I felt really satisfied with were one, eight and 16.

Volume Two – It’s great, except the ending ruins it and Ruby’s biggest opportunity for growth is thrown out the window in exchange for more characters that will never matter.

Volume Three – It’s good, except it sucks. More depressingly, we lost Monty.

Volume Four – Looking back, the narrative was pretty good (compared to what came before), but there is a lot of time wasted. I look on it fondly now, but at the time it aired, I hated it.

Volume Five – It’s terrible. There’s no excuse for this one.

Up until around Volume four, people would also make the excuse that Rooster Teeth was a smaller company, but that doesn’t really fly anymore, especially when they are getting nominated for awards and shit. This made the problems stick out more because their status demands they be put up to a standard befitting of their aspirations.

For this reason, I’m delighted to say that Volume Six of RWBY is the first truly good entry in the series. I know right? Surprised the fuck outta me…

[Spoilers for all of RWBY ahead]

The Most Cautiously Optimistic Three-Episode Test

The new opening might be one of my favorites

It seems as though writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross approached this new volume with the intent of keeping the plot moving forward as much as possible. In interviews, Miles even poked fun at how most of volume five was just sitting in a fucking house. So they ARE capable of admitting their flaws, good. Now to see how they fix it.

The premiere begins in media res during an action scene before cutting back to some rather dull scenes in the train station. The soon-to-be-recast Vic Mignogna drones through a monologue as if Kerry told him “no, be drunker.” From then on his acting is the same cool we’ve come to expect, but I just thought the poor delivery deserved mention. More annoying is Sun and Neptune’s comedy, which falls as flat as I’ve come to expect.

Oh, yeah, by the way, Neptune shows up. Despite him and the rest of team SSSN having been students at Haven Academy, they weren’t there for the volume five finale, probably because they would have had to come up with even more reasons not to show people fighting. At least Sun makes self-aware jokes about being a shitty leader for abandoning his team and we likely won’t have to see them again until the plot takes the characters to Vacuo.

The finale began to intrigue me once it caught up to the introduction. The characters actually put their brains together and come up with a smart plan to save everyone on board. They finally begin to use Jaune’s ability in a way that emphasizes the amplification properties instead of just being a glorified healing ability. Even the stuff that should make me furious about this scene is handled well.

Ozpin reveals that the relic they acquired the last volume attracts Grimm. Ignoring that this further adds to the list of things Ozpin has kept from them, Ruby interjects, reminding them all of the more pressing issues, which is a fair point.

The goal of this volume becomes clear. Team RWBY along with Qrow and Oscar are going to split off from the rest of the group and make their way to Argus with the lamp in tow. This means no team JNPR for at least half the volume and a smaller party to focus on, which I appreciate.

They bid farewell in a well-constructed action setpiece that saw a return to creative team attacks. Jaune giving Ren a power buff and cloaking the train was an ingenious idea in its own right, but team RWBY pulls off some killer moves I haven’t seen the likes of since volume two.

Volume Five had a serious lack of payoff in regards to action. There were maybe two good fights and the rest was either cut away from or so poorly done as to be arguably nonexistent. Even though this fight put a dumb smile on my face, only time would tell if they could keep that quality consistent.

There is one new addition to the party in the form of Maria Calavera. Pretty much everyone watching pegged her to be the one to finally exposition us regarding the silver eyes, which is 100% correct. It just took them a while to finally say it. It’s especially jarring since the next two episodes completely ignore her in favor of some major plot reveals. So she’s just a random old lady tagging along for some big reveals.

Ozpin’s greatest failing has been the secrecy of his character. I hate characters like these because they never learn their lesson until long after the point at which the secrets have gone too far. In this particular case, it also turns him into an exposition machine every time the writers need to change a rule or tack on more to the existing rule set.

The second episode doesn’t just call Ozpin out on his bullshit but breathes new life into the show. I think that Kerry is actually starting to become a competent director (although later scenes would foster doubt about that). They even have a flashback in the house from Volume Five as they were preparing to leave.

This allowed them to offer exposition from Ozpin in a context where he hadn’t crossed the line by lying. Yet it also transitions directly into the present after he has crossed that line and more. Everyone is pissed at him because of what he didn’t tell them. It’s the last straw for many of the characters but it’s also a moment to give Ozpin’s perspective for why he lied, making him infinitely more interesting.

What results is one of my favorite scenes in this volume. The relic of knowledge which Ruby is carrying is revealed to harbor a being known as Jinn. Even this reveal contradicts a previous statement by Ozpin, and there is an actual tension as Ozpin becomes more desperate to keep his secrets hidden.

The end of episode two did something no other episode of RWBY ever accomplished. It left me speechless. For once, the show actually gave me a cliffhanger that surprised me. Next up, in what could be the most ambitious episode in the series, we finally learn about the main villain that’s just kinda been… there.

At first, it seems like any generic fairy tale pretty much intentionally. Salem is a young girl trapped in a castle and a warrior named Ozma (exactly who you are thinking) saves her. Then they fall in love and junk, but soon after the story begins to feel more like a Greek tragedy. And much like any Greek myth, the gods are dicks.

The gods bicker as brothers are one to do, disagreeing over how best to utilize their powers and Salem suffers for it. Shoutout to Chase McCaskill and Bruce DuBose who voice the gods of light and dark respectively. Salem becomes desperate after tragedy strikes and her desire to save Ozma attracts the ire of the gods. Her punishment leads her to despise the gods and attempt to fight back.

Said retaliation leads to some rather dark displays of the gods’ powers, that leave Salem truly beaten. The implications of how long and to what extent she was isolated alone make her transformation into a villain totally understandable. Cause unless I’m interpreting things wrong, this girl witnessed humanity’s second complete evolution… which is kinda fucked.

Ozpin’s story in the latter half of the episode goes a long way towards giving context towards why Ozpin is the way he is. Plus the idea of living inside someone else’s body, essentially robbing them of life, is compelling. Enough so that I wish they could cover it more. The reveal at the end begs many questions about what team RWBY needs to do to actually win, as the odds are not in their favor.

The backgrounds and artwork are very well done in this episode, especially the homes of the gods. Despite the abundance of narration, visual storytelling is done well. Oddly enough, this volume has been implementing hand-drawn animation and CG together. Certain smoke effects I noticed were entirely 2D animation.

If I have any complaints about this episode, it is that the “fight” between Salem and Ozpin isn’t quite the best. Lots of still images and flashing lights. Additionally, they have like, kids together, but it is never clear what happens to the kids. Perhaps they were the original maidens, perhaps they died. It’s not made clear.

Every episode up to this point I was waiting for something to happen that would just ruin the entire volume. Long pointless exposition or episodes wasted just walking places, but to my delight, I wasn’t getting any of that. After three episodes, I was content saying that this volume was good.

That being said, it feels like some of what makes this season great is what should have been done much sooner.

Damage Control & Giving a Shit About The Bad Guys

The term “damage control” is one I’ve seen a few times in discussions of volume six. Volume Five wasted so much time talking about stuff we didn’t need to hear and not meaningfully paying off any shreds of buildup. It kinda begs the question of what was happening behind the scenes that prevented this kind of quality before.

Just take Salem for instance. She’s been a character since the end of volume three (unnecessary narrator doesn’t count) but we never knew anything about her before volume six. It’s worse than how little we know about Cinder cause at least Cinder was a mediocre knockoff of Lust from FMA.

But episode four comes around and for once, a display of anger from Salem finally has a bit of weight to it because I can actually understand her. That and the scene is generally well-constructed. It starts with her shitting on Emerald, Mercury, and Hazel for fucking up the attack on Haven (which is actually pretty funny).

Then she learns Ozpin is still alive and she goes fucking psycho. When every other villain in the room is reacting to a situation like “oh- FUCK!” I feel they’ve accomplished their objective. The only issue is we don’t see her again until the end of the volume, creating a new Grimm that is another allusion to the Wizard of Oz. To make up for it though, Tyrian is back.

I missed Tyrian, partly because Josh Grelle is my favorite voice actor but mostly because he’s my favorite villain right beyond Torchwick. He’s got a new tail and he’s back to creeping on Emerald and Mercury, specifically letting them know that without Cinder there, they are likely on borrowed time. He’s clearly trying the hardest amongst the cast of villains and I live for each scene he’s in.

Speaking of Emerald and Mercury, they had some decent chemistry in volume two but ever since then its been practically nonexistent. Guess they skipped basic small talk at the start of their partnership too because she asks Merc about why he joined up with Cinder.

He tells her about his abusive father and his shitty childhood and the two of them fight because Merc dared to point out how Emerald is dumb for thinking Cinder gives a fuck about her. The best I can say about the scene is that the fight wasn’t terrible which isn’t glowing praise but they’re at a passing grade by this point. Half this shit should have been introduced in prior seasons.

By the way, Cinder is alive…

… to the surprise of no one. She’s just been thawing in a pool of water at the bottom of that seemingly bottomless pit from the last volume. Shockingly what saves her return for me is two things. One, the kingdom of Mistral is fleshed out a bit more courtesy of a network of spies that Cinder goes to for information.

The second is that Neopolitan is back.

See, we got one good character comeback. Guess she must have been sleeping the last two volumes cause she just now decided to get back into the fray. This is perplexing since her motivations would suggest she’s been looking for revenge. As soon as she shows up, she’s blaming Cinder for Torchwick’s death.

Neo is an odd character all around. She was aesthetically cool and was one-half of one of the coolest fights in the show, but apart from how well she and Torchwick fought together, there wasn’t much there, since you know… she didn’t talk. Not saying a mute character can’t be developed, but I am saying I doubt the writers could have pulled it off.

Giving her this motivation implies she had a strong bond with Torchwick that was only vaguely hinted at. It’d be nice to see it delved into more with a flashback episode, but since Torchwick was voiced by Gray and Gray is directing Gen:Lock, I’m not holding out hope.

But again, keeping positive, Cinder and Neo have a fight, and it’s pretty dope. Afterward, Cinder expositions her off-screen (bless) and the next we see them it is the end of the volume and they are reluctant buds. They even both get new outfits, though Neo’s new look seems like a bit of overkill to me.

In fact, the more you think about them, they’re both horribly impractical. Now, I don’t normally give a shit about practicality in regards to cool outfits. It’s the fact they are going to Atlas that makes it an odd choice. In terms of generic fantasy world kingdoms, it is literally “the cold one.”

Nice
… A little overkill

On the whole, RWBY did villains better this time with less time wasted. The abuse of time can be a big problem in the show, especially when they’re trying to give characters equal screen-time to pander. Given how sparingly we see the antagonists versus how important the scenes are, they’ve clearly begun to remedy this problem.

It’s not about equal screentime, it’s about effective screen-time. If they continue to employ the tactics used to write the villains this volume, I think we’re in for good things. They clearly learned their lesson about the house from volume five. Speaking of which…

How To Properly Write Characters Sitting Around in a House (Mostly)

The Brunswick Farm arc has to be the first real side-story in RWBY. It is ultimately disconnected from the main plot but introduces a creepy and cool new Grimm and the framing of the arc breeds some great character growth. All of the people living in this town seem to have died overnight in their sleep and now RWBY & Co. have to spend the night with no other means of shelter.

Qrow specifically tells everyone to not split up, which means they split into pairs of two. Yang and Blake didn’t have a ton of time to address the tension between them after spending two volumes apart after Blake ditched her. Their arc this volume is about them resolving that which thankfully wasn’t just instantaneous.

Among both Blake and Yang, PTSD is a theme. For Blake, it was the abusive relationship that ended up violently affecting her friends and for Yang, it was… well, Blake’s abusive cutting her arm off. While searching one of the houses, Yang sees flashes of Adam and freaks out, just as Blake had back in the first episode.

Both of them severely misunderstand where the other’s emotional hangups lie regarding their split. Blake seems to think that it was her inability to protect Yang that caused her to lose the arm while Yang sees it as her weakness that cost her the arm. So Blake labeling Yang as someone to be protected makes her feel as though she is still seen as weak, which is the opposite of what she wants to appear as.

It’s one of my favorite scenes for how realistically it tackles the misunderstanding between them. As for how their arc is resolved later in the volume? Well, that one is a doozy, but for now, let’s appreciate a job well done. On the other side of the RWBY shipping dock, we have Ruby and Weiss.

Weiss questions Ruby about whether or not their quest is even worth it since there is “no way of defeating Salem.” At first, the scene appears to pose the question of whether Ozpin may have been right to keep the futility of the mission a secret. In reality, it is eerily foreshadowing the threat behind this creepy-ass town, with all the characters becoming mysteriously fatigued over time.

The only other group of two is Maria and Oscar and… not a lot happens there. By this point, Maria’s importance to the plot still had not been established, even if everyone knew exactly what she would be. Oscar is still underwhelming. Funnily enough, despite having made the rule about sticking in pairs, Qrow is the only one alone.

Qrow becomes disillusioned to the quest after the revelations from Jinn. In turn, his drinking – previously just one of his aesthetic character traits – becomes a big problem. Ruby deciding she wasn’t going to tell Qrow about the bar in the basement was a nice touch. Him failing as a role model helps her to step up as a leader and as a protagonist.

Everyone goes to sleep and wakes up late the next morning, groggy and unmotivated, to an almost uncomfortable degree. Credit to the director, there was a sense of unease permeating the scene as it becomes clear that the characters are not well.

Yang and the other characters start telling Ruby that the quest is pointless and that maybe they should just throw the lamp down the well in the center of town. Without even being told, it’s clear the characters are under some sort of influence by how lifeless their eyes are. Around the time the volume was airing I was constantly in disbelief that this was the same creative team working on this show.

Ruby accidentally drops the lamp into the well after seeing a Grimm down below. Despite the characters trying to convince her to let it go, she stands her ground. She is far angrier than we typically see her, and Lindsay’s performance sounds just mature enough to sell this more mature Ruby.

After entering the tunnels though, that confidence and take charge attitude disappears when faced with the Grimm known as the Apathy. It’s essentially a horde of human-like creatures whose cry eats away at your will to go on. It’s a really creative idea for a monster and I applaud them, but Ruby’s reaction seems a bit odd for one of her skill set.

She screams like she’s in a horror movie and retreats with the lamp in hand running back to the rest of her team who snap out of their trance at the sign of trouble. Ruby is a huntress for crying out loud, shouldn’t her response have been a bit more… combat-ready?

In the opening for the volume, we see her leaping back from the unknown Grimm in the tunnels, gun-drawn. Considering they have re-used animations from the openings in the show before, they could’ve employed that same strategy here.

Creating threatening villains is just as much about the heroes as it is the villain. One way to convey the threat of an opponent is to give the impression that an attack has been effective, only to render it futile in reality. Ruby’s Crescent Rose contains what she herself described in Volume One as a “high-powered sniper rifle.” Yet when she shoots the Apathy, the bullets just ricochet off of them.

The Apathy already have an advantage because of sheer numbers. Even if they can be mowed down, they can wear down people’s will before they can kill enough. If the Red trailer is still anything to go off of, Ruby should be able to tear off their unarmored limbs with the ease of a trigger pull. Instead, our heroes’ weapons seem completely useless.

So they all run and we fall victim to bad run cycles again, masked by awkward camerawork out of Urban Runner from 1996 (look it up (don’t)). Before they can escape, they encounter even more Grimm and are worn down before Ruby accidentally activates her Silver eyes. Finally, Maria can reveal what we always knew: that she knows about the silver eyes.

With a quick speech about the importance of love and life and all sorts of other My Little Pony shit like that, Ruby activates her ability and wipes out even more Grimm. Finally, everyone gets the hell out of there.

With the end of the arc we are treated to Maria’s retelling of the tale of Brunswick Farms based on the diary she read in the house. The tragic tale of the villagers resembles the main characters’ own plights. The desperation that comes from a shitty situation leads people to seek out easier solutions to complex problems.

Back in Volume Four, the writers talked about how they wanted to add more side-stories to flesh out the world and have more adventures, but that they couldn’t because of time. Funnily enough, one of the biggest problems with that Volume was all the downtime. Short arcs like this not only help the characters evolve, but they expand the world by creating cool lore. Needless to say, it would be foolish not to do more stuff like this down the line.

That isn’t to say that all the expanded lore doesn’t come with fault however…

The Problem with Silver Eyes

Episode seven showed Maria’s past as a huntress. Known as the Grimm Reaper, she was a legend among huntsmen. She kills a nevermore with two handheld scythes that can gravitate towards one another. After so many lazy weapon designs post-Volume Two, it’s so nice to see cool original weapons.

The character design is also downright beautiful. This younger Maria wears a Dios de Los Muertos- inspired mask and corresponding cloak and hood. The fight against the nevermore is brief but shot beautifully. She finishes it off with her silver eyes, which seemingly does the job more effectively than any of the fighting previously.

Then Maria is surrounded by goons led by a creepy crocodile lady and they fight. The characters body movements can be a bit wild at times but the direction is well done. There’s even a clock ticking sound effect running throughout, which added some tension and a beat for the choreography to follow.

It’s all for naught though because she gets blinded by a sword slash. This whole scene was surprisingly dark and engaging but Crocodile Lady’s entire mission was to capture Maria FOR HER EYES. So… she’s an idiot. At least she died in a cool way though, which again was pretty dark, even if it cut away.

I have plenty of things to say about how and when this show cuts away from things later in this review, so get fucking ready. For now, though, let me say that while I enjoy watching Kerry grow as a director, he has to stop using black screens so much as transitions.

Back to the plot, the silver eyes are OP. Now I held out hope that after this fight there would be an explanation as to the limits of the eyes. Maybe damage done to the user or a limited number of uses in a given time. They aren’t starved for options, yet they seem to have completely missed the point.

In episode eight, Maria and Ruby have a chat about the silver eyes and I could feel this plot device being forgotten in the future even as it was being discussed. What I mean is that given the narrative significance of the eyes, they feel like an afterthought.

Maria explains how rare the silver eyes are and speculates that the rarity comes from the extermination of bloodlines. The prospect of people making a career out of hunting down people like Ruby has a lot of potential. It also opens up the door for many ways to tie Ruby’s abilities directly into defeating Salem. But consider how many plot devices already exist in the story? How many of them are actively hunted by Salem?

The answer is all of them. First, we had the maidens and the logic was that harnessing their power would give Salem an advantage for- at the time- unknown reasons. Then came the relics next volume and we vaguely were given the idea that together, they could do many ominous things. And Salem is after them.

The maidens hold practically no bearing on the plot anymore. Even when they were introduced in Volume Three they never seemed like a major threat. In Volume Five, the fight between maidens was almost cool, but the powers are so broad as to be downright uncreative.

So now we have silver eyes. It is a ludicrous power with effectiveness tantamount to what the plot demands from it. I have no reason to believe the silver eyes actually mean anything. The trigger for using the silver eyes is emotional, but instead of just saying “it’s triggered by intense emotions” we specifically say it is triggered by Ruby’s strong desire to protect her friends.

See, the former gives the ability a rule to abide by and a limitation. It could only be used under pressure. In terms of how Ruby uses them, it just means that every major narrative use of the ability is accompanied by a fuck-off emotional montage.

And that’s exactly what happens during the final battle… mostly…. we’ll get to that later. The silver eyes are literally weaponized pathos. Meaning that after training, Ruby will be able to kill the Grimm with love… you know, if this was a show by Studio Trigger maybe that sentence would make me giddy with excitement. Here it just bewilders as much as it amuses.

Anyway, back to being a critical asshole. Maria’s semblance is apparently her advanced reflexes. It’s the kind of power that’s present in other characters naturally just by virtue of them being supernatural badasses. The explanation doesn’t make it seem all that special.

Even if it did, our first and last example of her in her prime ended with her not being able to react quickly enough and getting blinded. This may or may not make sense depending on which rules the writers are using for Aura. It may annoy you depending on whether or not you can suspend your disbelief enough to say Maria was simply worn out or at a disadvantage when she was injured.

I’ll give them points for the name though. “Preflex” rolls off the tongue nicely and kinda makes me wish that more characters gave their semblances names. Seriously, if RWBY is gonna copy anime, just copy Jojo and name the semblances like you would name stands.

Argus & The “New” Ruby Rose

The prospect of our heroes arriving at their objective by only the halfway point took me by surprise when you consider the show’s track record for pacing. Granted, they didn’t arrive in Atlas, but they got to Argus, which is technically what the premiere established as the goal, so in my book, they arrived early. Although, many would argue this second half is where Volume Six declines in quality, so maybe you could consider this the actual ending. In that case, it ain’t so different.

In fact, the second half of episode seven was dedicated to the characters settling in and reuniting with the rest of JNPR. The home base for this second arc is the abode of one of Jaune’s sisters and her adorable wife and baby. Adorable family dynamic aside, one might be wary of our heroes staying in another goddamn house.

Thankfully, the time spent there is brief and far more entertaining before we learn the real obstacle of this arc. Turns out the closing of Atlas’ borders means the team can’t enter even with Weiss and a master Huntsman like Qrow in tow. The antagonist of this arc is Caroline Cordovin, a really annoying cu- I mean, a very charismatic leader of the Atlas outfit stationed in Argus.

Her and her equally… charismatic guards portray the Atlas military less as this extremely powerful military might and more as a group of extremist believers. Cordovin’s pride in her country clouds her judgment and makes her impossible to persuade. I would love to say that she was a charming antagonist but everything about how Atlas military is portrayed here just annoys me.

Qrow goes off drinking, having pretty much given up, but now it’s time for JNPR to get caught up on the whole, “no way to defeat Salem” thing. They’re all pissed off, reasonably so. Jaune even gets aggressive towards Oscar, everyone splits up and Oscar runs off. It’s no surprise I have not been the biggest fan of Jaune, but when he is relegated to a support-only role, he can be written well. He’s kinda like Kirito in Sword Art Online’s Mother’s Rosario arc; the more of a supporting character he is, the better.

Even episode nine, the closest thing to a Jaune-centric episode, gave a satisfying conclusion to Jaune’s biggest internal struggle since Volume Three. Jaune finding the statue of Pyrrha was sweet, but the scene was more endearing because of his conversation with the mysterious red-haired woman. Her exact relation to Pyrrha is unknown, but she is voiced by Pyrrha’s actress, Jen Brown, which was an amazing touch.

Jaune’s biggest hurdle was his inability to be at peace with Pyrrha’s death and his doubts about his leadership. After this sweet scene and some consolation by Ren and Nora, Jaune is finally able to move on. I may have preferred swapping this scene with more scenes of Oscar, out of necessity. I had hoped that Oscar would be given some sort of arc with his disappearance.

Maybe in the process of running away, Ozpin comes back into his conscience and the two share a dialog or something. As it turns out though, he didn’t even run away. Everyone gets back to the house and he’s just straight up making dinner while sporting an outfit even uglier than his last one.

For as much as I have criticized Ruby’s portrayal in the past, Oscar has almost been worse for how little he actually matters. Remember earlier how I was complaining about the silver eyes and the maiden’s basically being pointless? Oscar’s entire existence embodies that problem.

His disappearance was just a framing device for other characters to develop. I mean, I’m happy they are making Jaune likable and giving him meaningful scenes, but it is as if every good thing about these characters now has to come at the cost of one nothing character. In what seemed like Jaune’s episode, Ruby manages to drop the mic right at the end.

You could just see how done with Qrow’s shit Ruby was when he was passed out on the steps to the house. So once all the apologies are out of the way and Jaune shares his idea to steal an airship only to get shut down by Qrow, Ruby understandably has enough. So she straight up tells him he doesn’t care what he thinks and that they are going to go through with the plan anyway.

They have done more to make me like Ruby in nine episodes than all the other volumes combined. She’s actually acting like a leader and showing the sort of development that Volume Four was building toward and that Five completely screwed up. Credit where it’s due, Lindsay Jones surprised the fuck outta me. For once, she actually feels like the main character.

Unfortunately, the end of the volume comes very close to over-correcting this characterization. The final four episodes are dedicated to the gang’s attempt to steal the Atlas airship and things, of course, don’t go as planned. It feels like every hero moment with Ruby from here on has to be accompanied by a generic hero speech.

Qrow starts blaming everything on his semblance. Ruby’s response is just a rerun of her last speech, but laden with even more cliche. The worst offender is her speech to Cordovin towards the end of their fight later, not only because of how similar it is but because it had no effect.

What ultimately made Cordovin decide to let team RWBY through to Atlas wasn’t Ruby’s bullshit speech. It was realizing that her stupid show of patriotism in trying to stop them led her to wreck the giant robot designed to kill the giant Grimm attacking Argus. She realized the whole mess was her fault.

In my review of Sirius the Jaeger, I expressed how the show lazily attempted to present a discussion of the protagonist’s philosophy. He would just constantly preach it to characters throughout the final episodes. Similarly, the repetition and poor writing kills any excitement for Ruby’s screen time. It’s just empty dialog trying to empower a character who was already at her peak.

A Mech Fight & A Lesbian Tag Team

I think Rooster Teeth just really wanted to hype up Gen:Lock some more, so they just put a mech in RWBY for everyone to fight. They were already cramming 30-second teasers for the show at the beginning of each episode. This was just overkill. Episode 11 and 12 showcased the best and worst of the show’s fight scenes.

Jaune points out that the robot is not designed for human targets and that they should use that to their advantage. And yes, I’m aware that makes Cordovin seem even more incompetent. Regardless, it’s a pretty cool sequence where everyone disperses from cover for a synchronized attack.

Ren, Nora and Jaune all run out from cover to lay down fire and sadly the run cycles still look silly and unpolished. I’m not sure whether they just don’t have a treadmill to record better ones or if they genuinely think these run cycles are passable. Either way, they haven’t looked natural since Volume Four.

Ruby pulls off some cool moves jumping from missile to missile like something out of Metal Gear Rising. I think the animators still struggle with stilted and awkward looking poses, though it’s much less frequent an issue.

The visual design of Cordovin’s mech is alright, though it’s construction in the show’s universe begs questions towards its practicality. They establish early on that the mech can produce shields which is good because the metal can be cut through like paper. Seriously, Ruby manages to get on top of it and her scythe cuts through it like butter.

I’ve previously pointed out how the people working on fight scenes in RWBY don’t always take into consideration the full array of character’s weapons and abilities. Ruby falls off the robot at one point and another she is about to get shot as she is hanging from a cliff.

Both times the show tried acting as though she had no way of saving herself, yet her speed in tandem with her crescent rose have proven ample aerial recovery strategies in the past. Hell, remember the “landing strategy” from Volume One?

The first plan to take down the mech is pretty clever, having Ruby shoot the missiles in the robot’s arm before they deploy, crippling it. However, because of… I don’t know, good eyesight, Cordovin sees it coming and the first plan fails. So this is where we get Ruby’s next poorly written speech, but in return Ruby just jumps into the cannon and destroys it from the inside, which is probably cooler than the original plan.

Meanwhile the other biggest fight of the volume was occurring and I was delighted that the animators remembered that Blake has two swords. If that’s a surprise to you, don’t worry, because there were people on Discord I talked to who didn’t even remember that much. It was only natural since she hadn’t used both swords in tandem since the first episode of Volume Three.

Blake and Adam are fighting, as he was apparently tailing them the entire journey waiting for her to be alone. Not a bad plan considering the bitch slap he received last time. I’d enjoy the first part of the fight more if it wasn’t for the camera jumping up and down like one of the animated Gummi Bears on crack.

But they finally got rid of her terrible white coat. I apologize if you like the white coat, but I felt it never looked as good as it did in the artwork stills. Plus, for a character whose main color is black to have their most prominent color be white is kinda ridiculous. Back to the fight, episodes 11 and 12 are exactly what I wanted to happen at the end of Volume Five.

In fact, most of it is exactly what should have happened in Volume Three. Blake gets into a short fight with Adam, but is overpowered and falls to the ground. Yang comes in to protect her, gets into an even cooler fight, then gets a super powerful attack thrown her way. Much better than the lack of combat we got back then. And this time Yang deflects Adam’s super move with her cool arm.

The rest is pretty much what I wanted from the inevitable rematch. Blake and Yang both teaming up to defeat Adam (think that shot from Civil War where Cap and Bucky are just going ham on Iron Man). All culminating in one of the most satisfying ends to a fight in the series.

Now I don’t want to turn heel and go negative, but I just. CAN’T. RESIST. There are too many technical and logical issues to ignore. The choreography, thankfully, is one of the few things I’m not gonna rag on. It was fluid and clever and- for the most part- used all of the characters’ abilities and weapons. However, using the weapons finally doesn’t mean they 100% understood them.

The following is a rant that I went on in Fatmanfalling’s discord that I’d rather not type again.

Gambol Shroud Rant Part 1
Gambol Shroud Rant Part 2 (I kept in Saramations’ reation because it felt appropriate)

And to my point that they may have consciously redesigned the sword, they just as likely forgot that detail. I guess it doesn’t really matter since her sword ends up destroyed anyway, so next volume she’s just gonna get a new one. I just hope it’s not lame, because the weapon design quality started to stagnate after volume two.

There was no script supervisor to step in and say “hold on, that makes no sense.” I can tell there wasn’t a script supervisor (or perhaps more accurately a competent director) because of all the times that people just teleport in between cuts.

This is the setting of the battle. Clearly you can see the cliffs and the waterfalls behind this natural bridge. Behind the “camera” is the open sky.

After Blake is knocked off of this bridge, we get two shots during a standoff between Yang and Adam. It is clear that the waterfall is to Yang’s left and the rocks are to Adam’s right. Makes total sense.

Even this shot is completely consistent with that notion, with the tree line thinning out to Adam’s left flank, denoting the shore on his left. Let’s see the very next shot.

They are both on the complete opposite fucking sides of where they were previously. So either there was an extended sequence in which they switched spots or they just didn’t give a fuck (I’m betting on the latter).

I’m shocked that it took until reviewing this to finally notice this and I’m so thankful I decided to re-watch this fight because this is disgraceful. “But Sakura, you didn’t even notice it until like the 15th time re-watching it. Is it really that bad?” To that I would say it was the 20th time. More importantly, it doesn’t matter because once you notice it, it’s ruined. And you SHOULD have it pointed out because it’s terrible.

Want a complaint that I’ve had since the first viewing? Everything Blake does in the second half of the fight makes no visual sense.

Thank God for these screencaps

She gets knocked down onto this smaller platform and then throughout Yang’s second solo fight we cut back to Blake climbing up the hill.

Knowing that her end goal was to cling on to the ledge of the bridge and jump up just to punch Adam in the face, nothing she does here makes sense.

She jumps across the gap, but somehow ends up way lower. Even if she was gonna end up lower, her semblance is basically a double jump, so why not use it? Better question, why didn’t they cut out her climbing and just start with this shot? It’s clear that the platform on the left of the above image is the one she landed on.

The only thing they lose by starting with that shot is the earlier shot of Yang seeing Blake climb up the hill, which was likely added later so it would make sense that they were working together. I get it, but if you eliminated all her shots entirely and then showed her after her reappearance, I think it would have the same effect. Or they could have just had Yang get pushed towards the edge and see Blake climbing.

So Yang throws Adam’s sword over the cliff and he’s like “NOOOOO” as if he’s like really attached to the sword. I’m sure you can get a cooler sword, dude. Plus, just a reminder that you have a shotgun-

Who fucking cares anymore. Then they stab him.

It bears mentioning that the fight is also pretty unbalanced. In the first phase, Yang never takes any hits from Adam’s sword that aren’t blocked by her gauntlets. The closest thing is when she punches his sword and he releases energy to push her back, but that doesn’t really count.

She only struggles fighting him in the second phase, like he’s a bi-polar Dark Souls boss. In reality, though she’s probably struggling because she is genuinely concerned that Blake doesn’t know how the fuck to climb. And she should be concerned. Blake hasn’t been good at fighting since Volume Three.

Next, let me just address the whole Bumblebee thing.

Fuck all of you.

They kinda made it canon. I’d be more excited but it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of deal. It’s been so long and the fans are so vocal about it that any writing decision that comments on Bumblebee will likely be seen as a response to the fans. To some, this comes off as pandering rather than a decision made with the quality of the narrative in mind. Look I shipped bumblebee for a long time, and I still kinda do, but people get way too cutthroat about things.

Honest opinion, the whole “we’re protecting each other” line didn’t need to be said. It just kinda sounds awkward. Otherwise, it was a fine conclusion to their arc. And I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t cheering with a big ole’ grin on my face when I saw this fight for the first time.

Finally, since I want to end on something positive, I appreciate them utilizing Monty’s unused work for this fight. Some time ago there was a leaked video showing Monty’s animations for a fight between Yang and Adam and it looked pretty sweet. Well, they used those as a reference to recreate those animations in this fight. The result is pretty cool.

Adam truly went out with a bang, because we see a whole new side of his semblance. The energy he absorbs and then dishes out can take many forms and can even be displaced as clones of himself, making his ability a mix of Sun’s and Yang’s.

Good choreography, cool abilities and satisfying payoff held back by awful direction, confusing visual direction and a lack of flow. I was really hoping that this would be the part of my review with the least criticism, yet it ended up having the most. Still, I can rest easy knowing the fight animators are in top form.

A Perfectly Average Conclusion

I love playing the guessing game of what films and TV shows the creative team was watching before they wrote each volume. In the case of this finale, I’m guessing they watched Shin Godzilla if the big Grimm’s laser breath wasn’t a dead giveaway.

The thing about Godzilla’s first use of the atomic breath in that film is that it was the moment where an already unprecedented threat became almost god-like in power. Godzilla was unlike any threat humanity had faced. It was a horrifying scene, whereas, in RWBY, the Grimm are so known to humanity that they really have no excuse when they’re security measures do jack shit.

If we have no frame of reference for how effective a countermeasure is, how are we supposed to feel anything when they fuck up. All I end up thinking is that no one actually has any fucking idea what they are doing.

RWBY and Co. decide to get in close to the Leviathan so Ruby can try petrifying it with her eyes. When it doesn’t work, I actually like how Ruby remembers that the lamp attracts Grim and that she uses it to stop time. It’s a clever move, though Jinn says she only gets to use it once. So the big fuck-off emotional montage kicks in and for the first time we actually see Ruby’s mom, Summer Rose.

Except it doesn’t work. It starts breaking out of the stone before Cordovin swoops in with what’s left of the mech and rips off Gurren Lagann. In a show with pretty smooth CGI, the frame-rate just tanks as if they really wanted to say “hey remember as soon as this ends, go watch Gen:Lock.”

It’s a lose-lose situation. If Ruby had successfully petrified it, she would have already mastered the overpowered silver eyes with seemingly little holding her back. Yet, because she didn’t, the whole emotional montage holds little value. They better find a way to balance those eyes, or every Grimm encounter with Ruby in the future is gonna be really contentious.

Cordovin lets them all go, having realized she was kinda an asshole. The plane ride quickly got on my nerves. Remember that scene in Volume Five when they’re all eating dinner together and practically having a circle-jerk about how cool everyone is? This was that again, just without all the animated food… so kinda worse. Regardless, they get to Atlas.

Despite Weiss spending her whole arc there in Volume Four, we never actually got to… see it, primarily since the viewer, much like Weiss, was isolated. Seeing in its splendor is quite nice and looks like the floating city from Alita: Battle Angel, complete with the less advanced city beneath it. They are met with an armada of ships waiting for them and that is the end of Volume Six.

You know, there was a ridiculous number of people who made videos talking about this volume like it was “the problematic one.” There were even people who dropped the show BECAUSE of this volume. Really? If any season was bad enough to drop the show, it was volume five.

Volume Five is objectively the worst part of this series, both narratively and technically. It actively made me hate the series to the point that I was convinced the series couldn’t get better. Don’t talk about Six like it’s “the bad one.” The first half is legit the best RWBY has been in years. Is the second half bad enough that it ruins everything?

Fuck no. Yes, silver eyes are broken and OP. Yes, the fights in 11 and 12 all sorts of ways exemplify the biggest production issues with RWBY. Even so, they gave me action and well-animated action at that, something Volume Five lacked almost the whole way through. Additionally, the pacing improved, wasting less time and the story actually moved along like a competent story.

If you are hearing these things and thinking “isn’t that kinda the base level qualities of a good show?” you are absolutely right. This isn’t a great show and it hasn’t been for a long time, but I think I’m finally comfortable calling RWBY a good show. Even at its worst, this volume stands as the most overall satisfying. For the first time in a long while, I’m excited for what the next volume has to offer.


RWBY is available for legal streaming through Rooster Teeth First.

This is my LAST POST… for a while… possibly. I’m going to Japan for four months to study and I don’t know when I’ll be free to write about Anime. I’ve got a couple ideas for posts that I’ll see if I can squeeze out while I’m there, but if you don’t hear from me, don’t worry. I’ll be back with stories to tell and hopefully, even more ideas for things to write about.

If you want to follow my journey, I have been assigned to run another blog during my trip. Sakura in Japan is the name. A lot of the prior posts are things I had to write for assignments so I procrastinated on some of them. I’m not proud of it, but if they lack some of the quality you are used to here, that’s why. Still, expect some good stories and plenty of pictures.

What did you think of RWBY Volume Six? Leave a comment below and let me know what you’ve been watching this season. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.

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2 thoughts on “The First Truly Good Season of RWBY?

  1. I rate this review 3/10.

    Certain parts just don’t make sense, and it seems as if the author is reviewing based on the action rather than the story, anyone who watches anime for action rather than story is doing it wrong and that’s the sad truth. And I noticed something about how Adam could have just gotten a better sword, but we don’t know how he originally got his sword, so it’s entirely possible that there is more meaning to it than just being a tool for removing Yang’s arm.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s true that I like to take time to appreciate action but I encourage you to reread my thoughts on the story as I do believe the story was done better here than in previous volumes. I also like your point about Adam’s sword, but would argue that because we as viewers are not privy to the sword’s significance, his reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      Like

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