Featured Image by Shirow Miwa, Author of the RWBY’s manga adaptation
It was February 1st, 2015. I had gotten back from school and was ready to relax for the night until my friend sent my other friend and I a single text.
“Guys, Monty didn’t make it”
I had already known that Monty was in the hospital for several days, but not one part of me thought he would actually die. My friends and I were heartbroken and while it felt too disrespectful to ask, I’m certain everyone was thinking “what’s going to happen to RWBY?”
It would go on, as it turns out. We got a glimpse of the fight animation from the tournament arc at the following summer’s RTX convention and things were looking pretty cool. Despite that, I was extremely cautious of how well the show would look, how good the fight scenes would be, and whether or not the story would finally start improving. Even when Volume Three ended up premiering on October 24th, 2015, I wouldn’t have a concrete answer, but it was certainly the beginning of a new era of RWBY, for better… or worse.
[Spoilers For All of RWBY Ahead]
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]
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]
It’s a criminal understatement to say that Superheroes are pretty big in America. The Marvel Cinematic universe alone has been releasing some of the highest grossing films every year since 2008, having released 16 films at the time of writing. Superheroes and what they stand for are integral to American pop culture. America isn’t the only country with superheroes, but it is safe to say it popularized them by creating some of the most iconic heroes ever made.
So it’s interesting what happens when artists from other countries craft stories about Superheroes. How do they view superheroes and what kinds of stories do they make about them? British comic artists like Alan Moore opt for a more grim take on superhumans in alternate timeline stories like Watchman or even in established properties like Batman: The Killing Joke. But recently, Japan has made a few Anime that have captured the superhero market of America in a big way.
One Punch Man by Studio Madhouse and My Hero Academia by Studio Bones are two of the most popular Anime of the last three years. Both produced by credible high-profile studios and both garnering a fair following in the US. The former a viral hit and the latter an ongoing shonen series that is essentially a textbook guide for how to do a shonen series right. On top of all of that, these shows are fantastic superhero stories.
There is a reason I chose to analyze these two series through the lens of superhero fiction rather than say the shonen genre like most people do. The most monumental difference I notice between these two Anime and superheroes in the west is that the government doesn’t just coexist with superheroes, but actively regulates and monitors them.
Keeping this in mind, what would it be like to live in the worlds of these shows or even be a hero in one of them? Are these societies and their systems stable? Most importantly, what do these shows do with the superhero genre that isn’t too common in American superhero fiction?
[This analysis contains spoilers for Ghost in the Shell 2017]
Ghost in the Shell, directed by Rupert Sanders, is not a great movie. That isn’t to say it is terrible. I feel the need to clarify that in a world where sometimes it feels like things are either great or terrible. No, Ghost in the Shell may not be great, but it is an average, entertaining science fiction action flick.
Many will accuse this film of whitewashing, though I would argue many of those people haven’t seen much of the series. The hardcore fans who have seen the series mainly dislike the film for being a dumbed down, poor adaptation. Is it dumbed down? Certainly. Is it a poor adaptation? Well, that depends on your perspective.
Keep in mind that EVERY version of Ghost in the Shell is significantly different from the other. The characters and lore change enough between them that it is easier to think of them as completely separate universes. Even the original manga creator, Shirow Masamune, said there was no definitive Ghost in the Shell. Hell, the original film was an adaptation of the manga and by all merits, it was nothing like the manga.
So in this analysis, I’m not judging GITS 2017 as an adaptation, but simply a new, flawed take on the series. I want to look at how this film fails to capture the essential elements of the series and even look what makes this film unique and the themes and messages that- if executed properly- could have led to a truly different, but all-together great classic.
[Update (May 13th, 2017): The official Under the Dog website is working again and the creators have posted the “final update” on the Under the Dog project. The blog post can be found here.]
In early 2016 I got really excited about a Kickstarter project that I had already known about for a while but never quite grasped the importance of. Under the Dog is an Anime project that was a Kickstarter success back in 2014, only to be on hiatus until the OVA was finally released on August 1st, 2016. It promised to be a gritty science fiction epic inspired by Akira and Ghost in the Shell. It was a project helmed by industry veterans but now… nothing. More than half a year after the release of the OVA and nothing. So what happened? How did a project with such promise fall so far into the depths of obscurity?