RWBY Review (Volumes 1-3)

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Category: TV Show

Rating: Unrated

Overview: RWBY (pronounced “ruby”) is an animated web series created by the late Monty Oum for Rooster Teeth Productions, popularly known for their Halo parody Red vs. Blue. It is set in the fantasy world of Remnant, where monsters called the Grimm terrorize humanity. In order to combat the Grimm, young men and women are trained to become Huntsmen and Huntresses, using a pseudo-magical substance called Dust to enhance their weapons and a chi-like energy called Semblance to boost their combat abilities.

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The Grimm

The show follows a young girl named Ruby Rose, who is accepted into the Grimm-hunting school of Beacon at an early age due to her combat prowess. Ruby, along with her older sister Yang Xiao Long and two other teammates, Weiss Schnee and Blake Belladonna, form the Huntress team RWBY and train to fight the Grimm while also uncovering a secret plot to wipe out humanity.

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From left to right: Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, Yang Xiao Long

Review:  When Volume 1 of RWBY first came out in 2013, I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Probably the most interesting aspect of the show was the weaponry that characters used. Each weapon functioned as something short range (like a sword or a scythe) and also as some sort of gun or cannon. The characters would use the recoil from the gun aspect of their weapons to help propel themselves into attacks with the short range aspect of their weapons.

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Ruby with her weapon Crescent Rose

While Monty Oum’s great fighting choreography stood out during the action, more passive scenes lacked the same level of refined animation. It was weird seeing these characters go from doing backflips and cartwheels while fighting giant monsters to watching them move all stilted and slow like they were being weighed down. On top of that, background characters and even parts of the setting were only given outlines for models, leaving them completely blacked out. This was disconcerting because the main characters just stood around in swarms of shadowy figures, making them stick out way too much.

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Gee, I wonder who the main characters are?

Additionally, Volume 1’s plot and characters were pretty formulaic. The “kids go to a special school to learn how to save the world” concept has been done to death since the Harry Potter series. The primary antagonist of Volume 1, while charming, wasn’t too much of a threat to the main characters, and as a result there wasn’t too much suspense or tension regarding long term consequences.

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Roman Torchwick with his henchmen

Ruby is the typical naïve child figure who’s somehow extremely talented, but she does begin to develop into a more fleshed out character as the show progresses. Yang was a bit more complex as she was both the easygoing fun-lover and the protective sibling to Ruby. I would have liked to see a bit more tension between them, maybe Yang having mixed feelings over her younger sister being the leader of the team, but for what she is, she’s a fun character with some surprisingly introspective moments. Weiss and Blake were probably the most one-dimensional of the main cast, with Weiss being the snobby rich girl who thinks she’s better than everyone and Blake being the silent loner with a mysterious past.

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Weiss in particular seemed to mostly just act as a foil to Ruby, constantly questioning her ability to lead.

Aside from team RWBY there’s Team JNPR (pronounced “juniper”), and while they’re a fun group, most of the focus on them centers on a very conventional love triangle between team leader Jaune, his partner Pyrrha, and Weiss of Team RWBY.

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From left to right: Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Pyrrha Nikos, Lie Ren

Volume 1 was fun enough and had some decent humor, but if it hadn’t been made by such a small studio with such a low budget, I probably wouldn’t have given it that much attention. Volume 2 managed to make some good strides forward. Background characters and settings were given fully realized models and we finally got some more depth to the main characters, as well as a bit more focus on side characters like Headmaster Ozpin, a mysterious girl named Penny, and the new antagonists. The story took the characters outside of the school and into new, more interesting locations of Remnant, helping to build the world itself rather than just a single location. The love triangle between Jaune, Pyrrha, and Weiss reached something of an open conclusion, and the action scenes only got more frequent and better executed.

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Including an awesome and hilarious food fight to start out the season

While the plot did become more complex and the mystery surrounding the antagonists’ plans strengthened, there was still a notable lack of risk or suspense. At no point did I seriously worry about the safety of any of the main characters or even any of the side characters, and even though the season finale took place in the middle of a populated city, there didn’t feel like there were too many lasting consequences.

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Volume 2 finale

With Volume 3, the creators finally pulled through on the suspense factor while still keeping the series fun and funny. Volume 3 starts out with the fairly common tournament trope, but it does it well and the arena-style battles are a lot of fun to watch. The animation, both inside and outside of combat, has gotten much better since the series began. New characters, including Ruby’s charming rogue of an uncle Qrow, and new conflicts were introduced that not only threatened the well-being of the main characters but the world of Remnant as a whole.

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Qrow caught drinking

We finally get to see Team RWBY deal with some more serious scenarios that force them to change and adapt. Yang and Weiss in particular get some much needed development, and the romance between Jaune and Pyrrha escalates into something that tugs at the heartstrings of the audience. The antagonists reveal their plans, raising the stakes throughout the whole season and culminating in a finale that has long-lasting consequences for the series and that leaves the audience shocked and in tears.

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And it introduces a new antagonist

RWBY is above all else a series that has grown and will hopefully continue growing. It’s great to see smaller companies like Rooster Teeth create something so charming and fun and manage to improve upon it as they obtain more resources and opportunities to grow. I think that, given another volume or two, RWBY can evolve into an incredible series on par with anything put out by a larger studio.

Score: 7/10

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