Animation Break: RWBY Volume I Review (Spoilers!)

Ever since discovering “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and”The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, I have had a soft spot in my heart for web series, even though I haven’t really reviewed them that much on my blog (maybe one day, I will). However, after coming across this American style anime web series called “RWBY” (pronounced as ‘ruby’), I just knew I had to cover it as it shows the potential of what can be done with a good story, and the means to pull it off, no matter how little your budget is.

Before we begin, for my regular readers, here’s a very small update. I’m in a little bit of animation bent right now, I’ll be reviewing “RWBY” and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” before going back into Classic Who. Just know, if you do miss my “Doctor Who” reviews, that it will return sometime later this year.

“RWBY”, was created by the late Monty Oum for Rooster Teeth Productions, a production company known for the series “Red v Blue”, an animated series that is based off of first person shooter games.

As of the writing of this review, “RWBY’s” fifth volume or season just premiered.

The series is set in the fictional world of Remnant, where young humans and Faunus (animal human hybrids) train to become warriors known as Huntsmen and Huntresses, whose sole purpose is to protect the world from wild and dark beasts known as the creatures of Grimm.

The entire series mainly focuses on two particular teams of trainee Hunstmen and Huntresses comprised of Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones), Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle), Blake Belladonna (Arryn Zech), Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkelman), Jaune Arc (Miles Luna), Nora Valkyrie (Samantha Ireland), Pyrrha Nikos (Jen Brown), and Lie Ren (Monty Oum); and the people surrounding them. As the series goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that there are darker forces at work who want to plunge the now peaceful Remnant into chaos, and the main characters end up finding themselves in the middle of things.

The first volume or season is short and sweet, and sets up the world, the characters, and gives hints and teases of what is to come in the following volumes.

This volume gives off a “school anime” sort of vibe, as the tone is very light, and is mostly set in Beacon Academy, the Hunstman school in the Kingdom of Vale.

It does give viewers a sneak peek into the backstories of Blake and Weiss a little bit, but this volume mostly focuses on Ruby and Jaune, and how they are beginning to settle into their roles as leaders of their respective teams.

The animation isn’t as great as a full blown anime or “Red v Blue”, but what it lacks for that, it makes up in the rich lore of the world of Remnant, its originality, the characters, and the beautifully done action sequences. (And if you are worried about the fact that the animation isn’t too great and the plot isn’t that great either, trust me, it gets better every volume).

So, even though Volume I did have some things lacking, it was a great introduction to the world of “RWBY” and it left me wanting to know more and more about what will happen next to these characters I am beginning to love.

Now, before we move on, you know the drill- there will be SPOILERS beyond this point!

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As I mentioned earlier, Volume I not only sets up the characters that we will be following in the series, but deftly sets up the rich lore and world building it has.

This series is very much rooted in Western mythology, from the characters themselves to the fact that the creatures of darkness are called the Grimm.

Each character, interestingly, actually alludes to a character from a fairy tale, pop culture or a legend. Interestingly enough, Team RWBY’s members are inspired by fairytale characters, while Team JNPR’s members are genderswapped versions of heroes and legends.

Ruby Rose is inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, Weiss by Snow White, Blake  by Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”, and Yang by Goldilocks. Jaune alludes to Joan of Arc, Nora to Thor and the Valkyries in Norse Mythology, Pyrrha is Achilles and Nike combined, and Lie Ren is inspired by Hua Mulan.

The way the rules work in their world is pretty original too. They use a substance called Dust to help power things and manipulate them to do magic; and everyone has something called an Aura, which basically translates to one’s life force or soul. Huntsmen and Huntresses can unlock their aura and have a unique physical manifestation of their Aura called a Semblance, which they use when they fight. For example, Ruby’s semblance is speed; while Yang’s semblance allows her to absorb energy after taking a hit and using it to inflict more damage on her opponent. Also, each Hunstman or Huntress has their own particular weapon, which sometimes have more than one function, such as Ruby’s weapon, which is not only a scythe, but a customizable gun as well.

The first volume is pretty light, and mainly focuses on Ruby and Jaune trying and mellowing down into becoming more confident as leaders of their respective teams. The team dynamics of Team RWBY is also established, while some of Jaune’s backstory is explored.

With regards to Jaune and Ruby being the leaders of their respective teams, this was made apparent in episode 8, “Players and Pieces”, during their fight with some creatures of Grimm. Here, both Ruby and Jaune were able to come up with plans of action to take out the Grimm that they were fighting.

I also was oddly drawn to the main antagonist of the first volume, Roman Torchwick, as he is such a charismatic villain.

I instantly fell in love with this series from the moment I watched the first episode, as I was blown away by the fight sequence and the world itself. If we are picking favorite episodes though, for the first volume, it would definitely be the first episode. However, it you watch the character trailers first, I wouldn’t fault you with those were your favorites for the volume.

In terms of fight sequences, my favorites include Ruby’s fight against Torchwick and his lackeys;  Ren against the King Tajitu; and that epic fight scene in episode 8 with the beginnings of Teams RWBY and JNPR fighting their respective Grimms.

I also like the characters that comprise each team, as they are pretty distinct from each other even though some may not get as much spotlight as the others. I also loved each student pairing, as they all got the perfect partners and the perfect team to match their personalities.

Nora and Ren have been established to have been good friends from before their time at Beacon and they bala; Yang’s adventurous and outgoing personality is reigned in by Blake’s more logical approach although she’s aloof; Ruby’s impulsiveness is kept in check by Weiss’ logic while Weiss is kept from being to rigid by Ruby’s impulsiveness and compassion for others; and Pyrrha, well, Pyrrha chose Jaune right from the beginning as a partner as he is someone who doesn’t put her on a pedestal for being a star student athlete. Also, they are also each well paired in terms of fighting style as they do all complement each other well.

Towards the end of the first volume, with the Vytal Festival (a bi-annual festival in which all the kingdoms participate in to celebrate the unity of the four kingdoms culminating in a tournament in which the four Hunstmen academies compete in), the focus shifts to Weiss and Blake, and begins to show us the darker things that are starting to be set into motion by the villains. These include the Dust robberies happening across the city, and the introduction of three new villainous characters who aren’t given names yet in this volume. It also teases the involvement of Ruby’s Uncle Qrow Branwen (Vic Mignogna), who sends a cryptic message to Beacon Academy’s headmaster, Professor Ozpin (Shannon McCormick), hinting that something big and sinister is starting to happen.

Regarding Weiss and Blake, they get into an argument with each other that culminates in Blake running away after letting it slip that she had been part of a Faunus organization that champions Faunus rights, called the White Fang, and that she is in fact a Faunus (she’s part cat). This was set into motion by the arrival of a Faunus student from the kingdom of Vacuo, and as Weiss, the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, resents the Faunus and the White Fang  for causing bloodshed and a lot of trouble for her family’s company. In the end, Blake learned how to trust her teammates more, and Weiss, despite her spoiled rich princess facade, grows a little as she reveals that she cares more about her teammate than her past. It was also revealed that Blake had been “born into the White Fang”, and that Weiss hasn’t had the best of childhoods thanks to her father.

Weiss also grows as a character as she comes to respect Ozpin’s decision in picking Ruby as the leader and not her. I’m a little bit happy that they decided to have her accept this decision instead of having her and Ruby clash all the time as that would get old pretty quickly.

As I said earlier, one of the big turn offs might be the fact that the animation does have some hiccups, but I highly encourage you to stick around because the plot, animation and the characters get better every volume or season. And, as I also mentioned earlier, this show, and this volume shows that this series has a lot of potential, especially with the amazing fight sequences featured in the series.

What do you think of “RWBY”? What did you think of the first volume? Did it make you want to stick around for more? What your initial reactions about the series? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

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