The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

RWBY: Season One Review and Reflection

“As a girl, I wanted to be just like those heroes in the books; someone who fought for what was right, and protected people who couldn’t protect themselves!” —Ruby Rose

I took up RWBY on a request from one of my readers: going in, I knew that this was a fantasy series directed by Monty Oum set in Remnant, a world where mankind is pit against monsters known as the Grimm, making use of a resource known as Dust to fuel their weapons and powers. The series is named after Team RWBY (Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang), the main protagonists of the series. Ruby is admitted to the Beacon Academy, where youth are trained to be huntsman and huntresses, and after the first season, characters are established, and sufficient world-building has occurred to set the stage for a thrilling adventure. This adventure feels quite familiar (in fact, resembling Soul Eater upon first glance), although soon, it becomes clear that Remnant is a unique world with its own selling points. When all of these elements come together, the result is a series where viewers can quickly get into the story. This would be a strong point, but the episode’s shorter length somewhat constrains the series’ flow: RWBY is quite simply fantastic, and longer episodes would allow RWBY to tell a compelling story on par with full-budget series.

One season in, the main story in RWBY deals with the formation of Team RWBY and the other teams at Beacon Academy. One of the elements that I absolutely love seeing in any series is to follow how a particular team or group comes together, and this is especially rewarding when said team has a rocky start. At the series’ beginning, Ruby and Weiss do not get along at all, but after working together in their first trial, and after sharing conversations with some of the instructors, both Ruby and Weiss are able to accept their respective roles in Team RWBY. Quite similarly, Blake and Weiss do not get along well owing to their perceptions of the Faunus and White Fang groups, and it takes a bit of time for both to reconcile. The construction of each of the teams in RWBY illustrate that, for all of their differences in background, experience and beliefs, the huntsmen and huntresses in training at Beacon academy must learn to overcome these differences to combat much larger threats presented by the Grimm, White Fang and the organisation that Roman Torchwick appears to be working for.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I did not imagine that RWBY would have enough content to accommodate a full-sized post, but attesting to this web series’ quality, there’s plenty to talk about. The series opens with Jen Taylor (Cortana of Halo) providing exposition to this world, similar to Cate Blanchette’s opening monologue as Lord of the Rings‘ Lady Galadriel. This introduction immediately gives viewers a sense of what’s happening, and in stories that involve a fantasy element, such expositions become quite important. Ruby Rose is the protagonist of RWBY, and is one of the few scythe-wielders. Her first appearance involves her fighting Roman’s men after they rob a dust store.

  • Ruby’s ability with a scythe impress Professor Ozpin of the Beacon academy, and she is admitted as a student two years in advance of the minimum age. She’s excitable and loves weapons; here, she is with her older half-sister, Yang. Yang is hot-headed and wields two shotgun gauntlets into battle. I was disheartened to hear that Monty Oum had passed away, but his efforts and talents won’t be forgotten: RWBY is a fine series.

  • Ruby runs into Jaune Arc, a  sword and shield user whose relatively low combat capability is offset by is skill as a tactician. He forged his transcripts to enter Beacon, in the hopes of living up to his great-great-grandfather’s reputation as a huntsman, and as such, is unfamiliar with many aspects of combat. I’ve only just finished the first season: the second’s already out, and a third is supposed to come out at some point, so I wonder whether or not he’ll improve with the passage of time.

  • Weiss Schnee is the heiress to the Schnee Dust company, a major organisation involved in dust mining and production. As per her appearance, she’s very cold and insufferable, getting off to a poor start with Ruby after the latter accidentally knocks her luggage over. The sort of start is quite familiar, and while such an element is commonly used in media as a trope, seeing how different series allow their characters to eventually cooperate and care for one another via different experiences is quite rewarding.

  • Pyrrha Nikos (left) is a highly capable combatant who wields a combination rifle/javelin/xiphos weapon and can also control magnetism, and in spite of her accomplishments, is quite friendly. In spite of this, her reputation means that most have a difficult time befriending her because they feel that she’s in a separate league and would not be interested in friendship. On a rather unrelated note, this here post is not classified as anime because RWBY was not made in Japan, and because it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a web series, I’ll stick it under “General Discussion” for the present.

  • The ursa are giant bear-like Grimm. The new students must pass an initiation in the Emerald Forest, which involves moving through the forest, collecting a chess piece and making it to the rally point. Yang demonstrates here that she’s got an FPS_Doug-like tendency to fly into a rage whenever she sustains any sort of damage.

  • By sheer stroke of fate, Weiss and Ruby encounter one another, and fight off several Grimm en route to the destination. One of the aspects I absolutely love is the attention to detail: Ruby’s scythe doubles as an anti-materiel rifle, and some of the rounds she uses can be seen mounted to her belt.

  • Pyrrha and Juane explore a cave to see whether or not their objectives are in there, but they awaken a massive Deathstalker, a scorpion-like Grimm and are forced to flee. Owing to their setting in a fantasy world, and both their protagonists’ skills with the scythe, RWBY has been compared with, and crossed-over with Soul Eater. An action-adventure anime under the shounen genre, Soul Eater does not appear to be something that I’d watch, but my curiosity eventually led me to decide that this might be an anime I could enjoy.

  • Consequently, I will be watching Soul Eater, although whether or not I blog about it will be left to whether or not the readers would be interested in checking out my interpretation of this anime. Back outside, Ruby and the others face off against the Deathstalker, as well as the Nevermore, a crow-like Grimm. Their combined firepower is insufficient to simultaneously down the two monstrosities, but eventually, Ruby, Blake, Weiss and Yang devise a plan to take down the Nevermore, while Juane, Nora, Lie Ren and Pyrrha take on the Deathstalker.

  • The only caveat in RWBY is the fact that the episodes are quite short, with the longer ones clocking in at around 12-15 minutes; this leads to numerous cliffhangers that, while successful in building anticipation for the next episode, also disrupts the flow to some extent. As the only real downside, I was superbly impressed by how well Rooster Teeth were able to craft such a world and create characters that viewers could care about.

  • After initiation and the formation of teams, Ruby and the others settle in to life at Beacon Academy. Many anime style features make their way into RWBY, and consequently, RWBY does feel very much like an anime, whether it be things like character personalities or the artistic styles so prevalent in anime (such as use of Chibis to depict exceptionally excited characters). However, the use of English means that there are some jokes (such as Ruby’s remark that she doesn’t need people to help her grow) that work particularly well because the audience is inherently familiar with the subtleties of North American culture.

  • Professor Ozpin and Glynda Goodwitch observe Ruby and the others running to class. The former is the headmaster of Beacon and, similar to Harry Potter‘s Dumbledore, is widely respected and highly competent in their roles as headmaster. Glynda is an instructor at Beacon and first encountered Ruby fighting with Roman’s men. Her mannerisms and appearance is how I imagine Otafest June to be.

  • Weiss complains to Professor Peter Port, an instructor and veteran huntsman. Despite his tendency to recount his own experiences, he’s a capable instructor and expresses trust in Ozpin’s decision to have made Ruby the leader of Team RWBY. He tells Weiss that her role is not to worry about what the leader does, but instead, focus on being at the top of her game at all times such that she never lets herself and her team down.

  • Weiss and Ruby eventually reconcile, and the next arc deals with Juane’s revelation that he forged his transcripts to get into Beacon, as well as his being bullied by Cardin. The conflicts that occur amongst the characters illustrate a sort of realism in that, given that the teams have not properly fought together yet, there is still some conflicts amongst the students at Beacon. Thus, overcoming this and unifying themselves against the Grimm and other factions becomes of utmost importance to the students, and it is this journey that the first season of RWBY depicts.

  • The spread of images I have for my discussion is uneven, and here, after refusing to yield to Team CRDL’s demands to toss a jar of sap at Pyrrha. CRDL is led by Cardin Winchester, an archetypal bully, and their actions eventually lead Juane to stand up for himself. Despite his low combat skills, with some help from Pyrrha, he manages to defeat an Ursa that overcame Cardin.

  • As Vale prepares for the Vytal Festival, Team RWBY hangs around and explores. They encounter a monkey-like Faunus, and Weiss expresses an interest in observing him, as well as a crime scene, where another dust store was broken into. Ruby believes that Roman Torchwick might be responsible, and while he’s seen here and there, besides the opening robbery, he’s not seen again until the finale of the first season.

  • On the hunt for the Faunus, Team RWBY runs into Penny, a seemingly oblivious girl, and despite the others’ protests, Ruby decides that they could be friends. It’s surprising as to how well the simplified white eyes can depict shock or surprise even in a CG environment, and after hearing Ruby’s response, every one else falls over. Anime-style expressions are effective at depicting reactions in a visual manner, and I remarked long ago that this expressiveness is one of the reasons why anime is appealing to me.

  • Blake turns out to be a Faunus, animal-human hybrids that were persecuted and discriminated against. She was one a member of the White Fang, until the group turned into radicals, and is at unease with her background, hence her uncharacteristic reaction to Weiss’ comments. Blake and Weiss later reconcile after the former is found, suggesting that for the most part, Team RWBY can be considered to be a single unit.

  • Sun Wukong is a member of the Haven Academy and is the Faunus that Team RWBY encountered earlier. Blake runs into him and the two decide to take a closer look at the dust shipment coming in. They learn that White Fang is working with Roman, and get into a confrontation when Blake attempts to interrogate Roman to learn more about this unusual partnership. I love all of the Chinese-style names seen in RWBY, and their allusions to Chinese mythology or heritage.

  • Despite her appearance, Penny is a highly skilled combatant who uses funnel-like weapons in combat; she single-handedly forces the White Fang and Roman to retreat. With this fight over, and Team RWBY fully accepting of one another, the first season draws to a close, and I will be watching the second season at a much more casual pace. With this here post now over, I will be looking to get a Tamayura: Sotsugyou Shashin (Graduation Photo) out quite soon, as well as a talk on the whole of Wolfenstein: The New Order.

From a technical perspective, RWBY is nothing short of impressive; the superb animation and fight scenes can be attributed to skillful use of the Poser 3D Animation Software, meaning that the series looks and feels fantastic during both the quieter moments, as well as the combat sequences. The sound and dubbing is also of a high calibre; RWBY might be a web series, but the production is well-polished, to the extent that some viewers initially thought that this was a CG anime and wondered where the “original” Japanese dubs were (the actuality is no secret: the original series was done in English). Taken together, RWBY demonstrates that armed with sufficient skill in the technical aspects, and the creativity to envision a world rich in lore, it is quite possible to produce exceptional web series that captivates the viewers as effectively as any series with a full budget.

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