RWBY: Season Two Review and Reflection
June 12, 2015
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“Don’t worry. Things will be better tomorrow.” — Ruby Rose
The second season of RWBY continues in the same vein as its predecessor, delving deeper into the meticulously crafted world of Remnant and its inhabitants. Season two picks up shortly after season one, continuing with Ruby and her friends’ life at Beacon Academy, while simultaneously (and slowly) presenting the external threat that Torchwick and the White Fang pose. Thus, as the second season progresses, the conflicts (both internal and external) are developed in tandem with more comical moments; this mirrors the way the first season was handled. The strengths and weaknesses inherent in the first season (superior fight scenes and comedy for strengths, plot progression and character development for weaknesses) transfer into the second season, although the second season does have improved artwork overall, with more details in the environment than the first.
The main element that appears to be holding RWBY back for the present appear to be episodic length: by the second season, it’s clear there’s a brewing conflict between the Huntsmen and Huntresses, as well as rogue organisations such as the White Fang and Torchwick. A large array of new characters are also introduced. Moreover, the characters also appear to have backgrounds of their own that merit exploration; while shadowing Dr. Oobleck, Oobleck asks each of Weiss, Blake and Yang as to their own motivations for choosing the Huntress’ path. These elements would easily build excitement in viewers, leading them to wonder how all of these different pieces fit together, but short episode lengths mean that such exploration is often not possible. Weiss mentions that life itself is structured in such a manner and isn’t nearly as tidy. If this is the sentiment that RWBY‘s second season was going for, it worked rather well; there’s no single overarching theme, and the series’ depiction of a variety of events hints at the unpredictability of life. Overall, the world-building aspects are phenomenal in RWBY, although the series’ structuring also limits the possibility of providing the characters with additional depth and motivation (in turn helping audiences empathise with their situations more strongly), leaving RWBY‘s strongest moments in the fight scenes.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Justice, as per Ruby’s terms, will both be swift and delicious: the moment is consistent with what she’d said in season one about drinking milk. The food fight of the second season’s first episode is hilarious, and while not setting the tone for the remainder of the series, shows that compared to the first season, the cinematography has improved since the first season.
- While Ruby was discussing their day’s itinerary, Yang is catching food Nora is slinging. The food fight itself starts when Weiss takes a pie to the face, and the gloves come off. Over the top and outrageously amusing, the fight offers an opportunity to show audiences how huntsmen and huntresses-in-training might blow off steam without raising the stakes. Of course, one must wonder what cafeteria would serve sword fish and turkey as options for luncheon.
- The last time I saw a sword fish used as a combat weapon, it was in Sam Hui’s The Private Eyes: one of Sam Hui’s most iconic movies, the film deals with a detective agency’s misadventures. and features song of the same name as its main theme. During a fight scene set in the kitchen in The Private Eyes, one of the characters uses a sword fish to fend off a sausage nunchaku-wielding attacker.
- The card game Yang, Blake, Weiss and Ruby are playing seem to resemble a tabletop strategy game or deck builder. Between classes and training, Team RWBY also begins pursing a mission to discover what Torchwick and the White Fang are up to.
- The uncertainty associated with Torchwick’s plans take their toll on the entire team, but Blake is the hardest hit, fearing that time is not something that they have. Throughout the first season, Torchwick was stealing Dust, but the second season reveals that he’s working for an unnamed benefactor with unknown motives.
- Far from being unnerved about Penny being an android, Ruby accepts her immediately. Most of RWBY‘s shortcomings stem from the fact that episodes are quite short; there are a lot of characters, leading to the possibility for exploration. Since this never happens, the additional characters feel as if they’re present to showcase the fight scenes, although given the intrigue raised by Remnant, it’s almost certain that exploring every route would require some fifty full-length episodes.
- Understanding RWBY‘s formatting means that I’m also more accepting of the second season’s weaker points; more critical viewers (especially from Tango-Victor-Tango) seem to be under the impression that RWBY is meant to be a full-on series akin to an anime, and as such, are quick to tear down this web series on the virtue that there are rough edges here and there, as well as not living up to their expectations.
- Despite Blake’s protests, Yang convinces the former to attend a social dance with the hopes of giving her a break such that when the time comes, she’ll be rested up and ready to take on the challenges presented by Torchwick and the White Fang’s schemes. It appears that even more “accredited” reviewers disapprove of the second season, citing it to be “potential wasted, and … predictable”.
- Granted, RWBY is popular, but a reviewer looking for flaws must at least be able to further justify their claims: simply saying it’s “wasted potential” and then believing that to be a satisfactory argument in and of itself is nonsense. Conversely, I clearly note that additional character development would help viewers side with the characters and care for what happens to them. While RWBY does a satisfactory job (considering its medium), there’s always room for improvement.
- While the desire to see more of Remnant and subsequently being unable to owing to RWBY‘s constraints can be somewhat frustrating, the fact that RWBY is able to raise this want in viewers illustrates that the series does have strengths; an open-minded (or fair) viewer would have no trouble accepting this and find the series to be entertaining for what it is, rather than what it could be.
- During the dance, Ruby notices that something is amiss and steals off to investigate. She finds herself face-to-face with Cinder, who made an appearance all the way back during season one. Cinder’s objectives are still unknown, although given that there is mention of a tournament of some sort, it is possible that she and her cronies will make a return during the third season to rattle the sabres.
- General Ironwood, Professor Ozpin and Glynda share a discussion with Ruby following the previous night’s intrusion. Contrasting Ozpin, Ironwood is an ardent believer of military power and displays of force, something that neither Ozpin or Glynda approve of. After Ruby subtly hints at Torchwick’s location, Ozpin agrees to assign their shadowing assignment to this region.
- Ruby and Yang’s dog, Zwei, accompany Team RWBY during their shadowing assignment. Blake appears to be scared of dogs, perhaps hinting at her cat-like tendencies, but Weiss takes an immediate liking to Zwei. Apparently, the mailing system in Remnant are at least as advanced as the mail tubes in Futurama, being able to transport entire animals plus a large quantity of food; I found this to be good use of visual humour, but other viewers (again, from Tango-Victor-Tango) find it “unrealistic”.
- Team RWBY reacts to the revelation that Dr. Oobleck is their assigned huntsman. Oobleck questions each of Team RWBY (save Ruby) about their motivations for having chosen the huntress’ path; Yang is in for the adventure, Weiss hopes to uphold a better image for her family name, and Blake wishes to do what she feels is right.
- Arriving at their destination, Oobleck explains that this region, Mountain Glenn was once an expansion project in Vale that failed when overrun by Grimm. When Ruby follows Zwei, she falls into an underground cave and inadvertently discovers Torchwick’s hideout; Oobleck quickly realises that in trying to save their livelihoods, Mountain Glenn’s residents moved their infrastructure underground but were attacked anyways.
- I’ve had a chance to look at the Japanese dub for RWBY: I prefer the English version because it is able to convey certain nuances more effectively, but the Japanese voices are very well-done. It was quite surprising to learn that Saori Hayami (OreGairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita, Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita and GochiUsa‘s Aoiyama Blue Mountain) provides Ruby’s voice, and Youko Hisaka (K-On‘s Mio Akiyama and Infinite Stratos‘ Houki Shinonono) voices Weiss.
- Despite his preference for passing knowledge and teaching future generations to help the world avoid the mistakes of the past, Dr. Oobleck is a highly competent combatant, making use of his thermos as a flamethrower.
- Blake takes down Torchwick, who is subsequently taken into Ironwood’s custody. It seems that phase two of Cinder’s plan was to make use of a train and punch a hole into Vale’s defenses, allowing Grimm to overrun it. To ensure that the train is stopped, Yang takes on and finds herself outmatched by Neopolitan, while Weiss duels a chainsaw-wielding Faunus.
- After the train crash, a horde of Grimm swarm Vale; with the combined efforts of Team RWBY, JNPR, Sun, Neptune, Atlas forces and a few others, the Grimm are repelled completely. I realise that in this discussion, I’ve left out some key characters, such as Emerald and Mercury; there are a great many characters in RWBY and discussing all of them would be a rather lengthy exercise.
- Thus ends another season: this season’s structuring meant that there was not a single unifying theme, so the take away message does seem to be that life is uncertain and unpredictable, but perhaps in spite of that, people nonetheless find ways of making things work. I imagine that season three will deal with the inter-institutional tournament and the machinations that Cinder’s cooking up.
As a continuation that inherits the strengths and weaknesses of the first season, RWBY‘s second season manages to step things up with improved animation in some parts; the food fight scene stands out as being particularly memorable. Overall, when playing to its strengths during fight scenes and comedic moments, RWBY remains enjoyable even if its story is not as well-paced as viewers are expecting: Weiss’ suggestion that not every story can be concluded in a tidy fashion reflects on how RWBY is written to be a more organic web series that has less structuring than one might typically expect from series of this genre. With the second season under my belt, I’ve caught up with this web series; season three is set to come out at some point in the near future, and I will follow this at my own pace.