Thursday, 11 May 2017 20:23

RWBY [An Anime Review]

 

Introduction

     I have often associated myself with the various fandoms that exist. I am even more often a latecomer to the party when much of the Hype has already passed, when people move on the other things, while I am still discovering what I had found. Bionicle was much this way for me. Dominion, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and others are this way still. I do not pretend to have been there in the beginning for the start of a Franchise that I came too late. RWBY is one of the few media franchises that I can claim “I was there at the beginning.”

     There I was in my room that I had long shared with my brother. We were chilling and most likely watching YouTube. My brother called me over to take a look at the video he had found. We watched it, and then we watched it again. It was three times before we realized that there was another video in the same series. We had just seen the “Red” and “White” trailers for Rooster Teeth’s new web series, RWBY. We anxiously awaited the release of the next two trailers “Black” and “Yellow,” respectively. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the show as soon as I saw that first trailer. I was there on launch day, sitting at my computer, furiously mashing the refresh button waiting for the first episode of RWBY to go live on Rooster Teeth’s main site.

      RWBY (Pronounced Ruby) is an American anime web series created by the late Monty Oum and produced by Rooster Teeth Production. Originally airing on the Rooster Teeth main site starting in 2013, it is now available on Netflix, Crunchyroll, YouTube, and on Blu-Ray/DVD formats. The origins were humble, but show that an idea, supported by people who care about the quality of their work, can succeed if given the proper chance and audience.

      Monty Oum had concepts for RWBY created prior to show’s production, but he had never set anything in stone due to being tied up with Rooster Teeth’s other animated series Red vs. Blue. During the production of Season 10 of Red vs. Blue, Monty approached Burnie Burns (the Chief Creative Officer of Rooster Teeth) with a few short descriptions, he was given the “green light.”

       Several of the characters in RWBY are inspired by mythological or historical figures. For example, Ruby Rose is inspired by Red Riding Hood and Weiss Schnee by Snow White. Monty noted that “they are not adaptations, but rather original characters which allude to other works” [1] Monty has also indicated that several of the characters in RWBY actually pre-date the development of such entirely. [2]

     I was there. I was at the start. That was huge for me. I had never before been at the start of something, and I enjoyed it. This is why I will be reviewing RWBY today. Before we get into scores and whatnot let us take a look at the categories for today.

 

RWBY

 

I: Plot and Setting

      RWBY is set in the world of Remnant where future technology meets fantasy in a beautiful array of designs and lore. The setting is intriguing and visually stunning. The creators provide the viewer with the perfect balance of information while limiting the amount of exposition given through needless dialogue. The creators even started a subseries called “World of Remnant” that are an informative and interesting way to give information outside of the narrative that will allow the viewers to follow along without sacrificing plot points.

      Speaking of the narrative, RWBY has one of the greatest stories still yet to fully unfold before our eyes. Each season moves the main arc along – adding new themes and continuing to develop existing motifs. The story is paced well and is emotional. The overarching story, especially in volume one, is kept slightly under wraps. It seems as though the ambiguity of this portion is intentional almost as if the creators did not want to tip their hand early. If this is the case, it is a respectable choice as volume one is a pilot season and does serve to introduce RWBY to the rest of the world.

     The plot centers on a group of four young women Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long, and their shared desire to become huntresses to protect the world from the Grimm (creatures of darkness that have haunted mankind since the dawn of time). These four girls form Team RWBY and attend Beacon Academy where many other students are trained to fight against the darkness. Combining in elements of the criminal underground, racial tensions, and an organization that wants to bring about the downfall of the world, he creates a solid plot.

     RWBY earns high marks in the Plot and Setting category, with a -1 Penalty for using the battle-magic-training school cliché. However, RWBY also earns a +2 Bonus for drawing on literature, mythologies, and history for its own lore.

 

II: Characters

      Each of the characters in RWBY has a distinct personality and is loosely inspired by characters from other sources. These sources include but are not limited to: literature, fairy tales, and legends. RWBY also features extremely good character development and progression. Characters are given chances to grow and to change their outlook; rivalries can change into friendships and vice versa. Each of the backstories is covered through use of good dialogue and conversation. Here is a good example of the development of the characters: one of the characters already knows the name and relevance of another and tells a third character who didn’t know; thus cluing the audience into the loop in addition to developing a character, clever hidden exposition.

      The voice acting is rather good in RWBY, and the personalities of the voice actors/actresses lend themselves well into portraying their characters. The antagonists do have an “evil for the sake of evil” feel to them at some points. This lends itself to creating semi-ambiguous motivations for a few of the antagonists. This does hurt RWBY’s scoring in this section; it still earns good marks for characters and for voice acting. RWBY earns a +3 Meta-Bonus for having characters named Ozpin, Glynda, Salem, and Qrow. Still, with all the awesomeness of the names and the deep protagonists, the insufficient motivations of the antagonists warrant a -1 Penalty.

 

III: Animation

     The animation in volume one can be a little bit stiff and inconsistent with quality; however one must stop to consider how Rooster Teeth isn’t a main stream corporation with deep pockets. They had limited resources and (with what they accomplished) they should be applauded for their effort. Volume two had a greatly increased budget, and volume four has an even greater budget. Monty Oum’s style is pleasant to look at and helps create the vibrant color filled world of Remnant. The animation really shines through in the second, third, and fourth volumes. The action is intense, snappy, and filled with epicness all the way. There remain a few issues though; there is some major and minor clipping in a few noticeable places which can distract from the overall feel of the show.

      RWBY earns above average marks in this department, with a +1 bonus for low budget. Another +1 bonus is awarded for Monty Oum being self-taught. A Third bonus is given for the adherence to the rule of cool, which can be defined as: “The limit of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element's awesomeness.”[3]. Seriously, RWBY is so cool.

 

Team RWBY and Team JNPR

 

IV: Soundtrack and Score

     One word: Amazing! I highly enjoy the score of RWBY in addition the original songs created for use in the show. Jeff Williams is quite talented and so is his daughter Casey Lee Williams. Their skills shine through on the show’s opening themes, and the lyrical mastery of each of the main character’s themes. The soundtrack serves the story and the setting well featuring an alternative rock style while mixing in a few other elements it manages to pull a sweet sounding score.

     The mastery of Jeff Williams and his daughter earns RWBY extremely high marks.

 

V: Depth and Symbolism

     RWBY is full of symbols relating both the world of Remnant and our own world. Examples include the use of color and the naming scheme of the whole show. In the lore, a war was fought to take away the individuality and creativity of the people in order to preserve the “status quo.” In our world, one could argue that creativity has come under attack and the bottom line is the ultimate ruler. While in the show it portrays a long-since won victory over the oppressive human nature, it also highlights how we are still afraid of what we do not understand. This could also mean that Monty had overcome the fight of maintaining artistic integrity.

     Furthermore since RWBY also shows cultural tensions, it could highlight the continuing tensions between the various cultures of our world. Also present in RWBY is some light spiritual themes that are still developing in the story. With all things considered, RWBY earns good marks for the depth and symbolic themes present in the work.

 

VI: Impact and Significance

      RWBY has made a significant impact upon the online community as it proves that independent studios can succeed and produce good content. RWBY has the distinct honor of being the first American-Made Anime marketed to Japanese audiences, and it has been successful – even getting a Japanese dub of the series. [4] This is huge, especially since it was not made by a big company, but by a small indie studio. Also, in early 2015 the creator of the show, Monty Oum, died from a complication during a medical procedure [5]. This could have destroyed RWBY; ended it in its tracks, but no. RWBY survived. The legacy of Monty Oum was preserved and continues to this day.

     The show’s fifth volume is due out for release sometime in the fall of this year. Not many shows I know of have been able to in their early days survive the death of their creator. RWBY earns a good score for this section, and a +1 Bonus for cultural achievement and bridge building. Another +1 Bonus is earned for the legacy of Monty Oum.

 

Monty Oum at Office

 

VII: Scoring

     Alright, now that we have reviewed the categories, we shall look at RWBY overall and determine its prowess in the anime world.

  • Plot and Setting: A [3.7]. RWBY received a -1 Penalty for using a cliché, but also earns a +2 Bonus for drawing on Histooutside sources for its lore.
  • Characters: B [3.2]. RWBY has achieved a +3 Meta-Bonus for having legit characters and names. However, insufficient motivations of the antagonists warrant a -1 Penalty.
  • Animation: C+ [2.8]. RWBY takes a +1 bonus for low budget. Another +1 bonus is awarded for Monty Oum being self-taught. A Third bonus is given for the adherence to the rule of cool.
  • Soundtrack and Score: A+ [4.0]. No bonuses or penalties awarded.
  • Depth and Symbolism: B [3.3]. No bonuses or penalties given.
  • Impact and Significance: A+ [4.0]. A +1 bonus for bridging cultural gaps, and another +1 for honoring the creator in both life and death
  • Totals: A++ [4.8]. RWBY is amazing and despite all of its insignificant flaws I still love it and would highly recommend it to anyone. Rest in peace Monty. Your work will live on for many years.

 

References

  1. Interview with Monty Oum
  2. Monty's Facebook
  3. Geek and Sundry - Rule of Cool
  4. Anime News Network UK - RWBY Heads to Japan
  5. Monty Oum Hospitalized

 

Rest in Peace Monty!

 

EDIT: The Final Score is composed of the average of the individual categories and the bonus points are added in before the final average score is determined.

Published in Fan-Based

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