A comprehensive review of RWBY


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RWBY has achieved remarkable fan response since its pilot. From left to right: main characters Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long.

Parker Coady, Op/Ed Editor, Semester 2

Disclosure: This review contains spoilers


As the first original franchise developed by web content giant RoosterTeeth, creators of the popular machinima (a film made using the engine of a video game) Red vs. Blue, RWBY seemed to have everything going for it. Not only was the American-made anime developed by a team well-experienced in 3D animation, it was also the brainchild of internet-famous animation prodigy Monty Oum. The pilot episode, Ruby Rose, received over a million views on YouTube and is even available to watch on popular anime streaming website Crunchyroll. Recently finishing its fourth season, the show boasts incredible fan support. In fact, fan reaction to RWBY has been so successful that RoosterTeeth has been able to fund a professional Japanese dub, a comedy spin-off series, a toy line, and even a video game.


All of this, however, stands in stark contrast to the actual quality of RWBY’s writing and plot direction.


RWBY (pronounced “Ruby”) follows four high school girls – Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long – as they train to become heroes in the sci-fi/fantasy fusion world of Remnant. It’s an intriguing premise with high novelty and great potential. The character design in the show is masterfully done, and even minor characters are well-detailed with clear effort put into their appearances. The musical score, composed by Jeff Williams, is consistently wonderful, encompassing a variety of genres from gospel-like harmony in “Wings” to swinging jazz in the “Never Miss a Beat” rendition of the main theme.  Most of the fight animations are powerful and well-choreographed while still feeling high-octane and flashy. All of these aesthetic successes are almost novel enough to carry the entire run of the series. Emphasis on almost.


While RWBY’s characters are beautiful, they often lack development. Ruby is a bundle of optimism and cheer who, while is admittedly very charming, possesses little more complexity than the average peppy-girl protagonist. Weiss is presented as the frustratingly tired snobby rich-kid stereotype. She progresses slightly beyond this at the end of the first season, but then fails to find other interesting personality traits later on. Blake is introduced as another stereotype: the shy, bookish, soft-spoken voice of reason. However, even these traits are dropped in favor of making her a confused character who viewers are told, rather than shown, is cowardly. She becomes so entrenched in her tragic origins that viewers barely get to see her personality. Yang possesses one of the least-defined identities in the show, with little revealed about her other than that she’s headstrong and likes fighting. Viewers briefly see flashes of other aspects of deeper character – that she has friends outside of the main cast, for instance. However, all of this is seldom mentioned as she gets pitifully little screentime.


Interestingly, two characters outside of the main quartet – Jaune Arc and Pyrrha Nikos – possess the most character depth in the show. Pyrrha is a world-famous fighter whose need to overachieve pressures her into biting off more than she can chew. She’s the love interest for Jaune, a clumsy but well-meaning boy whose inability to fight causes him to cheat his way into Ruby’s school. Pyrrha’s death at the end of the third season causes Jaune to seek vengeance. It’s a nice dynamic – however, it’s also an interesting choice for a supposedly “feminist” show to have its most-developed living character be male.


RWBY’s central plot is similarly muddled. Most of the first season focuses on petty melodrama between the main quartet solved either off-screen or in quick conversations. The team’s initial goal was to prevent crime lord Roman Torchwick from stealing magical materials for his unexplained “master plan.” By the beginning of the second season, it’s revealed that he’s stolen all of the materials he needed off-screen anyway, so nearly all of the first season’s conflict becomes invalidated. The plan is eventually revealed to be a breach of monsters into a city, which the main quartet is unable to prevent from happening (they seemed to mostly be busy with the all-important school dance). However, when every supporting cast member in the series shows up to fight the invasion, all damage is reversed and the whole ordeal might as well have never happened.


At the end of the third season, the cast is for some reason unable to stop a similar invasion, and the conflict is resolved with a head-scratching deus ex machina. The fourth season begins after an extremely awkwardly-placed timeskip. Although it features more dynamic, colorful shading and visuals, it suffers from the same problems the rest of the show does. It introduces even more trope-heavy characters into an already-overstuffed cast, fails to document anything of great significance happening, and is plagued by poor characterization and insufficient foreshadowing. Despite a lack of action, RWBY’s setting is so under-explained that the writers had to introduce a supplementary series, World of Remnant, whose episodes are literally just several minutes of exposition through narration. The fact that RWBY is still littered with plot holes only makes this failure more apparent.


RWBY is a mess. It’s a very pretty mess, and boasts plenty of well-designed characters, great music, and (in general) amazing fight scenes. It’s a show whose popularity is easy to understand. It’s a great shame that RWBY’s incredible potential is wasted by flat characters and a meandering, mediocre plotline. Don’t feel too bad about never having heard of it – it’s not worth your time.