So, last year (especially the tail-end) was pretty busy for me. I watched all kinds of movies and television shows that I fully intended to review, but somehow I never quite got there. One of those shows was an American anime called RWBY (pronounced Ruby) that my friend Cory recommended. RWBY is about a group of friends with magical abilities and ridiculously awesome signature weapons who fight monsters while training at what’s essentially an elite warrior academy high school.
It is, without question, entirely my jam.
This not-particularly long review is for the first two seasons/volumes of RWBY. (I’m relatively sure I had more to say about the show when I first watched it back in, oh, I don’t know, September? But I didn’t leave myself particularly great notes, and I didn’t really feel like busting out a Spoiler Section today.) Please note: if you watch RWBY on Netflix, as I did, they treat each season like a movie, which is just . . . weird.
Also, there will be VERY MILD SPOILERS, mostly in that all the main characters form teams at school, and I will be telling you who’s on which team. I might feel bad about this if the Opening Titles didn’t also pretty much just go ahead and break the suspense for you on that one. Oh, and the Quotes Section has more moderate SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!)
Ruby becomes the youngest girl to get accepted into Beacon Academy, a school that trains people to become Huntresses and Hunters. Their job is to battle the soulless Creatures of Grimm. Monster battles, team dynamics, friendship, magic, and wacky high school shenanigans ensue.
1. First, let’s talk about the Super Important Stuff, okay? Like, sure, we could talk characters and plot and themes and shit, but why focus on that when we can focus on COSPLAY?
You guys. The cosplay potential in this show is ridiculous.
Of course, the vast majority of it is also so far outside my wheelhouse it might as well be on fucking Mars. Not having the ability to sew or, honestly, much inclination to learn, I’m forced to put my costumes together through a collection of random purchases from Etsy, eBay, and various thrift stores, and while I genuinely enjoy doing this . . . there’s some shit you’re just never gonna be able to cobble together from assorted pieces. It tends to work best for humorous costumes or character reinterpretations.
Regardless, a girl likes to dream, so I’ve spent a stupid amount of time trying to decide who I would dress up as, if I could. These are serious considerations, damn it; there’s a lot to think about: do you go with the neatest costume? The most comfortable? The character you like the most? If I had to be someone from Team RWBY . . . well, it’s difficult. Ruby and Weiss have fantastic costumes, but they’re probably my least favorite characters in the whole series. (They aren’t bad, actually. I just don’t care as much about them. Then again, I’ve done cosplays from movies I didn’t even like that well just because the outfits were fun, so if I somehow came across Weiss’s second season combat skirt? ZOMG.)
Yang’s outfit would be kind of awesome, but would also definitely have to be modified so I’d feel comfortable with it. And my favorite costume of Blake’s also has more midriff than I’d prefer, so again, modification would be required.
Meanwhile, if I had to be someone from Team JNPR . . . Jaune, maybe? I mean, he’s wearing jeans, so it would probably be the easiest. Pyrrha’s could be fun, but her armor would be a pain in the ass. And I adore Nora and Ren, but their cosplays don’t particularly excite me. (Although I would totally dress up as one of them as part of a pair costume, cause they’re the best. Dynamic duo FTW.)
Honestly, though, my inclination isn’t to pick any of the heroes at all, but go Clockwork Orange/Dark Side, baby.
If I could just find this coat . . . yeah. Roman Torchwick and his luscious lashes – definitely a possible DragonCon costume this year.
2. So. Let me say this: there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about RWBY. It has a fun but not terribly original premise, and there really aren’t any shocking twists or developments anywhere in the series. (Although I do love how each student has their own individual semblance, or power, rather than everyone having roughly the same abilities.) The opening exposition is so intensely Galadriel and Lord of the Rings, it’s not even funny, and the show itself is strongly reminiscent of Harry Potter, particularly Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (I definitely went back to the Triwizard Tournament and the Yuletide Ball with certain scenes. Also, the headmaster, Ozpin, is kind of like a sketchy Dumbledore, like seriously, I don’t trust that dude AT ALL. And his right-hand-woman, Glynda Goodwitch, has kind of a young Professor McGonagall thing going for her. I like Glynda, despite her horrible name, because she seems very practical and badass, and also because she wears glasses.)
Regardless, I pretty much adore RWBY and eagerly await Volume Three because, along with amazing cosplay potential, RWBY also has super fun battle sequences, good dialogue, a great sense of humor, and–maybe my favorite of all–actual character continuity. I can’t tell you how happy I was when, after finding out a main player’s (not hugely surprising) secret backstory in Volume 1, we followed up in Volume 2 with said character still dealing with all the emotional fallout, like, it wasn’t just one of those stupid one-and-done “I went through this thing, but now I’m totally okay” deals. Nothing, I mean nothing, makes me happier than emotional fallout.
3. I would be remiss if I did not point out, however, that the animation style definitely takes some getting used to. I’m afraid I don’t know enough to give you any proper technical jargon, but however it’s done, it’s . . . peculiar. Luckily, I discovered that I stopped noticing it after roughly the first ten or fifteen minutes. (Amusingly, this is how I feel about Harry and Ron’s terrible hair in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, too.)
4. Let’s talk characters, shall we?
First, we’ll discuss Team RWBY, or The A-Team.
Ruby & Weiss
(Lindsay Jones & Kara Eberle)
Ruby has some of the best dialogue, but her naivety and immaturity do occasionally grate on my nerves. It’s not badly written or anything, but I generally care less about her storylines. I also can’t stand that the team is named after her. I mean, I get it (R for Ruby, W for Weiss, etc.), but it bugs me since none of the other teams are named after their leaders. Team JNPR, for instance, is pronounced Team Juniper, not Jaune. (It’s really too bad there isn’t a fifth member on each team. Then the 5th girl’s name could begin with an ‘N’ and we could switch it Team BRWNY, which could potentially be pronounced ‘brawny,’ I suppose, but would obviously be correctly pronounced ‘brownie.’ )
The best thing about Ruby is her deep and abiding love for weaponry. Like Crescent Rose, for instance, which is her gigantic part scythe, part sniper rifle. It is the best.
Meanwhile, Weiss is probably my other least favorite character. She’s the super smart, snobby, rich, arrogant one, and while she also has some very nice moments . . . all in all, she doesn’t do much for me. (Again, it’s not that I think her character is poorly written. I like some of her dialogue, and she’s obviously supposed to be on that journey from selfish and obnoxious to Better Person. I would just generally rather be spending that time on other people.)
Yang and Blake
(Barbara Dunkelman & Arryn Zech)
Yang and Blake, on the other hand, are definitely my favorites on Team RWBY. Yang is Ruby’s adventurous and generally cheerful older sister, until you piss her off by, say, damaging her hair. Yang basically gets stronger the more she gets hit, which is kind of awesome for battle purposes, obviously. She also has shotgun gauntlets which are pretty great.
Blake, meanwhile, is the very quiet, very serious one, and I’m basically obligated to like her because she likes books. Her primary story arc includes spoilers, so all I’ll say is that I generally enjoy where her story goes, and I really like her friendship with Yang, particularly in the second season when Yang helps her through a rough patch. They have a really nice scene together, and I’m not gonna lie: I might ship them. But maybe not, because I also like Blake with her actual love interest, Sun, and I really do love Blake and Yang’s friendship. (One of the best things about RWBY, actually, is how many girl friendships there are, due to the vast majority of female characters. But platonic friendships don’t get left out, either: Ruby and Jaune, for instance, or, debatably, Ren and Nora.)
Now Team JNPR, or The Second A-Team:
Jaune & Pyrrha
(Miles Luna & Jen Brown)
Jaune is the kid who’s (not-so-secretly) terrible at pretty much everything, and he has the occasional annoying moment where you just want to shake him and say, “Come on, man, pull your shit together.” (Especially when it comes to girls.) But for the most part, he’s pretty funny, and I generally enjoy how his story goes. I particularly like that he doesn’t just magically get better at fighting through one awe-inspiring moment of willpower and determination. It actually takes time and practice, which is cool.
Meanwhile, I like Pyrrha quite a bit. She’s the strongest girl in school and pretty much kicks everyone’s ass in battle, but she’s not terribly assertive, at least not when it comes to voicing what she wants. She also likes Jaune, which of course he can’t see because he’s an idiot. I really do like Jaune, but Pyrrha is definitely too good for him. (Although. There is a moment at a dance where he proves he is almost worthy of her. Oh, all right, I kind of ship them, but she really is too good for this kid.)
Ren & Nora
(Monty Oum & Samantha Ireland)
Ren and Nora are the best. They are the classic combination of Nearly Mute/Comically Beleaguered (Ren) and Ridiculously Chatty Ball of Violence (Nora). I personally like them much better as friends rather than as a couple, but that’s how I feel about characters at least 80% of the time, so. It’s not a huge thing. Either way, they’re completely adorable.
Sadly, Ren was voiced by Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY, who died unexpectedly and depressingly young at the age of 33. His brother has since taken over the role in Volume 3.
5. Finally, you’ll notice that I didn’t call Team JNPR the B-Team because, really, they get almost as much screentime as Team RWBY. Since I actually like Team JNPR a little more than Team RWBY, I’m obviously a fan of that. I also just think it’s an interesting and unusual choice for a show to make. Not a bad idea, either, because it gives them more people and relationships to work with.
Like I’ve said, time and again, I will forgive a lot if you give me solid dialogue and good character dynamics. And that’s what RWBY does.
That, and the most epic food fight ever.
Henchman: “I said put your hands in the air! Now!”
Ruby: “Are you . . . robbing me?”
Ruby: “Oh . . .”
(Ruby kicks henchman across the room.)
Jaune: “Uh, sir? I’ve got, um . . . a question. So, this landing strategy thing . . .uh, wha–what is it? You’re, like, dropping us off or something?”
Ozpin: “No. You will be falling.”
Jaune: “Oh, uh, I see . . . so, did you, like, hand out parachutes for us?”
Ozpin: “No. You will be using your own landing strategy.”
Jaune: “Uh-huh . . . yeah . . . so, what exactly is a landing strateg–”
(Jaune is promptly launched, screaming, into the air)
Ruby: “I don’t wanna be the bee’s knees! I don’t wanna be any kind of knees! I just wanna be a normal girl with normal knees!”
Ruby: “Of course I’m happy with Crescent Rose. I just really like seeing new ones. It’s like meeting new people, but better.”
Pyrrha: “I’m not sure this is it.”
Jaune: “Pyrrha, I made the torch. Could you at least humor me for maybe five more feet?”
(Jaune trips and falls into a puddle, extinguishing the torch.)
Pyrrha: “Do you feel that?”
Jaune: “Soul-crushing regret?”
Pyrrha: “My semblance is polarity.”
Ruby: “Oh. You can control my poles.”
Weiss: “No, you dunce! It means she can control magnetism.”
Ruby: “. . . magnets are cool, too.”
Nora: “So there we were in the middle of the night–”
Ren: “It was day.”
Nora: “We were surrounded by Ursae–”
Ren: “They were beowolves.”
Nora: “There were DOZENS OF THEM!”
Ren: “Two of ’em.”
Nora: “But they were no match. In the end, Ren and I took them down and made a boatload of lien selling ursa skin rugs.”
Ren (sighing): “She’s been having this recurring dream for nearly a month now.”
Ruby: “Justice will be swift! It will be painful! It will be DELICIOUS!”
Blake: “Aren’t you that girl that exploded?”
Blake: “Yes, it’s lovely. Almost as lovely as this book . . . that I will continue to read . . . as soon as you leave.”
Weiss: “YES! Fear the almighty power of my forces! Cower as they pillage your homes! Weep as they take your children from your very arms–”
Yang: “Trump card. Your armies have been destroyed.”
Ruby: “Think you can make the shot?”
Weiss: “Hmph. Can I.”
Ruby: “. . . can y–”
Weiss: “Of course I can!”
Yang: “How’s your first day going, little sister?”
Ruby: “You mean since you ditched me and I exploded?”
Yang: “Yikes. Meltdown already?”
Ruby: “No, I literally exploded a hole in front of the school.”
Ruby: “I tripped over some crabby girl’s luggage, and then she yelled at me, and then I sneezed, and then I exploded, and then she yelled again, and it felt really, really bad, and I just wanted her to stop yelling at me.”
(Ruby jumps into Yang’s arms.)
Ruby: “Oh God, it’s happening again.”
Yang: “Having some trouble there, ladykiller?”
Jaune: “I don’t understand. My dad says that all women look for is confidence! Where did I go wrong?”
Yang: ” ‘Snow Angel’ probably wasn’t the best start.”
Ozpin: “These teammates will be with you for the rest of your time here at Beacon. So it’s in your best interest to be paired up with someone with whom you can work well . . . that being said, the first person you make eye contact with after landing will be your partner for the next four years.”
Yang: “Well . . . that was a thing.”
Nora: “We’ll break his legs!”
Nora: “I know! We’ll have some sort of signal! Like a distress signal! A secret signal so we can find each other in the forest! Can you imitate a sloth?”
Nora: “Yes, Ren?”
Ren: “I don’t think sloths make a lot of noise.”
Nora: “. . . that’s why it’s perfect! No one will suspect we’re working together!”
Ren: “I still don’t think that’s what a sloth sounds like.”
Nora (touching Ren on the nose): “Boop.”
Roman: “These kids just keep getting weirder.”
(Monster falls over, dead.)
Nora: “Aw. It’s broken.”
Ren: “Nora . . . please . . . don’t ever do that again.”
Weiss: “I guess she really made our plans . . . fall apart.”
Blake: “No. Just no.”
Weiss: “But . . . you do it!”
Yang: “There’s a time and a place for jokes.”
Weiss: “Was this not it?”
Yang: “No, it just wasn’t very good.”
Jaune: “Pyrrha, I know I’m going through a hard time right now, but I’m not that depressed.”
Sun: “I stole you some food!”
Blake: “Do you always break the law without giving a second thought?”
Sun: “Hey, weren’t you in a cult or something?”
(Blake gives him a death glare.)
Sun: “Okay, too soon.”
Penny: “My name is Penny! It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
Ruby: “Hi, Penny. I’m Ruby.”
Weiss: “I’m Weiss.”
Yang: “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head?” (Blake elbows her.) “Oh, I’m Yang.”
Ruby: “Sisters! Friends! Weiss.”
Blake: “She’s gonna fall.”
Ruby: “She’ll be fine.”
Ren: “She’s falling.”
Yang: “Great! The gang’s all here. Now we can die together.”
Honestly, it’s just a lot of fun. I can see it being a little too silly for some people, but there’s a lot to like, and even the Harry Potter nostalgia is kind of nice now and again. Sailor Moon nostalgia, too. (Man, I was obsessed with that show back in junior high. I wonder if it would stand up to a re-watch.)
Mmm . . . I really don’t know who to give that to. I think everyone does a pretty equally good job. Sorry, I’m copping out on this one today.
Always have a landing strategy.