For those who are wondering, RWBY is pronounced “ruby” which also happens to be the name of the main character. Just thought I should get that out of the way so it wouldn’t be bothering you as we dive into things.
So what is RWBY? Well, in short it’s an original animated series concepted by Monty Oum, who was also the animation director. If you’re not familiar with the work of Monty Oum his early video Icarus is a good primer to his style (although it’s a bit dated). Check it out via the link or watch below if you want.
Now RWBY has a lot more going for it than just a few minutes of intense, artistic, acrobatic action – although if that’s all your looking for I assure you that it will deliver in spades. It also has some things in common with other works from Rooster Teeth studios, namely humorous characters with strong, if somewhat stereotyped personalities. The voice acting cast is fair and it delivers truly stellar music across the board.
This isn’t to say the series doesn’t have weaknesses. For example, it’s very short. The first sixteen episodes, which more or less constitute a season, have a total running time shorter than many feature films. With a cast of eight central characters and a robust gallery of supporting characters it feels like both plot and characters are slow to develop, and sometimes it feels like they’re wasting time trying to hit all the school/magic monster hunter tropes when they should be focusing on other things. Like the previously mentioned plot and characters. After all, they don’t have a whole lot of time to work on these things to begin with…
Also, the world everything is set in feels kind of bland. If you’ve ever read any manga or watched any anime – and RWBY is highly influenced by Japanese entertainment, as you might expect from a series who’s creator is best known for his video game fan videos – the structure of the series will be terribly familiar. No, he’s not just ripping off Harry Potter, the ‘school for people with incredible abilities’ trope has been done quite a bit and RWBY’s Beacon Academy is just another take on the trope. Toss in magic rocks, monsters quietly gnawing away at the edges of civilization and humans jockeying for personal power while the empire burns and you get – at least 40% of all fantasy aimed at young adults in the last 20 years. More or less.
BUT it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, and all those tropes are just tools anyways. The real question is, Does RWBY deliver?
Well, fact is it’s early to tell but so far things look promising. For starters, the series as a whole doesn’t take itself at all seriously. It brims with fun, from the way everyone packs heat (I mean, seriously, middle schoolers with SNIPER RIFLES?!) to the hilarious antics of the shamefully underused Nora there’s never a dull moment on Beacon’s campus. The bumbling Jaune Arc (subtle, no?) provides comic relief while still hinting at good things to come while Ruby herself has a number of promising avenues for character exploration and growth.
A lot of the opening episodes are spent on world building, exposition on politics, powers and the like. We still get to know some things about our characters but there’s a definite sense that, once all this pesky worldbuilding is done, the plot can really get going somewhere. Of course, the limited amount of time to present things doesn’t help things any, but that’s probably just part of the format we’re going to have to live with.
What it boils down to is, if you want an animated series that is fast paced, fun and a bit different than the typical fare, RWBY might be for you. Sure, it’s not Pixar quality, but then, what is? At the very least, check it out to support the small, independent studios out there. If you do like it, stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll find the time somewhere for more analysis of it once further episodes come out…