RERUN REVIEWS: RWBY Volume 1, Episodes 1-3

And now for something completely different. In recent years, web animation has become popular and more and more advanced on both a creative and technical level. And wanting to have a go at reviewing an ongoing series of some kind, I decided to write a set of Rerun Reviews on the web animated show known as RWBY. Created by animator Monty Oum of the website Rooster Teeth, RWBY is an anime-esque action/comedy series that I stumbled across earlier this year, and I quickly became a fan of the series. A fun, exciting show with likeable and funny characters, a slow paced but engaging storyline, great music, kickass battles, and some pretty nifty animation, it is a well-rounded and frankly awesome series.

To add a little background to this rerun review, Monty Oum came to the attention of the internet by creating fan made crossover videos featuring popular video game characters having epic battles like Haloid and Dead Fantasy. The animation and fast-paced action wowed me, and I wondered where he went. Turned out he joined Rooster Teeth and animated the Halo-inspired series Red vs. Blue, which has been very successful online and offline in its own way. During the tenth season of Red vs. Blue, Oum wanted to develop RWBY which had been a long-standing idea for him. The series is co-written by Oum, Miles Luna, and Kerry Shawcross, who all perform voicework too, with the music provided by Steve Goldshein and Jeff Williams, and a number of songs featuring the vocals of Casey Lee Williams.

The promotion for the series consisted of four trailers introducing the series’ main characters: Childish, weapon obsessed Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones), graceful know-it-all Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle), quiet and moody Blake Belladonna (Arryn Zech), and hotheaded fun-loving Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkelman). Each trailer was unique in their own way, and at times, beautiful. My favourite has to be the “Red” trailer, it is both animated beautifully and has awesome action. The four trailers premiered at various conventions during 2012 before the series debuted officially in July 2013.

RWBY’s story is simple – in a world named Remnant, humanity is in a time of peace after a climatic war against evil creatures called Grimm which prey on negative human emotions. We follow four girls, Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang, who all attend Beacon Academy to be trained as Huntresses, elite warriors who hunt the Grimm for the safety of the world while dealing with their own relationships, personal issues, and a potential building evil hoping to spark a new conflict in the world. Every character have names based on colours or things related to colour, based on either fairy tales, legendary or historical figures, wield cool two-weapons-in-one, and are put into four-man teams with their initials forming the team name.

The first season proved to be popular, and the second season is currently airing on Rooster Teeth’s website and YouTube. And while I could praise the series unconditionally and say it is the best thing online since Gangnam Style, I would be ignoring RWBY’s flaws. The slow pacing is good, spending time developing the characters and world building, though this first season is mostly dedicated to setting everything up and where all the characters stand on the metaphorical chessboard before things expand in the second season, which in turn feels more like the second half of the first season. There is a large number of characters so it does mean only certain ones get attention per episode, and while it is necessary we see our core four be centre stage, I would like to see some of the supporting characters get more screentime and growth.

The series is obviously done on a limited budget, and while the animation is very fluid most of time, there is the occasional fault. Characters can be very stiff and robotic in movement, all of the background characters are silhouetted, and characters can defy physics, particularly when walking past furniture or plants, with hair going through body parts. The second season’s quality is better than the first, but we aren’t here to talk about that in these rerun reviews. Speaking of which, all of this gassing is delaying the actual reviewing. To the episode reviews!

Note: These episode reviews will contain spoilers.

Episode One: Ruby Rose


Being a pilot episode, the first episode is allowed some leeway in establishing the world, key characters, and story, and episode one does achieve this. The episode begins with an opening prologue, detailing the world’s backstory – a vicious war occurred between humans and evil creatures known as Grimm which appears as a pitch black monstrous animals and feed off negative emotions. Humanity ultimately won by harnessing a magical energy source called Dust, which also played a role in building civilization back from the brink. And who narrates the prologue – none other than Halo’s Jen Taylor.

Anyway, the series hits the ground running by introducing one of the badguys, Roman Torchwick, who resembles Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Torchwick and his trendy goons enter a shop that sells Dust gems, only for their very polite robbery to be hampered by one of the goons getting the attention of a girl in the store and very bluntly telling her he is going to rob her. The girl proceeds to kick him across the room. Meet Ruby Rose, a 15-year old hyperactive teen who is an uber fangirl of Grimm-slaying Hunters and is nuts about their weapons. I immediately knew I would like Ruby. She is a balanced blend of hilarity and cuteness without becoming irritating, and she is my favourite character in the series.

Ruby then proceeds to drop kick another goon out the store window and pulls out a giant mechanical scythe that doubles as a sniper rifle! That was when I knew RWBY was gonna rock my socks off. Ruby herself is based on Little Red Riding Hood, wearing a red hooded cape and battled wolf-like Grimm in her introductory trailer. Anyway, Ruby kicks some ass and showing off a taste of the series’ well-animated and detailed combat scenes, combining her own super speed and the trigger feature of her sniper-scythe to move around at lightning speed and evade attacks. She chases Torchwick onto a roof, where he tries to take her out with a bomb, only for the Huntress named Glynda Goodwitch to appear and fends Torchwick off whilst he escapes in an aircraft with a hidden pyrokinetic associate.

Ruby geeks out in front of Glynda, only to be taken to what looks like a police interrogation room where Glynda chews her out for her apparent recklessness. Glynda reminds me very much of Professor McGonnigal from Harry Potter, being very stern and disciplinary, threatening to smack Ruby with her riding crop weapon. However, Glynda’s lecturing ends when Professor Ozpin, headmaster of Beacon Academy enters. Take three guesses who Ozpin and Glynda are named after. We learn Ruby wishes to be a Huntress, mainly out of a naïve necessity to do good as she explains in hyped up moment, emphasizing her romanticized view of the Hunter and Huntress career. It is never actually said if they get paid to slay Grimm or not.

Ozpin decides to be the mysterious quirky mentor he is and invites Ruby to attend Beacon Academy, despite only being fifteen. The episode ends with the introduction of Ruby’s older half sister Yang as they head for Beacon Academy, a Hogwarts/Emerald City hybrid. Yang herself is very optimistic, outgoing, a bit of a blood knight, and designed to provide some fanservice. Thankfully, that doesn’t get in the way of her character. She lives for the action, and is very close to Ruby, often glomping her to the point of choking her.

Every episode is usually quite short, so just as you get into the fun, it ends after six minutes. Thankfully, the pilot does well with what it has. Animation errors are minimal, and the one that stands out is actually quite funny, making it look like Ruby is eating cookies at a fast speed. Though that was intentional. The episode makes good use of world building through show don’t tell, verbal chatter, and some exposition that tries to avoid being heavy hitting. Though there is one question left unanswered – why is the moon broken?

About the author

Mark Russell