Providing long sought answers for some of its deepest lore and most asked questions, “The Lost Fable” is the most exciting episode of RWBY since the third volume’s finale. There has been much anticipation and theorising amongst the fanbase about the history of Remnant, and background of certain characters. And most of them are answered in this breathtaking episode, which is a whopping twenty-six minutes long! Who is Salem, where did she come from, and what drove her to evil? What secrets is Ozpin hiding? What are the gods and the Relics like? Who blew up the Moon? Not every significant question is answered, and occasionally, even more questions appear.
Disclaimer: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for this episode of RWBY, which relate to the series as a whole. Read on and your discretion.
First off, I’d like to compliment the folks at Rooster Teeth for their divine animation for this episode. The visuals are jawdropping, and the style and sense of mysticism remind me of Avatar: The Last Airbender or a Studio Ghibli film. The acting by Jen Taylor and Aaron Dismuke stand out, since their characters do have most of the episode’s screentime.
Last episode, Team RWBY discovered the Relic of Knowledge contained a genie-esque woman named Jinn, who can answer three questions every one-hundred years. In other words, tell important backstory! Ozpin’s shadiness reared its ugly head as he tried to keep his need-to-know secrecy in tact, only for Ruby to ask Jinn just what Ozzy was trying to hide from them. Our heroes were thrown into a white void of sorts, where Jinn plays out the tragic story of Salem and Ozpin.
Most of the episode’s shocks came as a surprise, though a few of the revelations were predicted many moons ago. Team RWBY are present throughout the story as silent witnesses, though the narrative seems to forget they are there, and instead just tells the story to we viewers.
The fable depicts big bad Salem as a lonely sorceress, trapped in a tower by her cruel father. “The Girl in the Tower” was a fairy tale mentioned by Pyrrha back in Volume 3; interestingly, her attempt to tell it was disrupted by Ozpin. Gee, I wonder why.
In these ancient times, magic could be performed by everyone without the use of Dust. Many heroes tried to rescue the freedom-seeking Salem, but none succeeded. That was until a brave man came along, named Ozma, the original incarnation of Professor Ozpin. Ozma is the name of the princess from the Land of Oz books, so first appeared as a boy. I also like this Ozma’s design, especially the castle themed armour.
Ozma slays Salem’s evil dad and rescues her, and like all good fairy tales, they fall in love. Unfortunately, this fairy tale didn’t have a happy ending, as Ozma developed a fatal disease and died. Heartbroken and confused why the gods would do such a thing, Salem sets out to find them. The Two Brothers represent light and darkness, creating mankind together, though the God of Darkness created the Grimm. Salem visits both their striking domains, which are both beautiful to behold in their own ways.
Salem meets the God of Light, who appears as a golden, antler-headed humanoid who lacks facial features, only shadows of them. The God is firm in his beliefs that the cycle of life must be upheld. He politely declines Salem’s request to bring back Ozma, but she doesn’t take it very well. Denied what she desires by one god, she decides to visit his younger brother, the God of Darkness. He takes obvious inspiration from Lucifer, complete with horns and a charismatic tongue. His domain is the creepy, black and red domain Salem currently occupies.
Jinn, who narrates, points out that Salem keeps it a secret that she went to his brother first. The God of Darkness pretty much snaps his fingers and Ozma is back from the dead. The God of Light shows up as mad as hell, angry at what his brother has done. Both brothers start having a pissing contest, killing and resurrecting Ozma repeatedly. The poor guy must be traumatised.
Both gods then transform into dragons and are about to square off, but the God of Light explains what Salem has done and deceived them both. Though there is obvious resentment between the siblings, they respect each other’s domains. The God of Darkness apologises to his brother, and then proceeds to kill Ozma himself! Damn, these gods are ruthless! The Gods then make Salem immortal as punishment, and only when she comes to value the importance of life and death shall she finally die! Double damn!
Imprisoned in a manner once again, Salem tries to spite the gods by committing suicide, which Ruby witnesses. When the writers said they were going to traumatise Ruby this volume, they meant it. Salem plots to turn humanity against them in an act of revenge. She recruits several kingdoms to her cause to seize the powers of the Gods and rule the world themselves. This plan doesn’t go very well. When the army of man attack the Gods, the God of Darkness is enraged, and proceeds to WIPE OUT ALL OF HUMANITY VIA DEATH RAY!
Salem is spared, and finds out she is the only human in the world. The Gods decide it is time to depart the world and start over elsewhere. They make a spectacular exit, blowing up half the Moon on their way out. The aftermath is just amazing, Salem witnessing a meteor shower, and screaming in despair.
Wandering the world and blaming everyone but herself, Salem tries to commit suicide once again, this time diving into the God of Darkness’ fountain of destruction, that creates the Grimm. It didn’t work, and Salem emerges from the pool as the white-haired witch we know and fear, now driven by a need for destruction. All she needed was an adversary…
This is where Ozma/Ozpin comes back into the story. Ozma speaks with the God of Light, who invites the hero to return to Remnant in a cycle of reincarnation. Mankind is gone, but shall return, only to be a shadow of their former selves. He asks Ozma to guide humanity to better themselves, with the four ideals they were created with – Creation, Destruction, Knowledge, and Choice. Here, the God produces the four Relics, and explains that if the four are united, the Gods shall return to Remnant and judge mankind on their harmony. The usual conflict of survival and destruction, you know the drill.
We get to see what the Relics look like, and the theory that they were the symbols of the Kingdoms are confirmed. The Relic of Knowledge is the lantern, the Relic of Creation is a spear (I was hoping it’d be a paint brush), the Relic of Destruction is fittingly a sword, and the Relic of Choice resembles a crown or a laurel wreath.
Ozma declines, preferring to meet Salem in the afterlife, but the God explains she was made immortal but isn’t the same woman he loves. Ozma is reborn in the body of a young man, understandably frightened, confused, and not knowing who he is. Ozma eventually tracks down Salem, living in a cottage in the middle of the woods. Surprisingly, Ozma and Salem actually have a heartwarming reunion, but it is marked with the inevitable fallout of their different ideals and missions. Both keep each other in the dark about what truly happened on their journeys.
The two share a time of happiness, though Salem suggests she and Ozma could rule as the new gods and guide humanity for the better. The two start fighting the Grimm and are praised as heroes. There’s a pretty cool moment where Salem folds a Grimm up like a pretzel. Salem and Ozma were worshipped, founding their own kingdom, and even had children – four daughters to be precise, who are implied to be the original Four Maidens judging by their colour coded dresses.
Unfortunately, these good times do not last, with devastatingly consequences. Salem spreads her influence, slaying humans who do not follow her religious rule. Ozma finally spills the beans to Salem about Judgement Day and the Relics. Salem appears unfazed, adamant that humanity does not and should not need to bow to Gods, and should have the freedom to rule themselves. It’s all about power!
Terrified of his wife, Ozma tries to sneak out his daughters, but runs into a very angry Salem. The two have a magical battle, witnessed out of sight by Team RWBY. Salem and Ozma level their own castle and kill their own children, before Salem slays Ozma in his second life. Another great part of this episode is not needing Team RWBY to verbally react to the events of the story. Their silent reactions say it all.
Ozma goes through a painful life of reincarnation. These lives include a crippled old man, a drunk, and a scientist, building his signature cane. Jinn explains Ozma came accustomed to sharing the bodies with the souls of the original occupants. It can be assumed that “Ozpin” was the actual name of Ozma’s previous incarnation prior to Oscar. But, as the lives rolled by, Ozpin came to the conclusion he’d eventually have to kill Salem.
In a final scene, Ozpin, in another reincarnation sporting a fabulous moustache, finally seeks out the four Relics. Using the Relic of Knowledge, he asks Jinn where the others are, what their powers are, and how can he kill Salem. Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang all come together to witness this final piece of the puzzle. Jinn then gravely tells Ozpin the bad news – he can’t kill Salem. The final shot, shows Ozpin, replaced by Oscar, kneeling in the snow despairing.
What an amazing episode. Beautifully written, invoking a classic fairy tale-turned-tragedy, with superb animation and voice acting. It certainly fleshes out Salem more, both cast as a victim and villain by gods and lovers alike. In retrospective, you can see the guilt and mistakes Ozpin has carried with him through his lives, but he has managed to have faith in humanity. It was implied back in Volume 4, that Ozpin was the last King of Vale, unifying the kingdoms and founded the Huntsmen Academies. I hope we get to explore a bit more of Ozpin’s various lives further on into the series. However, despite claiming to have made more mistakes than any person in Remnant, Ozpin comes off as entirely innocent in this story. The whole thing was Salem’s doing, though Ozpin may mean being the source of her actions.
Ozpin and Salem’s doomed and tragic romance is certainly mesmerising and moving, but could have done with a little more depth. But, it is told as a fairy tale, so details and further description are kept minimal. Seeing the reactions of Team RWBY add to the drama, seeing just how insane their world truly is. That there are gods, immortals, monsters, and the suffering both Salem and Ozpin endured during their lives. Now, we’ll have to see how each character reacts to Ozpin, now knowing his story. Ozpin can both be sympathised with and criticized for his actions. But, after all he has been through, his secrecy may be justified. All of the lives, loves, losses, families, and deaths he must have experienced would drive any man to sanity.
One thing of note is that the Silver Eyes are never brought up, but they could be saved for Ruby’s character arc in this volume. The ending of this episode feels like there could be a follow up, but with eleven episode to go, they do need to move with the plot.
Final Grade: A+
+ A wonderfully woven story, fantastic scriptwriting, animation, and voice acting.
+ The exploration of the show’s mythology, with many questions being answered.
+ The visuals throughout are amongst the finest in RWBY.
– A little more depth between Salem and Ozpin would have made their relationship even more fascinating.