Salutations, FNDM! At long last, RWBY Volume 7 has arrived. The sixth volume was an absolute blast and set the bar for future volumes. Now, we have the seventh volume, beginning with “The Greatest Kingdom”, introducing Team RWBY to Atlas and Mantle. Frankly, the new volume starts off rather well, with a lot of set up, worldbuilding, and mysteries to solve. However, there are a couple of issues in terms of pacing.
It’s been a bit of a rough year for Rooster Teeth, with the company having a mass restructuring, laying off 13% of its staff due to financial reasons, which appeared to be a difficult choice to make. Gray Haddock, the head of animation, resigned from the company, following complaints from staff members about his behaviour and mistreatment towards them. Haddock voiced Roman Torchwick in RWBY during its first three volumes. But, the year has seen the successful release of Gen: Lock, and RWBY continued to explore new ground with a novel called RWBY: After the Fall. Without further ado, let’s begin our review of RWBY Volume 7.
The episode begins right where the end of Volume 6 left off, with our heroes finding themselves before an enormous Atlesian air blockage. Their hopes to simply fly to Atlas and deliver the Relic of Knowledge to General Ironwood are fading fast. Weiss smartly worries that flying a stole aircraft into Atlas would be a very bad move, since the military would likely keep them away from Ironwood, and send Weiss back to her father. Weiss decides to call her sister Winter, hoping she can get them into Atlas without trouble. The ship heads for Mantle, avoiding the military, as well as the security trying to contact them over the radio.
We get our first glimpse of Mantle, once a powerful kingdom in its own right, now effectively the Gotham or Flea Bottom to the floating Atlas. The city looks quite miserable, covered in a murky orange smog, likely caused by the nearby Dust mines. Team RWBY’s ship passes by large towers, where Ironwood speaks on giant monolithic screens. The good general looks awful, sporting an unkempt beard, and makes promises to keep Atlas safe. Promises which he likely won’t be able to keep, or at least not without compromises or sacrifices. Atlesian security robots patrol the streets, as do drones, which no one particularly seems to like. Clearly security has been raised in all quadrants of the kingdom, but doing so in the already disenfranchised Mantle was probably not a wise decision.
Weiss is confident that Winter will be the key to safely seeing Ironwood, only for her sister to pop up on the screens, warning people that disobeying military officials is now a punishable offence. Something is very wrong in Atlas. Qrow is uncertain the gang should approach Winter or even Ironwood until they know what is going on in the city. Qrow is now voiced by Jason Liebrecht, following his predecessor’s dismissal over sexual misconduct.
The group park the ship in Mantle, and set out on foot to meet an acquaintance of Maria’s, who may provide answers. They shamble out of a back alley, looking rather out of place, moments before a security detail run by in the background to locate their plane. I also wonder why the heck Weiss doesn’t go undercover, especially since she wants to avoid going home. Sporting her recognisable white hair and family logo out in public isn’t the best way to avoid being recognised.
We get some snippets of worldbuilding and hints of possible subplots. A child is putting up a political poster of a new character named Robin Hill. This light-haired woman appears on a digital news board, described as a hero of Mantle who is running in an election for the city council. Having a Mantle resident on the council could do some good. Other news reports mention the Dust embargo, damage to Mantle’s outer wall, and a report on a murdered journalist. Is there a serial killer running loose, or did this journalist get into hot water? The group pass by some graffiti that reads “Show your teeth!”. The Faunus in Mantle are treated appallingly, so no doubt there is an underground political movement or gang that is anti-Atlas, or wants equal rights.
Yang gets harassed by a drone, which takes a photo of her, so she kicks it to the curb before it is totalled by a truck. Perhaps this drone, or its operator, recognised Yang, or perhaps her mechanical arm. Maybe Dr. Watts is behind it, recognising her as Raven’s daughter? The opening titles does hint Watts is up to no good behind the scenes. The gang watch a truck of miners drive by, most of them Faunus and appear to be covered in dirt or oil. The trailer hinted we would be visiting the Dust mines this volume, and they don’t appear to be a pleasant place.
Blake makes a passing comment about how awful Mantle is, pissing off a pair of nearby, heavily intoxicated vagrants. Specks and Purple Hat, as we shall call them, are pretty bummed out about the embargo, though Specks is pretty fiery about Atlas’ greatness. When Specks goes to slag off Blake, Weiss sends him flying into a dumpster using her semblance. The group scarper as security robots show up, Purple Hat recognising Weiss’ glyphs, though not out of malice. Perhaps he knows Winter, or will turn up again to approach Weiss to ask for her help with Mantle.
The gang arrive at a pharmacy, which also appears to be a robotic surgery too, judging by the cute Faunus who leaves with a mechanical arm. Inside, we meet Dr. Pietro, an elderly but rather jolly man, who moves about into a mech walker wheelchair. He is the one who gave Maria her prosthetic goggle-eyes, upgrading them every ten years or so. The two get up to some old people banter, and Maria introduced Pietro and one of Atlas’ finest minds. He works in the pharmacy voluntarily, but is obviously a bit of an eccentric (a noticeboard in the background reads “Zero days since last nonsense.”). Pietro is currently working on shoes that do the dancing for you, which Nora is enthusiastic to try on.
When asked what is going on, Pietro explains that Ironwood came back from the Fall of Beacon a different man. It wasn’t just the Grimm, but someone completely dismantling Atlas’ military and reputation in one swoop. Not even Ironwood or Pietro know who that person is, but suspect they have to be either a genius, or originate from Atlas. Well, we know that Dr. Arthur Watts is behind it. He is known to be a disgraced Atlesian scientist, but why and how is unknown, though presumably for inhuman experiments. Perhaps he was an unknown factor to Ironwood, who never acknowledged his existence. Or is a persona non-grata in Atlas, and it never occurred to anyone that he’d team up with Salem.
As the group worry that Atlas isn’t as safe as they though, Weiss pushes for answers about Winter and the kingdom’s council, which both Ironwood and her father Jacque have seats on. Pietro explains that the council are pretty much doing whatever Ironwood wants, but pauses upon recognising Weiss. He then recognises Yang’s arm, noting that she painted it. Yep, Pietro was the chap who designed Yang’s arm, since Ironwood made a special request for it to be sent to Yang. It is likely he also designed Ironwood’s own prosthetic body as well. Pietro then recognises all of Team RWBY, noting that his daughter has told him so much about them…
Alarms start blaring outside, hinting that an action sequence is on the way. Everyone, save Maria and Pietro, run outside and ante up, though Blake’s Gambol Shroud is still broken, so she can only use it as a firearm. A herd of new Grimm, the Sabyr, charge into view and everyone starts kicking all kinds of ass. As usual, the animation in these fights are fast-paced, fluid, and awesome. Everyone gets a moment to shine in the fight. Qrow reminds us why he is a great Huntsman, Nora uses Jaune’s shield as a launchpad to smash into a Grimm, and even Oscar gets to kill one or two, though he still needs some more combat training.
Blake nearly gets blindsided by a Grimm, only for green laserbeams to rain from the sky and take out the whole herd. A figure flies about like Iron Man, descending from the sky before the Moon and lands on the ground. Pietro and Maria step outside to time with the defender’s arrival, and it someone that both Ruby and the fandom know very well.
Our beloved adorkable robot girl is back live and kicking, now with a new look, but is still the bubbly, socially awkward character we love. I am literally trying to keep it together whilst writing this out. It has been agony waiting for Penny’s return. There were concerns she would have to be rebuilt from scratch, and would not remember Ruby and friends, but the showrunners were kind enough to not throw that sort of trauma. It certainly would’ve been a good route to take, but having Penny back as she was in wonderful. Penny rocket tackles Ruby to the ground, so happy to see her friend again, as is a tearful Ruby. Pietro explains that Penny did die in the Amity Arena, he retrieved her core once the arena returned to Atlas. That makes perfect. Penny reveals she is the new defender of Mantle. Unfortunately, this happy reunion ends rather quickly, as more alarms blare, Penny takes off to do more daring do.
Qrow makes the comment that their arrival in the kingdom went far smoother than imagined. Oh, Qrow, you and your bad luck! Just as the group take one step, they all get simultaneously arrested by this cool group of Atlesian soldiers. The leader, Clover Ebi, looks suspiciously like Steve Rogers, and his weapon appears to be a horseshoe. He also sports what looks like a Grimm bear claw on his belt. This new group and some security robots confiscate Team RWBY’s weapons, including the Relic of Knowledge. See, you should’ve kept the Relic in safer place besides your belt, Ruby!
Pietro demands to know what the group, the Ace Ops, are doing in Mantle and arresting his daughter’s chums. Turns out the Ace Ops knew about the unauthorised ship landing, and apparently the use of weapons by unlicensed Huntsmen is illegal. Maria makes a hasty retreat into the pharmacy before she too gets arrested. Team RWBY are to be hauled up to Atlas in a military truck to be interrogated. In a final scene, everyone is loaded into a truck, Qrow joking that this was more what he was expected. Weiss’ rather grim face says it all. They are either going to be in deep sludge, or Ironwood and Winter will give them a reprieve.
The episode ends with the volume’s new opening, which is pretty sick. It is very similar to the style anime openings use, with plenty of hints to the volume’s story. Some highlights include:
-Team RWBY, Team JNPR, and Qrow will have new looks.
-General Ironwood contemplates a hologram of Atlas, surrounded by constellations. That would be an interesting new addition to the mythos, revealing what the celestial signs are like. Does Remnant have other planets or a zodiac?
-The Ace Ops appear to be major characters in the volume, including Clover Ebi, and four others. One appears to be a dog or wolf Faunus, two are women, and the last in a very pale man sporting many piercings and a third eye/tattoo on his forehead.
-Arthur Watts is observing the Ace Ops and other parts of Mantle, including its security network and election map. He is likely plotting to cause some mayhem in Mantle. Perhaps invoke a civil war or an uprising to bring about chaos.
-Ironwood stands in Mantle with a gun raised, but is consumed by white snow, revealing Jacque and Whitley Schnee, who are probably going to be a pain in everyone’s necks throughout this volume. There may be a hint of a Schnee civil war of sorts, with Weiss and Winter vs. Jacque and Whitley to restore the family’s dignity.
-Everyone does an anime battle pose against a city on fire, followed by a beaming Penny in a white backgrond. I swear if they kill her again, I will riot!
-Yang is shown launching actual fireballs from her prosthetic arm. She could go through some kind of upgrade that allows her to use her semblance differently.
-Jaune’s shield appears to have a Dust element or a barrier extension to it.
-Robin Hill, the “hero of Mantle” advertised on posters and on the news, watches a group of Mantle citizens smashing a screen which Ironwood is on. The image briefly flickers to Jacque, hinting at the true source of Mantle’s misery. Robin and Qrow are later seen fighting Tyrian.
-Oscar trains with Ironwood. Does this mean Professor Ozpin will return?
-Another anime pose freeze frame with all the main characters, including Ironwood, Winter, the Ace Ops, and Penny, though Qrow stands a bit off to the side and away from everyone else. That death flag of his has been lingering since Volume 4!
The final little touch shows the credit “Series Created By Monty Oum”, with the Relic of Creation appearing briefly behind it. Not only in this referencing its importance in the volume, but also nodding to Monty’s own fantastic creation, and the lasting legacy he has left behind.
The volume is off to a good start, with excellent use of mise-en-scene, setting up a lot of what is to come in Mantle and Atlas. In the coming episodes, we shall likely see what Salem, Cinder, Neo, Watts, and Tyrian are all up to. What other stories will be told? There is the hint of an election involving Mantle’s hero Robin Hill, but is she a friend or foe? Does that graffiti have any importance, or that dead journalist? Is Tyrian responsible? Why did she kill her? Will the Faunus get the blame? Is everything all part of a plan by Dr. Watts to bring down the kingdom? So many questions to have answered.
There are a couple of pacing problems here. I felt Penny’s return and reunion with Ruby was a little rushed, but it is early days for the volume. Pietro is extremely likeable, and his relationship with Penny is sweet. Maria didn’t get much attention in the episode; hopefully she won’t be made too much of a background character, and she’ll continue to train Ruby in using her silver eyes. All in all, a pretty good start.