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RWBY’s Volume Nine Plunges Down the Rabbit Hole in An Emotional First Episode

Nearly two years and one ongoing pandemic later, RWBY returns for its ninth volume. Rooster Teeth’s flagship series hasn’t been dormant though, bringing us the exquisitely made anime Ice Queendom, tie-in novels exploring supporting characters, and the recently announced RWBY x Justice League crossover movie, based on the comic books of the same name. More importantly, there were also reports on Twitter citing mismanagement, abuse to staff, and then numerous layoffs of show animators. Although such issues appear to have been resolved, this only added to the pressures the show’s staff have been under since Covid began.

The hard work and talent of Rooster Teeth’s animators are reflected in what is to be RWBY’s most exciting volume yet. For anyone wishing to watch the new volume, it is being aired exclusively on Crunchyroll, with the episodes appearing Rooster Teeth’s website a year later.

Our episode kicks off with an unknown narrator explaining that this volume revolves are around a story about “a girl with a lot of problems”. We immediately cut to Ruby Rose reliving the final events of Volume 8, before she, Blake, and Neo all plunge into the abyss. For those who don’t recall, Team RWBY used the Relic of Creation to evacuate the people of Atlas to Vacuo, using a limbo-like void as a bridge. But, anyone who fell into the abyss would be lost. Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Yang, Jaune, and Neo all took the plunge.

In freefall, Ruby gets into a fight with Neo, who shapeshifts briefly into Oscar, Yang, and Penny, trying to choke Ruby out, until they both fall into a veil of clouds. Ruby is awakened by someone calling her name, actually Penny, awakening on a tropical island which has weird plants and two moons. This place, the Ever After, is the setting in Professor Ozpin’s fairy tale, “The Girl Who Fell Through the World”, obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The story involves an unnamed girl who fell through Remnant, found a new world, but when she left, she was no longer the same person.

Ruby wanders through the island’s jungle, trying to reach a giant tree. But, she winds up in some sort of spatial time loop where she winds up at the same spot, taunted by a weird dodo bird. Her attempts soon cause her to sit down and cry, apparently altering the island’s weather to start raining. It is likely the island has a relation to a person’s emotions or psyche, changing around them. Ruby is attracted to a mouse trying to uproot what turns out to be a cheese potato (gimme!). The mouse is able to talk, causing Ruby to briefly freak out. They soon become friends, Ruby naming the mouse Little, since she is “too young” to have one. Little invites Ruby to meet her tribe, as they have seen her teammates around.

Meanwhile, Weiss and Blake have already found each other, searching for Blake’s weapon Gambol Shroud. Blake brings up what happened after she and Ruby fell, but Weiss focuses on finding the others first. They locate Gambol Shroud trapped in a pile of sentient vines, their attempts to retrieve thwarted by the lively plants. The two are ensnared by the vines, attracting Little’s mice tribe, who promptly declare they will kill the girls – this must be Blake’s worst nightmare.

Ruby and Little arrive rather quickly, the latter clearing up matters to amaze the mice with Ruby’s epic potato pulling. The lead mouse apologises, pointing out how they naturally have issues with “cats, and snakes…and cats”. Blake asks if they have seen Yang, though the mice deny it. Ruby suggests heading to a nearby cliff to figure out where they are, with an eager Little offering to be their guide, then immediately falls asleep.

Ruby asks Weiss what happened, but she forestalls the inevitable bad news again. Hearing a monstrous shriek, the girls race to a clearing where they encounter the Jabberwander, a weird skull-headed monkey creature that describes what it is doing. Little’s scream attracts the Jabberwander, prompting Weiss and Blake into battle, but Ruby realises she is missing Crescent Rose. Just then, a boulder-throwing, one-armed Yang comes to the rescue, clearly in mid-confrontation with the Jabberwander when her sisters arrived. We will presumably see what happened to Yang and how she lost her arm in a future episode.

After the Jabberwander runs off, Yang is dismayed to find her friends there, though Ruby reminds her who raised them and they were going to find her regardless. Blake promptly jumps on Yang and oh, my heart! Waiting two years for these two to reunite has been unbearable. It’s Yang’s turn to ask Weiss what happened, so our princess can’t hold it back anymore, informing the trio that Penny is dead, though deliberately avoids the little detail that Jaune essentially aided her in an assisted suicide.

Ruby instantly blacks out in a state of shock. This volume looks dedicated to shattering Ruby’s psyche, so why not begin with an icicle to the heart. She awakens in the recovery position, being fanned by Little. It is raining again, likely due to Ruby’s shock. Interestingly though, it didn’t rain when Weiss cried, suggesting Ever After may only respond to certain characters. The other discuss the aftermath, learning that Neo is in the Ever After too.

Blake takes the lead, suggesting they find Crescent Rose and Yang’s arm, then figure out how to return to Remnant. Weiss and Yang worry they can’t return, or they might even be dead. Blake ventures past a canopy of vines, taking a guess that Team RWBY have somehow wound up in a fairy tale. Beyond the cliff is the rest of the island, dominated by the giant tree.

The episode ends with the volume’s opening, “Inside”, by Casey Lee Williams and Martin Gonzalez. There are numerous nods to Wonderland in the opening, focus on Ruby’s descent into depression, and hints at what will become of Jaune and Neo. The opening further focuses on a new character, named Alix in the tie-in book Roman Holiday, a girl who is implied to be the titular character in Ozpin’s fairy tale. Ruby may possibly following in her footsteps, and either literally or figuratively becoming a different person.

There are several things to still take into account: Did Penny’s body fall into the Ever After? Where is Jaune? What happened to the Atlesian civilians who were blasted into the abyss by Cinder? How do Team RWBY get back home?

The volume will consist of ten episodes, so the story’s pacing will likely be quicker. I had expected at least a couple of episodes for the girls to be separated, so their reunion was sudden, though not unwelcome. Minimising the cast down to the core characters allows for more focus on growth and relationships. The episode is beautifully animated with great details in the scenery, as well as improved expressions on the characters.

Are you thrilled for the return of RWBY? What are you looking forward to the most about the new volume? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell