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RWBY Volume Nine: “The Perils of Paper Houses”

After the joys of last week’s episode, it makes sense that the follow up would hit us like ice cold water. Since the ninth volume of RWBY began, we have seen the slow deterioration of Ruby Rose’s mental state. This once optimistic girl who wished to attend school with her “normal knees” has officially hit rock bottom. Her shattered ideals, the death of Penny, repeated losses, and the pressures she has felt have taken their toll.

The episode begins with the sun rising over Jaune’s village, which then immediately catches fire. Jaune actually lives with the Paper Pleasers, a community of friendly and very helpless paper stars. Every day, the Paper Pleasers often get themselves in trouble, so Jaune routinely steps in to nanny them. A little behind, Jaune races off to save the day, leaving a half-awake, baffled Team RWBY to follow. Ruby “forgot” to grab Crescent Rose, which she now regards with disgust. Jaune puts the fire, explaining Juniper brought him to the village after Alix poisoned him. He has named all of the Paper Pleasers after his friends, which Team RWBY find a little disturbing.

Before the village’s dam breaks, Jaune invites the girls to brunch, unveiling his map of the Ever After. There are some interesting acres marked on the map, including “Blob”, “Stinky Cheese”, and “Green Chapel”. However, Jaune’s search for a non-tree related exit is rather lacklustre, though he grows agitated when the girls question him. Jaune proposes that he goes scouting whilst Team RWBY take over duties in babysitting the village. He reveals a long list of disasters, including a few hilarious (“STOP THE GOOSE!”) and even sad activities (“Help Pyrrha with her homework”). Jaune grows a little erratic, desperate to prove his worth, which is at the core of his guilt and trauma to do some good.

The girls discuss what to do, but the focus is on Ruby, who gloomily sits in silence as her friends agree to work with Jaune. Little notices her behaviour, bound to address it in another episode. Weiss suggests finding a less unstable guide, bringing up the tree. An attending Paper Pleaser interrupts, revealing the tree does not kill as Jaune claims. Believing their purpose has been fulfilled, the little stars wish to ascend and contribute in a new way. Jaune does not allow this as seen in flashbacks, waggling his finger at them like they do not know any better. The star reveals that the wisest villagers plot to destroy the dam themselves. As Yang puts it, it is weird but sad. Unfortunately, Jaune overhears the conversation and storms outside.

The group get into an argument, Jaune rationalising that the Ever Afterans are too smart, stupid, or crazy to trust, refusing to let anyone go to the tree. When Weiss asks why Jaune wishes to protect the village, he shouts that he can actually protect them – even if it is against their will. Just then, the army of Jabberwalkers arrive and demolish Jaune’s house. Everyone save Ruby race off to fight, who lingers behind, growing increasingly frustrated. This leads to an exciting and well choreographed fight scene.

Ruby lingers on the edge of battle, experiencing PTSD again, until she is attacked by a Jabberwalker. The Jabberwalker pins Ruby down, briefly transforming into Cinder, Salem, and a brainwashed Penny. The traumatised Ruby is nearly eaten until her friends save her. Neo briefly appears, silently threatening the group before she vanishes. Rather than check on Ruby, the others are more concerned by the evolution of Neo’s powers. Jaune picks up Crescent Rose, chastising Ruby for her lack of her action. He goes to give it to her, but she lets it fall to the ground.

Just when the characters realise something is wrong with Ruby, the dam bursts and floods the village. Jaune runs to save the village, but it is too late. Weiss, Blake, and Yang rush to Jaune’s side, trying to reassure him that the Paper Pleasers’ wanted to ascend. Weiss turns to Ruby for a little reassurance, but the village’s dam isn’t the only one that burst. What follows is an emotional and complex burst of emotions, as Ruby finally implodes. Although her friends did reach out, their concern was often diverted, or Ruby herself buried her needs for the sake of others. But, when she showed signs of trauma, her friends unintentionally ignored her, then asked her for some expected peppiness.

Ruby is having none of it, angrily ranting about her role as leader, and why she must be responsible for shouldering the pain of others. Ruby’s feelings and needs have been pushed aside to focus on getting home, or following other paths. So, when her friends prioritised Jaune over her, Ruby finally lost her temper. Ruby buries her emotions to fulfil her role as leader, explaining why it hasn’t rained in the Ever After since the second episode. Certain comments from her friends have chipped away at Ruby’s mind, such as Weiss’ lamentation about Atlas’ fall. Ruby may interpret this as that it was her fault. Weiss has attempted to reach out, but Ruby brushed her off.

Ruby complains how her feelings are cast aside due to there being no time for that, having to focus on other things. She chews out Weiss for this, sick and tired of having to provide all the answers as leader. Ruby’s behaviour stems from her view that the others would rather have Jaune as leader, though it is on account for his knowledge of the land. Ruby then lashes out at Blake and Yang, ranting at them for trying to put a positive spin of things. Her says some rather mean-spirited things about their relationship, though it is meant to reflect how they got to work their feelings out, whilst she was fobbed off. Blake seems particularly hurt by this, especially after looking up to Ruby for so long.

Ruby then takes aim at Jaune and why they should mourn his “make believe” friends. Jaune’s relationship with the Paper Pleasers wasn’t entirely healthy, since he was enforcing his need to protect them. Her comments references how they have barely had time to mourn Penny, whilst free reign is given to grieve for the Paper Pleasers. This enrages Jaune, who blames Ruby for their situation. In a way, both are fully justified in their words and emotions, but it still hurts. Jaune claims everything revolves around Ruby and thus all the fault is hers, reducing Ruby to tears. He immediately apologises, acknowledging he is not quite right, nearly openly confessing to his guilt over Penny’s death.

Blake attempts to raise spirits, only for Ruby to bitterly tell her to shut up. Everyone turns to Ruby in shock, as she grimly begs Blake not to try to spin it. Overwhelmed, Ruby takes both Little and Crescent Rose, fleeing to parts unknown. The episode ends with Jaune surveying the destroyed village, everyone flooded by their grief.

As the opening of Volume 2 states – “There’s a point where it bends, there’s a point where it breaks, there’s a point where you just can’t take anymore.” Obviously, this is an episode with a lot of sensitive topics, complicated feelings, and words that went too far. Some may interpret character actions, even find them insulting. Ruby must process her depression, though where she will go is cause for concern. She may choose to hunt down Neo, or go to either the tree or the Blacksmith to ascend. Her mother Summer Rose has lingered over the volume, so it she might make a long, overdue appearance.

In a way, Ruby’s path is mirroring that of Alix. Alix grew to distrust and shun others after her visit to the Herbalist, poisoning her friendships figuratively and literally. Ruby has just done the same, though her reasons are at least understandable. Jaune may realise this and strive to save Ruby before she suffers whatever fate fell upon Alix. On a slight sidebar, I like to believe that Alix did not sacrifice Lewis to the tree. Lewis is based on Lewis Carroll, so perhaps he is the originator of “The Girl Who Fell Through the World”, but wrote it to portray his sister and the story in a favourable light.

The episode is by far the best when it comes to writing, with both Lindsay Jones and Miles Luna delivering fantastic performances. The episode could have gone on a little longer when focusing on Ruby and Jaune’s breakdowns, but I suppose revealing how Penny truly died may have been a little too much.

Did you enjoy this episode of RWBY? Were Ruby and Jaune justified in their outbursts, or was it wrong to turn on each other? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.

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Mark Russell

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