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RWBY Volume Nine: “Of Solitude and Self”

The tenth and final episode of RWBY Volume Nine is packed to the gills with great moments. The volume has been short but sweet, focusing on the core characters and their personal problems. Ruby finally got much needed attention, the Ever After has been a quirky setting, and let’s not forget that wonderful kiss! The volume’s overarching theme has been about accepting truths, embracing one’s flaws, and not falling into despair or revenge.

Our episode begins with Summer Rose reading Alyx’s storybook to Ruby and Yang. This scene turns out to be the last time that Summer was with her family. She tells Taiyang that she is off on a standard mission from Ozpin. As we know, she won’t return, though it appears Raven Bronwen was along for the ride. Yang’s absent mother remains dubious as ever, though questions Summer’s choice to leave the girls – to which Summer coldly replies with, “You’re one to talk.” Raven claims Summer was better at being a mother. The two head through Raven’s portal, presumably off to try and fail to kill Salem. That might explain why Raven was so terrified of Salem, having lost her friend to her.

This scene is not arbitrary though, as Ruby witnesses it after touching her mother’s weapon within her ascension. Ruby is baffled that her mother lied, hurt by the true reasons why Summer left. However, this does present a revelation to Ruby that her idol was flawed. The Blacksmith suggests that Summer was restrained by the weight of expectations, much like Ruby herself. Ruby angrily pushes over the cabinet containing Summer’s weapon, dreading the idea of giving up and becoming someone else.

Jaune, meanwhile, briefly finds himself in the Herbalist’s induced illusions. Alix appears, as Jaune acknowledges he couldn’t save his loved ones. Alix suggests it might be time for a change, offering him her hand. Although it looks like Jaune is to ascend, he instead reappears in the tree. He encourages the others to burn the leaves, causing Neo to begin drifting into a vision quest, forcing the Curious Cat to leave her body. The cat then promptly enters his final form.

The Blacksmith gently pushes Ruby to make her choice; either become a person free of her burden, or one who can handle. Ruby is drawn to a red, glowing cabinet containing Crescent Rose, thanks to Summer’s loving words. Upon realising that her mother was a flawed person, Ruby can be one too. Her whole life, if not her own image as a hero is based on that of Summer. That does not mean that she had to being a carbon copy of her. With support from the Blacksmith, Ruby selects who she wants to be.

In a scene straight out of an anime, accompanied by a new rendition of “Red Like Roses”, Ruby grabs her weapon and ascends. Her return pays homage to her debut in the “Red” trailer a decade prior. Ruby Rose is back and ready to kick some feline backsides!

It doesn’t take too long for Team RWBY to wipe the floor with the Curious Cat, making it clear he is not going to Remnant. The cat tries to retaliate, but is swiftly gobbled up by Neo’s Jabberwalker clones. It is an unfortunate end to the cat, as it would’ve been neat seeing him reach Remnant. Team RWBY and Jaune embrace, whilst Neo and an illusionary Torchwick look on. Neo makes the silent choice to ascend to find her new direction, giving Torchwick a fond farewell as he disappears. With a final, theatrical bow to Ruby, Neo floats away into the branches, appearing as a new addition to the tree.

The group head for the doors to Remnant, but Ruby notes that she didn’t see Little during ascension. Blake wonders if they did more bad than good, though Ruby is cautiously optimistic. Turns out she is right, when an ascended Little runs out, now bipedal and sporting a bandana similar to Ruby’s cape. Little does not recognise Ruby, but asks her what she might be. Ruby and friends describe Little as a friend, a guide, and a protector. Little adopts the name of “Somewhat”.

Ruby thanks Somewhat for her help, leading to an embrace between the two, though Somewhat refers to Ruby as a huntress, hinting she vaguely remembers their relationship. Jaune leaves Juniper with Somewhat, as apparently Ever Afterans cannot go through the doors – a fact that seems a little contradictory in the next scene.

Hand-in-hand, the group step through the doors, finding themselves within the tree. Ruby leads the way to the Blacksmith’s workshop, where she is carving the characters they met in the volume. The Blacksmith addresses Jaune, having waited a long time for him. Jaune asks for confirmation about Lewis’ fate, to which the Blacksmith confirms he returned to Remnant to publish his sister’s story.

The focus takes an unexpected turn when the girls recognise two familiar carvings on the table: The Gods of Light and Darkness. The Blacksmith reveals that the two brothers are the first denizens of the Ever After. In an animated sequence, the Blacksmith explains that the brothers were the caretakers of the world, to destroy and create. Growing more ambitious, the brothers secretly created both the Curious Cat and the Jabberwalker to help with ascension and destruction. They disagree on the Jabberwalker’s role, but came to the conclusion they had to maintain balance. As the Blacksmith describes, balance is achieved through love and patience, than violence.

Eventually, the tree created a doorway for the brothers to leave through, winding up in Remnant. However, the door remains open for their return, as well as their creations. Yet, this doesn’t explain why other Ever Afterans cannot leave, such as the cat. The Blacksmith reveals that when humans come, they make great changes in the world. Ruby’s act of kindness towards Little led to a promising future through Somewhat’s change. As for the cat, Alix’s act of betrayal led to his corruption, with no one to guide him to his own ascension.

The Blacksmith produces Alix’s knife, revealing she died, but left a parting gift to continue her desire to fix things. Jaune takes the dagger, magically returning to his younger self, though with white streaks in his hair. I had previously theorised that the Blacksmith was Alix, though the jury is still out on that. The Blacksmith opens a portal to Remnant, explaining that it will take them to when they are needed the most.

One-by-one, our heroes depart through the portal. Ruby is the last to go, thanking the Blacksmith. The revelation about the brothers was quite the twist, though a welcome one, revealing the true creator of the world is a friendly, motherly blacksmith than arrogant dragon men. Team RWBY step out of the portal into Vacuo, finding Shade Academy in the distance, with a variety of aircraft from across Remnant overhead. Ruby’s message got a response after all. Even the Amity Tower is there, implying Pietro and Maria made to Vacuo.

Humanity has come together to fight for their survival against Salem. Some time has likely passed, so it will be exciting to see what has become of the supporting characters in the future. The scene plays out with “This Will Be the Day” from Volume One, as our ninth chapter of RWBY draws to a close.

This was a brilliant volume for the series on all fronts. Though Rooster Teeth let many animators go in-between volumes, their hard work and stunning effort is immortalised in these episodes. The cast were fantastic as well, especially Lindsay Jones and Miles Luna. As far as anyone knows, Volume Ten has not be green-lit, so it may be sometime before we return to Remnant once again.

Our journey through the Ever After has come to an end. What were your favourite parts of RWBY Volume Nine? What do you think awaits our heroes in the future? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell