After 10 seasons of success for their hit show Red vs. Blue, the company RoosterTeeth and the late animator Monty Oum developed a new original work; an anime-inspired web series called RWBY (pronounced like “ruby”).
Given the popularity of RoosterTeeth’s previous shows, RWBY gained traction quickly; before the first episode even came out, there were already legions of fans excitedly analyzing the sparse information sprinkled throughout the trailers. RWBY has recently completed its fifth season, and, despite the unexpected loss of its lead creator in a hospital accident, the show is still running strong.
RWBY takes place in Remnant, a fictional world plagued by Grimm, soulless monsters. The main character, Ruby Rose, is a cheerful young girl training to become a Huntress ― someone who slays these monsters. After being granted early admittance to the combat school of her dreams, she’s assigned to a team of fellow Huntresses-in-training: Weiss, a wealthy heiress with an icy exterior; Blake, a mysterious bookworm with a closely-guarded past; and Yang, Ruby’s older sister, who’s a bit brash and temperamental but motherly and mature as well. Together, they are Team RWBY, and the show follows their misadventures at Beacon as they begin to unravel a plot much, much larger than themselves.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about RWBY is its animation, which is both a compliment and a criticism. On one hand, the character models are all sleek and expressive, and Monty Oum’s famous fight scenes are as gorgeous as ever. However, in the first season especially, the animation outside of these fight scenes can be rather lackluster.
These problems were solved one-by-one as the seasons went on. The black silhouettes were replaced by background characters in Volume 2; the glitches and errors are almost entirely absent in the DVD and Blu-Ray versions; and, from Volume 3 forward, the backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous. It’s an endurance contest of sorts; anyone who can tolerate the somewhat dodgy animation of Volume 1 will get to see how beautiful the show becomes later.
Another problem exclusive to Volume 1 is inconsistent episode length. Episode 1, for example, is about fifteen minutes long; Episode 2 is less than five. This is absent in later seasons; from Volume 2 forward, each episode is between ten and twenty minutes, save for season finales, which tend to be twice as long.
One thing that is consistent throughout RWBY is the comedy, which is top-notch. It’s rare for any joke to fall completely flat; generally, if RWBY wants to get a laugh, it will get a laugh. The comedic timing is absolutely flawless, the characters’ personalities are lovably quirky, and it’s rare for an episode to go buy without a single laugh. The show also excels at interspersing its uproarious humor with genuine emotions and character drama. Even in early episodes, when the plot hasn’t gotten serious yet, the conflicts feel genuine and emotional, largely owing to the phenomenal writing and multi-dimensional characters. Even the various cliches that the show has to its name are used in novel, unique situations that breathe a bit of fresh air into otherwise stale old archetypes. No character is just a cliche; they all have a bit more to them than meets the eye.
In fact, if I had to describe RWBY in one phrase, that’s what I would say: “more than meets the eye”. It’s true that, as earlier mentioned, Volume 1 isn’t quite as good as the rest of the show, and it isn’t until around Volume 3 that the plot really kicks into action. However, even with its slow start taken into account, RWBY is still an absolutely phenomenal show. The first two Volumes are still enjoyable on their own merits, and the rest of the show suddenly skyrockets from “amazing” to “nearly perfect”, with hilarious comedy, gorgeous animation, poignant drama, an engaging plot, great writing, and unforgettable characters.
Anyone with an hour or two of free time on their hands should definitely check out the first Volume of RWBY; the whole series can be watched for free on RoosterTeeth.com or on the official RoosterTeeth YouTube channel.