Spoiler-Free Anime Review:
RWBY Volume 1
Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars
Let me start by saying that RWBY is one of my favorite anime. However, even I have to admit that the quality of the first volume is lower than the quality of later volumes.
Low Budget + Slow Start = Lackluster Beginning
Yep, it’s the same issue as with the original trailers. For my review of the trailers, click here.
RWBY Volume 1 is available on Crunchyroll and Amazon Prime.
RWBY is an American anime. Some people say anime has to come from Japan to be legit–I disagree. I share the opinion of many others that say anime is a style and not limited to the products of any one country.
The creator is Monty Oum, who developed the plot for the company Rooster Teeth. Originally the anime was an indie miniseries with a low budget, but it has become largely successful.
Volume 1 was released in 2013, preceded by four color-themed trailers that established some character development and worldbuilding.
A young hero, an exalted heiress, a troubled rogue, and a party girl–These are the four members of RWBY, a team brought together and trained for the sole purpose of combating the rampant evils that plague the fantastic world of Remnant. If these four girls want to graduate Beacon Academy they’ll have to learn to work together both on the battlefield and in the classroom.” (1)Rooster Teeth
Basically, RWBY is about four young women who seek to become huntresses and defend the world of Remnant from shadowy creatures called Grimm.
- Fantastic worldbuilding with mythological inspiration
- A world with its own mythology
- Memorable characters
- Character names and design that allude to fairy tales
- Unique weapons
- Elaborate fight scenes
- Original music
- Humorous dialogue
- Creative design for the monsters called Grimm
- Groundbreaking American Anime
- Helping to define a new category of anime
- Poor animation
- Merely shadowy silhouettes of non-essential characters
- Very little detail, especially in backgrounds
- Occasionally very awkward movement
- Ridiculously short episodes
- Cliché aspects of the plot
The map of Remnant was developed by squirting ketchup on a napkin at an IHOP restaurant (3). As such, the landmasses are complicated shapes that make up a creative, unique world.
In the beginning, the people of Remnant were created from dust, and were forced to contend with the darkness, which took its own form in the creatures called Grimm. The power that allowed them to fight back was given the name Dust.
Dust is an energy source activated by Aura. It can be used to add elemental power to attacks, and it is extremely valuable to supplement weapons.
Every person who has a soul in Remnant has an Aura, though some are better using it than others. Aura is basically the energy inside a person that can be used to protect oneself or attack. A person’s aura shows a certain color–for instance, Ren’s Aura is pink and Jaune’s is white.
According to Pyrrha,
–Aura is the manifestation of our souls.”
Aura is what lets the people of Remnant use their semblances, which are special powers. For instance, Ruby’s semblance Petal Burst allows her to turn into a fast-moving cloud of rose petals, and Pyrrha’s semblance is called Polarity, the ability to mess with magnetism.
Ruby Rose is a spunky, determined teenager who tends to be a bit silly and childish. At age 15, she is the youngest of Team RWBY, but she should not be underestimated.
She is truly what Monty Oum wanted her to be, “a badass Red Riding Hood” (4). She obliterates Grimm who stand in her way with the fighting skills she learned from her uncle Qrow.
The name Weiss Schnee comes from German and literally means “white snow.” Her name was chosen to allude to the character of Snow White.
Weiss is a bit of a spoiled rich kid. However, her childhood was darkened by the attitude of her father and the depression of her mother. She tends to think highly of herself and look down on others, but is willing to change her mind.
Blake Belladonna had a troubled past that she tries to put behind her when she enrolls at Beacon to become a Huntress.
She loves reading, which makes her awesome in my opinion. Her character alludes to both Beauty and the Beast, which is definitely more subtle than the previous two characters (5). Belladonna is a type of flower, a poisonous plant that’s part of the nightshade family.
Yang Xiao Long is a laidback party girl with an intense side. Her character alludes to the character of Goldilocks, another fairy tale allusion that is not as obvious as that of Weiss and Ruby (6).
She is the older half-sister of Ruby Rose. She is particular about her hair to the point where she will pretty much kill anyone who messes with it. When angry, her eyes turn from purple to red.
In RWBY, weapons are truly extensions of the characters. They reveal and deepen the characters’ development and personality, and make all those freakin’ awesome fight scenes possible. Most of the weapons in RWBY can be used multiple ways and generalize in both long-range and short-range attacks.
–Just weapons? They’re an extension of ourselves.”Ruby Rose
Crescent Rose is Ruby’s weapon, and functions as both a scythe and a sniper rifle. What is even more amazing than seeing this weapon in action is the fact that Ruby built the thing.
Myrtenaster is Weiss’s weapon of choice – a Multi Action Dust Rapier (7). Weiss can use dust to add elemental power to her attacks. The reason it looks like a fencing sword and that Weiss fights like a fencer is apparently because of Monty Oum’s own background in fencing (8). A Myrtenaster is a flower found in Germany, and is likely the origin of the name (9).
Blake’s signature weapon is Gambol Shroud, which has two different sword forms and a gun form. Even the sheath is used as a weapon.
Yang uses Ember Celica, her Dual Ranged Shot Gauntlets (10). When inactive, they appear to be bracelets, but when activate they cover her arms. The ammunition explodes on contact with the enemy. There apparently is a Celica flower that has a double bloom–possibly that’s where they got the name? Just a theory.
The fight scenes in the RWBY trailers are phenomenal. Even though movements seem awkward during other parts of the episodes, the fight scenes are graceful, true works of art.
Unlike with many anime, the music in RWBY was created exclusively for RWBY, with foreshadowing built into the songs and songs that seem linked to specific characters.
The music was composed by Jeff Williams, and his daughter Casey Lee Williams does a lot of the vocals. Jeff Williams does not regard the songs as canon and asserts that they should not be taken literally (11).
To me, that just seems like he is covering for himself and Rooster Teeth in case the story ends up veering too far from the lyrics, but I know that so far the songs fit the theme and story very well.
The humor of the dialogue in RWBY contributes to the lighter tone of Volume 1 compared to the other volumes.
Ruby’s dialogue reveals her childish nature. For example, when she says:
–I don’t need people to help me grow up. I drink MILK!!!”
Jaune’s naïve tendencies are demonstrated by his words, such as this eyeroll-worthy statement:
–My dad said all women look for is confidence.”
And how could I be a RWBY fan if I left out this quote by Nora:
–We’ll break his legs!”
The monster called Grimm come in a variety of forms and dissipate into darkness when defeated. Some are pretty puny in Volume 1 compared to the heroes…others are worthy foes.
Beowolves are pretty common in RWBY. Nevermores are not rare either, but they boast more unique characteristics, such as sharp, hard feathers that can pin prey to the ground.
Death Stalkers are ridiculously tough and take a lot of ingenuity to conquer.
The 3D animation of RWBY is made using Poser, and thus differs greatly from most other anime. The major consequence of a low budget combined with this 3D style was that it made the whole volume look underdeveloped.
Characters without importance were denoted using shadowy silhouettes without any details. This made it obvious from the beginning which characters would be recurring, making the series more predictable.
Backgrounds had very little detail as well, making the scenery less interesting.
The animated movement was occasionally very awkward.
The plot is similar to many magical school kind of shows. Some of its terribly predictable, such as the way the bullying episodes progressed and the way they ended. That’s not to say there’s nothing unique–it’s just that the first volume is more predictable than the rest.
Episode length varies from around 6 minutes to closer to 12. This is annoying, but avoidable if you watch the whole Volume as one. It is available in that format on Amazon Prime. If you try watching this on Crunchyroll without Premium, you’re in for a ridiculous amount of commercials.
Contribution to Anime
RWBY is unique because it is one of the few American anime. Additionally, its animation style, while underdeveloped, sets out on a separate path from typical anime.
If you decide to watch Volume 1 and it doesn’t peak your interest in RWBY, still give the next few volumes a chance. Most of the people I’ve talked to are more distracted by the animation than anything else. Once you get used to that, you can appreciate the rich storytelling and worldbuilding of RWBY.
Even as a RWBY fan, I rated Volume 1 relatively low because its poor animation quality and predictability. It took me awhile to get into it…but it gets better, trust me.
If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.
- Rooster Teeth Quote – Source: Fandom
- Remnant Map – Source: Rooster Teeth
- Remnant Development – Source: Fandom
- Interview with Monty Oum
- Blake’s Development – Source: Fandom
- Yang’s Development – Source: Youtube
- Myrtenaster – Source: Twitter
- Weiss and Fencing – Source: Twitter
- Image of Myrtenaster Flower – Source: Wikimedia Commons
- Ember Celica Info – Source: Twitter
- RWBY Soundtrack Info – Source: Fandom
- Red Like Roses Part II – Source: Youtube
- This Will Be The Day – Source: Youtube
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