If you know any of us (specifically Emma, John, or Charlie), then you know we absolutely love this little show called RWBY. The fourth volume is set to premiere on October 22nd, so we at Geek Potpourri figured, hey, what better way to prep for such an important date than to review the most recent season?
In case you don't know, RWBY (pronounced ‘ruby’) is an American web series with unique three-dimensional animation and an anime-esque art style. It is produced by Rooster Teeth, a Texas-based online media and video game company, and it first premiered at RTX 2013, Rooster Teeth’s home convention. Since the show is American in origin, it’s technically not considered a true anime, but the tropes it employs and its striking similarities to existing magical girl or battle school anime is enough of a qualification for many.
Like many shows, there is a visible learning curve in the content quality as the production team has adjusted to the show’s intricacies and challenges and gotten into the swing of things. The way I prefer to explain it is that Volume 1 is essentially an extended animation test, and Volume 2 is a character and plot showcase, with both serving to set up the world and characters for the meat of the show, which is revealed in Volume 3. That does not mean that the first two seasons are poor quality, not by a long shot! Some dislike them for the roughness or flaws, but I love the show as a whole, partially because of the evolution.
The animation in Volume 3 was easily the most beautiful and advanced we’ve seen on RWBY so far. After three years of experience, the animation team has really streamlined their methods and nailed down how to utilize the modeling program’s effectively and innovatively. RWBY’s rather unusual three-dimensional anime art style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though, and I respect that. One of the things that keeps me coming back to RWBY is the underlying spirit of innovation that permeates the show’s development team and Rooster Teeth as a whole. Their use of motion-capture technology as well as three dimensional modeling programs and traditional digital animation comes together to create a truly distinctive and unique experience for the audience.
At the back of my mind, I knew that this season was going to be big, but it didn’t really hit me exactly how big until I opened the first episode of Volume 3 and the new opening title sequence began and kicked major ass. I adore Jeff and Casey Lee Williams, and they did a stunning job with the soundtrack and score this season, as per usual. There was the usual episode scoring, but it felt like Jeff was purposefully trying out a lot of new things that not only suited the needs of the animation, but also helped to set up for further evolution of the musical style for future seasons, which I think is cool as fuck.
The Vytal Festival has been referenced from very early on, and I was super pumped because I was hoping for more inter-team character interaction, and not to mention I looove me some well-choreographed fight sequences, and this season had both in abundance. I think that the matches provided a really nice structure to the episodes in the first two-thirds of the season, as well as some really valuable insight into the the main teams’ dynamics that the audience hadn’t really gotten a decent taste of since the first season (more so Team JNPR than RWBY, since RWBY are the main characters and get most of the spotlight anyway).
A handful of new teams were introduced (mainly to serve as opponents for the main cast) in addition to a few new supporting characters, and boy did they look good. Considering that I’m a costume design major and a slut for motivated character inspiration, it’s no wonder that one of my main loves for RWBY is the character design. The two new major players were Winter Schnee and Qrow Branwen, Weiss’s older sister and Ruby and Yang’s uncle, respectively. Now. I could go on for hours about how much I love these idiots individually or together, but this isn’t the place. It’ll suffice to say, Qrow was one of my favorite things to come out of this season. I might write an analysis of Qrow’s character someday, I have so many feelings and theories about him, it’sridiculous. Ahem. Anyway.
I have a bunch of other more specific things I’d like to talk about, but I’m gonna save those for the episode countdown recaps.
The first half of the season was spent focusing on the Vytal Festival in all its indulgent battleporn glory, while hints and clues peppered throughout the episodes indicated that something big and sinister was brewing. The teachers had been preparing for war against a mysterious women (whom we know to be Cinder Fall), and then the Fall Maiden was revealed. Now, I had a couple of theories for what Cinder’s big plan was, and none of them were that. Even though I wasn’t expecting it, the plot point of the Four Maidens and the school’s headmasters guarding of their secrets was executed very well, in my opinion. It made sense within the context of the heavily fairytale-inspired world, so I was on board. I loved that Pyrrha was Ozpin’s pick to become the Fall Maiden. I have a lot of thoughts on this particular topic, but I’ll save them for the individual recaps.
After going on a hiatus immediately after Yang gets disqualified (which was an excellent plot element on the writers’ part, by the way), the season kicked off its second half with a flashback episode that detailed how the Fall Maiden was injured, as well as explaining how Team CRME met and giving hella backstory, and how the White Fang got dragged into their sinister shenanigans. The following episode served to further set up Yang and Pyrrha’s development arcs for the rest of the season, each of whom became important to separate aspects of the plot.
Now, the thing with a lot of shows is that sometimes, it is very evident when a character death is simply an unmotivated tool the writers use to move the plot along or a cheap way to give a main character depth and development, and as a result it ends up feeling hollow. Penny’s death was none of those things. While I take great issue with the fact that my smol puppet daughter was chosen as Cinder’s catalyst, it was probably one of my favorite holy shit moments out of my entire television watching history. So Penny got killed on live television, and Cinder’s evil plan kicked into motion with thousands of Grimm flooding Vale and Beacon, triggering mass panic and distrust. Then pretty much everything that could happen, happened.
Overall, I was very, very pleased with Volume 3. Nearly every event felt motivated and natural in its progression, and any ‘what the fuck’ moments stemmed primarily from shock rather than actual confusion. The major tragedy moments had excellent buildup and climax and beautiful animation, but that’s the whole show, really. I cried so much and for so many reasons. Nearly every character is so compelling to me, and the diversity and emotional complexity across the entire cast is so very neat. The deaths and losses that the characters suffer through are rife with poeticism and symbolism and beauty and sadness that I get overwhelmed extremely easily just by thinking about them. Gray Haddock (head of the Rooster Teeth Animation department) has stated many times that RWBY is on a path to change and mature as it progresses, and this volume is so very indicative of that coming maturity and heartache, and I can’t fucking wait to see what lies ahead for the inhabitants of Remnant.