Body language says a lot about a character, especially for a mute character like Neo from RWBY. Named after her neapolitan look, and nicknamed “ice cream girl” by the community, she’s cute and deadly, taunting, yet adorably cocky and the motherfucking queen of sass, in defiance of her absence of speech. Able to express a ton of character purely through nonverbal communication, her gestures alone are enough to convey a mocking grace to her opponent.
Using her fight against Yang on the train as precedent for this – her body language and smug look indicates a sweet and playful side to her that borders on the sadistic, particularly near the end when it’s clear she’s going for blood. Provocative in nature, the way in which she carries herself inside and outside of battle is a delight to watch, from her walk and her glass-shattering exit with Roman, to her fight with Yang, Neo’s kinesthetics are sensuous and a captivating experience.
I’m hardly ever starved for good to amazing character designs, but every now and then I’ll find one that hits a sweet spot for the character in every way possible. Neo’s outfit perfectly compliments her hair, eyes and petite lolita physique. She’s classy, fights with an umbrella and is an acrobatic badass, is elegant and stylishly luxurious in her unique fighting style, has the most distinct appearance out of any other character (her heterochromia iridum is breath-taking), and remains adorable when she pulls mischievous smirk. While tiny (4’10” in heels) and seemingly immature in age (don’t let that fool you), she’s quite voluptuous in her movements, supported by her finesse and grace in motion.
On top of all that, she’s still a mystery and doesn’t say a single word, which adds to her charm tremendously. And I do recognize that her astonishing design is a huge part of her character. Body language is seventy percent of communication after all, and with her being silent, her fashion, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies are all the more accentuated. Heterochromia being a big outlier – with the colours of her hair, eyes and outfit all matching and oscillating, she seems to do this out of sheer amusement more than anything, possibly playing with the idea of psychological warfare.
While not fully disclosed, it is heavily implied that her semblance is something to do with illusions, and that she was in an intimate relationship with Roman. Incredibly versatile and resourceful, Neo’s devotion to Roman exceeds ordinary henchman status. Driven by love, desire and a mutual understanding of each other, Neo is far more than an indispensable helper to Roman, and I believe the feelings are reciprocal. She carries out Roman’s orders without hesitation and faithfully follows him wherever he goes, busts him out of incarceration and are both seem pleased to see each other upon their reunion near the end of volume three.
Judging by their interactions and reactions to each other’s peril, the relationship between Neo and Roman was probably more than just professional. Which I take a step further to mean that with Roman gone, Neo has no reason to continue fighting. She sought to protect him and failed. She clearly loved him, and if Roman’s “NO!” is anything to go by, then we can assess the feelings were mutual. Implicit relationships that sneakily exist in shows behind subtle clues and gestures are… So, with Roman out of the picture, Neo is left lost and all alone. Not knowing what to do or where to go.
As of this post, I have yet to see the return of the ice cream girl since the fall of Beacon, and so I am left with speculative torment. With Roman gone, Neo’s allegiance is up for debate. Currently, her re-appearance is rife with possibilities. She could return to Cinder and continue to work under her, but I always got the impression that Neo was partners with Roman and no one else. I doubt she even knows about Salem and the others, or cares in the slightest. She just went along with the plan because Roman agreed to it, and she’s loyal to Roman.
Preferably, I’d like to see her wander in search of herself for a bit, play lone wolf, and bounce back and forth between alliances for a while. I can see her re-entry as a progressively methodical antagonist out for everyone (with Cinder being her primary target), and bouncing between momentary truces within fights to more prolonged alliances (like the enemy of my enemy is my friend sort of thing) outside of fighting. There could be a free-for-all fight like in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Aang, Zuko and Azula all duke it out western style. Have a vengeful Neo go after Ruby and Cinder, attributing blame to both of them for Roman’s fate.
People change when their purpose in life is taken from them, not because they want to change but because they’re forced to make peace with the fact they can never get back what they had, and must move forward to find a new reason for living. In my eyes, Roman was Neo’s reason for living. Without him, she’s a lost lamb; a shell of her former self, that could be consumed with revenge, but also doubtful of what she really wants. It’s likely she’ll be put on a path of revenge, but there’s so much more they could do with her character that I’d like to see. Give her a character arc similar to Zuko, where it starts with an obsession over capturing / killing someone, but becomes more intricate and involved as it increases momentum. Have her progress as a character; question her motives and rediscover herself, and then reposition her onto a redemption arc, where she saves Ruby or Yang or does something selfless in her own gelato way.
Her character doesn’t need to go that route, but nonetheless, it would be fascinating to see what they do with the dynamic between Neo and Team RWBY (RNJR). Whatever they do, I want it to be different and refreshing enough from what typically happens with this sort of character (either seldom used and killed off, or faded into the background and forgotten) that I feel compelled to continue watching. But because she’s such a lovable psychopath, I’ll probably carry on watching, regardless of where they take her character.
However, if they do go the revenge route with her hunting Ruby, I don’t want to see her presented as a nuisance, or just another thing for Team RNJR to deal with. Her relationship with Ruby could be complicated and meaningful if done right. Initially, off to bad terms and they’re trying to kill one another (or in Ruby’s case avoid either outcome), and then after enough encounters develop an awkward friendship. One of my favourite plots in stories is when an antagonist realizes the error of their ways (often through the protagonist’s words or actions reaching them in some way) and then tagging along with the main character(s) as a way of reconciling their past snafus and slowly become less evil, while being kind of embarrassed about the whole thing. Because characters that evolve from villains to awkward friend are admirable and inspire both delight and pleasure, seeing them transformed.
Neo is a character I would like to see done justice. I want to see her do a heel-face-turn and survive. There’s so much depth to the character that’s implied, but hasn’t been explored yet, and I’m still holding out for the day that she reappears with a shining capacity for growth and realizes her full potential. There’s a sore lack of mute characters in fiction, and Neo is one I’ve grown quite fond of, and I don’t want them to undo that part of her, because not only is something I don’t see fairly often, it’s become an integral part of the character. Removing her silence would dismiss so much of what made Neo special, and erase the unique quality that made her stand out from the rest of the characters. There aren’t many characters like Neo and it would be a shame to waste her potential.
RWBY has its ebbs and flows, but remains endearing in spite of its flaws. And while I might be uneasy with the direction it’s heading, I remain optimistic that it’ll lead a promising narrative, or at the very least won’t leave me disappointed. But if you ask me, it needs more ice cream (more specifically, gelato).