I want to preface this personal piece of mine, by stating that this is not a review, nor is it a recommendation to watch the series. I am not trying to convince anyone to watch RWBY, rather I just want to express my feelings and personal attachment toward the show, while trying to communicate what it is about RWBY that appeals to me and others. However, if I do manage to convince you to try it out, I won’t discourage you either.
Once upon a time I was of the opinion that Rooster Teeth consistently produced the best content, and anything associated with them was worth watching. By simply being a Rooster Teeth production, I was guaranteed to like any video they made. And the RWBY trailers dropped during this period in my life, so of course I was hyped for the show. Especially, since the late great Monty Oum was head of the project. He blew me away with his animations in Red vs. Blue, as well as his independent works, Dead Fantasy, and Haloid. Monty Oum was like a second Bruce Lee to me (if Bruce Lee was an animator and DDR master instead of a martial arts expert and genius philosopher), able to emanate an incredible charm and inspiring philosophy about him.
At the time, the build-up and premiere of RWBY felt like rooting for an underdog, indie production to succeed in the face of so many bigger and better projects and studios. Rooster Teeth only had a handful of animators working on the first volume of RWBY, so there was this collective understanding that this was just a beginning and that they would get better over time. There was no ignoring the flaws, but I didn’t care, because while I agreed with them, that wasn’t going to stop me from loving and supporting my favourite content creators.
Whatever criticisms or complaints I had with the show, I continued watching in hopes it would get better. Mind you, this was long before I adopted the mindset of dropping shows I feel are wasting my time. I wasted my time watching a lot of stuff I wanted to be good but never got good, and stuff I didn’t care for back in the day. Which is why I’m so merciless about dropping shows that don’t grab my appeal within the first episode now.
I’ve grown away from the belief that Rooster Teeth only ever produces top quality videos, since they’re now generating content at a rate I can no longer keep up with anymore. But, even though my level of engagement and consumption of their videos has drastically dropped, I’m still generally fond of them and for the most part, I like what they make.
As a Rooster Teeth fan, getting into RWBY was second-nature. But now that I’ve somewhat distanced myself from them, I feel the big draw RWBY has for me is that it’s the first show where I’ve almost fully embraced the fandom. I believe this is the first show that’s actively gotten me to theorize and speculate hidden meanings, subtle nuances in character backstory and development, and potential future events in the story. And even still today, I passionately engage with the fanart, fanfiction and shipping side of things.
RWBY incorporates a decent concept that I find a particular fondness for. It’s highly stylized in its art, with colourful and interesting visuals, and has excellent action (when it finally gets to it). The score is compelling in a multitude of ways and will always have a special place in my heart, as its soundtrack contains a mixture of hard-hitting metal tracks, sweeping orchestral pieces, jazzy pop songs, and somber piano tunes that always help to set the mood.
However, there are a plethora of problems regarding the first volume. Some of which remain consistent throughout the series as a whole. Others are either improved or eliminated entirely from the show. Rather than go in-depth on all of its pitfalls and imperfections, I can summarize volume one by saying a lot of it screams amateur. But this is coming from the perspective of comparing it to other animated shows with much bigger production companies, expenses and talents behind them.
Before, I never tried to compare it such works, because it seemed unfair to make any parallels between a heartfelt up-and-coming internet series that just wanted to make a story and have fun. The first volume was ambitious, and promised much more than it actually delivered, with sixteen short episodes, hardly any action, too much drama, and the opening still being the best part by the end. All in all, the first volume was unrealized potential. But I stayed, hoping it would get better. And it did.
The music is what really saves the show. The lyrics are energizing, beautiful, poignant, subtle, yet direct. The rhythm and music alone is dance-worthy and even when it’s not upbeat, and applies a more somber approach, it still resonates and feels powerful. Honestly, the soundtrack is a blast, but also adds so much to the show as a whole, that upon repeated listenings and viewings, and the occasional google search, you discover hidden meanings and links to things. For me, it’s an integral part in consuming the series and in enhancing both my engagement and enjoyment of it. For instance, the song “Gold” suggests an air of protectiveness from the perspective of Yang and is used as a way to express Yang’s sisterly love for Ruby. Which I found to be quite uplifting and touching. And the song compliments that marvelously.
I’ll admit that when I got into it at the time of its release, the action scenes were captivating and were the initial appeal the show had for me. And the humour, while not evoking much in the way of laughter from me, did manage to prod a few smiles and had me feeling joyous a lot of the time. But I embrace the humour wholeheartedly when I come up with my own puns about the show and characters with my friends. Also, the gradual transition to a slightly more serious tone nearing the end of volume two created an air of foreboding that, while somewhat predictable, was still a pleasant indication that things were progressing, and hopefully going somewhere.
It’s also cool to see the weapons transform and the workings of Remnant’s technology in action. It’s astonishing how much the character’s weapons and fighting styles speak about them, which is not something you often see outside of the series, and makes RWBY a refreshing change of pace. Some moments like the food fight in volume two are fun, regardless of quality – though I do love that animation where Glynda puts everything back to the way it was and seeing the tables reverse through the air is such a pleasing sight to behold.
Ever since the Warthog crashes through the wall into Valhalla in Red vs. Blue, I have been hooked by Rooster Teeth’s fight scenes. When I saw the RWBY Red trailer for the first time I thought it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen (I was 16 at the time). And when the White trailer dropped I was captivated by the attention to detail, and the differences between both trailers. Ruby’s fighting in her trailer came off as organized chaos, swiftly blasting herself in various directions and steering around her enemies as she slices them. Whereas Weiss comes off as more proper in her fighting, displaying confidence, concentration, and control. This was when I truly saw the potential in the show and its story. And it got me excited.
Even though they’re not well fleshed-out, I love almost all of the characters, because the semblance of character they do feels both generic enough that it feels relatable, but specific enough that they feel like different characters. I see a bit of myself in everyone, but even when I don’t their designs are so attractive and some of the characters are so sweet and winsome that I can’t help but love them even when they’re making me wince at their terrible jokes.
Plenty of the characters have another side to them – albeit not realized to their full potential, but I’ll take what I can get. Ruby’s simple-minded, but endearing nature and her naive view of the world makes sense for a character as young as her, and opens up the possibility to an aging Ruby being exposed to the horrors of reality as a conflict to her idealistic fairy tale beliefs. Yang is her big, protective sister, but also has a troubled past and abandonment issues. Winter puts up a front that she’s a cold and stern public figure, but is actually quite caring towards Weiss and wants her to be happy and succeed in her ambitions.
Nora’s an adorable ball of energy that brings a smile to my face every time she’s on screen, but also a bit of a sadist. Roman and Neo are two of my favourite characters. Roman is cliché in a way that I like: he’s suave and sort of a polite asshole, but also sarcastic and egoistic in an endearing way. Also his outfit compliments his appearance so well. And Neo is a mute badass – who I already praised in my post “Needs More Ice Cream”. Qrow is a drunk, cool uncle with an implied dark and tragic past, but covers it up in front of Ruby and Yang to keep them happy.
It’s hard for me to separate the characters identify with from the characters I idealize and aim to imitate. Mercury is an asshole, but the cool, confident and competent kind that I idolize and somewhat identify with. Blake is a coward and a book-reader with a cynical and arrogant view of the world, so of course, I relate to her. Weiss is the best, and I wish I could identify with her more than I already do – mostly in the way of actually being versatile and excellent at a lot of things, while upholding and putting to practice the perfectionist mindset. Ren is stoic, like Blake, which is me most of the time. Ozpin is the one I want to be the most, cosplay-wise. And you might not understand entirely my reasoning for that if you don’t get the parodying versions of him from captioned images (see mammothrider.tumblr.com for more).
Volume one devoted character arcs to supporting characters like Jaune over main ones like Yang, and was the weakest point in the whole show. The episodes are short, and the voice acting isn’t the best. There is lots of room for improvement, especially for character growth, but the fights are a blast. The concept is good, but the writing and acting is so all over the place that it feels like RWBY is imitating several other shows while trying to be different at the same time. Voice acting is either decent, uncomfortably delivered, or straight up noise on chalkboard bad. Almost everyone sounds devoid of energy and comes across like a bad fandub. Otherwise, voice acting is acceptable at best, no stellar performances here – and that’s coming from someone who loves the actors as people and entertainers outside of the show. Characters do that thing where they get angry and yell without actually yelling, so it sounds restrained and feels awkward to hear. There’s this sense that they’re reading lines and not immersed in the performance, so it evokes the image of people voice-acting in a booth more than characters saying things in a believable way.
While the story is not entirely expanded upon, it has improved over time. At first, it felt like Rooster Teeth was performing a grand experiment for them, pushing new boundaries in their content and striving for bigger, bolder and more ambitious projects. And it was fine back then when it was considered an “internet series” and not an anime – which now appears on crunchyroll, and is becoming more popular in Japan to the point where the series now has its own Japanese dub. But now it’s on its fourth volume and being compared to much larger and higher quality works. The indie appeal of the show is gone, and standards have been raised enormously. Though, the fourth volume has definitely improved in animation, and possibly storytelling, I feel it has dropped away from the character moments volume three had executed fairly well on, in my opinion.
There is a conflict of identity surrounding the show, that I feel puts a strain on each new episode. RWBY takes inspirations from a variety of sources – some are obvious, while others are outright stated in interviews. Notable works that RWBY has absorbed include: The Grimm Tales (character and story inspirations), The Wizard of Oz (character inspirations), Greek and Norse Mythology (character inspirations), Soul Eater (aesthetic and setting inspiration), Black Rock Shooter (CGI inspiration), and the “magical girl” genre from anime.
The pacing and characterization in the show is generally underwhelming, poorly done or non-existent – looking at you, Sun and Neptune. Jaune’s arc in particular, disrupted the pacing and went down such a predictable route that I think it’s by far the worst decision in the show still. Though, I will give credit to characters like Weiss and Ruby, who undergo quite a fair amount of development within the first volume alone – see my Weiss post “Weiss So Serious” for more about her character (spoilers). Hardly any other character displays any hidden depths or semblance of presence and identity in the first volume. And while a lot of them step up their development game in the proceeding two volumes, none hold a candle to Weiss in character growth. And although the worldbuilding and storytelling isn’t particularly good, I still find my Harry Potter craving being immensely satiated the series. Hats off to that.
There’s a heart to the show that makes it feel like an awkward, yet still pleasant enough welcome. The unique weapons, fighting styles and combat – where girls fling themselves around using giant scythe rifles and hammer grenade launchers as they decimate their enemies is something I don’t get anywhere else. I enjoy the fight scenes and think the character and weapon designs are beautiful, cool and aesthetically pleasing. They are elegant and they’re ideal for cosplay – stylish with pockets. The designs alone are enough to see the appeal of the show, or at least the some of the characters.
Also outfit changes that are equally fashionable is such a refreshing change of pace for me. It’s rare for me to see characters change out of clothes I think are stylish or awesome and into something equally as good, if not better. RWBY does this masterfully, in my opinion. I love all of Team RWBY’s get-ups, and love how each one matches their personalities perfectly. Which I believe is something to both commend and lament about the show – how well the clothes speak for the characters better than the characters speak for themselves. Although, I’ll also argue that you can find specs of character in their weapons and fighting styles, including how they work as a team in combat. When I see them demonstrating their level of camaraderie and how far they’ve come between volumes one and two, I feel a sense of growth that, while I would’ve loved to have witnessed, I’m fine with skipping to their much needed developed counterparts.
Conceptually, the fighting styles for each character are ridiculous. However, aura serves as a believable enough justification for any illogical factors. I like how Ruby moves around with her scythe using the momentum of the gun firing and manoeuvring like an acrobat in the air to slice up things. Also, I’m a sucker for symbolism, and both the colour and naming scheme are a hugely gratifying allure to me, that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. The music is by far the greatest thing this show has given to me. I listen to the soundtrack everyday and still love it. But I’ll admit they wouldn’t be as unbelievably awesome and wonderful if they didn’t have the kickass openings and visuals to go accompany them.
RWBY might not be a good show per se, but it’s definitely preferable and far more enjoyable than soap operas and reality TV – which give me such a negative vibe that I feel even more dead inside. Whereas, RWBY comforts me and gives me a feeling of elation almost no other show can. There’s action, comedy, and a tinge of mystery that evokes a reminiscence of Medusa’s plot in Soul Eater. It’s something I enjoy watching and discussing with a friend who I can go into detail with, and conjure up headcanon that we prefer over the actual story. It’s fuel for our creative minds, and we get a buzz out of all the conversations we have, where we bounce ideas off of one another and get incredibly enthusiastic and thrilled at the prospect of them happening. And even if they don’t, we can always use them for our stories. So it’s a win-win.
Even though the writing may come across as clumsy, it does still manage to convey a world that I am genuinely fascinated by and would like to see more of. I’ve rewatched all three volumes multiple times, and regularly listen to the soundtracks. And discovered that it’s more than a magical girl pseudo-anime to me, it’s a way of life that’s inspired me to create my own content and live for my passions. I’ll admit, it’s not the only thing that’s motivated me this way, but it is certainly one of the more powerful ones to do so. Something about Monty’s influence made me want to create something of my own. There was just this infectious aura about him that even though you might never have known him personally, you could still feel it from his on-screen presence, his work, and the way others spoke about him.
On the whole, RWBY has likable characters, a great general aesthetic, backstory and lore, was made by Monty Oum, someone I greatly admire. I’m really fond of its atmosphere, and the childlike vibe that’s filled with awe and wonderment – a story really set up to be like a fairytale. While the though the show does take perspective from a variety of characters, it feels like the appearance and feeling of the world is predominantly positive because it is primarily shown from Ruby’s perspective, who is two years younger than her peers and has this naive, idealistic view of the world. Which is a self-serving biased theory, but if it’s true, more hats off to them.
While explicit characterization is decent at best, the implicit and more obscure forms of expositing information about characters and their development is astounding. Visual cues, musical cues, details on clothes, weapons, and other designs, and subtle looks at each other all help establish characters in a way that doesn’t require stopping the show to explain anything. And I’m a huge fan of that type of characterization.
When it comes to fantasy and worldbuilding, I am an absolute fanatic. Remnant is precisely the kind of beautiful, creative and vibrant setting that lights my imagination on fire. It’s unique and cool, and combines Western and Japanese influences to make a hybrid animation unlike anything I’ve seen before. But I suppose what made it so appealing, and still retains that sort of charm about it for me, is the growth of the project. Seeing RWBY become grander, while constantly seeking to improve is such a heartwarming and commendable endeavour, that I can’t help but cheer for the creators, while wishing the show the best it deserves. And with each new piece of fanart I see, I love RWBY and its characters more and more. The writing isn’t good, the animations are wonky, and story is tired and clichéd, but the characters are so fun, cool, cute, and relatable that it makes it all worth it for me.
Conceptually, I am keen about the idea of magic as a pseudo-science, that’s quantifiable to a certain extent, but also ambiguous, and slippery with mysterious origins and effect on the evolution of the world of Remnant. Different coloured dusts have different effects, but the applications are numerous – as seen when utilized in Weiss’s rapier and Blake’s “Gambol Shroud”. I can see the effects in action and that’s all I need to know. I don’t want to learn the intricacies beyond that. There’s such a thing as too much information, especially in fantasy, where part of the immersion is leaving some things to the imagination. But there’s also a thrill in imagining what effects dust would have in other scenarios and entertaining the thought of what breakthroughs our world would have were it to have access to these sort of resources.
I love RWBY for its characters, weapons, designs, technology, story, soundtrack, but most of all the potential in the world of Remnant. Sometimes, I just love being part of something; a world I like the idea of, and thinking of how much I would make it better. It’s a creative’s fantasy to see the unrealized beauty in something and to think up ways of improving it and making it a more appealing, more competent story. I love fantasizing about the lore and the possibilities of character development – which path a character will go down and how will they cope? The world is open to interpretation and speculation to the point where the fandom has created so much amazing and interesting fanart headcanon, that I actually prefer it over the actual canon.
At this point, I’ve become married to the RWBY universe and its fandom more so than anything else. It falls short in a lot of departments, but the fan artists and fanfic writers are so passionate about the series and their work that it’s such a gratifying phenomenon to see occur. The overflow of quality fanart and fanfiction is truly a remarkable phenomenon to behold, and a lot of the re-writings and alternate stories from fans help fill in gaps and revise the characters and story to such amazing lengths I can’t help but love it.
Why do l like RWBY? I’d say because I’m less excited about what it is and more excited about what it could be. I like the prospect the show evolving from its campy and silly angle to a more darker and serious direction. Which, it did in volume three, and I commend it for that. As with Harry Potter, the more you think about how the world functions the darker and scarier it becomes. Schools dedicated to teaching students of virtually all ages to fight Grimm, and a seemingly apathetic headmaster who flings them into a forest where they could be killed on their first day is a dark premise.
And with Ruby as the protagonist, it’s not hard to understand why the first two volumes (and first half of volume three) are so upbeat and colourful. It’s because we’re seeing things through Ruby’s rose-tinted vision, until she witnesses and experiences tragedy and trauma herself. That’s when the show takes on a darker aesthetic and tone. Since Ruby’s eyes have been exposed to the harsher reality of the world, so have we the audience been shown her new way of seeing things, and the somewhat closer to reality version of the world of Remnant. But I want to see it go further – like dishwasher1910’s art.
It’s a show that grows with the community that supports it, and has an engaging social communication between the show and its fans. Participating in this community fulfilled some sort of need that I didn’t know that I had. It also cheers me during my downhearted moments. Discovering RWBY’s amazing music, easy to follow story, and loveable characters is one of the best things to ever happen to me. It’s far, far, far away from perfect, but that doesn’t matter, because I genuinely enjoy it. I’ve found a place within the community, and it’s inspired me to pursue my art and passions. It’s a life-changing show for me, and I don’t regret a second of it.
A big part of why I like the RWBY is the fandom, and I know this for two reasons. One, the immense amount of fanart I’ve been exposed to has made my life feel worthwhile in so many ways. And two, it’s been a major influence on my social life. RWBY has helped me forge strange and wonderful friendships, that are unimaginably significant to me. A tremendous energy emits from the show and the fandom in a way that sparks and re-ignites a fire within so many of us in numerous ways. The social aspect of RWBY is the true appeal of it for me, and ultimately what brings me an immense amount of joy and satisfaction throughout my days.
The outside influence of the RWBY fanart and interesting theories just makes engaging with the series a far better experience overall. Having superbly drawn and neatly written or written comics and ship canons, such as Whiterose and Bumblebee, only satisfies and persuades me further in my love of the characters and their potential romances. And other lesser ships, like the one with Kali and Sun, is amusing in its own right, and far more interesting than whatever people seem to think Sun and Blake have. No hate here, just disappointment in character (un)development and weak relationship implications.
While I do love RWBY and Rooster Teeth, I am aware of all the series’ flaws, and that there are a ton of shows that execute on its ideas in far better ways. There are more weaknesses than strengths, and yet… I still love RWBY. Speculating what will happen next and having in-depth discussions that circle each episode is part of the fun, and it’s the social aspect I get from the show and I don’t get from other shows, that makes it so damn beautiful. Over ninety-percent of the conversations I have with my friend is primarily RWBY. We essentially theorize what could happen and ruminate on what we would like to happen. We also ship characters that make sense to us based on: chemistry, character, current relationship status, and on-screen time together, and essentially rewrite the series to be as good as possible.
I cannot stress enough how the abundance of quality fanart and fanfiction persists, because there’s just so much excellence generated from the fandom that it exceeds everything in the series itself. The interesting head-canon, humourous comics and suggestive shipping art from the community is such an overwhelming feat that I prefer what comes from the fanartists/fan writers over whatever the show series’ writers come up with.
I doubt experiencing the fanart or jokes about the show will have the same effect on someone who dislikes the show or hasn’t watched it, but they were enhancers for me to enjoy it in so many ways on so many levels. So, here’s a list of artists and their work that I adore:
Other noteworthy artists include: ookaminoki.tumblr, plastic-pipes, dashyice, Hedgehog with Roses, frasian, AoNeko90, KinZaibatsu91, LunarisFuryAileron, NaitouRSE, Tikoriko, VnixxiR, y8ay8a.tumblr (NSFW Shipping Art), dishwasher1910, Rouzille, Wbm2, and Dumb RWBY comics.
Here’s a few RWBY AMVs (spoilers) that I think also enhance the series, or at the very least enjoyable on their own:
And lastly, some crack vid humour (again spoilers), where audio clips and scenes from other works are combined and sometimes timed or fit quite well with the scenes in RWBY. Personally, I recommend the following:
I apologize if I got a bit carried away with all the imagery and links to things, but the show just makes me unbelievably happy. I don’t care what they do, as long as I get a decent enough flowing story and believable, fleshed-out characters that progress as naturally as they can, and I can come out of it in the end satisfied, that’s all that matters to me. Thank you Monty, and everyone who worked on Rooster Teeth, for such wondrous and cheerful times.