Post Reply CATALOG SPOTLIGHT: RWBY vol. 1 and 2
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35 / M / CR HQ
Posted 11/6/14 , edited 11/11/14
by cardboard_shark

RWBY is a difficult little series to pin down in a review. From an objective standpoint, the critic within me can’t help but point out its flaws. From a subjective point of view, however, my inner fan can’t help but like it anyway.

RWBY follows a group of students at Beacon Academy, a school for warriors who defend the general population from all manner of monsters. Think of it as Hogwarts with more interesting character designs and a generous helping of fancy weapons. The story is a mix of training, teenage crushes, and shadowy criminal conspiracies. That’s quite a lot of plotlines to cover at once, especially when most episodes clock in at less than fifteen minutes. The show seems to be aware of this challenge, though, and is content to move forward at its own pace.

One of the most obvious differences between RWBY and the average anime series is its animation style. Hand drawn images are swapped out for computer animation, producing a visual style that will be familiar to anyone who watched the anime adaptations of Knights of Sidonia or Arpeggio of Blue Steel. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world when characters are standing still, but it does present an advantage in fight scenes. RWBY is a small-budget, independent production, but the use of CG animation allows it to include a large amount of character movement during its action sequences. That relative freedom of motion helps highlight the elaborate choreography guiding each fight.

While the animation is fine under the circumstances, the writing in RWBY is less defensible. Many of its dramatic developments are predictable, mostly because the series has a tendency to follow in the footsteps of many shows before it. Anime specializes in having teenagers fight monsters, and it takes a certain level of originality to make an impression. As an independent production, RWBY should be coming up with new ideas, not recycling old premises.

The humor has its moments, especially once the characters get a chance to settle into their personalities. Unfortunately, RWBY has a tendency to let the comedy disrupt the pacing of the story. It’s hard to fully invest in the plot when the characters are constantly fishing for laughs. This forces RWBY to occupy an odd middle ground between parody and serious storytelling, which is rarely a good position to be in. While compromises in animation can be forgiven in a low-budget series, an audience should always expect good writing.

What’s unusual is that in spite of its problems, I still like RWBY. I typically drop shows with problematic writing within a few episodes, and yet I’ve been tuning in every week for two seasons. The reason, I suspect, is the obvious overabundance of enthusiasm that drives the series. For whatever mistakes they make, the people producing RWBY are clearly enjoying what they do. It shows in the detailed backstory that occasionally gets crammed into a character’s monologue. It shows in the constant references to the production company’s other works. More than anywhere else, its shows in the use of fan art during the end credits. In a world where so much anime is cranked out simply to fill TV time slots, it’s refreshing to see this kind of unfiltered enthusiasm.

RWBY isn’t the best series ever made, but it feels like it’s absurdly happy to be made at all. If you share my vulnerability to that particular kind of charm, then you’ll probably be able to overlook its faults and have a good time. Just beware that you may have to occasionally banish your inner critic to another room.
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34 / M / Stuttgart, Germany
Posted 11/8/14
I agree with this review 100%. having been a fan of Roosterteeth's work since 2004. I like what the show is trying to do, but falling back on traditional anime troupes during moments of supposed tension can break the pacing a bit. I do find myself giving them a pass since this is their first time jumping into the animation business. My biggest surprise from the series is how much of the voice cast has amazing voice talent despite mostly being hired internally. Kara Eberle as Weiss Schnee, and Micheal Jones as Sun Wukong definitely stand out among the most in my mind.

I look forward to seeing more from team RWBY as time goes forward.
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