ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 1st August 2015, by NEO Staff

RWBY Volume 1

In the fairy-tale world of Remnant, folklore characters do battle with the shadowy Creatures of Grimm – but of course, they have to go to monster-fighting high school first! Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang are four students of said establishment, and despite their disparate personalities, they must work together to become a lean, mean, multi-coloured monster-slaying team.

RWBY is produced by US studio Rooster Teeth, who were previously best-known for their live-action shorts, machinima, and gaming videos. The artefacts of all of these mediums are readily apparent in this series, with its cel-shaded 3D graphics, action-oriented animation style, quick dialogue and goofy slapstick.

It’s clear from the first few scenes that RWBY was created with fewer resources than a lot of the series that we’re used to seeing, even on the small screen. The brightly coloured cel-shading definitely looks original, but at times the animation feels a little stiff. The incidental scenes where characters are just walking or talking are particularly stilted movement-wise, and though the series gamely attempts to compensate for its shortcomings in this area by increasing the pace of the script’s genuinely charming back-and-forth, the lack of small body language movements do leave these sections feeling slightly off.

However – and this is a big however – when the series shifts into action mode, it suddenly pulls out all the stops to provide the viewer with some truly explosive, high-octane scenes. Monty Oum, director of the series, first made a name for himself with elaborate animated battles between video game characters of different franchises, using models and assets from the games themselves. This focus on action choreography is RWBY’s strongest asset, and blows a lot of even veteran series’ set-pieces out of the water. The first ensemble battle is a notable example of this, in which two teams of super powered students work together to take out a pair of oversized Grimm with perfect execution – literally – and slick synchronicity. Well-crafted and considered choreography is an element that is missing from many series’ action scenes, and it really makes RWBY stand out from the crowd.

The series isn’t very long, with a handful of short episodes, and unfortunately this doesn’t leave much room to develop the characters or the setting. However, volume one of RWBY feels more like a testing of the waters, and it’s clear from this first collection that it has a great deal of potential beyond even the highly enjoyable first episodes. Though the second season has already been produced, there was some uncertainty about the series’ future when director Oum tragically passed away earlier this year. However, it has since been confirmed that a third season will be released, and it will be interesting to see how the show continues to evolve in the next two seasons and even beyond.

As mentioned, RWBY has a writing style that pulls inspiration from a variety of different sources, mediums, and story archetypes. There are a lot of risks involved when creating a series that wears its influences right on its sleeve. Often, it can be all too easy for a show to do nothing but ape the things that serve as an initial spark without bringing anything new to the table. Luckily, RWBY manages to avoid this by retaining a savviness about its genre tropes – you can tell that the writers (and often even the characters) weren’t taking things too seriously, and the result is a short but sweet series that doesn’t resort to melodrama to promote itself.

If nothing else, diehard action fans owe it to themselves to check out this small but almost perfectly formed gem – and almost all viewers will find themselves charmed by the familiar but original characters and plot.

It’s not without its shortcomings, but RWBY volume one is a promising opening salvo for the series.
SCORE: 4/5
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