Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Mony Oum, the creator of the renowned internet videos "Haloid: Master Chief vs Samus Aran" and "Dead Fantasy: Dead or Alive vs Final Fantasy" was set to try his hand at creating his own 3D anime series, a new endeavor he would undergo with Rooster Teeth (Where he worked on a few seasons of "Red vs Blue"). With this, "RWBY" was born.
The anticipation for RWBY was taking their fan base by storm, growing with each new release of teasers for the main four female characters in the form of "Red", "White", "Black", and "Yellow" trailers. With the first season coming to an end, I will determine if the hype was worth the wait and if Monty could meet the high expectations that everyone had of him going into this new series.
[ What is RWBY? ]
|Ms. Ruby Rose|
RWBY is Monty Oum's and Rooster Teeth's collaborative work. It can be found on Rooster Teeth's YouTube channel. This is the first time that Monty Oum will be doing a long running series that is his own original work.
RWBY stands for "Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang", which are the four females who make up the squad for "Team Ruby" (You can find my review for the "Red" and "White" trailers HERE). They are young women whose goal is to graduate from Beacon Academy and become full-fledged Huntresses, powerful combatants who protect the residents of their world from evil no matter what form that it might take.
Season 1 of RWBY is 16 episodes long, and it mainly focuses on telling the story of how this group came to be, and their antics of getting adjusted to their new life at Beacon Academy for training while simultaneously introducing the current antagonists of the show.
[ Story / Plot Review & Impressions ]
|Weiss argues with Ruby and Yang during their first night at Beacon; Blake watches.|
Right now it feels we are merely getting a taste for what is to come with RWBY, and that the first season is used as a device to introduce the main protagonists of the series while also giving insight as to what they will be doing. While we do currently have an antagonist, it would seem that there is more to it than meets the eye by the end of the final episode. I had my ups and down with the plot, I will list the positives first and then the negatives.
First off, I am a fan of how they started off everything and giving a bit of lore behind the world of RWBY. The fairy tale entrance is something that I would expect from someone like Disney (Even though the english opening of "One Piece" also gave some back story), it was fun to see it from this series and made me excited from the amount of detail from the jump. This series also introduces other things rather well in my opinion, such as what exactly "Dust" is, the background stories surrounding the 4 main girls and exactly why they are trying to attend Beacon, even explaining in such depth as to why certain organizations are how they are. As far as rolling out information, I want to say that they do a very good job of it, even from the very beginning.
Something else I would like to applaud RWBY for is setting clear paths for most of the characters from the very beginning. We know who the antagonist is, we know who our protagonists are, and we know the supporting characters all within the first couple of episodes. Even though we have yet to understand the true motivation behind the antagonists' plot, we understand that their true nature will inevitably make them conflict with our heroes on the basis of their goals possibly trampling on the very thing Team Ruby is trying do; protect the world. They have already established ties to things dealing with Weiss and Blake, even internal conflict that briefly separated the team based on factors that no one can fully be blamed for.
Also, despite the sometimes serious nature that we see towards the later episodes, they balance it by having a slew of comical things occur, even during the opening episodes (Even had a whole episode dedicated to nothing but getting their room arranged the way they would like it, nothing but laughter to be had). Knowing how to continue to press the story forward while also making sure it has a good mixture of stern and humorous dialogue and atmosphere is normally the mark of a good series.
On the other hand, they do some things terribly wrong and disappointed me from a couple of different stand points. To start with, despite them opening up with the lore of the land and everything, they do not tell exactly how that ties into the world at current. I mean, maybe it explains why they have monsters they need to combat, but exactly where the monsters came from and why they did not die out when mankind established its most recent civilization is beyond me. Also, I have no idea why they would establish a school to be able to combat these things rather than taking the most successful hunters and going on mass hunting expeditions to completely eradicate these things from the earth; but I guess maybe they populate so fast that it is neigh impossible to commit genocide (Also, they could be manufactured by the antagonists' in question as biological weapons, we do not really know yet). I guess that is up for debate.
Even though you cannot really list this as a negative because it is heavily based on my personal expectations, I am completely surprised by how light-hearted this series is compared to what I thought from the trailers. For me, I thought this was going to be a fight-heavy, gritty, and pretty dark anime series set in a world ruled by monsters and mystical creatures with lots of magic, killing, and heartache. From the trailers, it looked like Ruby was going to be seeking revenge for the death of a loved one, that Weiss was nobility or an heiress and needed to prove herself worthy to carry an insurmountable burden, that Blake was looking to change things up and move away from her old life and gain a new identity, and that Yang was just fun loving. I feel Blake's and Yang's trailer gave more of an accurate depiction of who they are rather than Ruby's and Weiss', even though they have some of the qualities that were depicted in their trailers, I expected more.
All-in-all, even with my initial let down, I do not feel that this is a bad series at all. They outline things, they set their own pace, and they pull the user in, not to mention some pretty awesome fight scenes along the way (Not enough in my opinion but I am sure we will be seeing some more later on). I am curious to how things will progress in the second season, but not a bad start thus far.
[ Character Development & Impressions ]
|Nora Valkyrie springs into action! About to use her Hammer / Grenade thrower to flatten a giant scorpion.|
The character designs are also very well done, and not just in their appearance. I feel that each of the girls' personality is unique and not a carbon copy of each other, I also feel like they do not try too hard to fit into their character "type", but that they all appear natural and relevant. Even the supporting characters seem to have their own unique tendencies and we come to understand that as the series goes on. Unique to this series I believe, is that non important characters are generally all blocked out, reminiscent of a silhouette and serve no purpose but to show that other people are occupying the same space. All characters, even the secondary ones, appear to have a great deal of thought given to them and their designs; we even have something of a secondary antagonist that must be overcome by the leader of "Team JNPR" (Juniper), Jaune Arc (Name reminds me of Joan of Arc).
I can see growth in a few of the characters already compared to the beginning and end of the season. The main four girls all seem to have some type of chip on their shoulders (Except Yang), and it takes a good look at their back stories and how they managed to get to the points they were at. The dialogue and expressions they make account for the vast majority of the atmosphere, and it makes the unveiling of the story quite entertaining. However, this only works if you actually care about the characters in question and built somewhat of a bond. By exploring each character as they did, we got to sympathize with them and learn about their vulnerabilities which makes them appear more human and relatable (Jaune Arc most of all, at least to me). While we did not completely delve into everyone, we got to see enough of everybody to appreciate their presence; In fact, I will say that this is one of the very first anime to where, while I do not care for everyone, I do not dislike anyone and are annoyed by their presence by feeling like they are worthless (My favorite character happens to be Nora Valkyrie, seen above as the picture for this section).
The only problem I have so far is not a full explanation of why Yang and Ruby are sisters. They look nothing alike, but Monty has confirmed that neither one is adopted, they are not stepsisters, or cousins. We can only assume that they both have the same mother but different fathers as to why their last names are different, but even then I want some back story on their relationship. If they are best friends who say they share a bond that is the same as being a sister, that would make sense.
To summarize how they are doing so far, you can color me impressed. While I really wanted to see more of Nora and Penny (I'M COMBAT READY!), they do a great job designing personalities unique to all characters (True, Penny and Nova may be similar but they are both awesome, so who cares?). Not to mention they give them weapons that are pretty cool and that I feel fit their personality, they also do a marvelous job on their back story. All I can do at this point is wait for more of the story to unfold.
[ Other Mentions ]
|Professor Ozpin and Glynda Goodwitch.|
While I do like Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang, I would have really loved to see something fairy tail related. You see, originally I believed that Ruby was based off of Little Red Riding Hood, Weiss would be based off of Snow White, Blake would be based on Beast from "Beauty and the Beast", and that Yang would probably be based off of Goldilocks. Monty Oum himself said that, while the characters were inspired from fairy tail themes, they would not be directly related to them. If he did something along these lines I would have found it immensely awesome. I do not get why he would base the character designs off of fairy tails if he was not planning on exploring more?
Also, it feels like other characters are a note to previously existing ones. Jaune Arc's name reminds me of "Joan of Arc" as I said before. "Glynda Goodwitch" is obviously a nod to Glynda from "The Wizard of OZ", and that thought is only magnified by the name of the Headmaster of Beacon Academy, Ozpin. Not to mention I have a strange suspicion that the faunus boy at the end was based off of Son Goku and that Penny may have been inspired by Alisa from the TEKKEN series.
While the animation is decent, it is not the best. I know that Monty Oum did not have a very big crew going into this and that he was going to be doing most of the work himself, but I feel like he should have taken some more time and made something a bit prettier to the eyes, if not more detailed at least a bit more stylish in its approach (Who knows, maybe he is not a great artist but is a great animator). Some of the animations in themselves are stiff but again, he taught himself how to animate and never had any formal training, with this knowledge in hand we can overlook some basic mistakes (Such as the walking motion, I understand it is complicated but it is a necessity it looks natural).
Also, we have completely different episode lengths going into it. The first episode was 12 minutes, but the majority of episodes are under 8 minutes long (Actually, a good few of the opening ones are only 6 minutes with a 30 second opening sequence). We have a few that surpass that 10 minute mark, but that in itself is rare (We even have an episode as short as 4 minutes). This allows you to not really get caught up into the action as it feels that this series was not set up to for episodes this short (Unlike "Super Robot Girls Z" or "Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time"). I feel they are probably waiting a while to release the second season simply because they want consistent episode lengths.
[ The Verdict ]
HALF -N- HALF
STRENGTHS - Great fighting sequences, Very cool weapons, Good character design, Good voice acting.
WEAKNESSES - Varying episode lengths (And a short season), Not enough fighting, Not enough known about the main antagonists, Takes a while to get into.
While this series has a lot of strengths, it also has quite a lot of weaknesses. It seems to get better as it goes along but one can never be too sure. There seems to be a good story line starting, but one of the plot twists was already very predictable; While the episodes generally bring a smile to your face, you are often left with a frown by how short the episode actually is; even though you love the personalities of the characters, there seems to be some wonky animation at times; and while the fighting can leave you awe struck, there is simply not enough of it.
Then again, I cannot be sure if a lot of my love for this genre is coming because I am a huge fan of Monty Oum and I am giving him more credit than is due; or if this series is actually very excellent starting out and I am downing it a bit based on it not meeting my personal expectations of a darker story line from the trailers presented. Oh well.
I am looking at RWBY season 1 as the protoype for what could be a great series. Monty Oum has never did anything like this before, it is an all new original work, and he has to get his bearings. I am hoping in the long run that it becomes a noteworthy franchise that can evolve into something that uses a full production team, but that could already be a reality at this point. Season 2 starts summer 2014 and I am already looking forward to it.