Anime Reporter continues the colour-themed coverage with Volume One of RWBY, which is apparently supposed to be pronounced “Ruby”. This series is produced by Rooster Teeth, the same team behind Red Vs. Blue, but very different in tone.
The name actually refers to the names of the four chief protagonists; Ruby (who wears red), Weiss (who wears white), Blake (who wears black) and Yang (who wears yellow). These four, and a handful of others, are brand new students at Beacon, a school devoted to training youths to become Huntsmen and Huntresses, the people responsible for hunting this world’s monsters, Grimms. Grimms come in many forms, from the pointy bear-like Ursas, the werewolf-like Beowolfs and even some giant scorpions.
The new students are adapting to their lives training to tackle gigantic monsters and protect humanity, but quite a few of them also seem to be adapting to spending time with other people their own ages. The majority of characters feel like they were taken directly from a catalogue of anime stereotypes with little in the way of innovation. Ruby is the talented, rarely serious protagonist who jokes around but has a pure heart. Weiss is the pretentious rich girl who immediately looks down on everyone around her and needs to learn to work together and that she isn’t always right. Blake is the quiet loner with a mysterious past. Yang is the supportive big sister figure with a suggested weakness for boys. We’re also given a stock, unsophisticated bully character as well as Jean, the foolish comic-relief who feels like an uninspired attempt at replicating Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Sokka.
The plot mainly deals with their integration into Beacon, a couple of storylines revealing some insights into characters’ personalities and pasts and a little bit of foreshadowing of a tournament with other schools which doesn’t sound a million miles away from a certain Triwizard Cup if you ask me. There’s also a recurring storyline about some criminals stealing large amounts of Dust, a valuable substance with magical elemental properties.
The animation is primarily digital, having a more computerized feel than most anime, though it does occasionally try to use anime style character reactions which clash a little with the appearance of the series. The overall effect is fairly minimalist. Background characters are basically black silhouettes and Grimms are all essentially shadows with some red and white bone armour. The animation is superb with regard to action; fight scenes are quick, fluid and imaginative, creating a very strong early impression. Where the animation falls down is when it comes to things like characters having a conversation, displaying emotion, eating or even brushing their teeth (only shown once, but I swear, the guy spent the entire clip brushing his upper lip, like he’s trying to brush a non-existent moustache). Characters often appear rigid and it can be a little hard to believe that any characters in a conversation are actually interacting with each other.
This poor sense of character interaction can also be attributed to the dialogue, which is fairly heavy-handed and extremely expositional. Characters spend a fair amount of time explaining groups, people or concept to characters already apparently familiar with them and a lot of conversations and reactions feel forced and unnatural. The voice cast is also a little bit hit and miss. Key characters often deliver lines in a way which instantly reminds me that I’m listening to someone in a recording studio reading lines from a script. This can have an especially dragging effect on the humour which makes up a large part of each episode. A lot of the humour is centred around physicality but weak dialogue and delivery can make otherwise funny jokes feel unoriginal and obvious. This definitely improves as the story progresses and jokes begin to hit slightly more than miss as it hits its stride.
Overall, RWBY feels like a fan tribute to series like Naruto, Avatar and Fairy Tail and, while at points it can feel like a very strong fan tribute, it never really comes across as something new.
RWBY Volume 01 is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Animatsu Entertainment from 29th June 2015.
Animation: 6- Strong for action, weak for everything else.
Humour: 6- Initially weak, but improves over time.
Characters: 4.5- Fairly standard stock characters with some very weak interaction.
Action: 7.5- Imaginative and well-blended with animation style.
Plot: 5.5- Uninspired, unoriginal and lacking in depth.
59% – “Paint by Numbers” RWBY Volume 01 has a lot of the trademarks of the anime genre, except for originality. Its fairy tale tropes make for an interesting setting but by the time Volume 01 finishes it has done little to expand upon them and actually feels a little confused as to which type of story it’s trying to borrow from.