RWBY Full Volume 4 Review

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review. Today, I decided to do a full review of RWBY volume 4.

Now, I will be the first person to be harsh on the first three volumes of RWBY. I find them derivative of their anime inspirations without enough narrative meat to justify their existence and one of the main draws, the fight scenes, to have degraded due to Monty Oum’s death. However, the third season did do some things with its narrative that might have put the story on track and maybe enable RWBY to be the best anime inspired web series possible

Sadly and to my severe disappointment, that was not the case.

One of the issues is the fact that the narrative, tone and characters haven’t really changed despite the events of the third volumes. The third volume made a drastic shift towards a darker and more severe narrative where both the metaphorical symbol of protection against the Grimm (Beacon) and one of its shining heroes (Pyrraha) were snuffed out. This shift could have made volume four a volume where the leads must refocus and deal with their loss as well as the external threats of their world. Instead the volume largely sticks to its original narrative beats and tone much to its detriment.

That’s not to say that there aren’t improvements. Weiss’s arc does have her change in terms of character for the better. Weiss’s issues with her family are given more grounding than the simple line of “my father made life hard”; her life is shown to be overly controlled and tailored for public perception. In addition, she starts to rail against both her family and the society of Atlas that is cold and callous towards the fallen Vale. This shows that she has some drive and independence and also establishes her as opposite to her initial characterization in the previous volumes as the cold, elitist heiress

Ruby’s arc is the least egregious as her story does reach a point where there is something to lose, her uncle. However, she doesn’t really change as a character in her own right. Despite all that she has seen and despite teaming up with three people who have lost someone dear to them during the attack on Beacon, she remains the naïve, innocent and idealistic girl from volume 1. There are only two token nightmares about the Fall of Beacon but otherwise there are no moments of severe outrage, anger or frustration at the world. She also never reaches a point of contemplating what it means that heroes don’t always save people and don’t always win. This should be even more prevalent with Ruby and the remnants of JNPR traveling through areas full of death due to the Grimm.

Blake’s arc is far more anger inducing as she repeats the same arc from volume 2: having to rely on her friends and allies again. While this could work in theory as it was her past with the White Fang that partially caused Yang to lose her arm, it ends up being a case of cyclic character development. Blake is shown being the cold loner that she was at the start despite Sun showing up to help. In fact, she suffers from an issue I have with anime characters in times where they act social stunted and don’t explain themselves properly; Blake only explains her reasoning as to why she’s returned to the loner archetype at the very end when her opening up to people would seem the most like an asspull. Her dynamics with Sun exemplify this problem as Sun, instead of being a valuable partner, is reduced to a punching bag and laughing stock for comedy that undermines Blake’s arc. Even the moments between Blake and her family are undermined by comedy that ends up making dampening any arc she has.

Yang’s arc, while not cyclic like Blake, is the worst of the individual character arcs and thus, extremely frustrating. Yang at the end of the third volume, lost her arm to Adam. This could have led to many different possible story lines as Yang very much is proud of her physical capabilities; the loss of the arm could have delved into PTSD or how she will cope with her skill being hampered. Unfortunately, the story taken explores none of these aspects. An artificial arm enters her story very early on and at first, you might think that this is merely signaling that there will be a payoff at the end and many episodes of her dealing with the trauma. However, the next scenes dealing with her involved a slight jump at a broken glass, a nightmare that doesn’t really haunt or torment to any real degree and a talk with Professors Oobleck and Port. These scenes are all we get before she puts on the artificial arm. This is strike one of her story as it makes it seem like she got over her trauma too easily. While I am of the understanding that there could be more possible consequences in other volumes as PTSD isn’t something that can flare up, the presentation in RWBY makes it seem like she had only a few moments of trauma before finally coping with it. This presentation makes us feel put off her story arc as it seems like everything was for naught.

The issues of the character arcs are further amplified by the fact that the time scale of the series is erratic. Initially, the writers stated it was six to eight months since volume 3 in universe. However, this seems contradicted by many events in the show: why does it take 6 months to get from vale to Menagerie, what has Weiss been doing for six to eight months? Doing nothing? What about Yang, is there any time between her scenes of fear and trauma and equipping the arm? The unclear time frame of many things in the show make it hard to be invested in the show.

If the issues with the time scale don’t get you, the degradation in quality of RWBY’s fights will. The fights in RWBY suffer from poor framing of shots and poor timing of cuts. An example of this is during the Tyrian’s fights. Tyrian’s brief fight with Ruby alone has the camera switch the axis of where they are positions which disorients. Another scene, where Tyrian jumps from Jaune’s shield has three direction changes for Tyrian which further confuses the geometry. Qrow vs Tyrian doesn’t improve things as it still has axis shifts as well as cuts on the impact between weapons. This leads to lost sense of geometry in the scene and perceived lack of force on the impacts not helped by rather lacking sound assets that don’t deliver impact. The sea dragon fight also suffers as there are too many frames ripped from another fight, Cloud vs Bahamut in Advent Children, to the point that the fight seems like a rip off than an homage and it’s not helped by the sprinkling of comedy during the fight. The Nuckelavee fight also has issues, mainly with the monster. The arms don’t move fast enough or sharply enough to make them seem threatening; their movement gives the feel more of a balloon used at used car stores than an eldritch terror. Sound of impacts also don’t have any weight to them and give the fight more of a funhouse feel than a life or death situation.

The setup for future seasons also is limp and lifeless. Oscar, a new character that is host to Ozpin’s soul, is given little characterization of his own self and serves more like a sentient vessel in terms of characterization. The plots with the White fang and Salam’s group seem pointless as there is no real effect of any of this, just build up. While build up is important, we need to see a small consequence of this build up, whether it’s militarization of the White Fang or movement of supplies. Even the resolution in the end where the four members of RWBY set out to Mistral seems more like a sudden return to Status Quo than a preparation for a major fight as it felt that everyone except Weiss really didn’t change and even Weiss isn’t given that much.

In the end, RWBY volume 4 disappoints from a character plot perspective, a fight perspective and even from the perspective of setting up for the next season

RWBY review v4e7: Punished

Hello and Welcome to a review of what many consider a midpoint for the series: Punished

The show has three distinct portions to it: A section with Oscar, a Weiss section and a section continuing the fight with Tyrian. This itself is a bit of a problem as it kills the momentum built up by the fight in the last episode but the sections with Oscar and Weiss do build the story.

First, the section with Oscar. Oscar is currently revolting against Ozpin’s intrusion into his mind but Ozpin says that their aura and soul are one including memories. In addition, Ozpin says that Oscar has a role to play. This segment’s impact is dampened a bit by not having a visible representation of Ozpin to work against. In most narratives with alternative personalties or souls, they either make the other soul an ethereal body to communicate and react to or they have the same body but different voices come out of it. Not doing either option dampens the interactions as there is no real presence to bounce off of. In addition, when Ozpin is questioning Oscar about the Headmaster Room of Haven, they missed a chance to do a sweep transition with Oscar’s room slowly transitions into the headmaster room until Oscar gets snapped out.  In terms of visual impact, it would have more clearly shown the impact of Ozpin’s intrusion into the mind and made for a visually interesting scene instead of the rotational pan they did.

The second section with Weiss has a lot of narrative meat to it. Weiss actively is stating that she wants to leave Atlas and that she is the real Schnee, not the father who married into the family. Jacque counters by not only forcing her to stay on the manor grounds but also transferring the ownership interest of the company from Weiss to Whitley. From a script perspective, this is interesting narrative as Weiss is dissociated from her family and the source of her name’s prestige and toward battle and the frontline. From a presentation standpoint, it’s lacking. The discussion scene with Jacque and Weiss is simple cut to cut side view of the faces. Compare this to the opening scene of “The Social Network” where even when the camera is focusing on one of the speakers, it is still facing the person with the other person framing the speaker in the shot. Here, it’s a bland presentation of side shots of faces though when both Jacque and Weiss are both in frame, there is use of posing and motion to convey power in the scene. A similar issue occurs between the scene with Whitley and Weiss where the camera is uninteresting and doesn’t enhance the power struggle between the individuals as it is mostly flat forward facing shots without the other person framing the shot. Another issue is the lack of nuance or real character beside evil that Whitley and Jacque have. There is no real character behind them, only the idea of hinderance against Weiss and not for any real explained reason that is rooted in character.

The final section and the one that disappoints me the most is the fight between Qrow and Tyrian. First off, compared to reference films like “Hero” or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, the flow of the battle is completely off, the music doesn’t enhance the pattern of trading of blows and the movements seem far too staggered for there to be connecting rhythm to it. In addition, there is a shot when Qrow and Tyrian are charging each other that cuts to a axis reversal that disorients. However, there are other shots with both fighters in frame that have clear geography and smooth transition of position. What the main issue is when they cut too often and too early out of those shots. Instead of having a continuous shot of Tyrian firing his tail and disarming Qrow, we have three cuts and no repeat shot to increase the power of the disarm like in professional films. There is also a cut too early when Qrow is punching Tyrian in the face which dulls the impact.

After the fight, we get some foreshadowing with Qrow asking Ruby “what’s your favorite fairy tale”. This implies some sort of connection to mythos in a narrative sense but a personal concern is if the writers can pull it off.

In the end, the narrative in terms of the script is stronger than the previous seasons but the action and camera is weaker to the point of being amateurish.

RWBY review v4e6: Tipping Point

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review. Today is a review of “Tipping Point”

First the story since we have a bit of it to go through. the first segment is RNJR finding an abandoned village in construction called Oniyuri. Oniyuri was a city made by the discontent wealthy of Mistral that was destroyed by Grimm before completion. Based on one of Ren’s statements, his parents may have been involved and killed. Ren’s delivery of the Oniyuri situation is mixed in my opinion. On the one hand, we do have a scene focused on the hands tightening that expresses pain and anger. On the other hand, the voice delivery is flat. While I understand Ren is the stoic one, his voice remaining the same dulls the impact of the delivery.

Next, and a lot more substantial in content, is the charity event in Atlas with Weiss singing. The song’s lyrics do express Weiss’s hate of the family dynamics with her wanting to break free of her father’s grip. The concept of the song is solid and develops Weiss in a way that fits her character. Sadly, on an audio level, the song does fail a bit more. the high notes feels shaky like the vocalist is having issues hitting them.

After the song, we get a reception. Some revealing moments happen. First is Weiss trying to get away from her father when talking and him trying to keep her in place. It’s symbolic of control but it is heavy handed. However, since the family dynamics have only really been implied up until episode 1 of volume 4, this sort of works. Next is Weiss talking to a guy named Henry about the event. Henry is written to be an ignorant elite with him thinking the event is nothing but “another Mantle fundraiser” when it’s actually for Vale. Weiss shows clear anger at his ignorance and forcefully asks him to leave. This scene bleeds over into another scene where Weiss snaps out at the crowd for being ignorant of the world after hearing someone say that it was inevitable for Vale to fall. On one hand, I feel that the scene’s impact is dulled since we don’t hear the conversations that Weiss is talking about clearly, instead, it’s delivered as background noice. It would have been better for Weiss to shift attention between conversations to better make the point hit home. On the other hand, the scene is still powerful and does show some growth from Weiss as someone who now protects people. this is further supplemented by Ironwood and Jacques’s reactions with Jacque seeing Weiss as embarrassing the family, demonstrating his focus on status, and Ironwood seeing Weiss as the only sane person in the room, demonstrating his distaste of normal Atlas society.

The last section of the show is a fight between RNJR and Tyrian with Qrow showing up at the last second. Tyrian’s style of combat is interesting to watch. He’s a loose fighter with no real adherence to stance but instead flowing between positions. He also is shown to be a scorpion faunus with him using the tail for unorthodox strikes and angles; though one question i have is how is he hiding the tail as the coat is flat on the back and not sticking out a bit if the tail is coiled up. It fits Tyrian’s supposed design principle of insanity. The presentation of the fight is a bit lacking however. Impact sounds are too soft to fully convey the power of the hit. In addition, there are some axis shifts during the fight which do cause some sense of lost geometry within the scene. At points, there are also a lack of transitions sense to convey movement that further contribute to lost geometry. On a more positive side, there is better use of slow motion to convey hits and Ruby using the electric bullet was a nice touch.

In the end, the episode does have substantial character development but there are a few nagging issues with the fight that make it a bit subpar

RWBY review V4E5: Menagerie

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review. Today we are taking a short look at “Menagerie”

The episode can be best described as “functional but highly flawed”. The first portion of the episode is based off Sun and Blake getting off the boat and heading into the island Menagerie. Here is the first big stumbling block of the episode: exposition. The episode has a point where the pace grinds to a halt and Blake explains the point of Menagerie’s existence: that it was an island with most of it’s land being uninhabitable given to the Faunus to appease them. This is stuff that comes from the World of Remnant and should be so clunky in its delivery since it’s not prompted by any real emotional event or character moment. This is compounded by conflicting dialogue and visuals. Sun makes a comment about Menagerie being crowded at least 2 or 3 times but the visuals of the show make it seem fairly uncrowded and more like Beacon’s Campus than a crowded city.

The second portion comes from Blake visiting her parents, Kali and Ghira, Ghira being the chieftain of Menagerie. There is a scene with Sun having to defend himself to Ghira that he is not screwing Blake but fails. It’s amusing though a bit cringy due to his poor dialogue choices but it’s fun for fans of cringe humor. What is less amusing is when two White Fang representatives appear and talk with Ghira who was also a former leader of the organization. Blake hammers the two to the wall over the actions of Adam’s forces but the two remain adamant that the organization does intend to be peaceful. At least that’s what was intended until the two leave and talk about telling Adam about Blake’s position. This is a severe misstep as it feels too blunt with no nuance. If the show wanted to communicate that only Adam’s forces are the issue then having the two talk behind Blake’s back like that sort of undermines it by implication that the organization as a whole is evil. However, this can be resolved through later episodes by having scenes with other parts of the White Fang talking against Adam or even having parts of the White Fang fight Adam in a future fight.

This is a functional episode with many flaws that serves people well but I’m not sure it’s at a level of acceptable. To me, this feels like a generic shonen and not something groundbreaking despite the cultural context it exists in.

RWBY review V4E4-Family

Hello and welcome to another RWBY review: Today we are looking at the fourth episode: “Family”.

I will cut right to the chase, parts of this one made me question the direction of RWBY as a whole and it revolves around the main portion of the story dealing with Yang. The Yang portion starts off with a nightmare that fits this type of characterization: Yang is attempting to fend Adam off but fails and panics as it looks like Adam is about to kill her. It’s generic but serviceable. What happens afterwards is a bit odd. See, Oobleck and Port come to visit Taiyang and talk about the old days when Yang comes down after her nightmare. The conversation consists of random comedic jabs and some more serious talks about Yang’s fears. The comedic bits are actually amusing. They are similar to how RvB handled it’s off hand mentions about past events: generally absurd and stupid things that have happened to it’s cast. Then we get to the serious bits of the conversation with Taiyang talking to Yang; this is when tonal dissonance starts to rear it’s ugly head. Taiyang makes a comment about how Yang isn’t an adult yet which is fine in of itself and Yang comments on how generic the statement is but then comes a particular line from Taiyang.

“If you think you are ready to go out there on your own, hum, i guess you lost some brain cells along with that arm”

That line right there stops all jovial tones and makes Taiyang out to be, to be blunt, an asshat. They try to pass it off as a joke but I could hear the actors strain themselves to try to laugh. In addition, it also marks a focus on how Yang is dealing with her problems: she argues that the loss of the arm and her confidence is a new state of normal but Taiyang and the teachers try to make her realize that she shouldn’t let fear stop her. The frustrating part is that the statement works too well; Yang is seen wearing the robotic limb the next day. In terms of storytelling, it makes Yang’s trauma look minor since they could be solved with just a pep talk and also cheapens any sort of quest towards self growth.

The other side stories aren’t as terrible but they leave the audience in too much of a state of confusion. The farm boy is shown again, this time talking to a mirror and being greeted by Ozpin’s dismembered voice. This implies some sort of state where Ozpin is alive but either in a spirit form or possessing another body.

In addition, Qrow and Raven actually meet and talk. This portion leaves some odd plot details. The first is that Raven is basically a “survival of the fittest” archetype; she believes in the strong surviving and actually led a group of, presumably, bandits  that actually attacked the town Ruby and the team visited. Raven and Qrow came from the same bandit group but Qrow left. The second is that Raven is questioning Qrow about the same relic that Salam is after. This means that Raven might get involved in the final conflict.

Regardless, this episode left a few questions for the audience which would normally not lead to a negative view of the episode but Taiyang’s interactions make this episode uncomfortable to sit through. Combine that with Yang using the arm and I have concerns about how they plan to do character development for the future.

RWBY Review: V4E3- Of Runaways and Stowaways

Hello and welcome to the RWBY review. Today, we got the third episode “Of Runaways and Stowaways” on the docket today.

Storywise, this is a Blake story with a bit of Yang in it. Blake’s portion seems similar to Ruby’s in the first episode in that she fights a monster but Sun actually shows up and helps. Blake and Sun seem to have an odd relation that would probably sink their ship. Blake seems antagonistic and annoyed with Sun and this transfers over to the fight where there are several shots where Sun seems like a complete idiot. Sun does manage to convince Blake to let him tag along but the interactions and a bit of the body language seem to indicate that Blake is annoyed and more focused on her real goal: going home probably to talk to family. One thing that doesn’t make sense in this portion of the story is when Blake discards the ribbon; the question i ask at this point is “why didn’t she discard it earlier in the timeskip”. This seems to be an issue with communicating the passing of time after the fall of Beacon.

Yang’s portion of the story is shorter but has one moment that seems counter to her development. Yang is shown to have clear PTSD with losing her arm though this isn’t expressed constantly as she doesn’t get visibly angry when a news report talks about Adam. Yang is also shown to be a bit detached and removed from Taiyang most likely due to her trauma. An issue lies with what Taiyang brings home, a robotic arm from Atlas. This poses some major issues with Yang’s development as it comes in too early in Yang’s story to be a symbol of her having overcome trauma to go after Adam. AT this point, it feels like they are making the impact of losing the arm nonexistent. It would feel like the writers just trying to retcon the arm loss early if it weren’t for the fact that Yang is hesitant to try it on now.

We also have a small part involving Cinder trying to control the Fall Maiden’s power. What should be noted is that Salam is looking for something in Beacon and that Ozpin’s “death” is very uncertain. I can’t really comment on this section as it’s short and has no real payoff this episode.

Animation is still a mixed bag. There are some cases of stiff movements, characters being perfectly still and at least one case of the pose shifting between cuts. On the other hand, Sun and Blake’s character animation has improved with Sun having very large dramatic motions that fit his cocky personality and Blake having a lot of emotional expression from both her face and her ears. One issue I have is the texture on Sun’s tail; it feels like they just copied the texture for Sun’s hair without consideration of how it would looks so it seems unnatural.

The fight scene is fairly standard though I do like the use of a Chinese dragon for the basis of the design. It has moments of dramatic slowdown and does do impact multiplication though the use of aftereffects. In addition, there is a level of comedic execution with how Blake interacts with Sun: jumping on him and dropping him after a catch in particular. Finally, the semblances seem to have evolved with sun being able to have the aura clones do complex coordinated actions and Blake’s shadow clones interacting with her to propel her. This means that semblance evolution may be possible and we may get some interesting fights later down the line.

In general, this show is competent but, in my personal view, if you are an anime fan, this is standard. Nothing has stood out that would outright make this a watch and the scene with Yang may be an omen for writing issues down the line.

 

RWBY Review: V4E2- Remembrance

Hello and Welcome to the RWBY review. Today, we will be looking at the second episode of season 4, “Remembrance”.

Not much to talk about on an animation perspective (though I think animators can say otherwise). I found that the facial expressions to be a major improvement with their correspondence to emotion to be strong. Another point of note was the animation for the butler, Klain; he has some sort of multiple personality disorder and they did go through the effort of adding affectations to his movements for each one which is a nice touch.

In terms of story, they seem to be doing twofold this episode. The first is scenes with Weiss to establish her home life. It’s generic with a younger brother that seems to have some deeper resentment for Weiss and Winter and an demanding father that controls Weiss but it seems done well enough. Special mention goes to the father, Jacques, who conveys his personality through talks with Ironwood and Weiss: he’s a business man first and foremost who seems to be willing to control his daughter for the sake of his reputation and company as well as quick to anger given his talk to Ironwood and implied past talks with the wife.

We also have scenes with RNJR particularly around Jaune and Ruby. One thing I didn’t comment on during the first episode was the lack of real impact of Pyrrha’s death on the team. Ruby, despite seeing Pyrrha die, only laughed at Jaune’s bunny hoodie despite it being linked to the cereal that Pyrrha promoted. Ruby’s laughter made the scene awkward. Here, they seem to be trying to rectify the problem by making it clear how it impacted them. Jaune is seen practicing to an old video that Pyrrha made in the dead of night while Ruby had nightmares of Pyrrha’s death. It works to establish the  impact of Pyrrha’s death but seems like a whiplash compared to the first episode.

The show also seems to be trying to establish the impact of the Grimm as we get a scene where RNJR goes to a town that Jaune once went to with his family to find it decimated. There is a portion with a guard and the team trying to get help for him only for him to pass away. In addition, the village is burned and in ruin with bodies everywhere. The sense of death and dread associated with the Grimm is more powerful here than in any of the past volumes.

The tone isn’t completely dark though, there are some small elements of comedy in this show but, unlike the first three volumes, the comedy is less abundant and serves to be a prelude to tragedy in RNJR’s case or to show how Weiss’s life is like in the case of Klein’s personality shift.

All and all, the show is trying to establish a darker tone but still maintain a stronger character focus with some levity. The tone is much better executed and the events of the last volume have clear impact on the cast.

RWBY Review: V4E1- The Next Step

Hello and welcome to a new series of reviews for RWBY. Today, I will be reviewing Volume 4, episode 1 of RWBY: The Next Step.

First off: due to the shift to Maya, the shading, particle effects and lighting have improved to the point of approaching professional. There are moments where the touch up work should have been better and the depth of field at one point is off but in general, the rendering is an improvement. What is an issue is the animation; the character animation is better with no sign of “puppeting” but there are moments of dead models where the models suddenly stop with no transition and there is no moving background or camera to help dispel the illusion of stillness.

For character designs, they added three new villains to the roster but their design is too simple. They look like a stereotypical bruiser, psychopath and plotter/negotiator with unique traits or features that would distinguish themselves from their archetype. The new costume for Ruby makes little sense as she’s now designed to be “sexy” but she still maintains her immature personality and behavior. The new costumes for the remainder of JNPR do work as they are more natural evolutions of their original style.

As for basic story, it handled it’s tone a lot better with the humor and the drama better segmented. The humor itself is more RvB style fourth wall absurd humor; it’s delegated to non action moments and low points in action so it doesn’t disrupt combat. The drama though is undermined by the lack of tension with the villains as the villains are underdeveloped with no real presence established for even Cinder. To use an example, Makishima Shogo in Psycho Pass was developed over the course of 10 episodes before the 11th episode when the viewpoint lead meats him. Cinder and Salam don’t have anything approaching this development. One thing that annoyed me about this show was that there was a scene with a farm that was superfluous to the plot and was merely padding to extend the run time. Other then that segment, the plot introduced Ruby’s team in a basic fashion and leads into Weiss’s story in a fairly competent way.

The opening isn’t the best.  The visuals are standard foreshadowing and emotional music. the issue is the music for the opening. There is no range compared to “It’s Time to Say Goodbye” or the other openings, the tempo is slow and kind of dull, and the lyrics are trying to sell a bittersweet story with a happy end but there is no increase in the tempo or pitch of the song to correlate with that

RWBY volume 4, episode 1 leaves me apprehensive. The story seems to be trying to break from the issues of the last three volumes but I have concerns about the villains and the main girls.