The long-awaited day is finally here, the day of my RWBY Volume 5 Review. So, despite the fact that I did mini-reviews and critiques for each episode, why write this review? Well, this review is supposed to encompass Vol. 5 as a whole and speculate on what's going on behind the scenes of RWBY and what we may be able to expect from Volume 6, which is probably already in production.
Before I get to the meat of my review however, I would like to first cover some commentary I have seen from other fans. This commentary comes from the RWBY fanpage I help administer on Facebook. I wish to cover this commentary because I want to give it a voice to those who don't verbalize their criticisms and to validate their criticisms because if they feel this way, it is certain there are others in the fanbase who feel similarly.
1. "They just overcompensated the time for what they wanted to put in. Volume 4 was super rushed so they wanted to slow down, but they realized they had too much time towards the end."
This is an interesting criticism invoked by the fact that I thought pacing was one of Vol. 5's major issues. The reason why I call it "interesting" is because this fan seems to sum up the pacing issues with Vol. 5 quite well. There is a lull in the middle of the season where not much of anything happens. It's less noticeable when you watch the entire season in less than 14 weeks, but that dinner scene in Episode 7 is still sort of long while the whole episode is short. Quite short in fact as the whole episode was just over 12 minutes long whereas most episodes in Vol. 5 have an average runtime of 15 to 17 minutes. Not to mention, there is a lot of talking from episodes 5 to 9.
However, I would like to call your attention to the point in this critique where the fan says Volume 4 was "super rushed." I didn't feel like Vol. 4 was rushed at all. The cutting and editing was weird because our heroines where so spread out and in different parts of their separate journeys, and the cuts were really abrupt, which all led to a feeling of a more rushed season. However, when I watched Vol. 4 in one sitting last summer, I didn't notice any issues with the pacing, but I do remember being bored in a few places. So, I would say that Vol. 4 had better pacing than Vol 5.
2. "I felt like history repeated itself and RT's blind to the fact that [their] quest for money has gotten more negative views as well as the fact [their] fans are becoming more hateful."
I'm not too sure what this fan means by history repeating itself unless he is referring to Rooster Teeth's greed. I haven't been a fan of RT as long as many others, so I can't say if they went through a greedy phase before, however I have been quite vocal in my criticisms of the way RT is handling Rooster Teeth First these days. I admit I would love to be right in this regard, validated for my keen observation, but there was a time when I thought I was overreacting. But this fan here seems to have picked up on the same thing as well as noticing that the fanbase has been quite critical of RT's more recent business methods.
I also wanted to address this fan's idea that RT's "fans are becoming more hateful." While I can't say anything definitive in regard to this as the only fanbases I really see are the ones surrounding RWBY and Achievement Hunter, I would say that these fanbases aren't becoming "hateful" so much as they are becoming "spiteful" or "scornful," which I think is due to the fact that no one seems to be listening to the complaints of the fans and RT just keeps marching ahead. If this is so, there will come a point where the fans will say enough is enough, and RT will start losing money. RT has to remember that their fans are more than just customers, they are also the audience, the audience that helped them build their company. You typically don't want to bite the hand that feeds.
Now, for this last one, it's actually a comment chain of four comments.
3. "Add to that list the fact that characters forget about using their weapons and abilities."
Reply: "Not really. Their abilities are just more consistent now and their weapons can't work on everything. Also something that's been made more consistent."
Reply: "So Ruby sending Yang to run past Mercury instead of using her SPEED SEMBLANCE is more consistent? Mercury being able to kick Ruby out of that semblance yet not being able to react to Yang running away is more consistent?"
Reply: "Ruby's semblance went from 'speed blitz' to 'limited flying and splitting into three.' Weiss continues to be less of a magic fencer (as she was already established during her debut) and more of a barely helpful summoner. Blake doesn't fucking move like a cat. Yang changed from kickboxing to breakdancing, and Emerald's head somehow doesn't explode from making an illusion that affects at least 10 people."
Despite the disagreement here, these four comments do raise a good point, which is actually the question of how do Semblances work and evolve, and what are the actual abilities of weapons on Remnant? I mean, in Volumes 1 and 2, the girls' weapons had no problems whatsoever with gigantic trees, steel sheeting, and even blocks of stone and cement.
As for the comment regarding Ruby's speed versus Yang's versus Mercury's ability to stop either of them, this is pretty spot-on and really shows the limitations in the writing of Vol. 5, specifically the plot point of mother versus daughter, Raven versus Yang. You're not supposed to be able to see the plot working when you watch a movie or read a book. If there are too many conveniences like this, it starts showing real hard.
As for Yang's change in fighting style, it didn't seem that drastic to me. Yang's fighting style has always been high energy. Not to mention in Vol. 4, she learned from Tai that she doesn't always have to go through an obstacle, but can go around it. Unfortunately, we only get to see her having a real fight in two places this volume, once in her character short, which takes place in the past, and then in episode 4. The problem with episode 4 is that Shay D. Man and his fellow gang members really aren't a match for Yang, so she may not have been going all out. The Ursa in her character short was definitely tougher, and the best exhibition of Yang's prowess is the "Yellow" Trailer, but she was younger in both instances, "going through" her enemies instead of around, and in the trailer, Junior had far more men than Shay did. Plus, since Yang was once regarded as a "party girl," if her fighting style did change to look like dancing, it would actually be super fitting.
Coming to Weiss, I think the criticism of her summoning abilities versus her abilities as a swordmage are all apt. Like, I didn't get the feeling she was at the top of her game when fighting the Lancers and then when she was fighting Vernal, it felt like she was jobbing super hard. While Vernal may be stronger and more experienced, Weiss can do time dilations and use her glyphs to slow or even stop momentum; either ability would've been a major boon against Vernal and with the use of both, she would've completely pwned Vernal. So, why didn't she? Oh, that's right; the plot. We have to get Vernal down in the vault with Raven and Cinder so that Raven can win with a savage burn, and so that Cinder nearly kills Weiss allowing Jaune to activate his Semblance. Suffice to say, Weiss felt a lot more powerful and lethal in the first three volumes, except for her battle against Flynt.
Regarding Blake's movements and Ruby's being able to split into three, I don't have anything substantial to say about either, but I would like to next examine our character's storylines in Volume 5.
So what's so important about the characters' storylines? Well, let's go back to Weiss for a second. Not only does she seems to have been nerfed, but she didn't have much agency in Vol. 5. Once she crash-landed on Anima, her story was told through Raven's and Yang's stories. Weiss lost her agency this volume whereas she had a ton of it back in Vol. 4. What really makes this loss of agency standout is the fact that Weiss was given her own character short, which all things considered, would've been more appropriate for Vol. 4 since that's where she actually got stronger, and it was on her own. The only reason why she's able to rejoin the fight at the end of 5 is because of Jaune. Not only that, but after she comes back, we don't spend any time with her in her super powered state. We don't get to see her kickass in such a way that would justify the presence of the amazing power up Jaune gave her.
Next, let's go to Ruby. What did Ruby do this volume? ...You know, I can't think of a single, damn thing she did that was meaningful or impactful to the story. Not to mention, besides the first episode, most of Ruby's story is told through Yang's story and Ozcar's story. Which means that Ruby also lost her agency this volume whereas in 4, she had a ton of it.
The only members of RWBY that had any agency were Blake and Yang. I think I can forgive this in Blake's case since she is the least developed of Team RWBY, and being so emotionally guarded, she purposely goes out of her way to stay out of the spotlight. However, I do have some beef with Blake's story in that it was a redemption arc for Ilia and Blake's character short was actually Ilia's. It also irritated me to see that the budget only ever kicked in when there was a fight with Ilia. And then, it did suck that there was no real standoff with Adam versus Ilia, Blake, and Sun. There was a standoff, but it wasn't a RWBY standoff, and by that I mean there was no over-the-top battle sequence, which is one of the cornerstone traits of RWBY.
Moving onto Yang, Yang becomes Team RWBY's MVP this volume, but not because of her forceful personality or her desire to always stand by her baby sister's side. No. Yang stood out this volume because Raven was this volume's MVP. Hell, you could say Raven was this volume's main character. After her introduction in episode 4, everything major that happens in Vol. 5 happens because Raven had a hand in it. She's the force that reunited Weiss and Yang, she 's the reason why Weiss and Yang reunited with Ruby, and she's the reason why Vol. 5's climax could happen. She's also the one who defeated Cinder, helped Yang's character progression along into the next stage, and enabled Team Good Guys to get their hands on the Haven Relic. Without Raven, much of what happened in Vol. 5 couldn't have happened. Well, those things could have happened, but then it would've meant that Team RWBY would have actually needed to develop as characters so they could overcome Cinder which actually would've been more difficult to write, but would've made for a much more satisfying story.
Now, I would like to take some time to examine the tone problems with Volume 5 before I go on to say what I think the real problem with Vol. 5 is.
For those who don't know what tone is, it's kind of like the theme or how a story feels, such as drama, comedy, action, thriller, and so on. The tone of RWBY is actually kind of hard to nail down. If we look at the original trailers, the "Red," "White," etc. trailers, it seems like loneliness or acting alone is a big theme in the story. Another thematic element that is constantly pounded into our skulls is action. Every trailer has over-the-top, high octane, and highly stylized action. But when we get to Volume 1, these themes are toned down a bit. I mean, we still have some great, highly-stylized action, but it's not every episode, and while there's a theme surrounding the idea of growing up, our four girls become fast friends, indeed. Not to mention, we see plenty examples of anime-stylized comedy.
|I know RWBY is essentially American anime,|
but unless your art style is actually anime,
you shouldn't do things like this.
Things become all the more confusing when we get to Volumes 4 and 5, especially when we consider the tonal disparity between these two and the first three. The first three, well, the first two-and-a-half are actually sort of light-hearted and generally fun. I remember the first time I saw the intro to Vol. 3 and I thought there was something wrong with it because of how f*cking dark it was, especially the opening song, "When It Falls." And when I think about it, the opening songs for both Volumes 1 and 2, "This Will Be The Day" and "Time to Say Goodbye," were also really sort of dark and serious which contrast significantly to what actually happens in those volumes. But, because I thought they were so badass, I gave them a pass. I actually didn't like "When It Falls," so I was much more critical of it.
But, the thing that super-duper, uber bothers me about Vol's 4 and 5 with regards to their tones is the moments of forced comedy. I understand that we can't have everything be super serious, because if it was, the audience would stop taking the show seriously every time it became more serious, like Dragonball Z. But when Ruby laughs at Jaune for his hoodie, when Qrow falls over when seeing Leo and RNJR screams, when Yang's arm blasts Nora against a wall and she laughs at it, and when Shay D. Man bounces off the ceiling and floor after Yang socks him one, I get a little confused knowing we're in a post-Penny, post-Pyrrha, post-Cinder-is-totally-a-murderer, post-Blake-deserting-her-team-and-best-friend sort of world. You know, the one where Ren and Nora are orphaned by a Grimm straight out of a nightmare and then take revenge on it. A world where Qrow is placed in mortal danger with no immediate medical help. A world in which Raven, a main character's mother, killed the last Spring Maiden and a world where Hazel is willing to kill Oscar to kill Ozpin. This is some serious sh*t, and I don't appreciate the childish jokes that are made to lighten the mood. Especially when it's painfully obvious that the VA's are forcing their laughs because the situations their characters are in are just straight-up not funny.
|Not to mention Jaune's hoodie is literally a monument to his murdered girlfriend.|
Thanks for being an assh*le, Ruby.
The moments that I actually found funny were the ones where Blake caught Sun and he calls her his hero before she scorns him, the part where he catches her and insists she calls him her hero, and the part where she slaps him. And from Vol. 5, one part I found legitimately funny was when Sun pinched Ilia in retaliation for stabbing him and she gets offended. Or the time Weiss tells Raven she's really obnoxious, or when Qrow passes out from drinking. What's the difference between these moments and the ones above?
I guess it's the fact that they're not necessarily funny, or rather, they seem natural--they're the sort of "things" I would expect to see in a darker iteration of RWBY. Like, I would not expect to see a food fight in this darker version of RWBY, nor would I expect to see someone smack a Corgi with a flamethrower as if they're in the World Series. RWBY is a much more mature show now, and that should pertain to its comedy. It should be more subdued, more natural, more realistic. There should never be a scene in this version of RWBY that is written with the sole purpose of making the audience laugh or diffuse the tension because it always comes off as trying too hard and being immature.
Okay, with that out of the way, I can now address what I think the real problem with RWBY is.
The Real Problem
Although I am able to only see problems with the tone, pacing, and characters jobbing to enemies that they should have no problems conquering, I fear that the issues I see as well as the ones picked up on by others is indicative of a much more serious underlying problem.
Originally, I thought the problem was the fact that Volumes 4 and 5 weren't directed by Monty. However, after doing some research, I discovered that Monty didn't direct Vol. 3, for obvious reasons. And while I don't know how long it takes to make a season of RWBY, I'm sure it's not beyond possibility that Monty still had quite an effect on the production of Vol. 3 whereas Vol's 4 and 5, his effect is likely diminished to just being the original creative force behind RWBY as well as writing all the source material. (If you've ever heard of "Monty's notebook(s)," that's what that's about.)
But that's what brings me to what I think the real problem is with Vol's 4 and 5--there's no Monty. And I don't mean that so much in a physical sense as I mean that in a creative spark sense. It seems like the "soul" or the "heart" or the "balls" of RWBY are missing from 4 and 5. To some extent, you could make an argument that the soul, heart, and balls are all missing. The only thing that holds up 4 and 5 with the first three volumes is the music, but everything else is off. I mean, the characters are still the same, but they should be since the show is still being written by Miles and Kerry. But there's still an inherent characteristic, a certain je ne sais quoi, that the show has been missing since the end of 3.
I know people are saying that we should give CRWBY a break because they are trying their hardest to soldier on without Monty, but 4 and 5 seem to prove that the CRWBY can't do this without Monty. So, as blasphemous as it may be to say this, I think RWBY needs a new Monty. Someone who has studied Monty's work and knows his techniques; someone who can take over his work and see it finished as Monty intended. I really don't think Miles, Kerry, or Gray can stand up to the task. Miles is too much of a fanboy so I don't trust him to take risks, Kerry seems kind of distant as every interview I've seen him do he seems like he doesn't care, and I don't think Gray is connected enough to the project. I feel like he's Miles' and Kerry's safety net. Ergo, none of them can fill the shoes of Monty.
So what is there left to say about Volume 5? Well, it wasn't great, but it was better than Vol. 4. If you're the TL;DR type and you scrolled right to this point, let me sum up what I thought of Vol. 5 with a simple ranking system.
1. Volume 2
2. Volume 1
3. Volume 3
4. (Bit of a gap)
5. Volume 5
6. (Bit more of a gap)
8. Volume 4
If I throw in the trailers, it looks more like this:
1. Volume 2
2. Volume 1
3. "Red," "White," and "Yellow" Trailers and Weiss Character Short (CS)
4. Volume 3 or Ruby CS
5. Ruby CS or Volume 3
6. Yang CS
7. Volume 5 or "Black" Trailer
8. "Black" Trailer or Volume 5
9. Volume 4
10. Blake (Ilia) CS
RWBY Chibi I won't rank because it's non-canon. But aside from that, there are a few clear patterns in my list. For one thing, I really don't seem to like Blake. I actually do like Blake, in fact, I like her more now than I did back in the day, but I still don't like her as much as the other three. The other thing we can see is that the more serious or graver pieces are closer to the bottom whereas the more fun or less serious ones are closer to the top. I've already discussed tone and I may or may not go into how Blake could've been a better character in a separate post, but this really does put my thoughts and feelings into an easy to understand image. And it wouldn't surprise me if other RWBY fans have similar lists.
And before you accuse me of "being nostalgic for the old days because I don't like change," let me tell you that I became a fan of RWBY in the summer between Volumes 2 and 3. My introduction to RWBY was watching Vol's 1 and 2 back-to-back, which I did quite a few times before the release of 3. After 3, I quite enjoyed the first six episodes, and while I was gripped during the last six, I don't have fond feelings associated with them just like how I don't have fond feelings associated with 4 or 5.
I have very little motivation to go back and watch the last half of three, unless I'm looking for a good cry, and I have no motivation to go back and watch 4, unless I want to skip through to all the fight scenes. With Vol. 5, I may just be burnt out, suffering from RWBY fatigue, or I'm still too close to its finale to care. But I'm not crazy about 5.
While I would love to see RWBY go back to what it was, I know that it cannot because that would mean undoing Pyrrha's death, and you just can't undo Pyrrha's death. I've heard a few times about how in the past Miles and Kerry were promising that RWBY would end up becoming much darker, and all I can think of is why. Why did they feel the need to go darker with it? I would've been as content as a cucumber if everything more or less stayed the way it was in Vol. 2. However, a better question for CRWBY is if the intention was to always go darker, why did RWBY start out so lighthearted? And what does this mean for the future of the show?
I sincerely do hope RWBY gets "better" or makes the change into adulthood. These puberty seasons are rough. And while the fighting in 5 was more reminiscent of Monty's "no wasted energy" style, it's still got some ways to go, hence why I advocate the locating of a new Monty. I'm worried about 6, but I'm still hopeful. RWBY's not dead yet.
Keep writing, my friends.
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