RWBY full vol 4 review

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 naive, 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

I won't go point for point with the review, and I actually get why so many people have a hate-on for RWBY... but I'm still enjoying it.

Characters changing... while I get that in a general sense characters develop and evolve through the telling of a story, that doesn't have to happen if a character for whatever reason is already exactly what the story needs. While I more or less agree with the review about Blake's arc, I'm not really expecting Ruby to show much in the way of change over the series (other than a continuing OP power level being enough to win or save the day like Harry Dresden's.) In whatever ways Ruby may change her innocence and optimism aren't things I expect to change. Or, according to the show's opening narration...

Narrator: "but take heed... there will be no victory in strength."

Ozpin: "But perhaps victory is in the simpler things that you've long forgotten. Things that require a smaller, more honest soul."

I really don't think season 3's defeat (or whatever defeats there are ahead) will do much except strengthen her resolve. And even if her arc going forward does change her, I'm still betting that in the end what will be needed to "save the day" once and for all is for her to be who she is right now. And rather than finding that boring, Its fairly unusual and interesting. And a decent way to contrast a changing world around her. In fact I found Weiss' arc the least interesting. Knowing the kind of things her teammates are up against and going through, her struggle of her "overly controlled and tailored for public perception life and her railing against both her family and the society of Atlas" falls flat to me. My reaction was a resounding "meh, rich people's problems. Who cares?"

And Yang, well that goes with another of the review's problems... the time scale. Which factor into why I didn't have the same problems with Yang's story. I never thought that there really was any kind of "set" scale of when each story was happening. My take was that most of Yang's story was taking place within the later days of Ruby's story and that she had spent a lot of down time feeling sorry for herself. But that's boring to show, so they (like I would have) didn't show us that. Maybe it doesn't give the proper sense of time for her recovery... but its better than boring the audience with tedious emo moping and self-indulgence.

That's why I never really saw a "time scale" problem. They were showing the viewers the important things that were happening during an extended time period, like RWBY vol 1 and the first half of 2. Vol 3 told one protracted story, which went quite nicely with how it was different tonally as well. 4 is bringing things full circle, getting the team back together... a little more like vol 1 and it makes sense that its structured more like that than it is season 3. At least to me.

The fights, they're overblown and bombastic. Still. I'm not seeing much difference. Its still all just hyperkinetic hacknslash. Pretty, but not why I'm interested and never was.

And setup, a "return to status quo" is exactly how this type of story is supposed to continue. One of RWBY's drawing points (for me) is its very familiar character archetypes telling things in a familiar story structure, in a world that I'm enjoying watching the worldbuilding of. I liken it to a lot of Brandon Sanderson's work. Its a comfortable, familiar story structure and characters existing in a very interesting world. But in RWBY with music that I like. And that's why "status quo" doesn't bother me, its just a part of that "familiar story structure."

Kyrian007:
snip

But is Ruby really in the form the story needs? like maybe Miles and Kerry want Ruby to be the positive upbeat person but what the story needs might be to have her explore dark places mentally and emotionally. It would give better catharsis to later more upbeat actions knowing she has steeled herself and her resolve.

If the season 3 ending did strengthen her resolve, why not show her going through the mental process of working it out and trying to become a hero. Like I said, the bastion of hunters and one of the shining examples died. For someone who does hero worship, that would be a major blow and would result in a person needing to consider things. As for the Weiss arc, I find it more interesting because Blake is too cyclic, Ruby feel sidelined in development to some extent, and Yang has no weight behind her struggle

On the topic of Yang, while I understand that the audience doesn't want to see moping and emo antics, I would want to see the arm loss have some level of impact. Edward in Full Metal Alchemist, even after the automail, still feels guilt over why he and his brother are in their current state. Readjusting the automail is painful as hell. In addition, the arm loss serves as a constant reminder of that day. Yang should be humbled far more than she is as she lost a symbol of her strength.

The fight thing was something I kind of had to learn. I had to use references from martial arts films like Ip man, action anime, and even past Monty works to figure it out. It won't be noticed by most but those who do will be annoyed.

Izanagi009:

Kyrian007:
snip

But is Ruby really in the form the story needs? like maybe Miles and Kerry want Ruby to be the positive upbeat person but what the story needs might be to have her explore dark places mentally and emotionally. It would give better catharsis to later more upbeat actions knowing she has steeled herself and her resolve.

I'm not saying that's not an interesting way to go... but saying its necessary for Ruby to "go darker and grittier" that is getting into the 90's comics trap of trying to avoid being called "for kids" by turning up the dark and gritty angle when it really isn't necessary. Doing so can work out... not everything in that 90's "comics isn't just for kids" overreaction was bad. But there was a lot of schlock that came out of that. And even now we have the emo broody Zach Snyder Superman that's built on that same mentality, dark and broody when it's not necessary, and even thematically inappropriate. And honestly that's very similar to how I see Ruby. I see her as more interesting if she remains as she is (Superman, yea) as opposed to changing with darker reflection (Snyderman, boo.) Written well, either way could be good. I just don't want to see it go darker because someone "thinks they have to" to be taken seriously.

On the topic of Yang, while I understand that the audience doesn't want to see moping and emo antics, I would want to see the arm loss have some level of impact. Edward in Full Metal Alchemist, even after the automail, still feels guilt over why he and his brother are in their current state. Readjusting the automail is painful as hell. In addition, the arm loss serves as a constant reminder of that day. Yang should be humbled far more than she is as she lost a symbol of her strength.

Great example with FMA, and they handle it in a way I see as easily still possible for Yang. Because most often in FMA they're showing Edward dealing with his loss while he's moving on with his life. While the events of the story are playing out around him. In RWBY's season 4 it was fairly obvious to me that there wasn't much happening to Yang back in Patch. And her dealing with her loss there is, the boring stuff. Now that she is moving on is a better time to explore her sense of loss. Maybe they won't and that would be a missed opportunity. I just don't see Yang feeling sorry for herself in her room as a better storypoint than... having the arm break during a fight or hurt somebody by accident.

The fight thing was something I kind of had to learn. I had to use references from martial arts films like Ip man, action anime, and even past Monty works to figure it out. It won't be noticed by most but those who do will be annoyed.

Yeah, I'm not really into Kung-Fu movies and such. And the action anime I usually watch is heavier on guns and less on hacknslash. Frankly if they want to replay awesome action fights like the ones in Advent Children or whatever... doesn't bother me, that stuff looks super cool.

 

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