RWBY – 01
As a special treat, here is a little introduction to RWBY (pronounced “Ruby”), an
anime anime-style web series by the folks over at Rooster Teeth Productions. If you haven’t heard of it yet, I think you may like it.
Why I’m Talking About This
First of all, I suppose I should explain why I’m talking about this. I mean, it’s not anime, right? It’s made by Rooster Teeth Productions, an American company based just down the road from me in Austin, TX. So it can’t be anime, right? It’s not Japanese! It’s not even animated like most anime! It’s totally different!
Okay, maybe it’s not anime…technically. But after seeing the trailers (there are four of them) and watching the first episode, I can tell you this: it tastes like anime. It walks like anime. It talks like anime. It feels like anime. This may not be anime by the technical definition, but it has the soul of anime. If you like anime – at least, the kind of anime I’m about to liken this series to – then you should check RWBY out. It will air every Thursday, starting from last Thursday and ending in the second week of November, and you can catch it on the RWBY area of Rooster Teeth’s site.
Note: Just to be clear, Rooster Teeth Productions has in no way solicited this review. People try to do that with us all the time and we always turn them down. I’m writing this because I’ve enjoyed what I seen, and I think you will too. That’s the only reason.
Kinetic, High-Caliber Action
The biggest initial draw of RWBY (which stands for Red, White, Black, and Yellow, the colors that represent the four main heroines) is the action. This is stylish action ala Devil May Cry or Black Rock Shooter – in fact, if you likened the series to an extended video game cutscene where you never actually have to pick up the controller, you would be close to the truth. The action is energetic and kinetic, with the characters pulling off stylish and ridiculously cool moves that are just a treat to watch. That’s what first intrigued me about this series after watching two of the trailers, and the first episode did not disappoint. I really don’t feel like I can do it justice with words, so check out a trailer if you want to know what I mean. Personally though, I would probably start with the first episode. Keep reading for why.
Plot, Characters, Dialogue, Voice Acting
So I started watching this for the action, which meant that while my expectations weren’t necessarily low for the other elements, I wasn’t watching this for the plot or the characters. At ~5 minutes per episode (though pivotal episodes will be longer, like this first episode that clocked in at 12 minutes), if the action is consistently good then I’ll be tuning in. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.
First of all, the plot was intriguing. I really enjoyed how the intro scene had a mythological feel to it – they delivered the baseline, world-building exposition in a way that made it sound grand and remarkable, rather than, well, necessary exposition that they needed to get out of the way. They also slipped in the Huntress stuff smoothly enough during the battle so that it wasn’t weird when protagonist #1 Ruby Rose (Lindsay Tuggey) revealed her dream and was invited to join her new school. It’s all still pretty vague at this point, but it showed some good plotting overall, which is encouraging. One qualm: I didn’t much like it when Ruby Rose wanted to be normal all of a sudden. I mean, she got into the school of her dreams! Fly under the radar perhaps, but it felt weird for her to be talking about being a normal girl when she was so recently kicking ass with a badass mechanical-magic scythe.
Next, the characters. Straight character design-wise, each one is unique and easy to differentiate, but that goes along with the art-style. As for the characters themselves, we only have the barest of details on most of them, but at least a few of them are fun. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking Ruby Rose (who is patterned after Little Red Riding Hood), especially when she started getting super excited about becoming a Huntress. That’s another thing – I liked how expressive the characters were! That’s probably a perk of the animation style, which probably doesn’t penalize extra motion like traditional animation does, where repetitive movements are a great cost saver. I also really liked Roman Torchwick (Gray G. Haddock), who was a villain with some serious style. Not to mention his enigmatic ally, hmmm…
If I had to criticize something, it would be the dialogue. Some of it was good – I especially liked some of the smaller stuff, like when the mook motioned for Ruby Rose to take off her headset, though I suppose that was mainly non-verbal, so bad example. Other times though, the dialogue was cringe-worthy. Did they really have to throw out “beez neez”? Eeeee. This was something I actually expected a lot more of coming in, so only having a little was probably okay. This might just be a character feature of Ruby Red’s older sister, Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkelman, Yellow), because of the two trailers I watched – Black and Yellow – I think most of the cringe-worthy dialogue happened in Yellow.
Finally, the voice acting. I went in expecting this to be fairly amateurish, and also expected to be weirded out – hearing chirpy, blatantly American voices coming from what look for all intents and purposes like anime characters can be disconcerting, like I was watching a dub. Honestly though, I got used to it by the second line any particular character said, and if you’ve played even a single JRPG dubbed into English (much less actually watch dubbed anime) then you’ll be able to get over it quickly too. As for the individual voice actor’s skills, they were better than I went in expecting. By and large they’re not pro-level, but some of them were quite good – once again I was quite smitten with Roman Torchwick, and I thought his voice actor did an excellent job – whereas others ranged from pretty good to serviceable. They all managed to put out at least one line that really entertained me though (Ruby Rose’s whole excited rant, Yang’s “Gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross!”), so not bad. They’ll do the job, I think.
Looking Forward – Every Thursday
As long as the action is good every week, I’m going to keep watching. That said, the signs for the other elements are all looking tentatively good. If this show sounds like anything you might be interested in, I suggest you give it a shot. It may not be anime, but it tastes like anime going down, and isn’t that what’s important?
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Stylish, ridiculously cool action is what I came for, but the characters & plot pleasantly surprised. Can’t wait for more! #RWBY
- I especially liked their cartridge-style magic system, which reminded me of later seasons of Nanoha. There’s something about it that makes the combat even more visceral, and I enjoyed it.
- Another thing to make anime fans feel at home: RWBY certainly subscribes to the trend of having a lot of female characters wearing skirts. Plus they didn’t seem quite so pointlessly short or exploitative to me, but more of an offshoot of the heavily stylized character designs.
- One animation qualm: I wasn’t sure why all the unimportant characters on the ship at the end had to be blacked out. That kicked my immersion in the balls a bit. They don’t have to be super unique, but full Minami-ke season 2 black faces is never something I look forward to seeing.
- Since you’ll probably end up white listing Rooster Teeth’s site since they make you wait even longer before their videos start if you ad block them (which is brilliant really, the marketer in me heartily approves), why don’t you go ahead and white list RandomC as well? We don’t talk about this much, but the ad revenue does keep us in server money, so it would be appreciated. Thank you kindly.
- In case you’re wondering, I will not be blogging this weekly. This is a special one-off to introduce the series to you. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and that some of you find a new show to enjoy as a result.
For more from yours truly, check out my blog on writing, art, and the book I’m working on at stiltsoutloud.com.
ED: 「This Will Be the Day」by Jeff Williams feat. Casey Lee Williams