With volume six just around the corner, I figured I’d take a day to talk about one of my favorite web shows: RWBY. And be warned: there be spoilers ahead.
This is an odd little series. It has so much love and heart put behind it, but it struggles greatly to convey that. There are tons of great ideas put behind the story and characters, but it struggles greatly to properly land those ideas. When you watch it, you’ll either love it or hate it.
Or you’ll have some other third opinion.
For everything this series does right, it does another wrong. For every amazing song on the soundtrack, there’s a moment where the animation looks glaringly awful (no, I’m not just talking about season one). For every well written and interesting character, there’s a character that simply shouldn’t exist. And I’m here to talk about my biggest issues with this series.
Make no mistake. I’m not here to tell you whether or not this show is ‘garbage’. That all boils down to personal opinion. If you hate this series, I can’t blame you at all. If you love it, I can’t convince you otherwise. However, whether you like or dislike it, you should be able to look at a product with a critical eye and point out what it does poorly or well.
Simply put: be fair and respect other people’s opinions. Now, with that tangent aside, allow me to talk about my biggest problems with RWBY.
For one, the characters. Without these, a story doesn’t exist. And RWBY does have a few good characters. However, it does have more underdeveloped and uninteresting characters than it does good ones.
The main cast consists of four characters: Ruby, Weiss, Blaike and Yang, the titular Team RWBY. There’s also another team that makes up the primary side cast, Team JNPR: Jaune, Nora, Pyrra and Ren. Aside from them, there are tons of supporting characters, such as Ruby’s uncle Qrow, Professor Ozpin, Oscar the farmer (we’ll get to him), Penny the android (we’ll get to her as well) so on and so forth.
Here’s the problem. The main four characters, the RWBY girls, are the least developed characters in the story. Instead, it spends more time focusing on other characters. Instead of taking time to focus on the strained relationship between Weiss and Blaike (which we’ll also get to), we spend time focusing on Jaune and Pyrra’s will-they won’t-they romantic subplot.
This is a big problem. I know very little about the goals and aspirations of the main characters, because the show simply doesn’t focus on those. I know and care more about a handful of characters who mean almost nothing to the plot then I do the main characters.
And not all of these side characters are even that interesting. Penny the android from the first three seasons is, on the surface, a great idea. She’s a machine with a human soul, bread to be a new type of super soldier. Since she’s a top secret weapon, the exposure of her existence could shake the trust between countries due to the possible threats of a Terminator-like creation.
This is all explored for ten minutes after she dies, and then it’s swiftly forgotten. It’s never brought up again, rendering all that time and potential completely worthless. Time that could’ve been spent making me care about the main cast.
And then there’s Oscar. I despise this character completely. He has no personality, no goal, and seemingly no purpose in the story. He’s been around for two seasons, and I still know nothing about him. The only thing he’s got going for him is that ‘Uh, Ozpin lives inside him now I guess’! What a fascinating character sheet that is!
It also takes time focusing on characters with no plot relevance whatsoever. Several scenes are dedicated to Velvet, a bunny lady who only interacts with our heroes about twice, and her teammates. Why do they exist? They only drain away the time that could be spent fleshing out the cast we’ll actually spend time with.
Then we get to the main cast, which we’ll go through one at a time. These guys seem almost completely aimless, which makes it hard to care about them at all. Among all of them, the most interesting characters are Yang and Blaike. Let’s start with Yang; she has a simple and clear goal: find her mother, who left when she was little. In order to do this, she trains to become a Huntress so she can explore the world, fight monsters for money, and find her all at once.
Then it gets resolved in season five, leaving her with nowhere left to go.
Blaike is also pretty interesting. She’s a member of the Fauness race, which are basically furries (it’s a poorly done metaphor for racism). She wants to escape her past as a member of the White Fang, a former pacifist group turned terrorists, and find redemption. When the chips are down, she tries to push people away and run away. She’s got to learn how to work with and open up to others and move past her previous mistakes. Simple.
It’s a shame it’s poorly reflected in her character.
Very rarely does Blaike actually act the way she’s supposed to be written. After a few brief interactions with her teammates, she opens up to them almost completely. After the first season, she’s basically an open book. After the third season, she goes back to square one and becomes an edgy leave-me-alone-dad character again. Then, by the end of season four and five, she’s right back to the way she used to be. She is so inconsistently written that it hurts.
Next up is Weiss. In terms of personality and growth, she’s probably the most interesting. She’s an ice queen who has to learn how to be nicer and truly work for what she wants. This, however, is where we run into an issue. The only thing we know about Weiss’ goal is that she wants to become a Huntress.
Here’s a question: why? What ignited that interest? It can’t have been your sister, because she’s a soldier in your home country’s military! It can’t have been your mother, because she was born into your family’s riches! It certainly can’t be your brother or father, because you’re actively trying to get away from these guys! So what ignited that passion in monster fighting in the first place?
Then we get to her growth, which is so horribly rushed that it gives me whiplash. Earlier, I mentioned that Weiss and Blaike have a strained relationship. That was sort of a lie; it was almost a strained relationship. See, Weiss was raised to be racist against the Fauness. So, when she discovers that Blaike is a secret Fauness, you’d think the show would spend time developing that for easy drama and growth, right?
Nope. It’s over after a single episode. Because we all know it’s that easy to stop being racist, right?
And then there’s the problem child of the series. The main protagonist: Ruby.
Ruby is one of the most cliche, uninteresting, and aimless characters in the entire series. Her personality boils down to ‘socially awkward prodigy (even though she stops being socially awkward for no reason after season one) who wants to help people and be a hero’.
She’s Deku but uninteresting.
Let’s use that as a comparison. Deku works well because his goal is clear: he wants to be the world’s greatest hero. Every action and decision he takes in this series furthers that goal. He had to work his ass off just to compete with everyone else, and he continues to do so. Thanks to all that, he’s a very relatable and likeable character.
Ruby did all of her training and hard work off screen, so she’s already a bad ass by the time we meet her in episode one. She simply wants to be a huntress; not the best huntress in the world, just a huntress. She gets admitted to her dream school in a single episode years before her time, making her the youngest student to attend the school. She’s made the leader of her team after only a single fight with them, and she spends most of her time goofing off and sleeping. She is neither relatable, compelling or even that likeable. She is bland, through and through.
The star of the show, everyone.
Now, if you like these characters, that’s fine. I can understand completely. Their voice actresses pour a ton of life and energy into these characters, and their unique fighting styles and weapons make their fight scenes interesting. They also play well together in moments where plot isn’t happening, like when they’re playing games in the library.
Y’know. The scenes that shouldn’t exist because they’re filler.
This lack of direction gets even worse come season four and five. Since their school was taken out by the villains (they are all cliched and uninteresting too, in case you were curious) they are forced into an adventure in the big open world. Here’s my question: how does this further their goals? Did their goals change? If so, what to? I’m too confused to be interested or engaged, damn it!
The list goes on and on. If I spent the time deconstructing every character, this post would be as long as a novel. If I added the issues with the world building, villains and terrible magical mcguffins, it would be over a thousand pages. Is that hyperbolic? Maybe. But I do have other things I need to do today, so I’ll stop there today.
If the characters had more attainable and interesting goals that tied them into the plot further than loosely/not at all, this show would be so much better. But it would still need to solve it’s other issues, which would take just as long to fix.
We’ll get to those another day. Maybe.