In a few days, RWBY Volume 3 is going to resume its run on Saturday, 10 am CST. If you’ve been following the show so far - and if you’re a fan of a particular character - then the upcoming Episode is likely to finally relieve that itch that’s been building up for the past 3 weeks.... or worsen it.
But while we’re waiting, let us take a moment to reflect on the first 6 Episodes and rate their presentation. As usual, everything discussed below will contain spoilers, so be warned!
Battle Choreograph and Animation
It may feel strange for newcomers that I start off with such a specific title, but at its core RWBY’s greatest selling point consist of epic battle moments like these:
And will you just check out these moves, baby:
While technically the Trailers are standalone prequels that did not make it into the actual series, moments such as these and these are more than enough to convince people to keep coming back for more.This is made possible largely thanks to its late creator Monty Oum, whose creative imagination and incredible work ethic continue to inspire many people despite his unfortunate passing during early February 2015. At the time, many people are worried that with his passing, Volume 3’s battle choreography and animation will experience a drop in quality - and with it the strongest selling point of the entire anime - eventually causing the series to succumb to mediocrity.
Now half of the Volume has been showcased, and we are at the brink of a new year. What exactly is my verdict of RWBY Volume 3’s battle animations thus far?
When Rooster Teeth promised pre-launch that Volume 3 will likely contain more fights than any other Volumes (that includes future ones) in the entire series, I had somewhat expected that the fight scenes in Volume 3, as a direct result of the loss of one of their main animator to drop in overall quality. As it turns out, that expectation has not been overturned yet. For example, we look at the team battle between SSSN and IDGO:
Team SSSN can certainly fight like buffoons for all they like, but that doesn’t meant that the animation has to look like one too. This particular fight is marred by excessive close-up shots of the characters’ upper body, contains too many 2D cartoonish moments, and drags its joke for way too long than is necessary. It’s boring. It’s potentially nausea-inducing since the camera swings around very kinetically, but for some reason never strays away from the characters’ face. I thought the focus is on the fights, not at Sun Wukong’s chest. As a drunk Qrow says later on, this fight is a total mess.
This is not the only sin of Volume 3’s fight scenes. So far we have not gotten a single fight where the flow is broken by some awkwardly placed jokes or ‘character moments’. Admittedly a majority of them are appropriately paced, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook terrible moment’s such as Team JNPR’s out-of-nowhere stupidly long argument about combo names. There has also been complains on how every single fight thus far has ended with big, flashy knockouts, although I personally don’t see an issue with that.
Animation wise, there definitely isn’t enough time put into polishing the scenes. For example, the jazz tornado vs Schnee tornado during the double fight is decidedly unimpressive in my opinion. For once the battle choreography is good and actually syncs quite well with the music (though potentially due to the fact that Neon and Flynt literally fight with music), but it was pulled down by the constant nagging feeling that the scene could have looked much better. The same goes with the latest Mercury versus Yang duel; that steam discharge as he Mercury flies into the air just looks... I don’t know. Imagine playing the recent Star Wars: Battlefront and see Doom 3 smoke particle effect from a firing rocket launcher. It was that awkward for me.
Plot and Pacing
Let’s me be entirely frank about the storyline of RWBY pre-Volume 3: It is incredibly mediocre. If you’ve been watching RWBY for the plot you’re either too young or lived in a secluded mountain that only just recently got introduced to the unholy magic called the internet. With a bully arc in Volume 1 and certain promises definitely not fulfilled in Volume 2, it’s indeed an understatement to say that I hold any kind of positive outlook for the storyline of Volume 3.
But boy was I wrong. Against all expectations, the plot and pacing of RWBY Volume 3’is freaking AWESOME and a TREMENDOUS improvement compared to the previous Volumes.
For one, the show no longer feels like a children educational program. Volume 1 was especially bad with this, as every story arc introduces a problem before resolving it immediately within the same or next episode, Certain story arcs might as well don’t exist because they serve entirely no purpose (Jaune Arc *wink* still dealing with bullies at the ripe age of 17 *wink wink*) and are so underwhelmingly presented some didn’t even meet our lousiest expectations (at the RWBY Wikia forum).
But this is no longer a problem in Volume 3. Just look at this monologue scene:
This cut in my opinion, triumphs over every other similar scenes that have been presented in the previous Volumes. It is heartfelt, touching and perfectly believable. It gives a breath of life to the Huntress Ruby Rose, who for the longest time has felt like a gag character whose screen time and development pales even to that of a particular side character named Jaune Arc (and he’s probably going to get screen time AGAIN with Pyrrha looking more and more likely to be in a bind. Hero to the rescue! Sigh).
This isn’t the only improvement. Episodes are finally presented in a proper time flow without the ludicrous amount of timeskips that made the show watch like a fan fiction series.(it is the same reason why SAO sucked; because Kirito was trapped in that world for barely one full Season with minimum elaboration on what actually HAPPENED inside SAO). The pacing of the story thus far is fantastic, and barring filler scenes like SSSN vs IDGO and Cinder’s somewhat awkward ‘KEIKAKKU!’ moments, I have serious expectations that the final half of the Volume is going to turn out great.
Graphic wise, RWBY is looking more impressive than ever. I’m not an animator or a qualified artist by any means, so all I’ve spotted are characters with better linings and more shades of color within the backgrounds. But the reason the world of Remnant feels wider and realistic than ever is due to the many introduction of new settings, such as the Vytal Festival Grounds, Schnee sisters’ hideout, the ominous underground facility beneath the Beacon tower and of course, the ever changing Vytal Tournament Battle Arena. This is a direct remedy to the lack of proper backgrounds in Volume 1 and the lack of polish in Volume 2 that resulted Mountain Glenn looking like a rubble playground, and I expect things to only improve from here.
The only problem I spot is the aliasing. Most people do not mind it, but I personally cannot stand to see the characters’ expression themselves being marred into a mess of lines. This was never an issue before in the previous Volumes, so I wonder why it turns up so frequently in Volume 3. I have no wish to see RWBY become the Fallout 4 of animes.
You get me, kid?
If we want to talk about the music of RWBY, we must first talk about the the Volume’s Opening. It’s an easy thing. Between this:
Which one do you prefer to be the official Volume 3’s Opening? Personally I’d have picked the second video, and that is exactly the unfortunate verdict I have for this Volume’s music. RWBY Volume 2’s music is not only excellent, but it directly ties in some of the scenes that are present in the show itself. For example, Dream Come True talks about Pyrrha’s romantic feelings for Jaune and wanting for him to notice her, and Shine where she finally confirms her own feelings and possibly decision to act towards it - although whether that is the case remains to be seen. It’s fun and catchy, and in many ways it is more telling about the characters than the actual show itself.
Moreover, the soundtrack of RWBY has always meshed to unbelievable effect with its battle scenes, making them watch a hell lot cooler than without. I especially love the ones without singing - no slight meant to the awesome singer Casey Lee Williams; I just prefer instrumental music in general - as they portray in my mind a world of Remnant that’s far more grand and colorful than the one being portrayed by the actual show.
However, the soundtracks in Volume 3 thus far hasn’t inspired me the way it did during Volume 2. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it: whereas Volume 2’s soundtrack can make me lock myself in a room impromptu, put on the headphones and sing for hours to the tune of Die or All Our Days or Boop, Volume 3’s music just hasn’t clicked with me at all. I don’t feel the desire to revisit them. I don’t feel the need to assist with other people their attempts to complete the full lyric of a particular battle tune. The OST definitely did not sync with the fight scenes as well as before (which is a matter of fact, since the effect was a collaboration effort of Monty Oum and Jeff Williams), and even Never Miss A Beat, one of the better choreographed battle scene forced things a little too hard in my opinion.
This is another instance where the loss of Monty Oum is keenly felt. I sincerely hope it won’t be an issue in the swiftest future.
This. Well Ruby isn’t actually wasted, but you get it dontcha?
And finally, this.
I don’t really need to say more. It has been an awesome half Season for nearly every character in RWBY, and I cannot wait to see the sparks fly when all hell is finally loose!
Has RWBY’s strongest selling point taken a dip in the mud? Yes. Has the other elements of RWBY stepped up to support its fallen brother? Hell YES. If you’re a RWBY fan I hope you drop this anime immediately BECAUSE I DON’T NEED ANOTHER PERSON COMPETING CLICKS WITH ME WHEN THE NEW EPISODE COMES OUT GOD DAMMIT - ahem. If you’re new to the show, then by all means start from the beginning - the Trailers, then Volume 1 and 2 - with the knowledge that the show’s going to get REAL when you’ve finally reached Volume 3. You won’t regret it.