I know I’ve not had new content for a while, but I’ve been preparing an extra-special post for you. In fact, it’s become so special (and lengthy) that I’m going to break it up in to four or five separate posts.
This marks the first of my story analysis entries for my theme, The Power of Stories. If I get a good response, I’ll keep doing these. If not, I’ll probably stick solely to posts on storytelling in general. Hopefully, we can get a good discussion going, because I’d like to hear others’ thoughts on these stories as well. Let’s take an in-depth look at one we love.
RWBY – REQUIRED Entertainment
As most people reading this are no doubt aware, I’m a huge fan of Roosterteeth’s hit web series RWBY. The fourth volume of this American anime concluded only a few weeks past, so I thought now would be a great time to break down the latest volume to see what worked, what didn’t, and why this story is so powerful.
Is it necessary for me to call spoilers? We’re going to be discussing the fourth volume of an ongoing series. Do I really need to point out that there will be major plot points, characters, etc. discussed that could ruin the twists and turns? Just to be safe, for the people who also need the giant CONTENTS ARE HOT label on the sides of their coffee cups: SPOILERS AHEAD. Do not continue if you’ve not watched RWBY Volumes 1-4.
I’m going to break down stories in list form, a kind of pros and cons list, with the most important issues first, ranking to the least important as we proceed.
So, without further ado, my story evaluation of:
RWBY Vol. 4
RWBY is hard to categorize for a lot of reasons. It’s visual style most closely resembles anime (especially in this fourth volume), but beyond that and a few derivative style quirks, it has few of the hallmark Japanese-esque qualities that traditionally mark a show as “anime.” Its characters and world are based off of fairy tales, but it doesn’t fit in that category either. The Brothers Grimm type folktales are simply used as an inspirational backdrop. The humor and dialogue have a distinctive Roosterteeth flair, of which I’ve not seen the likes in anything other than a RT product. It has loads of action, but that action is in a style more akin to a video game than a film or anime. Even the world setting can’t decide if it’s science fiction, medieval fantasy, or cyberpunk! My point is that RWBY doesn’t fit anywhere. And that’s awesome! It defies not only genre boundaries, but also any form of format classification, and that’s part of what makes RWBY such a great experience. While it borrows from many sources, it is somehow utterly unique, in a cross-genre, cross-media niche of its very own.
If you’ve read to this point, I’m going to assume you’ve seen the show through Volume 4. If you haven’t, leave now. Go read something else cool on my site.
Now, if you’re still here I’m sure you’re up to date, but I still feel compelled to share some backstory on Volume 4 as a foundation for my evaluation. While counting down to the internet airing, I was equal parts worried and eager for RWBY’s next installment. My excitement was caused by the long interim since Vol. 3’s emotional conclusion, but I was apprehensive for two reasons. 1) This would be the first volume of RWBY with no input by its mastermind. Monty Oum, RWBY’s creator, had worked on several scenes for Vol. 3 before his untimely death, but the fourth volume would be devoid of his influence. (Excepting, of course, his vision for the long-term series arc, from which co-writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross are working.) Needless to say, losing the heart and soul behind a project means that it will be affected, and I was worried to see how. 2) Roosterteeth Animation decided to make the switch from Poser, the animation platform chosen by Monty for work in the first three volumes, to Maya, the most widespread animation platform in the world. Now, I understand RT Animation’s decision to do so. They’ve been expanding rapidly with the success of RWBY, and new employees are already proficient in Maya, which cuts down on training time for an unfamiliar platform like Poser. Also, one of the constant criticisms for the first three volumes was the animation, which many viewers believed inadequate. Personally, I was happy with the Poser look, and the volumes were looking better and better with each season, but RT agreed with the need for an upgrade, which I suppose I can understand. For these reasons, I feared the show wouldn’t feel the same, and to a certain extent I was right. Let’s dive into RWBY Vol. 4!
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