It’s been two and a half years since RWBY, Rooster Teeth’s anime-style web series, was unleashed upon the world.
Since then, the show has only grown exponentially.
Distribution of the series to Japan, the release of a video game based on the story, and fan adaptations have all come off the back of RWBY‘s success.
Go to any comic-con-esque event anywhere in the world, and you’re likely to come across someone cosplaying as one of the many characters from the world of Remnant also.
And it was the much-anticipated finale of Volume 3 which showcased just how much of a pull RWBY has on its own fanbase, with emotions toyed with and fan theories already cropping up as to where the show goes next.
But just how much has the show improved, in terms of animation, choreography, voice acting, script and soundtrack over the past 40 episodes?
Binge-watching the entire first volume on Netflix was the only solution to this conundrum.
For those unaware, RWBY is the story of a four girl team -Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long – as they embark on their journey to become Huntresses at Beacon Academy.
Along the way, viewers encounter other supporting characters such as fellow students Jaune Arc, Pyrrah Nikos, and Cardinal Winchester, and villains Roman Torchwick and Cinder Fall.
And it is the fleshing out of these human and humanoid characters that provides that fulcrum behind RWBY‘s success – making the viewer feel empathy towards these personalities.
Some battle their insecurities, others look to gain power and all look towards their own personal standing in the world of Remnant itself.
It’s nothing new, but the characters, particularly those of the students at Beacon, are relatable due to their teenage personalities, desires and fears – something that any person will understand.
Plot-wise, the story jumps between humorous moments, over-the-top action sequences and heartfelt scenes as the foundations are laid for the shape of events to come.
There are elements, though, where explanations are needed over certain scenes, or the pacing needs to be changed to aid certain episodes that were only five to six minutes long.
But the stage is merely being set for future volumes at this point and, having seen all three volumes to date, it would be harsh to criticise the plot when a plan has evidently been put together by writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross, as well as director for seasons one and two, Monty Oum, who unfortunately passed away in February 2015.
Musically, volume 1 can do no wrong.
Jeff Williams’ soundtrack provides excellent backup to every scene in the first series, helping to set the stage and evoke the required emotion within the viewer.
Aided by Steve Goldshein and Alex Abraham, with vocals provided by Jeff’s daughter Casey Lee Williams, volume 1’s soundtrack fits each scene like a glove, ebbing and flowing with the story’s pace and adding to the plot as a whole.
From an animation standpoint, RWBY vol. 1 holds up pretty well.
Fight scenes are expertly choreographed, no doubt thanks to Oum’s own work on other projects such as Haloid, Afro Samurai and Rooster Teeth’s flagshi show Red vs Blue.
The characters of Remnant all move pretty freely too, due to the motion capture technology on hand, but there are often times when the viewer can be pulled out of the experience due to some abnormalities in the animation.
The free running of the characters at certain points feels off; so too does synchronisation between the voices and the movement of the animated character’s mouths – an issue that is smoothed out in volumes two and three, but here proves a tad gimmicky.
Like the plot, though, it is easy to look back and view these issues as teething problems in RWBY‘s debut season, having watched the volumes that follow.
But the issues are still there, no matter how minor some people may see them as.
Much like RWBY vol. 1’s music, the voice acting is superb.
Rooster Teeth employees Lindsay Jones and Barbara Dunkelman voice sisters Ruby and Yang respectively, while ex-employee Kara Eberle (Weiss) and voice actress Arryn Zech (Blake) make up the leading quartet, and all four do an excellent job of portraying their character’s individual personalities.
Other employees such as Ryan Haywood, Joel Heyman, Michael Jones and Gray Haddock, among others, provide the voices of supporting cast members and also excel at bringing life to each individual.
RWBY vol. 1 is a great start point as viewers are introduced to the world of Remnant, its inhabitants and provides more than enough entertainment to keep fans of anime glued to their screens.
Of course, the first series of Rooster Teeth’s maiden venture into the world of anime would not be perfect from day one – a point that is evident from issues with the plot and animation.
But, for the most part, RWBY vol. 1 still holds up in spite of this, and the team has certainly learned how to solve such problems in the following seasons, and paves the way for future volumes in the franchise.
Verdict: Funny, sincere and action-packed, RWBY vol. 1 is a solid start to what has become a much-loved show amongst the Rooster Teeth fanbase. A lack of polish on script and animation style sees it fall short of fantastic, but its popularity thankfully is not diminished by this. 7/10