Throwback Thursday: RWBY Vol. 1

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Monty Oum: A tribute

“I believe that the human spirit is indomitable. If you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate, and often your greater dreams is something you will not achieve within your own lifetime. The effort you put forth to anything transcends yourself, for there is no futility even in death.” – Monty Oum

On occasion, there will be an individual, in the public eye, who will have passed from this world. In most instances, I will hear or read the news about said person, and think “Man, that sucks. Rest In Peace.”

Sometimes, however, the death of someone I truly admired will be a telling blow to me personally, despite that personality having never met me, or known of my existence.

Monday’s news about Monty Oum was one such moment for me.

And, over the past forty eight hours, I have attempted to amalgamate my thoughts over the loss of a true pioneer in his field.

One of my defining memories of Monty was on one of Rooster Teeth’s own video podcasts, which is shown live on the Rooster Teeth website on Monday evenings. Monty was being quizzed by Rooster Teeth co-founder Michael ‘Burnie’ Burns about RWBY, Monty’s own anime-esque animated show, and all that I can remember pondering was how tired Monty looked.

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Monty Oum

In subsequent appearances by Monty, in various videos on Rooster Teeth’s site, I always had that abiding thought running through my brain, and I could never fathom why he just didn’t take time off, or have a period of rest, to feel refreshed before tackling his work once again.

After the tragically shocking news that Monty Oum had passed away, and after reading so much about the kind of person Monty was, I had an epiphany: Here was an individual who did not want to waste any time trying to improve himself. He was constantly wanting to refine his passions for animation, cosplaying, technology and art. He only slept when he had to, or when his body and mind forced him to do so.

I never met Monty Oum in person, and I imagine that he would have no idea who I am, where I lived or what I did.

And yet it was a mark of Monty, both as an individual and as someone who was truly passionate about everything that he created, that his work resonated with me from across the other side of the globe. From the first time that I watched any form of animated work of his, up until the last couple of episodes of RWBY, I was always left feeling some form of emotion from anything that Monty created.

His undying love and commitment to his occupation has been an inspiration to everyone at Rooster Teeth, and every Rooster Teeth fan both in the past and over the last few days since his untimely passing, but it is this inspiration that will keep Monty’s family, friends, co-workers and fans going in the weeks, months and years to come – myself included.

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A trail of roses left outside of Rooster Teeth Productions, Texas, on Tuesday morning by an anonymous Rooster Teeth fan

Monty Oum was 33 years old when he tragically passed away on Sunday. I am certain that he had so much more to offer this world, but the spectacular work that he produced over numerous years is a fitting tribute to who Monty was, and provides a lasting legacy to one of the world’s true masters of his art.

Right now, however, it is difficult for me to view any of that amazing work without feeling his loss. In time, though, I will be able to watch his artwork and his wonderous creations, and I will smile, laugh and be in awe once more.