Friday, February 19, 2016

RWBY

If you've watched RWBY, it's probably because of the complex and fast-moving combat sequences. That's what first got me interested, along with the unusual animation style. I stuck around because of the quirky characters, amusing banter, and great soundtrack.
RWBY looks very different from most animated series. It's developed using Smith Micro's Poser 3D modeling and animation software, rather than traditional animation techniques. It takes some getting used to, but I think it works pretty well. The combat sequences are great, though in non-combat sequences the character motion is sometimes a little bit off. I think some of that may be due to the experience level of the animators, as it becomes less obvious later on in the series.

I label RWBY as "anime" although technically it's an "animated web series" created in the USA. Close enough for my purposes. The web series format means that episodes range from "short" to "really really short", usually 4-12 minutes. I didn't discover the series until the end of the second season, which probably saved it for me, since I don't know that I'd have had the patience to wait out the release schedule. Watching an entire season straight through, which only takes an hour or two, is the way to go.

The background and world of RWBY is moderately interesting, but not particularly exciting. Humanity lives on a world populated by dark creatures called Grimm, and use a substance called Dust and their inborn Aura to generate crazy-powerful-and-fast combat abilities. The main characters are students at an academy that trains Hunters/Huntresses, a sort of ranger/warrior societal role that is expected to protect others from the Grimm. It's not a terrible premise, but I didn't find the world to be particularly compelling.

But that's OK, because the characters are so much fun that it doesn't much matter what they're involved in. Each one is a warrior, of course, with their own special abilities and fighting style. The four trailers that preceded the series premiere, one for each of the four primary student characters, are a fine introduction. All four are great fighters, but with totally different styles and personalities, and those differences lead to often-predictable but still amusing conflicts. The way these four and their friends interact and grow is the real glue that holds RWBY together, and makes it more than just another CGI series with nothing much to offer beyond pretty combat sequences.

Through the first two seasons, RWBY feels almost like a slice-of-life series. We know there are bad people around and they cause occasional problems, but most of the focus is on the characters' daily lives. Season three starts out that way, but about halfway through things get serious. Serious as in death, destruction, and complete upheaval of the lives of most of the characters. I don't think they're going to be able to get back into the daily-life-with-occasional-interruption feel as things move alone. At least, not for a good long while.

The soundtrack also deserves special mention. Much of it has a hard rock/metal/punk feel, which puts it right in my area of interest. Jeff Williams created most of it, and he's done an excellent job. The intro music to the first two seasons is particularly good. I don't buy a lot of soundtracks, but I have the first two for RWBY and may very well end up getting the third as well.

The original creator of RWBY, Monty Oum, led the first two seasons before he passed away in early 2015. The series is continuing with the rest of the team, partially working off Oum's ideas, and generating their own. The third season does feel a bit different than the first two, especially the second half, but it's hard for me to say whether that's due to Oum's absence or simply the show's natural evolution. Either way, I still enjoyed it. My only real complaint is that the cast of characters has expanded so much that screen time is spread thin; I'd rather see more focus on fewer people, particularly because the short episode length limits the time available.

I hope the creative team behind RWBY is able to keep it going for several more seasons. I feel like there's plenty more story to tell, character growth to see, and monsters to fight. Looking forward to the next season already!

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