RWBY: A cartoon review …

I stumbled across the following video recently, and I immediately thought about the first four Honey Badgers. Keep in mind, this is for the following video only; I’ll get in-depth after.

Red: Alison Tieman
White: Hannah Wallen
Black: Diana Davison
Yellow: Karen Straughan

I’ve since watched the RWBY series and I’m quite impressed by the content, even the nostalgic, old-school digital animation. Given that the stars are mostly female, all the characters are dynamic in one way or the other. This series is a new spin on the fairy tales as we know them. For instance:

Red—Ruby Rose: Little Red Riding Hood
White—Weiss Schnee: Snow White
Black—Blake Belladonna: Beauty and the Beast
Yellow—Yang Xiao Long: Goldilocks

Now, RWBY doesn’t obsess about the fairy tales these characters originate from, but careful observation will reveal Easter eggs everywhere. Let’s get to the meat of it, shall we?

Among the major female cast, the male characters are portrayed as just as lovable and/or hateable, given the context of their own character growth. Both sexes have bullies and wusses and everything in between. Characters clash and horns lock and you can’t help but fall in love with this series.

When you start thinking about it, you could even say RWBY is anti-feminist, due to a probably unintentional faux pas. For instance, during the trailers, the girls are expected to use their own training to defeat terrible enemies. Ruby Rose must defeat a whole pack of Big Bad Beowolves singlehandedly—this can only allude to the promotion of “rape culture.” Yang isn’t allowed to arbitrarily hit a guy without facing retaliation from a group of men (hired thugs though they are)—this can only assume supporting violence against women. In the series itself, Jaune pleas for Pyrrha to save him from a particularly dangerous and scary Grimm—this must be advocating female slaves. And Nora is outright told by a guy to distract a giant Grimm bird—which, uhhh … sacrificial lamb?

The world is called Remnant, where the people fought a losing battle with the creatures of Grimm until they discovered the powers of Dust. Grimm are soulless beings that feed off of misery, pain, despair, and general annoyances (let’s just call them feminists in secret, wink wink). Dust comes in two forms: crystals and, well, dust. Only a select few dare to harness the power of the crystalline form, but the powdered Dust is used by a great deal of people to do a great deal of things, which would need a great deal more research than any cartoon justifies. Be it resolved, any damned fool can use the powdered form.

All creatures (not Grimm) have what’s called an Aura, which, with training, can be used for three things: protecting oneself from harm, through precognition or force; empowering one’s fighting ability, by hardening/sharpening weapons and landing heavier blows; and powering one’s Semblance—a unique power each person can unlock with training. Most people trained to use Aura are called Hunters/Huntresses and carry personalized weapons they’ve handcrafted themselves. Aura and endurance appear to be interconnected.

Cigarette Break and tunes …

At 15, Ruby is the youngest character. She’s talkative but prefers weapons over people. She’s highly skilled with her rifle/scythe, which she admits she was complete trash at until her Uncle Qrow took her training in hand, and her Semblance is Speed. What she lacks in raw power, she makes up for with what seems to be an inexhaustible Aura. A natural tactician, she’s given the lead of team RWBY (pronounced “Ruby”). After an argument with Weiss over leadership, Ruby takes to it with serious abandon, determined to make team RWBY the best team in existence. Even though she isn’t much of a people person, she finds it difficult to show disdain for new people, no matter how weird they may be, short of blatantly intending her harm; and for the most part, it’s worked in her favor.

Weiss is, without a doubt, the richest of the characters. Heiress to a Dust mining corporation (Schnee Industries), there’s nothing she can’t have if she so chooses to have it—except leadership of team RWBY. She’s a snob: educated by the best, trained by the best, and supplied with the best Dust. Short of her immediate family, there isn’t a soul on Remnant who isn’t already beneath her, and she knows it. Once she’s been put into a team, her attitude quickly and often gets called up short, and she’s given the nickname “Ice Queen,” which is never said behind her back. After a professor chastises her attitude, she takes his advice to heart and attempts to bring herself down to “peasant” level because, like it or not, this is the destiny she chose for herself; yes, she chose to be a Huntress rather than a protected bureaucrat. Regardless of her determination to “fit in,” she gets ribbed by both friends and enemies by being named separate from the group, which bothers her: “Friends, enemies, Weiss/Ice Queen”; “Heyyy.” She has a scene that I couldn’t help but think of the WAF housewives, given the right context.

Blake is the shadiest of the group. She’s got her secrets, and knows too much but never enough. Having no use for people in general, she’s difficult to warm up too. Ruby manages to spark a timid bond, but gleans little more from her. When Weiss shows a heavy prejudice for Faunus (Humanoid animals), an argument breaks out and longstanding animosities explode, revealing Blake not only as a Faunus (cat) but also as a former member of a Faunus terrorist group that had made repeated strikes against Schnee Industries, Weiss’s family’s mining corporation.

Yang, Ruby’s older sister, is addicted to adrenaline. She’s proud of her little sister having been given lead of the team; she has no problems taking orders from the younger girl as—of the many things she knows—she knows that Ruby is cagey, whereas she herself is a hammer looking for a nail. They have different mothers, and while Ruby’s mother is dead, her own is AWOL; their father and Uncle are said to be very protective of the two.

Potty Break …

Jaune, leader of team JNPR (pronounced “Juniper”), rankled my nerves at first. He started out by vomiting en route to school and then managed to raise all the red flags of “nice guy” halfwit with his hand-me-down equipment. He then compounded my irritation with PUA tactics and capped it all off by having no real skill to speak of, nor actual training. In the face of these obstacles, it’s discovered that he’s a reasonably good tactician, with his heart in the right place. He quickly takes a shine to Weiss, calling her “Snow Angel” among other things, and persists on trying to win her heart. To her credit, she doesn’t even bother to lead him on, so he is saved the embarrassment of the friend zone. At one point, he’s very depressed and in the dumps as he suffers in silence over being bullied by the leader of another team when Ruby catches him between his extorted obligations and gives him some backhanded moral support. When push comes to shove, he’s not afraid to step up to the plate; his character grows by leaps and bounds over the series.

Nora is a hyperactive hammer … with a giant hammer. She loves life, and even the scariest of Grimm are just opportunities to have fun. There’s not much growth in this character; childhood friend of Ren, she’s quite happy to have a one-sided conversation for hours; she has simple answers to complex problems.

Pyrrha is famous as a gifted warrior. Like Weiss, she’s set apart from the common folk due to her fame. But like Yang, her secret is in her Semblance: if it’s magnetic, she can manipulate it, and she does so just enough to keep it a secret. Notice the metal armor in strategic places (the only woman wearing metal). Fighting is her forte, and she’ll gladly wade into the thick of combat, allowing Jaune to hang back and assess a battle. She’s completely infatuated by Jaune, simply for the fact that he didn’t know her at all when they met and treats her as an equal. Well, he tries and fails to be manly around her. Despite his failings as a “man” and warrior, she tolerates his shortcomings because—infatuation aside—she sees locked-up potential waiting to be trained and let out.

Ren is studious and silent. While an extremely skilled fighter, he appears to lack the Aura necessary to sustain a fight, needing to end it quickly if solo, which could be why he’s tolerated Nora for so long.

Last AMV, and then my final thoughts …

Would I let my eight-year-old daughter watch RWBY? Yes, I would, even given the brutality and mysticism, as it portrays a better sense of human interaction than most cartoons that I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing. It shows that people are flawed, often damaged, not remotely equal, dependent on companion support, and that a normal life will not get you power of any sort.

Friends aren’t necessarily people you automatically agree with. Sometimes you have to confront your friends and/or allies in no uncertain terms, lest animosity builds over trivialities.

Prejudices are real, they aren’t black and white (no, that’s not a pun), and they come in a variety of shapes and forms. Polarizing your beliefs could lead you down a road you never intended to take, simply by taking one step at a time, and one day, someone close looks at you and they don’t know who they’re looking at anymore.

Bad guys are not always dressed in black with maniacal laughs disemboweling live kittens; they are everywhere, with varying degrees of badness; and allies are not always good just because they choose to fight on your side. Being a bully doesn’t make you an enemy, and being an enemy doesn’t make you a bully.

There are police, and military, and destructive machinery; all doing expected things, for better or worse, and none of them have the answers to the problems faced. Hunters and Huntresses are set apart, not in that they hunt Grimm, but rather, when not hunting Grimm, they act like the CIA, doing investigative work that often keeps the cops busy but the military bored.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find misandry or misogyny, or even gynocentrism. When a dance is coming up, Weiss automatically shoots down Jaune, which her teammates chastise her for, on the basis of her style. However, later her advances on another Hunter get shot down, for what turns out to be a rather trivial reason.

While history and combat training are hinted at during school, actual team training happens in the invisible background, allowing the story to progress through the weeks and months. This becomes apparent during the second season, when the team is seen executing Ruby’s commands flawlessly.

While the episodes are short, they are nonetheless captivating, and the first season has been compiled into a two-hour movie.

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