After over a year long hiatus, RWBY is finally back, and better than ever. With what can be seen on a technical level to be one of the best premieres in online series history; it is clear that this volume s going to be the best yet. As it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving away content, this will be a spoiler filled review. Therefore, if you have not yet seen the episode, be sure to watch it before reading this.
The episode begins with Ruby talking to her mother at her grave stone. In a way, I saw this scene as an indirect tribute to the passing of the creative mastermind behind the series, Monty Oum. However, we learn a lot about the personalities of both Summer Rose, and Taiyang Xiao Long; whom we get to see for the first time, as he is standing behind Ruby.
This shot in particular brings me to my first major point, background character design. Rather than using black figures, or stock models; the animators decided to use detailed stills. These stills have a differing style from the standard character models, making them extremely unique and detailed. The animators use this mechanic to their advantage throughout the episode, and I look forward to seeing how they handle this skillful technique in the future.
We then cut to the highly anticipated Vytal Tournament itself. Unfortunately, we are treated to an exposition dump with regards to the rules of the tournament. While somewhat jarring to the viewing experience, it wasn’t a large enough flaw to hinder my overall opinion of the episode. In this battle we see some of the best character facial reactions in animation to date, especially coming from Blake, who if you did not know, is my favorite character in the series.
This battle in particular showcases the massive upgrades that Rooster Teeth made to their animation engine. Everything is much more fluid, crisp, and bright; and is a true pleasure for the eye to look at. If you put this action scene side by side with an action scene from early volume 1, you could definitely see a major difference. However, a con of pioneering this animation engine is a slight bug that I noticed on multiple occasions throughout the episode. When characters are standing completely still, they tend to slightly vibrate. This causes a jarring effect that takes me out of the scene immediately. I am very forgiving of this flaw, however, as this is a new technology that they are pioneering with this episode. With time, this bug can easily be fixed.
During a conversation slightly further in the episode between team RWBY and Emerald, it is revealed that the fourth member of Cinder’s team is indeed Neo, wearing a very convincing disguise. It was great to see one of the most intriguing characters in the show for a third time, and this scene definitely got the biggest reaction out of me for this episode. I cant wait to see more Neo this season, and maybe even hear her voice.
Speaking of voices, lets talk about Ren’s new voice actor. If you did not know, Ren was voiced by the late Monty Oum. Therefore, he was re-casted to be played by Monty’s brother Neath. The new voice, although not identical to Monty’s, is perfect for the character. From Ren’s minimal dialogue in this episode, it is clear that Neath is an extremely talented voice actor. I cant wait to see how he handles this character, and I have complete faith that he will do it well.
Further developing Ren’s character was a piece of dialogue from Nora. In a fit of insecurity, Nora reveals that her and Ren do not have any parents. Knowing that the two have been inseparable since an early age, this brings a lot of speculation to their backstory. Were they living on the streets? Were they raised in an orphanage together? I like this ambiguity, but I would like to know a bit more. I have a feeling before the series ends, we will be able to put the puzzle pieces together and figure this mystery out.
Another interesting plot development was Weiss’ relationship with her father. When he tried to call her after her match in the tournament, she declined his call. It is clear that there is some sort of strain in their relationship, but it would be interesting to know what. We later see that he most likely cancelled her credit card, as she could not pay for her team’s ramen. As Weiss’ sister Winter will be coming into the story at some point this volume, I believe we will find out what is going on in this dynamic very soon.
The final plot development I will be discussing is a particular scene involving Mercury, Emerald, and Cinder. Cinder reveals that the three know the outcomes to each match of the tournament. Therefore, it can be inferred that the tournament is rigged in some way. Could it be that Cinder, or one of her unknown higher ups has skewed the tournament in order to fit into their plans? Only time will tell.
Evidently, this was one of the most dense RWBY episodes to date. With massive improvements in storytelling, writing, and animation; it is clear that this was the best premiere of the series yet. If this episode is any indicator, we are in for a great volume.