Updated: Sep 11, 2019
Let's kickstart this post by a confession: I don't get to watch a lot of anime. It's a medium I didn't discover until I had already developed healthy obsessions with books, comics, and television series, so I have a hard time devoting time to anime series because they tend to be at the bottom of my list for favorite past-times. That's not to say I don't watch any—I'm currently on the final season of Fairy Tail, and I've also watched Death Note, the first two seasons of Attack on Titan, and some of Tokyo Ghoul—it just means that I can acknowledge that I am in no way an expert on anime.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, I can proclaim with confidence that I am a RWBY expert.
RWBY is an animation produced by RoosterTeeth, about four teenage girls training to become Huntresses to fight the Grimm that's been terrorizing their communities, but they get sucked into an even larger fight instead. But it's more than that. There's so much lore and history in this series, that makes every character so intricately interesting it makes me heart ache with happiness!
Up until a few years ago, I had never even heard of RWBY. My brother had started watching it and he would walk around the house humming Red Like Roses nonstop. He insisted that I should watch the show, but day-after-day, week-after-week, I told him I wasn't interested.
But the more he hummed and sang, the more my interest was piqued.
"I couldn't take it, couldn't stand another minute Couldn't bear another day without you in it All of the joy that I had known for all my life Was stripped away from me the minute that you died"
I finally asked him what the song was about and he told me that it was a duet sung by a daughter whose mother had died, and the mother herself as if she was speaking to her from her grave. And that was that. We listened to the song, my mind was blown, and we watched the first three seasons of RWBY (all that had been out at the time) that same weekend.
Discovering RWBY was like filling a void that I didn't even know was there. This anime means so much to me, more than most of my favorite books, tv shows, movies, and more! So when I mention RWBY in groups of friends and no one's heard of it, it breaks my heart.
I'm tired of people not knowing about all the awesomeness that is RWBY. Today I am dedicating my blog to all the wonderfulness that is RWBY! After today, dear readers, you will have no excuse but to either watch the show and fall in love alongside me, or actively decide to deny yourself this pleasure.
Are you ready?
Here we go! Because there are too many to count, I'll just focus on the Top Ten Reasons to Obsess about RWBY:
NOTE: I will be doing my best to avoid spoilers throughout this post, and if I'm about tot break that promise, I will announce them as they come up.
1. Rich World-Building
Remember earlier when I mention lore and history? Well RWBY might have the most world-building I've ever seen in any series.
When episode one of season one starts, you'd think this was a fairly basic world, not too dissimilar from our own, but with dust—basically Remnant's "magic." You learn that Ruby Rose is heading to Beacon, and academy for Huntresses, a year earlier than most people her age, and you get the sense that this is going to be a Harry-Potter-like series about a group of friends studying magic together at school.
But, boy, do things get more complex than that!
As the story unfolds, you learn more about the countries in Remnant, their tumultuous pasts with one another, and the frailty of the peace in their world today. You learn that Grimm roam the planet lured by despair, and ravage smaller communities. And when you first learn about Grimm you don't even think, "Huh, I wonder how they came to be and if we'll ever know?" because they fit in with the world so well that you don't even think to ask it!
If you did ask that question though, your answer would be: oh yes, there's a reason.
Nothing seems to be coincidence in RWBY. The creator Monty Oum (may he rest in peace) had a tapestry of history and lore in mind for this anime, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding it by season 7. The Maidens. The Silver Eyes. The shattered moon. The Grimm. Ruby's mom. Yang's mom. The relics. Slowly, the pieces are coming together, and I am at the edge of my seat waiting to finally fully grasp it all.
But that's the macro view. On the micro level, looking at each individual character, you discover that there is also a ton of thought going into each of them. Each character in RWBY is loosely based off something: a fairytale, a historical figure, a popular fictional character. To give you a small idea, the main team is made up of Ruby Rose,Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long, who each represent Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Beauty/Belle, and Goldilocks. In addition, every single character in Remnant is named after a color—loosely. Taking that same team, Ruby is red, Weiss is white, Blake is black, and Yang is gold.
If this was all news to you, go ahead and go through the character list. You'll see that they are consistent with this, even if some of the "colors" are stretches.
2. Great Character Development (Weiss Schnee & Yang Xiao Long)
WARNING: This section will most definitely contains spoilers...
I understand that some fans have been frustrated when entire seasons have been devoted to the development of characters, but I personally Gobble. It. Up. And the further we go into the series, the more impressed I become by how far the character have come.
We've watched Ruby mature from a naive child into a strong leader. We've seen Blake confront the demons of her past. We watched Yang suffer her greatest loss and overcome it like the badass she is. And most impressive in my opinion, we've watched as the stuck-up Weiss has learned that there are more important things in life than money and prestige.
And that's just the four main characters. The *one-two-three-four-five-six-seven* at least seven supporting characters have also tackled major personal obstacles with grief, acceptance, romance, guilt, and secrets.
If I ever am in need of inspiration in my own writing, I use RWBY as a case study to remind myself what makes great characters.
3. A Main Character with a Dark Past
I promise this won't be a fully repetitive of the previous section but something else that drew me in from the start was that one of the main characters in RWBY has a totally shadowed past.
In anticipation of the series premiere of the RWBY anime, RoosterTeeth produced and released a series of trailers: Red, Black, White, & Yellow, each pertaining to one of the main characters that makes up the team RWBY.
The "Black" trailer introduces us to Blake Belladonna, as she joins someone named Adam for a train heist. Throughout the scene, there are hints that Adam might not be as well-intentioned as Blake wants him to be and that she's doubting her involvement in what they're doing. By the end of the trailer, she sabotages his plans to blow up the train by releasing the cart he's on and saying goodbye as she and the rest of the train continue on their regular trajectory without him.
She also comes with a whole lot of other baggage that I'm not going to get into because of spoilers, but I just appreciate flawed characters, ESPECIALLY in the young adult genre.
4. A Villain with a Bright Past
WARNING: Another spoilery moment here...
On the flip side of this, we have a villain that hasn't always been evil incarnate. No I'm not talking about Torchwick, or about Cinder, both of whom we haven't seen much backstory about. I'm talking about the one, the only, Salem.
Assuming you've watched season 7 with your jaw unhinged like I did, you saw that Salem's past was finally revealed—and she wasn't all shadows and death, not always. Once upon a time, Salem was happy, she was in love. But when her lover died, grief controlled her every action. She begged the Gods to bring him back but they denied her and eventually cursed her with immortality in hopes that she would learn the value of life.
But her story doesn't stop there.
Immortality just gave her longer to stew. Salem rallied the people of Remnant against the Gods, leading an attack on them. This, of course, did not appease the Gods. The God of Darkness murdered every last living soul on Remnant, except Salem, as a lesson. Then they fled the surface of the planet. With no hope left, Salem jumped into the black pools that created Grimm, hoping they would be strong enough to cure her of her immortality, but she was wrong. Instead, she climbed her way out of the pits a changed and powerful being.
Dare I say it again: her story continued after that though!!!
Fast forward a bit (sorry this recap is taking so long), Salem's lover actually did return (that's another story) and the two of them had four children together. But, when he finally realized just how dark she'd become, he tried fleeing with her children, and the two of them wound up fighting and Salem lost not only her children but was also then forced to kill her love.
Like, wow. What I LOVE about Salem's story is that viewers are able to see every moment that led her down a darker and darker path. You can't help but pity her at times, and you also kind of can't help but wonder if there's still one chance left for her, like there had been all of the other times before.
5. Heartwarming Relationships that don't Overrun the Plot (Bumblebee & Wren+Nora)
Moving on to lighter topics, let's talk about the romances in this anime.
After watching volume 1 of RWBY, there were so many "ships" I could hardly keep count.
Arkos. Bumblebee. Renora. Ladybug. Freezerburn. Black Sun. Roman Ice Cream. Daddy Issues. Sugar Rush. Cold Murder. Tauradonna. Seamonkeys. White Knight.
Okay, I'll stop... but you get the point. RWBY fans loooooooove some 'ships!
However, the romances have never been at the forefront of the story, and that, in my humble opinion, is fantastic!
So often nowadays, YA is synonymous with YA romance. The story is about, let's say, a girl who needs to save the world, and a boy with a tumultuous past that winds up turning good and falling for her. The plot of these stories spend so much time on building up these characters' relationships that it becomes the reason readers/viewers read/watch the book/show.
In RWBY, this is so not the case though. There are a few romances within the two main teams, but they don't hog all of the screen time. In fact, they barely take up any of it at all, but these relationships are still just as sweet and meaningful as any others. We root for these characters to finally overcome what they need to in order to be together, but ultimately we are invested in watching them rise above the darkness that's cast Remnant in shadow!
And that, I think, is the way to do it: get your viewers to love your characters and care about who they are involved with, but make sure your viewers are most invested in the overall plot of your show. It's what will keep them coming back even after their 'ships have sailed off into the sunset.
6. Tackling Social Issues
Something we're starting to see more and more in fantasy are stories and characters that address social issues. Some people hate it, some people love it. Real world problems are one of my favorite things to see in fantasy right now and people will fight me on this and say that "fantasy isn't supposed to be realistic," but I beg to differ. It's because fantasy has relatable elements that people see themselves in those characters and those worlds. It makes "fantasy" seem attainable. So it only makes sense to include social issues in fantasy because those are relatable experiences that can make the characters seem more realistic. As a social work major, I also think it's a great way to give a platform to important issues and to help create change, or, at a bare minimum, spark thoughts and dialogue in viewers.
So, unless you're writing some utopian story, set in a world where everyone has the exact some thoughts and feelings and reactions, and no one ever is upset by anything, then social issues should exist in your story. That's my soapbox anyways.
But let's talk about the social issues that come up in RWBY, The most prominent of which are speciesism, which appears in the world of Remnant as akin to racism.
Although most of the characters on RWBY are regular humans, there is a subset of humans that are known as the Faunus. The Faunus have animal-like traits: ears, tails, color-changing skin. Although Faunus were given the country Menagerie to live as part of a peace bargain in some old war, in the time of RWBY, there is still a lot of hatred toward these individuals.
Considering the state of our own society—mind you, I live in the United State—racism is such a poignant topic, and an issue that we need to get a grasp on. I believe the only way we will do that is to keep talking about it. When we bring it up in a variety of forms of media (anime series, movies, books, songs, etc.), it forces people to think about how racial injustice impacts their lives, their community, and the rest of society. Some people don't like feeling this level of discomfort when they're trying to "unwind" but, for me personally, I don't see that as a good enough excuse to not bring it up in these contexts.
Another social issue that comes up in RWBY is unhealthy relationships. When I first saw Blake and Adam in the "Black" trailer, it was unclear to me exactly what their relationship was, but I got the distinct sense that whatever it was, it was toxic (WARNING: I'm going to get into some spoilers here). And, because of the bad-guy-that-changes-because-of-the-girl-who-loves-him-despite-his-demons trope, I just assumed these two would eventually wind up together.
Thankfully, that's not what the creators of RWBY had in mind though! Instead, the writers empowered Blake to say bye-bye to Adam and the past mistakes they shared. This is sooooo refreshing, especially for YA, and so important because of all of the young people growing up without any idea or guidance on healthy relationships. And I for one think it's great that RoosterTeeth wanted to send this positive message to their fans.
7. Refusing to Succumb to Tropes
But RoosterTeeth didn't just shutdown the bad-guy-that-changes-because-of-the-girl-who-loves-him-despite-his-demons trope, they kept going! There are a number of other tropes that grind on my nerves that the RWBY creator team decided against using.
For starters, hooray for having a pair of step sisters that actually get along! And for not having their "coming together" journey being the center of their storylines. Instead, Ruby and Yang enter the stage so tight-knit that when Ruby starts attending the same school as her bigger sister, and then later becomes their team leader, Yang has no inferiority complex about it whatsoever.
I can't think of the other ones right now, but I know there are more! And I will admit that of course there are some that the creators fell victim to, but I still appreciate the effort to fight against some of them at least.
8. Giving Fans What They Want
Now, this is just a guess on my part because RoosterTeeth hasn't come out and said it as far as I'm aware, but I get the impression that they listen to their fans and try to appease them. Certain things that have happened later in the series have seemed like a "last-minute" decision. Not that they haven't been well-executed, but just that the creators had a change of heart, likely because of what fans were asking for.
I don't want to go into all the details on this one because it would just be spoiler-city and I'm already doing terrible on my no spoilers goal, but I really do feel like RoosterTeeth is responsive to their fanbase. Not always, not on everything, but in areas that they can, I think they want to make us happy. And I kind of wish that more anime series, tv series, move franchises, books, etc. would do this too. What better way to make your fans feel valued and ensure their undivided support?
9. The Community of RWBY Fans
We're are coming toward the end of this countdown and we have reached two of my most favorite RWBY topics! First: the community of RWBY fans and cosplayers.
The community of RWBY-lovers is one of the most welcoming, friendly, excited bunch of people I've ever met! I try to attend at least one con (convention) a year, and every time I do there are loads of RWBY fans in cosplay, walking about taking photos, exchanging social media pages, bonding over recollections and predictions. In at least two of the conventions I've gone to in the past five years, my fellow RWBY cosplayers have setup times for all RWBY cosplayers to meet in the convention lobby for a photo ops, simply by word-of-mouth. One convention even went as far as to host a pajama party just for RWBY-lovers.
My first RWBY cosplay was Blake Belladonna. As I mentioned earlier, I love her backstory and how much she's overcome by the time her story takes off on RWBY. As someone who also has a rocky past, Blake has always been someone I identify with. So I chose to cosplay as her because out of all the characters I could relate to her the best.
At the first con I attended as Blake, I did not expect to be so well-received by other fans of the show! People were coming up to me left-and-right, complimenting my handmaid cosplay, asking for photos, and making sure I knew about the RWBY meetups during the convention.
What I'm trying to say is that I was immediately welcomed into this community and I've never felt so at home before.
10. The Music
In many ways, I am saving one of my favorite things for last. People close to me know that I mostly listen to audiobooks, but on the off-chance I am listening to music, 99% of the time it is Jeff & Casey Williams, the couple that writes, plays, sings, and produces the music soundtracks for RWBY.
I really could dedicate an entire blog post to gushing about the songs in this series.
Like many songs, each of the soundtracks tells a story, but the words, the music, and the symbolism are unlike anything I've ever listened to before. It's quite common that during solo scenes, characters will have their own personal "theme songs" playing in the background, referencing key elements of their lives and stories.
"Mirror, mirror, what's behind you? Save me from the things I've seen! I can keep it from the world Why won't you let me hide from me? Mirror, mirror, tell me something Who's the loneliest of all?"
For example, Weiss Schnee's opening theme song, Mirror Mirror (see an excerpt above), is about taking a deeper look at herself and realizing that her own actions have made her lonely. But the theme of mirrors—and subsequently, her association with ice and the cold—come up in multiple songs about her. The same is true for all of the characters too.
I want to do so many song spotlights right now, but I am legitimately struggling to pick which one. I've listened to ten already! Okay, I need to set parameters for myself or something... How about since I've already talked about Ruby's first theme song and Weiss's, how about I switch things up and showcase a villain's song.
This song's from the most recent season (volume 7), so SPOILER WARNING if you haven't watched it yet. My second most-favorite song from the newest soundtrack is a villain song called "One Thing." Here's an excerpt:
"Kill for kill, eye for eye Blood for blood, it's time to die Retribution tastes so sweet. Gone's the life that he gave Now revenge is all I crave Retaliation's soon complete I was nowhere, I had no one, I felt nothing Lost without a voice and on my own Then a candle's flame Brought a brand new name But now you've stolen everything And I'm all alone."
One Thing does all the things I love about RWBY songs. For people unfamiliar with the story and characters, you might miss all of the subtle hints throughout the song that tell you who this one is about. The line "lost without a voice" is referring to the character Neo, and "a candle's flame" is of course Roman Torchwick, who died in volume 3. This song is about Neo seeking revenge for his death.
This particular song has less of the wordplay that I love from Jeff & Casey Williams, but it still has killer chords! I don't quite know how to describe their music. Gothic rock with a female vocalist and oftentimes a touch of techno? Whatever it is, every song they produce either makes me want to cry, dance, or rampage—or all three—and this song is no exception.
I guess another reasons why I love their music is because it gives you more opportunities to engage with the characters. Had this song not come out, I would've never thought twice about Neo. She just kind of fell off my radar. Even when the fight scene played out in volume 6 between her and Cinder, I didn't have enough of a chance to really try to understand Neo's perspective. It wasn't until I sat down and listened to the full lyrics that it hit me: Neo had lost more than just her evil boss; she'd lost the person who saved her, someone she admired and loved.
At a bare minimum, even if you aren't a fan of the lyrics or tunes themselves, they do at least provide deeper context to the story.
And there you have it! The top ten reasons why I love RoosterTeeth's animation series RWBY! Sorry to have talked so much about music there at the end, I just love nerding-out over RWBY songs!
And since I still can't get enough of that topic apparently, what's some of your favorite RWBY songs? Leave them in the comments and don't forget to share why!
Until next time,