TL; DR summary: For those of you trying to get into the RWBY series, I highly recommend watching the DVD or Blu-ray releases. Find a way to rent it or buy it, just don’t watch it on YouTube (it’s not the best way to view the series). I cannot comment on Steam’s online streaming because I don’t buy video titles from Steam.
I tried watching RWBY Volume 1 long ago on Rooster Teeth’s YouTube channel when it was first released and didn’t go very far. I liked the action and the character designs (a scythe that transforms into a sniper rifle? Sure!), but didn’t like the pacing. Maybe it was because of the YouTube format — I really disliked the original opening theme (This Will Be The Day), and having to listen to it for every single episode was very grating. I stopped quite early into Volume 1, the part where Ren goes Max Payne on the giant Grimm snake, and that was it.
So 10,000 years later
after the return of the Burning Legion, I finally decided to rewatch the series on my sister’s BD collection of Volumes 1-3. I went in with zero expectations (like always), and came out impressed but feeling angry at the same time.
I was exceptionally impressed by the action sequences in RWBY. I’m an action junkie who enjoys a good action show and I rate RWBY on the very high-end of the action scale. I briefly googled Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY, and according to his Wikipedia page he’s a martial artist and fan of videogames. He’s also a big cinephile, which is not surprising. To produce the high quality of action in RWBY, you need to be a fan of action and understand the principles of making good action scenes. I’ve blogged about it before a few times, so I won’t retread too much on this same topic again. Good action fight scenes need to be succinct and easy to follow — the viewer must know who is winning and why they are winning. It also needs to be paced properly to keep the viewer engaged. Having a good soundtrack can help immensely — the original “Red” and “Yellow” pre-series trailers nailed this perfectly.
And all this was done in RWBY without resorting to any cheap bullet-time tricks, which has been overused ever since The Matrix made it popular at the turn of the century. There is one fight scene in Volume 2 involving Ruby Rose where the screen is partitioned into comic-book panels. I’m not sure if this was an intentional homage to Samurai Jack, which popularised this method of animation.
Sadly, Oum died in early 2015 while Volume 3 was still in production, and I’m not sure if this affected the ending of Volume 3. Because I was a bit angry after finishing Volume 3.
The ending of RWBY Volume 3 contains what many people call the Deus ex machina (DEM) plot device, a sudden and abrupt resolution from nowhere that is not explained, not expected, and we the viewers are just simply forced to accept it. I hate DEMs, dammit. But before I get to that, let me just summarise the rest of my thoughts about Volumes 1-3 as a whole. It is very important.
Warning: Spoiler break starts here. Stop reading if you haven’t watched RWBY Volumes 1-3.