Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thoughts on RWBY Volume 4 — Relatively spoiler free

RWBY has been continuously improving in production quality and is one of my favorite shows around. The action its creator—Monty Oum—is famous for alone makes the entire watching experience a net gain.

Volume 4 has just finished, so let's give some thoughts, ne? I'll keep my thoughts to overarching ones, so nothing specific will be spoiled, but I'm not going to say there's no spoilers.


I've spoken before how RWBY was a great series in spite of its flaws—there's always a "but" after any praise. The action's great, but the production quality is shoddy. The humor and relationships are wonderful, but sometimes the VAs are a little rough around the edges or stiff. The conceit of the world is really interesting, but it doesn't feel fully fleshed out.

This volume's production quality is the highest so far, and the action is still good in spite of Monty Oum's passing.

Butttt, the season is a transitional one. The party is scattered and everyone's traveling or dealing with their own issues. The season is definitely feeling the lack of the core group's relationships.

Twelve episodes and out for a season of RWBY without any strong presence of RWBY?! Can we invest some of that increase in budget into the quantity and not just quality? The lack of quantity has always been the worst part for those of us that truly love this show.

This season was decidedly more somber as well, and a lot of the humor was either wholly missing or just didn't hit as well without the interactions of the members of RWBY to back it up. Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang are in the top tier of VAs working for the show, and having them split up amongst other people makes the lack a little more apparent.

In terms of strategy of writing, there's a few different ways you can handle travel sequences. One way is to just completely skip them. The characters say, "Hey, we need to go to X", and the next scene they're arriving in X. In stories featuring multiple viewpoints, this gives an appropriate and easy place to switch the vp to one that's not traveling. When the view switches back, the reader has a sense of time passing because of the time spent with the other vp. If time hadn't passed after switching vps, that would have seemed strange. Of course, they didn't take time showing boring travels.

Another method is to go full Tolkien and narrate the travels like it's a flipping travel book. Everything of inconsequence they pass by is discussed at length. People that want vibrant worlds as much as—or more than—plot and character development will regularly prefer this method. Extra points if you don't even try to make it feel natural or in relation to the characters themselves.

Finally, the last method is to try to make the travels themselves interesting. They provide opportunities to feature character development at lower stakes than plot necessary encounters, and flesh out the world firsthand so to speak. It also gives an opportunity to hang Chekov's gun on the wall if you needed it.

No one way is ideal, and in truth, they should probably all be featured to some extent, but I definitely prefer the last method.

However, it's still flipping transition. It's not what you're consuming the story for. If done well, it might make what's coming in the future hit harder or be more fitting and it'll make sense when the gun goes off after hanging it earlier.

RWBY Volume 4 is nothing but a season of travel chapters. I've got major hopes for Volume 5, but in terms of now, today; it was a lot of waiting to have us wait some more.

When I saw a tweet earlier today saying it was the last episode of Volume 4, my heart dropped out of my chest. They haven't given us anything and it's over already?

I couldn't imagine an episode as short as RWBY's episodes are would provide us with a satisfying ending. It didn't. I'm hopeful the transition period is close to over, but if the directors choose to they could easily drag it out some more. The characters that developed the most this season were background characters. I will say I've never liked Nora as much as I do now, although part of that may have been because of the RWBY Chibi series. My esteem of the series still remains relatively high, and I'm thoroughly hooked on the series and characters, but I'm not going to pretend this volume is a must watch. Hell, if you weren't interested, you could probably skip from Volume 3 to Volume 5 without much trouble. That's how little actually happened this season.

So those are my thoughts. Have you seen RWBY? What are your thoughts on this season? Are you already gnashing your teeth over the thought of having to wait for Volume 5? I know I am!