Back in June, fellow Unreality writer Nick Verboon posted an article that caught my eye: RWBY Trailers Will Kick Your Ass. The new web series was teased with 4 brilliant trailers, each one a stylish, ambiance-driven introduction to one of the series’ characters. Intrigued, I made a mental note to check out the premier. Three months and 10 episodes later, there’s enough content to get a solid idea of the series’ overall aesthetic, so it’s time to dig in and see what we have here.
What we have here is a series that unapologetically does a thing, knows that it’s doing that thing, does it extremely well, and is even willing to be self-aware about itself. While it’s not perfect, and I do have some issues with it, it’s a fundamentally interesting series to discuss. And if you’re looking battle scenes that turn you into Liz Lemon thinking about a popcorn machine on a private jet – “I want to go to there” – then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s delve into it, shall we?
RWBY is a show that you have to disengage part of your brain to enjoy, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me. This is a show that fundamentally lives by the Rule of Cool. To whit, “The limit of the willing suspension of disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element’s awesomeness.” Which is why when Ruby Rose busts out a scythe about twice as tall as she is that also turns into a cannon, I go, “oh man, that’s awesome,” instead of “that doesn’t make any sense; she’d never be able to actually swing that.”
RWBY takes this phenomenon to an extreme. What’s it about? I’ve watched every episode, and I only have a vague idea, and I don’t feel particularly compelled to analyze the setting, character arcs, or plot points in great detail. That’s because the world of RWBY is a mix-and-match grab bag of fantasy staples and fairy tales. You have references to everything from Irish poet Thomas Moore (“The Last Rose of Summer”) to The Wizard of Oz (Glynda Goodwitch and Professor Ozpin) to Little Red Riding Hood (Ruby Rose is basically a badass version of that) to Tarantino movies (Yang’s fight in the Yellow trailer is a homage to the House of Blue Leaves battle in Kill Bill; the store in Episode 1 is called “From Dust Till Dawn.”)
So it feels familiar. The characters aren’t characters, they’re every character. Ruby Rose is Little Red Riding Hood, Little Miss Badass, and a wide-eyed, idealistic lens to view the story from. Yang is Goldilocks and, judging by her outfit and other, er, attributes, a living, breathing, piece of fanservice. Blake is a ninja, an anti-hero, and a reference to Beauty and the Beast. Weiss is Snow White, the Ice Princess, the foil for Ruby with a chip on her shoulder. It’s the Four Humors all over again.
But, as I said earlier, this is all a backdrop for the action. I admit, this kind of over-the-top fight scene is not for everyone. I think you have to have grown up with it, to a certain extent. Power Rangers. Soul Calibur. Final Fantasy. Dead Or Alive. Hell, every male-targeted cartoon, like G.I. Joe. There’s a certain aesthetic at play here. Monsters exist to be fought and eliminated in the coolest way possible. The power of teamwork can defeat anything. The women wear physics-defying outfits and have physics-defying body parts that are calculatingly aimed at teenage boys, which is kind of creepy when you think about it. It’s all a bit eye-rolling juvenile, but part of my brain is hard-wired to think it’s awesome. At 12, I would have watched this every week with cereal and made cardboard weapons mirroring the character’s weapons. At 28, I’ll watch this show and enjoy it and absolutely not discuss it with girls until the 5th date.
Maybe I’m insecure, but I’m not wiling to let strangers next to me on a plane see me watching this on my laptop. Yang’s midriff-baring, gravity-defying outfit is just a bit…much.
But if you can get past all of that, the action really is spectacular.
A great fight is about more than what actually happens in the fight. It’s about hitting the right beats. It’s about the right places to take a breath, the way music influences the mood. Even if you know nothing about the series, you can appreciate the artistry of this:
And that is how you do that. I think I want to play a video game version of that more than I’ve wanted to play any video game in a long time.
I’m not going to wholeheartedly endorse this, because there’s a pretty big section of the general population that I could see being completely uninterested in this. But if you liked the trailers, you’ll like the show. It lives up to what it promises in them.
The series can be found here.