Glancing at the animation style of RWBY, one may quickly dump it into the bin of a homegrown anime project. That is, if they note on superficial characteristics alone that it’s not Japanese at all. Even the theme song is a J-rock song composed in English. Yet upon closer inspection, this show fully embraces the more financially attractive method of some animation houses in the US of using CGI models to animate their programs with manga flair. One is also apt to see in the concordance of the dubbing with the animation and the dialogue itself shows that this show lacks the Japanese character of typical anime. It is best thought of as a US animation with anime-style aesthetic, especially for the facial characteristics of the female characters.
The program has the steampunk sensibilities we love in most contemporary anime. “Remnant”, the world these characters inhabit, is visually a mixture of modern and archaic European style. Some characters dress in Victorian garb, others in clothes that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary mall or modern university, and yet others going full-on medieval. There are swords, but at the same time, there is a character that has a gun for an arm.
While this is not Japanese, neither exactly the brainchild of those pioneers of anime nor those of videogames from the Otaku homeland, it certainly seems to take a page out of Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar. The show is more like the new Transformers cartoon, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, in that the fantasy world build is complex with all the rules of a Dungeons and Dragons game, there is a lot of dialogue and exposition explaining everything, and the torrent of dialogue seems as stilted and unemotional as the movement of the character models. Anime seems to push boundaries in many ways that would be unacceptable in the US. US animation in this style is more like very complicated children’s cartoons, hardly pushing any boundaries or dealing with realistic emotions.
Yet it doesn’t matter what the characters say. The show’s creators appear to be Otakus and cosplayers and understand what is good for their market – that which the anime industry has implicitly understood all the way since Sailor Moon and the US animation industry kept missing for decades, either ignorant of the winning formula or unwilling to implement it. What the average consumer of anima wants is the same as ever – attractive girls with big eyes in skimpy outfits, settings combining science fiction technology with anachronistic fashion, and lots of action. RWBY has all of this even at the title card showcasing four girls in Victorian dress with light sabers. Cosplayers, Otakus, and fanfic writers now have an American muse and it is called RWBY.
The faux-anime cartoon was highly anticipated before being released and many people immediately fell in love with its visual and mimetic similarities to anime. In its inaugural year of 2014, it was bestowed several awards for best animated series, including one from the International Academy of Web Television. IMBD is the only formal internet ratings board to give it a page. There is has a very high 8.3 out of 10. At the core, it’s essentially very similar to Transformers: Robots in Disguise, so its stylistic differences must be very impressive to the intended audience.
RWBY was born and bred on the internet, which may be the reason why it lacks the respect of Cartoon Network animated series’ which get a page on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic even after 3 years of strong performance. Yet the fans are lifting it up above its traditional television competitors. Episodes of season 1 (or “volume 1” as the series creators term it) have up to 8 million views on YouTube. Newer episodes also tend to have over a million views. It would appear this is producer Rooster Teeth’s most popular program, far surpassing even the views of creator Monty Oum’s previous series, Blue vs. Red.
Oum suffered an untimely death in 2015, but new writers continue to take to the keyboard in threnody by producing new episodes of his magnum opus. Interest in the show is still very high, so it is unlikely that they will stop it any time soon, especially seeing as Red vs. Blue has lasted of 10 seasons. Season 4 was released on October 22, so we expect season 5 announcement to come in summer 2017.
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What do you think of the current direction of the show? Do you think the quality is the same as the first season overseen by Oum? Do you think Blake will return to White Fang? Do you think Sun will get along with Blake’s father? What do you think will happen in season 5? Give us your comments and opinions down below.