Blu-ray Review: RWBY – Volume 1
26/06/2015 1 Comment
It may seem like an obscure title to bring out into the UK but Animatsu’s Blu-ray release of RWBY – Volume 1 hits all of the right spots; find out why in our latest review.
In the fantastical world of Remnant, mankind is plagued by supernatural beings known as the Creatures of Grimm. All that stands between humanity and evil domination are defenders known as ‘Hunters’ or ‘Huntresses’, who use magical powers to protect the people of Remnant.
Among these defenders are four young girls – Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang – who band as the awesome team RWBY (pronounced ‘ruby’). Each using their own special ability and weapon, they train alongside other gangs to become super-powered Huntresses in the fight against darkness!
The release of RWBY onto home-video is easily a questionable choice; as while it forfills Animatsu’s goal of bringing Youtube styled content to the masses it’s also a show that finds itself being very animified; if that’s even a word. The story progression and it’s resemblance to Soul Eater, or at the very least Soul Eater NOT, is uncanny and the character personalities, expressions and desires all seem very familiar – especially if yo’ve seen a wide variety of anime shows – it’s just the game-CGI-aesthetic which throws you off. In my eyes at least RWBY is an Americanised CGI version of Soul Eater; with only character appearances and names being different; but does this make the show any good? Actually it does and it far exceeds my expectations of what i previously assumed RWBY to be.
Ok; it ‘may’ be a stretch to say its an Americanised version of Soul Eater but when you start doing comparisons it really does start to make sense. For instance all characters within this mystical world of Remnant are under constant threat from demonic monsters known as Grimm – which ironically look more like Hollows from Bleach – and in order to combat them a special group of hunters and huntresses are used. This is where our lead protagonist, Ruby, appears on the scene as after a robbery at a local shop, which sets-up a storyline for later on in the series, she is whisked away to a specialised academy to become a new trainee huntresses; along with her big sister Yang. At this point you may be thinking “so whats that got to do with Soul Eater?” Well Ruby, who is a relatively timid girl, wields a scythe (and a shotgun scythe at that) similar to Maka in Soul Eater, additionally her bigger sister Yang is a close quarters combat character and easily gets riled up – much like Black Star.
Comparisons aside if you enjoyed Soul Eater’s storyline of Students at an academy learning to defeat monsters then you’ll love what’s in-store in this first volume of RWBY; but ironically that’s only half of it. For the most part this volume 1 release of RWBY, which can be watched either as a 2-hour-long feature or in their original 12-minute episode format, act as an introduction; whereby we see Ruby and Yang sent off to the academy and then attempt to make friends while there . It’s your typical ‘awkward new kid’ moment as Ruby tries to make a decent impression on the other new students, but ends-up failing miserably; Of course this show follows the traditional anime clichés and as such Ruby, along with every other New Student, are thrown into a ‘bonding mission’ which sees the teams of four created randomly.
This ‘bonding mission’ is what takes the bulk of this release; as it not only sees the formation of Team RWBY but it also sees the relationship between these four characters, and a few other support cast, become from strangers to friends – if not something a little bit closer. Those looking for some action are also well-catered for; and just like Soul Eater each character has their own unique set of skills and abilities; each of which are introduced at a steady pace to keep the viewer entertained – although my personal favourite is Ruby and her shotgun scythe. With the training mission out of the way, and team RWBY formed, another storyline begins to emerge; a story which sees one of the teams past questioned and a familiar organisation casuing mischief within the city. It’s an interesting build-up, and leads to an introduction of a pretty mysterious character, but despite this it doesn’t manage to pull through and instead opts for a quick fight that’s over in record time. On the plus side; staying behind after the credits yields an interesting tease of what to potentially expect from the next collection of episodes; episodes which will be bundled within Volume 2 of the series.
As this is a Rooster Teeth production there are quite a lot of supplementary features included; half of which have direct involvement with the series and its production while the other half are promotional trailers for other Rooster Teeth productions; yay.
The first selection of bonus features sees a selection of trailers, with each trailer tailored to a single character of team RWBY, a behind-the-scenes interview with the series creator (Monty Oum) and other bonus content such as the storyboard for episode 1, fan-art and cosplay photographs. It’s a nice selection of bonus content and a lot more than your traditional Japanese anime title receives; the interview itself is quite informative as well as it sees Monty explaining the ideas and the creation process for the show – so its well worth a watch.
Interestingly enough that’s not all; as two audio commentaries are also included with this RWBY – Volume 1 release of the series. The directors commentary sees those involved with directing or creating the project sharing their insights into how it was made, as well as minor trivial stuff that steadily becomes boring, whereas the Cast Commentary provides a more insightful look as it sees the voice actors explaining the roles they played on-screen. Ironically you’d expect the Directors Commentary to be more informative; but I actually found the cast commentary to be more enjoyable as they actually spoke and discussed the show as opposed to the directors who seemed to not care about sharing ‘on-set’ production details or information about the show itself.
Finally to wrap-up the collection of bonus materials is a wide-selection of trailers for other Rooster Teeth productions; all of which, excluding Red vs Blue – Season 11, has yet to be mentioned for a UK home-video release. If you are looking for other anime-styled shows by Rooster Teeth then you won’t find any here; as its solely for their videogame orientated projects.
Media: BD 50
Running Time: 1:52:50
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Despite its relatively bland appearance RWBY is a story-driven-series that sees young Ruby aiming to become the best Huntresses at the academy; along the way making new friends, defeating monsters and stopping evil organisations from stealing DUST. It’s not just the progressive, and adequately paced, story that gets high-praise from me either as everything about this show aims to please the anime-fan-inside-me. It’s lovable characters, it’s uniquely designed monsters and the banter between characters – its everything we know and love about anime, but here in this basic CGI world created for the American market.
However you decide to watch this first volume of RWBY, which can be watched as a 2-hour long feature film or 12 stand-a-lone episodes, it can leave you potentially unsatifised with the way the it plays out. The 2-hour-long variation doesn’t have the natural pacing of a film and results in it feeling incomplete as every 12 to 15 minutes it will fade to black for a second and then re-appear at the same location (if not a new location entirely). The episode format on the other-hand, the way it was originally intended and broadcast, isn’t much better – as the episodes themselves are just too short; with each one clocking in at around 13 minutes. It’s not an issue but it just doesn’t flow nartually which is quite amusing considering that the story itself moves along quite swiftly.
I came for a sample; but ended up staying – this was my reaction of RWBY as while the concept trailer, which shows Ruby slashing her way through demonic monsters, looks cool it now-way indicates what to expect from this series; and in turn this first volume. In my eyes RWBY – Volume 1 is everything I loved about the first half of Soul Eater; mixed-gender school being taught to fight demons while overcoming personal complications in their private life – and for an added bonus a subliminal storyline which sees an organisation out stealing precious DUST.
The mechanics of the world may not be explained in detailed at this point, but when you’ve got a progressive story this good and a cast of entertaining characters to support it – its worth watching and waiting to see what happens. RWBY – Volume 1 may not be considered anime; but it’s definitely worth owning in your collection.
RWBY – Volume 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from the 29th June 2015.