RWBY: Volume 5, Episode 1 – Welcome to Haven REVIEW

SPOILERS ALERT.

At the suggestion of my friend Harold (of Water Ninja Productions infamy), I’m going to try making episodic reviews of RWBY Volume Five. With Junior Detectives RWBY Chibi and the sporadically released trailers for Weiss, Blake, and Yang just barely keeping the fans at bay, I’ve been positively hyped for the first new full episode.

If you’ve had the (mis)fortune of speaking to me about the previous volume at any time this past year, you’ll have heard me extolling the animating quality and perhaps a little unfairly dissing the writing quality.  (After all, Volume Four had been the first season Kerry Shawcross and Miles Luna had to do on their own, following the unfortunate demise of the series creator, Monty Oum.)  Frankly, considering that the twelve or so ~15-minute episodes spanned a timeframe of maybe a few days at most, it felt like nothing had happened…

…EVER.

ON THE OTHER HAND, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, TO MY IMMENSE JOY AND RELIEF, Volume Five is starting on a completely different note.  We were given about twenty minutes of nonstop, fast-paced plot and multiple generous perspective switches.  We were brought up to speed on all the character subplots from the fourth volume, from RNJR to Yang (who looks like she’ll have a more promising storyline this time around).  Kudos for that!

Where the episode begins, Team RNJR + Qrow (who is alive and 100% well again) are on their way to the Mistralese equivalent of the Beacon and Atlas academies, Haven.  I really like the Kingdom of Mistral for its apparent Asiatic influences and its artsy high society, so it’s nice to see it in motion (well, sort of, because most of the surrounding shots were stills).  Qrow meets with Haven’s headmaster, Leonardo Lionheart (or Leo for short).

In terms of the overall story arc, the Spring Maiden and how the Maidens relate to the relics is explained; additionally, we are shown a few more hints about the Branwen twins’ family history.  Branwen is not only Qrow and Raven’s surname; it is the name of the bandit clan they were raised by – the one Qrow and Raven both left, but Raven for some reason returned to, to the detriment of Tai and baby Yang.

Speaking of Yang, the second-most-prominent storyline this episode is hers.  She’s venturing further into the Bandit territories in search of her mom.  I’ll admit that I’m becoming increasingly intrigued by the intertwining Bandit storylines.  Then we have Blake and Weiss each having some screen time to prove that they still live.  Blake’s narrative is a little boring to me, but it’s nice to see Weiss actually doing something for a change.

Now, it is well-known that several of the characters are analogues of storybook characters.  Ruby is obviously Little Red Riding Hood, Yang Goldilocks, etc.  The secret order of faculty members who moonlight as protectors-of-the-world are apparently analogues to the Wizard of Oz characters.  Ozpin is the Wizard of Oz (short for Ozpinhead), Glynda Goodwitch is the Witch of the North (or South if you follow the books), James Ironwood is the Tin Woodsman, and Qrow is the Scarecrow; but the identity of the Cowardly Lion has been debated by the fan community.

Some believed that Taiyang Xiao Long is the Lion, especially because his tattoo resembles a lion, but I am now certain that Headmaster Lionheart is our official Cowardly Lion.  Just think about it – he is outwardly ferocious and tough, but the ending of Volume Four shows that despite this facade, he is easy to intimidate and manipulate.

 

Things I really like from this episode:

Drunkle Qrow.  I mean, seriously.  Alcoholism is a terrible issue in the real world but man, Qrow is hilarious while drunk in this episode.  And Ruby’s just like “Are you drunk again?”  And he’s like, “Maaaaaybe,” and tumbles off the couch he’s just collapsed upon.  Seriously, I don’t think he’s ever been this endearing about it.  You’ll have to see it to understand, but what a wonderful note to end the episode on. 😀

The pacing.  As noted, the CRWBY writing department has really stepped up their game to be on par with the beautiful animating.  There was speculation, especially after the Gen:Lock announcement, that Rooster Teeth Animation would be focusing more on this new project and letting RWBY stagnate and regress further.  As this jam-packed premier episode shows, nothing could be further from the truth!

The opening credits and theme song.  The theme song fits the atmosphere, and the action sequences it contains are quite promising.  It looks like several characters go up against the large, bearded man from Salem’s faction, and hints at another fight involving Mercury, who along with Emerald was severely underutilized last volume.  Additionally, I have a sneaking suspicion that the woman with the pixie cut who stands opposite Cinder is our Spring Maiden; the backdrop resembles that of a bandit camp, if I recall.  Now, the opening sequences have been historically misleading, putting great visuals over potentially spoiler-y accuracy, so I’m not getting my hopes up, but it looks like the team will finally be together again.

 

Things I don’t like quite as much:

Everyone’s pronunciation of Branwen.  I still prefer to pronounce it with a short A, like raisin bran cereal.  Not like brawn.  Seriously.  Just because Tyrian said it this way doesn’t mean everyone should follow suit!

Oscar x Ruby is most probably happening and I don’t like it.  Think about it, Ruby is young for a Beacon student and Oscar is registering at the correct age – they’ve got that in common, which is enough for most shows to force two people together.  Additionally, the first time I watched RWBY, I wasn’t sure if Ozpin is a young anime guy with white hair, or an elderly man.  It was hard to tell, and the way he was speaking to her didn’t help.  So the thought of these two characters being in some semblance of a romantic relationship is just ick, and yet I have a feeling it’s going to happen.

Ruby’s voice.  Don’t get me wrong: in general, I love her voice – it’s so high and squeaky and I can actually imitate it reasonably well.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve just finished an entire season of Chibi that I associate her outlandishly high voice with comedic circumstances, but I feel that it doesn’t jibe well with this episode’s serious tone.  In fact, in the same vein, one of my least favorite moments in Volume Four was this:

Tag yourself. I’m Jaune.

 

Ruby’s Silence (aka Jaune the Show Stealer).  So before, I was complaining about Ruby talking too much and now I’m complaining about her silence.  A common concern, at least according to Harold, is that Jaune runs the risk of replacing Ruby as the protagonist this volume.  I picked up on this during that particular scene: oddly, when Qrow mentions Raven and the bandits, it’s Jaune who says (not a direct quote) “That’s Yang’s mom, right?”   First off, how does he know that?

Does Ruby even know or care at all that she and Yang are, at most, half-sisters?  (I personally think they’re actually cousins in a blended family whose respective parents started living together after each being abandoned by their respective Branwen spouses.)  It seemed like a weighty enough matter to Yang….  Perhaps Ruby’ll bring it up later if it does bothers her, but she really doesn’t strike me as the type to keep things to herself this well.

 

Despite those quibbles, all in all, it’s a terrific episode that seems like a promising start to a potentially interesting volume.  I started watching this volume with a lot of trepidation, as I had been pretty unimpressed with the last one, but for a pessimist, I’m now pretty optimistic!

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