Character Cache: Ruby Rose

 

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There are a lot of reasons I like RWBY and I’ve spoken of them in more extensive detail here.  And with Volume 5 coming out in a couple days now is as good a time as any to talk about RWBY’s leading lady, Ruby.  There will be spoilers ahead.

In my most recent post I talked about how well lead characters fit the role given to them and this applies to Ruby as well.  This is most clearly shown in Volume 2, when while out on a mission the professor in charge asks the other three members of Team RWBY – which for those not in the loop are her elder half-sister Yang, the Faunus (beastmen and an oppressed group in the in-universe lore) Blake and the heiress to a wealthy company, Weiss – why they wanted to be Huntresses in the first place.  Ruby is conspicuously not asked this question, instead her time alone with the professor is a mini-lesson or words of warning about some of the most powerful Grimm monsters Ruby has ever seen.  The unspoken implication here is that Ruby is a perfect fit for a Huntress and as such asking her why she wants to be one is a pointless question, an implication strengthened by the following scene where the other girls mull over the professor’s question and their reasons for being a Huntress while Ruby subsequently tracks down the covert enemy presence they are here for in the first place.

This scene is hardly the only indicator however.  In fact Ruby herself is a full 2 years younger than the other 8 main characters who make up team RWBY and team JNPR and she’s awarded entry into Beacon academy anyway thanks to the Headmaster’s judgement.  She is also arguably the best fighter in her class – the show does suggest that’s not necessarily the case as Pyrrha is the one most widely recognized as the best in an official capacity and team RWBY has Yang go to the finals during Volume 3’s inter-school battle tournament.  However Ruby is consistently the one who finds the enemy first in various situations, she actually beat all of team JNPR by herself during the Great Food Fight of Volume 2 thanks to strategic use of her surroundings and her Semblance – a power all humans and Faunus have but which manifests itself in a unique form for each individual – which in Ruby’s case is super speed.  I don’t think it’s that hard to explain why super speed is hard to deal with but if any medium really seems to underestimate speed it would be anime.  Ruby’s Semblance makes her almost untouchable unless her enemy is sufficiently skilled enough to predict her movements, has special attacks or equipment of it’s own to counter her speed, or if there are enough enemies in the first place.

This can also be shown by her kill count.  This is a sort of unfair metric since no noteworthy deaths resulted before Volume 3 but thus far the only villains who have died, or even been grievously injured, have done so while fighting Ruby.  I mean technically she didn’t cut them down herself but her efforts paved the way for their deaths, if not for her presence they almost certainly would not have died.  And the fact she was fighting 1v2 against characters who had handily defeated other major characters, Neapolitan especially as she beat Yang so easily in Volume 2, shows that at the very least Ruby is dangerous enough to be one of the biggest thorns in the villains’ sides of the people in her age group.  And she did totally fuck up Cinder, the main villain of the first 3 Volumes, and cut off Tyrian’s stinger.  Likewise she displays excellent tactics during the Initial Beacon exam where her plan allows her future team to kill the strongest Grim in testing grounds.

All that said perhaps perfect is overselling it a little.  Ruby is still in many ways a child, and childishness still tinges her character and actions, albeit to a far lesser degree following the events of Volume 3.  Ruby also has plenty of struggles being a team leader and in retrospect it would not surprise me if Ozpin, the aforementioned Beacon headmaster, assigned her to that role specifically to have her overcome this weakness.  Her strategic ability would probably be enough to earn her the spot but Ozpin is very insightful and the leadership role would force Ruby to confront one of her biggest weaknesses – personal communication.

Ruby is kind of a dork.  When she’s not hunting down villains or cutting down monsters there honestly very little for her to do.  She can be socially awkward to a painful degree and while she is friendly with all 8 of the main characters she doesn’t really connect with anyone else besides Penny, a weirdo herself, because Penny is actually an incredibly advanced robot trying to be a person.  This isn’t to say Ruby can’t talk to anyone or that she doesn’t improve this facet of her character throughout the show, but in the beginning this one of her biggest shortcomings.  And even later on after she opens up she’s notably uncomfortable in larger social settings.  To this very day my favorite line of dialogue in RWBY came from Volume 1 when Ruby explains to Yang that the reason she’s so excited about other people’s weapons is because “seeing new weapons is like meeting new people, only better.”  Which should give you an idea how much she struggles on the social front, though it’s not for lack of trying.

This flaw in her character is necessary though and to me it really helps cement the idea that Ruby is the Huntress equivalent of autistic savant – deficient in many aspects of her life but incredibly good at one thing she’s interested in.  This is also suggested in Volume 1 because of her weapon, a scythe-sniper rile hybrid.  It’s certainly one of the most unusual weapons even by RWBY’s very liberal and open standards of what can be a valid weapon and only one other character we know of is skilled with a scythe.  And she built it herself, which is yet another indicator of her interests.  The weapon aside her clear and consistently demonstrated talent in combat and investigation/tracking make her a great candidate for a Huntress.  Personally I feel like given a few decades Ruby would be very much like her uncle Qrow, minus the alcohol – a lone wolf type perfectly capable of taking down all but the most dangerous foes by herself.  For now though, as good as she is, she does need the team, for personal growth, safety and as the situation turns more dire after the events of Volmune 3, moral support.

Then we reach a new facet of Ruby, one introduced mere seconds after the greatest tragedy of the entire show, Ruby’s eyes have special powers of their own and they are extremely dangerous to Grimm and Maidens alike.  Qrow’s only hints about her powers are that in folk lore silver-eyed Hunters and Huntresses were always considered especially dangerous and that this belief had to come from somewhere, i.e. Ruby’s new power.  Salem, presumably the true arch-villain of the series seems to know more about them but as yet her comments on the matter are cryptic.  I think of this as more of a “chosen one” or “main character” factor than what I described above though.  Does this make her even more suited to be a Huntress?  Yes.  But it’s not something she actively pursued or otherwise gained, it was just a special power given to her.  It has very little to do with who she is and what she wants to be in-universe and everything to do with who she is in the context of RWBY being a story, and presumably her mother as neither Yang, her father nor Qrow has silver eyes.  This is reinforced by the fact she has no control over it and doesn’t even appear to realize she has this power at all nor any desire to use it.

I think what really makes Ruby work is that despite it all she’s a kid and to many a relatable one.  If not for the fact she goes around killing monsters and dueling villains she would just be an adorkable teen.  She has almost all the trappings, and more importantly the shortcomings, of a nerd – even if her preferred hobby is both deadly and an occupation.  This goes a long to grounding the series with all of it’s fantasy and scifi elements, which are many.  It also makes her someone we can easily sympathize with and whose story we can get invested in.  Of course I also think that she’s such a perfect fit for what she wants to be, at the expense of other facets of her personality is a very nice touch and part of what makes her especially interesting.  That’s it really.  I just wanted another excuse to gush about RWBY and Ruby.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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