RWBY Volume 6: A Return to Form (Mostly)

rwby 6

RWBY Volume 6 is a welcome step forward from the mess that was Volume 5.  Volume 5 was juggling a lot of interesting threads and unfortunately tried to tie them all together in one place, but because some of these threads are quite complicated and take a lot of time to resolve the whole season felt slow as shit.  Volume 6 is very much like Volume 4, my personal favorite among the Volumes, the destination is simple and it’s the journey which is interesting.  That being said I do think Volume 6 lags behind Volumes 3 & 4, the high water marks of the show.  There will be spoilers ahead.

I can see Volume 6 being a favorite for a lot of people.  It has not only the biggest plot twist in the entire show but the most world building of any Volume, finally addressing some of questions that have been looming over the series since at least Volume 3.  It turns out that this Remnant’s second go at life.  There are a pair of gods who created the world and all it’s inhabitants and they left Remnant behind.  Moreover humans in the past wielded far greater powers than they do now but they were ultimately wiped out because they rose up against the gods who created them.  The exceptions are Ozpin, reincarnated as Oscar Pine in Volume 4, and Salem.  The two were lovers in the days before humanity was wiped out, with Ozpin being a renowned hero called Ozam, saving the princess locked in a tower – Salem.  This fairytale romance abruptly ground to a halt when Ozpin suddenly falls ill and dies.  In her grief Salem begs the gods to resurrect him, temporarily turning one against the other, and thus begins her downward spiral.

The gods reconcile and punish her with immortality, that she might learn the error of her ways, but the lesson she takes home is that the gods are fallible.  She then uses the very immortality she was granted to convince humans far and wide to rise against the gods, thus leading to humanity’s temporary extinction.  The gods conclude this world as something of a failed experiment and leave, but before they do they leave behind 4 Relics and make Ozpin their herald, sort of.  Ozpin, who is reincarnated and will perpetually reincarnate, has been tasked with uniting humanity  and bringing about harmony, and then using the 4 Relics to call the gods back when he has made humanity worthy of the gods.

More important than this information though is the means by which it is discovered.  Namely, that Ruby, up to this point the teen who was most loyal to Ozpin, disobeys Ozpin’s desperate pleas (after they catch him lying about the Relic of Knowledge) and uses the Relic to discover the history of the past, who Ozpin and Salem are and most damning of all, the fact there is no way for Ozpin to kill Salem.

Naturally this wealth of information almost causes the entire mission to collapse.  Since the events of Volume 3 most of the teens have gotten warier and warier of Ozpin, with Raven’s bird form reveal being a sort nail in coffin for Yang and Weiss.  Ruby was the main exception and to some extent she still is.  Everyone else is about ready to call it quits.  Why should they fight a foe that they can’t kill?  Why should they have to suffer and struggle for nothing?  It’s Ruby more than anyone else who believes in continuing the mission.

It’s after this point that Volume 6 becomes very reminiscent of Volume 4, the team finds a ruined settlement to camp in and has to deal with the whirlwind of emotions the information revealed above causes.  Qrow is by far the most interesting in this light as he was Ozpin’s most trusted agent.  He naturally feels betrayed and used like everyone else, but in addition he enters a downward spiral of self-loathing.  Because of his Semblance, the ability to passively cause bad luck to befall those around him, he felt he had no place to belong to – and that Ozpin gave him that place.  With everything revealed to be a lie, Qrow feels that he’s wasted his life and that he really doesn’t belong anywhere.  Of all present members, they got split up when the train they were on got attacked, Qrow is the closest to quitting outright, followed by Yang.  I do sort of wish the show had a moment when Yang and Qrow said, in some form or another, that Raven was right all along.  One of weaknesses of the Volume is that it doesn’t let the characters stew in their negative feelings, their doubts long enough.

Unfortunately this problem is kind of exacerbated by the coolest part of the Volume.  After the big reveal Ruby and Co. have to take shelter and find an abandoned farming settlement.  Unlike prior ruins they’ve visited, there is no evidence of violent destruction, everyone seems to have died in their beds.  It does a great job of raising the tension, and convincing everyone that they have to leave the next morning.  However, because of the as yet unknown presence of Grimm, this plan is complicated.  The fact that some of the characters feel drained enough to not want to leave is a big red flag for the viewers and for Ruby, the most active and alert member.  Feeling drained is understandable, but it’s way out of character for these guys to want to stay in a village full dead bodies, cluing us in that Grimm are the cause.  Then we meet the Apathy.

The Apathy are fucking awesome, I would rate them as the second best Grimm in the entire series.  Unlike most Grimm they don’t rely on physical power, they are slow-moving pack creatures with spindly, twisted frames and long, delicate claws who cause humans around them to become tired.  They’re fucking terrifying as there’s a horde of these things in the dark, cramped tunnels beneath the town and their massed screams can cause the Huntresses to weaken or even black out in an instant.  If not for Ruby’s silver eyes there was a very real chance of the team dying here.  And the fact the leader of the settlement deliberately led the Apathy into the tunnels, hoping to use their nature to stem complaints from workers when the farm was struggling was a great touch.  The Apathy are awesome as monsters but they’re sort of a mixed bag for the show on the whole.

They help bring out the worst in a group of characters already wracked with doubt, hopelessness and betrayal.  This where the characters reach their lowest point since Volumes 3 and 4.  Yang is basically ready to quit.  Blake and Weiss have serious doubts about what to do going forward.  Oscar is being ostracized for being the host of Ozpin and is struggling internally with the idea that may his personality may consumed by Ozpin’s.  And Qrow is drinking himself into oblivion, wallowing in his own negative feelings and letting himself sink lower than he’s ever gone before.  However because so much of these negative emotions are brought to the fore by the Apathy, as soon as the Apathy are dead and the team reunites with the rest at Argus, most of these emotions are never seen again – save for Jaune’s enraged outburst and Qrow’s lingering doubts about getting to Atlas.

It’s a damn shame because these doubts coming to ahead is one of most interesting part of the story.  This could break the mission altogether and they probably should have dedicated a lengthy episode to having the characters seriously arguing their respective positions on what to do next.  There’s even a way to resolve any disagreements in Argus, Pyrrha.  Pyrrha was a native of Argus and there is a statue in her honor in the town.  Jaune even runs into one Pyrrha’s family members, I assume thanks to the red hair and green eyes, there.  Think about it, you could spend an entire episode having everyone really going at it, arguments so passionate and positions so different that it threatens to break apart this adhoc team apart and ruin the quest before Ruby and Jaune see the statue of Pyrrha and try and refocus the quest.  “Forget about Ozpin and his bullshit, these bastards killed Pyrrha and they’re gonna pay for it,” or something to that effect, you could win most everyone over on that alone.  You could make it this heavy, emotional, dramatic and even painful episode and still resolve it – and that would be fucking amazing.  Instead the concerns are few and brief with Ruby gathering her determination, powering through and getting everyone behind her because that kind of her shtick.

The final portion of the Volume is probably the most contentious and it mainly has to do with Adam.  I think a lot of people are disappointed with Adam, or already were based on his lackluster performance in Volumes 4 & 5.  In Volume 3 he was a powerful, menacing figure – the demon in Blake’s past that she struggles to face.  Since then his character has been kind of a shambling mess, bitter, angry, power-hungry and oddly obsessed with Blake.  I can totally see why people kind of hate the direction Adam goes and to be honest as of Volume 5 he looked pretty shit.  Personally though I think he sort gets redeemed in Volume 6.

After the prior Volumes Adam will never be the mysterious, menacing badass he seemed to be in Volume 3, but I think Volume 6 does provide the details which patch up the character he has become.  From his character short and Blake’s earlier observations, Adam is someone who feels wronged and wants to vent on the world around him, to make them suffer as he did.  When he makes controversial decisions it’s usually on the basis that he feels he owed things.  He feels he deserves to be the leader of White Fang by now, so he kills the leader.  There’s also a sort cult leader vibe to much of his character, he wins over the soldiers left and right by virtue of his skill, power and rhetoric, which is what allows him to take power in the first place.  And this characteristic that best explains his obsession with Blake, that I can see many would argue ruins his character.

My best guess is that what people wanted out of Adam was to more zealot than cult leader, for him to be this aloof, menacing figure who can’t be reasoned with and who punishes and threatens Blake as he does in Volume 3 due to her being an apostate, she was believer who abandoned the cause and for a zealot there can be no greater failing than this.  What we got instead is a man who channels his bitterness and pain into dominating others, whether this be by the power of his words and deeds or by defeating them in battle.  Either way it makes him feel powerful and in control and he revels in it, at least internally.  The scene that most cements this is when he takes the mask off and you can see the brand over one eye.  If we take Blake at her word and Adam does indeed wish to inflict unto others what was inflicted upon him, the brand is a symbol of ownership, and obviously a painful one given it’s placement.  He feels the urge to brand others in his own way, not with hot iron but with fiery rhetoric.  Alternatively you could see his obsession with Blake as a sort of marker of success.  In the past Blake abandoned her father and his way of running the White Fang  to join Adam, and thus retaining her loyalty is sort of symbol that Adam and his way are superior.  Either way I feel like the brand solidifies Adam as a deeply resentful and bitter person who feels he has no other recourse but to dominate others so that he might never again feel weak, someone much less intimidating and mystifying then guy he was in Volume 3, but not a poorly crafted character.

Not all of Adam’s developments are positives for me though.  For starters how the hell did he get here?  It’s implied that various members and former of Salem’s team have used info brokers to follow certain targets but Adam has not been implicated in this.  Nor has been shown having any real contact with Salem, he seems to have gone rogue and just stalked Blake.  While this feeds into his obsessive need to control her, it seems odd that he would be able to do this without anyone noticing.  Also Blake’s travel plans were literally derailed so that makes things more complicated.  The real shame was revealing that his Semblance mirrored Yang’s, partly because it was kind of lame but more so in that it leads to a lot scenes of him blocking bullets.  It would have been much better if Semblance was more along the lines of being able to infuse his attacks with concentrated aura to make them stronger at the cost of making him more vulnerable.  That would give him all kinds need to be skilled without also having a ridiculous number of my-sword-blocks-bullets moments.  I’d also bet many are unhappy with his death but I don’t really care, I think they’ve done about all that they can without making him descend into madness and also his death was something a show writer could feasibly have him survive, much like Cinder’s was.

As for the battle against Adam it honestly wasn’t that good, because again the whole I-constantly-block-bullets-with-my-sword thing is dumb and it was just a really bad example of how loosely the team at Rooster Teeth is playing with Aura.  The fact that humans have Aura is not a problem but they should put more focus on it in fights, rather than having it break whenever they deem it convenient.  Characters should be basing some of their decisions on the amount of Aura they have left, it should factor into their general planning.  The battle with the mech on the other hand, that’s what I’m talking about.  It’s a chaotic clash where multiple parties of relatively fragile combatants use mobility, numbers, and tactics to battle against a huge, sturdy and well-armed foe.  This was the kind of combat that Volume 5 sorely lacked, one where the Hunters and Huntresses take full advantage of their weapons and skills, to take on a challenge.  Barring Nora taking a super-cannon of lightning head on there was not much else they could have tried.  They use multiple distractions, aim for the shield generator, target any weakspots they can think of and in the end they still barely win.  It’s only by the grace of Ruby’s crazy brand of bravery and brains that they prevail.

Ultimately I think Volume 6 is welcome step forward from Volume 5 but not on the level of Volumes 3 & 4.  It has some excellent world-building, a great new Grimm and a good battle – but it unfortunately clips what could have been one of the most interesting threads of the entire show frustratingly short.  There really should have been a lot more emotional development going on and honestly the greatest challenge from this Volume should have internal not external.  The fight with mech was good but a battle for the heart and soul of the team, with best friends and siblings pitted against one another when faced with the mind-boggling secrets that have been kept from them and the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead – now that’s a battle for the ages, even if weapons aren’t involved.  Volume 6 was good but not great, hopefully Volume 7 – which was being set up in the background all along – takes after Volume 3 and not Volume 5.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.

 

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