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RWBY #1-6 -- Special Review

It's pronounced "ruby" and it might be from the future.

It was my intention to watch and review the first episode of internet mainstay Rooster Teeth's RWBY for you all. What instead happened is that I watched the first SIX episodes of RWBY (though I still plan on reviewing them for you). I hadn't realized that RWBY had a variable runtime and most episodes don't make it past the ten minute mark, so it's pretty easy to binge on them like so many multicolored holiday candies.

Being an American homage to most-if-not-all things anime but using CG as its medium, RWBY is defined by its inbetween-ness. Is it an animation or a video game? Is it about relationships or fighting? Should we look at it in individual pieces or as one larger whole? In the end it makes for a much more fascinating case study on the future of media in the post-digital world than it does a piece of entertainment.

When RWBY is on, it is ON. Fight scenes are gloriously badass with transforming weapons and swooping cameras, taking full advantage of the computer environments used to construct them. The cel shaded art design really makes characters pop. Special commendation should be paid to the main voice cast and protagonist Ruby (played by Lindsay Tuggey) in particular, as they know how to put the acting in "voice acting." And damn is the soundtrack badass!

But you have to slog through so much blah to get to the good stuff. This show suffers horribly from exposition-itis; symptoms include recounting relationships statuses between all characters, minutes-long monologues about backstory, and explanations from professors about how school works. Characters often talk to each other in egregious video game tutorial speak, too. There's so much fat to trim that if you jumped from episode one to episode five, you'd have no problem picking up on what's happening.

And if you're drawn to RWBY, that's precisely what I recommend you do. It's worth checking out to see what a post-machinima career can get you, but due to a surprising lack of storytelling chops it's only good in small and intermittent doses.

You can watch "Ruby Rose," the first episode of RWBY, here, and then leave a comment below to tell us what YOU think!

Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.

metalsnakezeroon Dec. 30, 2013 at 7:02 a.m.

I end up really liking RWBY. It characters are charming, action is fast and explosive, and has a lot of heart. I think the whole exposition problem comes from the fact that each episode is very short. Anyway, see if you can get the group together to watch it and make a video what you guys think since this can lead in to some divisive discussion.

sickVisionz moderator on Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:06 a.m.

Your gripes are exactly what I figured they'd be considering RWBY comes from a dude who got his name from making 10-minute long, pure combat, dialog free battle sequences using Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy characters.

Is it an animation or a video game?

Not sure if serious.

Murphix staff on Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:31 a.m.

@metalsnakezero: "Heart" is a great way to put it! You can feel the love the creators put into this in every frame, even if it's not always good. I appreciate earnestness in my media.

@sickVisionz: I meant to talk about how the animation was a bit stiff, kind of like a video game, but it was late and I was sleepy. I'm still not on board with CG animation in weekly shows because it leads to Chuck E. Cheese animatronics quality movements, couching characters deep in the Uncanny Valley.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

@Murphix: Actualy as you go on in the series its style of animation is not worse in movement than many main stream anime now.It has its own style but does remind some of Reboot.

Look at some of the upcoming series this winter season an you might even see worse animation than this .I know i have.Where as RWBY has a overall style the cgi belnds a bit.Rember its not using big time animation software. Its useing http://poser.smithmicro.com/poser.html#pricing pro editon is only 500 bucks.So with that in mind it looks pretty dam good for what they are doing.

Story is not bad, they world build fairly quick.An im not sure i understand the dialoge slam .To me they interacted well an had a good pace an the characters personality came threw fairly well.

Eh maybe not reviewing something when your sleepy or based off sleepy memories might be best?

Edit: adding the vid because they do post them on you tube as well.

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 30, 2013 at 1:31 p.m.

I find there are only three ways of viewing RWBY.

1. Your a japan purist and it was never going to please you.

2. You compare it to it's peers and the series ranks about exactly where you put it. A series of all together short animated bits with a lot of style and excellent action, but with marred dips in quality, writing with great ideas but often really poor execution as well as off putting varying levels of animation quality. One could easily argue the show didn't deserve how much its loved compared to the giants of the industry. Peer to Peer it's really flawed, but does have potential just it hasn't proved capable of actually reaching that potential.

3. Is look at it knowing where it comes from. If you view it as the work of maybe 10 people in Texas (RT is only 60 people total including secretaries, AH, Accounting and management, RVB, RTX, Slowmo-guys, and about a million one off things) all working on other big projects, all who have never done this before deciding to do the impossible, release a hugely popular "anime" out of tiny indie team that is so popular it's got a Dub in china. The project is ambitious and has an artistic integrity for what it lacks in professional execution. Also to those that complain about it's voice acting, considering the main characters voice actor was a camera girl and the second leading female was a secretary actually impresses the hell out of me.

I'm not going to say either 2 or 3 is the right way to consider it (Though I will say purists are wrong f@#k em!), but it's basically the three ways people can really look at it. Like the review there Matt.

zaldaron Dec. 30, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

This may be the first show where the art style turns me off....the picture up above the story at least REALLY is not good looking....story is going to have to be pretty special to overcome that.

@Elfenlied1012: 3 is pretty illegitimate you should never review something on a curve based on who made it either something is good or it is not.

How can this be called a video game? Do you get to make chocies or have any interactivity with it at all...if not then it can't be called a video game. Even visual novels really shouldn't be called video games.

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 30, 2013 at 3:48 p.m.

@zaldar: Should you not though? Should and indie film be criticized for having been recorded on cheaper film and cameras than a Hollywood blockbuster. Should a indie game be docked for having a smaller scope compared to a say a bethesda product? Now the best indie teams understand this and design their product around this, and some would argue RWBYs for free mini-sode set up is working around this limitation. While I won't argue that your way of looking at it doesn't have any validity, because I think it totally is valid, I will argue number 3 also has validity when considering something.

Username_Undefinedon Dec. 30, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.

@Murphix: Interesting that you only reviewed up to episode six considering the entire volume is only 2 hours long. One thing to note is that the episodes actually don't vary their length that much. A lot of them are "part 1/part 2" and when their run times are taken together, each full episode averages to around 12 minutes. Rooster Teeth just decided to have a weekly release schedule that resulted in them splitting episodes.

@zaldar: The opening image is the last shot of the Red trailer. Monty Oum made it by himself as a side hobby when he wasn't animating Red vs. Blue well over a year ago. Story is not the reason people were excited for this. Monty is well known for making incredible fight scenes (Haloid, Dead Fantasy, the RWBY trailers). That said, sure, the story may not be astounding, but I think it's serviceable and the writing team is working to give the characters depth.

As for reviewing on a curve, you may be able to, but I can't review in a vacuum. If this had been made by a big budget studio, I'd still enjoy it, but I would say the quality wasn't up to par for the company. However, the fact that it was made by a small team of a small, if well-known, production company, voiced almost entirely by people with no previous experience, and it's still able to hold its own against other series is a great achievement and that adds another layer to what I think is an amazing series.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 30, 2013 at 5:42 p.m.

@Elfenlied1012: type 1 as you listed there is also called Fanboyz for any thing really.An yes they blow an suck at the same time.Oddly some japan anime purist may miss out on some series that is done in korea .Their own fandom narrows possible entertainment.Simply their loss.

2014 winter season for what i have seen has a overal drop in animation quality.A increase in cgi that does not befit the art style. An worse the same fanboys will probly not look at the older animation vs whats out now .

@zaldar: The whole review on a curve is still based upon the veiwers perspective an opion.Reviewing something for what it is seems as fair as compairing it to something else.

Also the art style at 1st bother me.Its simply felt like a 1st run blocked in undetailed pass.The more i watched the less it bothered me.Then again they didnt "artisticaly" hue saturate every sceen to like some other anime this last season.

@Username_Undefined: Pretty much agree on what you say here.Also i dont understand the knocks on the animation .Rewatched the 1st episode then went an watched a episode hunter x hunter by mad house.Tho shorter RWBY had more animation .True less detailed grafic style for the most part.But art style an animation it self seem to get mixed up in peoples opions.

Watch in the 1st episode how much body language RWBY herself has.Each girl in the series has a bit difrent body language.Fluid movemnt for the most part.If it had 2 more passes of detail it could compete with some of the bigger named anime .But since it is done as shorts then i think for what it is works well enuff.

Also if i go back to my art days,Judges would grade on a sliding rule depending on the age an ability of the entry owner.Actualy had a art teacher tell me some of my entries should have won but they were less quality than things i did in other catagories.So in that reguard yes people can judge on a vacume.Which at times is fair an unfair depending on ones point of view.

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:33 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: Yes I agree being a purist is rarely a good idea, but I felt like I'd be fooling myself if I suggest someone somewhere wasn't making that argument.

As for Cgi verse traditional I mostly feel the weakness comes from when they are put together, I love Cell shaded style that RWBY has, or another good example is Valkyria Chronicles games, but if you put one onto of the other its way to immersion breaking. That's like one of the pet peeves for me is when a series refuses to stick to one art style in the same shot. because you become acutely aware that the world doesn't match with itself, unless like its got an in fiction reason like the madoka stuff.

@Username_Undefined: I agree you can't review in a complete vacuum. The only thing that gives you insight into somethings quality is exposure to other similar things (I.E. english voice acting is only terrible in things because you have conversations every day so you know how it's suppose to sound) . Until then you have a vantage point for it, it would be no more possible than thinking of a color that does not exist. Experiences are too formative to how you interpret things you cant escape comparison or context based judgement. That can be stuff like understanding character emotions to bigger things like understanding really overused concepts.

Also as for animation which both mentioned not being a problem, I'm talking like the robotic hand movements and body movements in non-important scenes. The Animations team knew they were working with a limited amount of resources so they opted to have amazing scenes and bad ones as opposed to having a bunch of just decent scenes, again as I mentioned working with what you have. Focusing say on the character being focused on in a scene while someone in the back is barely animated or one character having a huge ray of mannerisms while their talking and the character next to them being clunky by comparison.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 30, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.

@Elfenlied1012: I have seen cgi work well. The new Ghost in the Shell Arise ovas are pretty solid.It really depnds on how well the cgi is made to fit into the art style.Some of this winters stuff i have seen in promos just are poor.Idealy it should blend in or always stick out for a reason.

Also in Arpeggio of Blue Steel which was cgi heavy ,it had sceens worse than RWBY for animation .Im just amazed at a 500 dollar program can do what they did with it.It gives me hope that even a poor hillbilly like my self could do some intresting things with it.Well down the road at least.

Elfenlied1012on Dec. 30, 2013 at 11:49 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: Well to be fair this winter also has been an abysmal season in anime. There I said it fight me. XD lol But in counter example the Ghost in the shell Blue ray remake had some really offputting cgi in it, but it was only offputting because it did not mesh with the regular art. Or how about the New-ish Code Geass series with the REALLY bad cgi mechs. I have no issue with RWBYs cgi personally I like it's artistic style.

I can't say Arpeggio isn't worse, seeing as I completely opted out of that show, but I'm just saying there are some occasional dips in quality that I think has more to do with man hours than software. It's a really small company with whose animators are also working on other stuff. Also there is like 6 of them at most at any given time. XD

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 31, 2013 at 4:40 a.m.

@Elfenlied1012: I agree on the 2.0 remix remake an the other blue rays that make moves out of the tv seires are to me not as good as the series.

Cant judge the winter yet not seen all the anime list .Just some of the previews an one episode Zetsumetsu Kigu Shoujo: Amazing Twins which did have less animation than RWBY an had some poor cgi with cars.What i feel animators dont see is when they do use cgi an it sticks out as cgi then its in compition with video games.

A good example of that i had just beat X-com enemy unknown an then later watched Freezing second season 1st episode .The helicopter jet part cgi looked even worse because it stuck out then looked worse than the vtl jet in X-com.Also fall 2013 i thought anime was good but it had some horible cgi at times.

Im not sure if its software to.Im watching older anime with better cgi use.Gonzo older stuff works better than new stuff now.An Mad House like on Hunter x Hunter does a great effecent job.But some of their newer stuff leaves me cold.Bad cgi is a worse sin as over "artistic" hue saturation .

zaldaron Dec. 31, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.

@Elfenlied1012: As a review is supposed to talk about how good something is and the enjoyment you would get out of going to see it compared to you spending your money going to see something else yes everything should be compared on the same level. A feature is not a review and can take into account the things you mention. A review, which serves the same purpose of consumer reports looking at products, should not.

I may be confusing animation with art style but again I come from novels (and science) and not art so I don't use the terms the same way artists due - I expect I use them more like "normal" people in everyday life though. The way the character doesn't blend in with the background and the cans (or what ever they are) in the front stick out from everything else in the pane is what I am referring to. If the story is what is not extraordinary then I expect the animation/art style will make this unwatchable for me. Have not seen red v. blue (that was the video game inspired animation some shooter right) or ever had much interest in it so this probably is not for me.

If art contests grade on a curve based on the perceived "ability" of the artist than that is yet another reason for me to dislike the art world. Those with more ability regardless of why should win simply because the art is better. Contests should always be judged on as objective a standard as possible - and though it is difficult objective standards for things like art do exist.

Marshal Victoryon Jan. 1, 2014 at 9:59 a.m.

@zaldar: Thats fair an true but bit to complicated.Here try this.

Art = opinion

Animation = movement

While you can argue thats oversimplification ,art is just opinion at its core.How well you like it or a community likes it.Animation is all about movement .RWBY does have some problems in the hand area but it does body movement with facial movemnt at the same time well.Even with multiple characters on screen.

Also run that Art = opinion by a art teacher an a philosphy teacher.One mind may well be blown the other may well be insulted.Also ya Red vs Blue was based on Halo fps multiplayer.

Elfenlied1012on Jan. 1, 2014 at 11:04 a.m.

@zaldar: Well by that logic reviewing RWBY at all is pointless because it's for free so there is no purchasing decision. Also there is the whole issue of outer narrative about a small group making it that adds another sense of enjoyment to it depending on how willing you are to let yourself empathize and enjoy other peoples achievements. Outer narratives are about 75% of the reason anyone cares about sports for example. It's not about two groups of people playing off in sports its about the outer idea of this country verses this country which has nothing directly to do with the actual sport, but the greater context. In that same way people can feel a greater sense of joy and pride watching and rooting for RT as the outer contextual narrative of what they are seeing.

I'm not saying again that this is the definitive way someone must look at something, but I don't think contextual reviewing is completely invalid like your saying as long as the reviewer doesn't lie about it in the review. (Which did not happen in this review.)

@Marshal Victory: Those definitions serve perfectly, to specify my previous argument in specifically those terms. RWBY has great art and varying animation quality.

Marshal Victoryon Jan. 1, 2014 at 3:36 p.m.

@zaldar: Sorry ddint adres this in other reply.Yes the art world is subjective on judgments on quality.Ego drives it a bit i think but double an tribpple standards are the norm.One of the many reasons i did not persue that collage art degree.Actualy it became a big reason for me not to go all together.

Double standards applied not just local high school but collage as well.

@Elfenlied1012: Thanks.Those definitons had a local collage philosphy professor want me to go to collage.This was after his group spent weeks trying to define art.It also ticked off a former art teacher of mine.

When possible i prefer the clean shave of Occam's razor .Just wish i could apply it better to my thoughts in word.

zaldaron Jan. 1, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: This is the way artists may use it but not the way it is used in daily life. As this is a site that caters to everyday people and not artists we should not use terms of art that apply to actual painters. Also there certainly is things that can be judged in art beyond opinion style, technique, skill, these things hopefully still exist and still matter. If not then I am going to loose the last shred of respect I had for the art world. Their hatred of IP laws all ready made me loose a ton.

Marshal Victoryon Jan. 2, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

@zaldar: Oh yes art world belives whole heart that if they change one thing its theirs.One of my art teachers would say you needed to change something 7 ways before you could claim it as your own legaly.Was told by a few lawyers this is not ture tho.

But thats not just ilustrations or animations ,its all forms of the entertainment industry.Tho when you get into film they do like to follow the rules... mostly .. if they have to an or wount get caught.like Sister Act.. they got caught.

You should not have any respect for the art world.Respect that is not earned is worthless.I have respect for some illustrators.A few writers an a handful of actors.Let them earn it or they dont deserve it... ill best stop least i break out ye ol soap box.

Animation from where im at deep in the hills of kentucky always has refered to motion.Drawn or mechanical or even the ol clay.Thats not from a art class.Probly from ols Disney specials in my case. Art = opinion is something i said one day in art class an urinated off a "guest " teacher.Thought more on it an it made even more sense .Mostly because the art world belives its opinion on art is more important / greater than yours.

Illustration /art style is not the same thing as animation.Just as animation is not the same thing as the voice acting /sound or the writen story.

takashichea moderator on Jan. 2, 2014 at 9:06 p.m.

Heh, everyone had nailed a lot of points. I probably be repeating things. I enjoyed RWBY. Yeah, I found the voice acting took some time to get used. Like ElfenLied said, these guys did pretty good for their time acting. The animation in the fight scenes are brilliant. RWBY shows that its company has potential. When I looked at the movement of the characters that Marshall described, I was stunned how much time and care they put in the character's subtle moments. The story and short episodes definitely hurt RWBY, but it can make a comeback.

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