Rooster Teeth’s hit show, RWBY, historically has had problems with pacing, storytelling, and its animation. Volume three had remedied many of these problems with an incredible season that had a real impact. However, volume four has returned to its past problems with pacing and storytelling, but in new aspects. While previous volumes had characters that felt too flat, this new volume tried a bit too much with its characters spread throughout the world of Remnant.
Lots of set up; little payoff
Coming off of volume three which had been almost entirely payoff for all of the setup from the first two volumes, volume four felt like a whole load of nothing. All of the pawns are set in place for the next volume, but nothing felt satisfying in this season. The season finale felt more like a midseason finale, or even just a regular episode in the middle of the season. All of the setup was fine, more than fine actually. The way things are going, the eventual payoff will be satisfying and great. Everything is set up for a really cool next season, but volume four suffered for it. The story felt meandering at some points, and rushed at others. Although, all in all better than the first few volumes, this move back to villains planning, good guys scrambling, and players getting put into their places is frustrating after a previous volume where plans were enacted and consequences were real.
None of the consequences felt wholly real in volume four. It felt like nothing truly bad ever happened. It’s like sort of bad things happen to a character, but you know things will turn out well because they have to be there for another thing to happen. It’s not like the previous season where really bad things would happen to a character and the consequences were permanent.
Don’t split up the party
Anyone who has ever played Dungeons and Dragons, or any similar RPG in the past knows one simple rule, “don’t split the party.” It causes games to be less focused and wastes time focusing on single characters while letting others slip through the cracks. This core rule has guided many games, and even extends well into storytelling when a group of characters are all protagonists. RWBY is no exception to that rule, in fact volume four highlighted exactly why it is such an important thing to keep in mind. Volume four felt unfocused and rushed to say the least. Small characterization would be shown for either Blake, Weiss, or Yang, and then focus would rush back to Ruby and the remains of team JNPR. This made the sections allocated to the “WBY” of team RWBY feel rushed, especially since the three of them were all on their own as well.
Blake suffered the most from this separation. There had been a lot of potential in her storyline to show the history of the White Fang and show how faunus lived without humans there to oppress them. Instead, all the viewers got were a few minutes of meeting Blake’s parents and learning that, in fact, the White Fang are all around an evil organization and people are lying. What a surprise! The things that viewers have known the whole series is actually true! It would have been nice to have seen more interactions between the Schnee family and the Atlas military, but Blake’s storyline is where this separation between the members of team RWBY really hurt the story the most.
You have to be level four in order to unlock Ren and Nora’s tragic backstory
Throughout the previous volumes of RWBY, Ren and Nora had always stuck out as flat comic relief. There had been hints of them having a sad past, but no actual character development had ever come to them. It had been one of the most frustrating parts of the show, being that some characters, like Weiss, had really great, natural development. Volume four finally changed that. While traveling through Mistral, things finally began clicking together in their backstory that gave them much needed depth to their characters. Although the episode Kuroyuri was marred by mediocre voice acting, it explained the history of how Ren and Nora met while also showing how devastating the grimm can be in the world. Episodes like that really showed that even in a strictly “alright” season, RWBY really is a great show.
Upgrading from Miku Miku Dance
One of the longest running complaints people had against RWBY had been its animation style. Although animated on Poser, it had a quality reminiscent of videos made from Miku Miku Dance that you might have watched in middle school. The animation quality consistently improved from volume to volume, but volume four finally made the biggest jump yet in terms of style and boy it paid off. The new style along with the new designs for the main cast breathed life into the series. It felt like the people on RWBY were able to become more creative with the designs for the grimm, and the world felt more interesting as well.
While not a bad volume of RWBY, RWBY Volume Four felt like a whole lot of setup with no real payoff. While most of the characters have arcs that felt mostly unfinished, there were a couple of standout moments that finally gave much needed development to certain characters. The updated animation style and designs brought new life into the series.
RWBY volume four is a solid addition to the series, however the problems it has are very apparent. A mixture of bad decisions in character locations, a lack of payoff, and too much setup harmed the season. Yet it also added a great new animation style and depth to previously neglected characters.