This anime-inspired web series created by Monty Oum and produced by ‘Rooster Teeth’ has gained a large following since its debut in 2013, thanks to its great voice cast, stylish 3-D animation and endless supply of action.
At first glance the series could be dismissed by fans of the genre (myself included, initially) as too familiar and formulaic: a group of teenagers with magical powers attend a special high school where they are trained to battle an evil threat that will plague their world. Throw in an over the top antagonist, some flashy fight scenes, a few speeches about the power of friendship, maybe a cheesy love subplot and lather, rinse, repeat in about three years’ time.
However, when it comes to animation there is a difference between using common tropes and making use of them. With its charming fairy tale-inspired characters, engaging world building and numerous continuous plots developed from season to season, RWBY is so much more than another dime a dozen teen adventure and I always feel like a kid waiting for the next episode to be released.
Season 4 (called ‘Volume 4’ officially, in keeping with the story book theme) acts as a bridge between the first 3 seasons which, despite having a few darker moments, always retained a spirited and optimistic atmosphere, and the finale of Volume 3 is truly the series’ ‘Empire Strikes Back’ or ‘Goblet of Fire’ (the installment when a certain waste product hits the fan) leading to a much more serious and mature tone.
There are some fulfilling moments of character development this season for the 4 main protagonists: Ruby, Yang, Weiss and Blake, each of whom are given their own individual story arks. Viewers are even given further insight into the foreboding antagonists as the season expands on the show’s increasingly rich lore, as well as some much needed fleshing out of the supporting cast. Kudos to the writing staff of RWBY for making use of this transitional period this way; a perfect time in the narrative to handle these details rather than attempting to resolve all unanswered questions at once, leading to a rushed mess in later seasons.
The animation has improved as the show progresses, and the fan base becomes larger. This latest season the quality spiked with the 3-D animated character designs rivaling any anime or video game. The soundtracks for each series have all been consistently enjoyable from the emotional pieces to the lively combat instrumentals (I’ll admit I added one or two of the new songs to my playlist… which is mostly show tunes and theme songs).
To conclude, RWBY Volume 4 delivered answers fans wanted following the game-changing events of the previous season, and set things up nicely for future installments in a way that will leave viewers excited for more. All the while it was still an entertaining season in its own right; filled with plenty of the action the long term audience has come to love, the introduction of new characters and development of most of the existing cast. Perfect for the time-honored binge watch!