Considering it’s the last week in April 2016, I should probably be talking about the new Huntsman: Winter’s War movie. But I can’t seem to muster up any interest in seeing that film (note to Hollywood: when the Fairy Tale Geek doesn’t want to watch your fairy tale movie, it’s a bad sign). So, I’ve decided to talk about a series I discovered on the internet instead.
Lately I’ve been looking into works that take inspirations in style and imagery from fairy tales but don’t really adapt the stories. There are a few of them, but one of my favorites so far is RWBY.
RWBY (pronounced “Ruby”) is an anime-inspired animated web series created by animator Monty Oum and produced by Rooster Teeth Productions, a production company known for producing Machinima (animated productions using video game images and backgrounds). RWBY is one of their completely original, in-house developed series (ie: not Machinima).
RWBY takes place in the world of Remnant. Remnant is a future world in which a huge war wiped out a large chunk of the preexisting human culture. Now this world is not just inhabited by humans but also humanoids bearing animal traits called the Faunus and the mysterious monsters called the Creatures of Grimm (there’s that name again, and used for a type of monster. Joseph Jacobs never has to put up with this kind of crap). To fend off the Grimm and other things that threaten the peace, some young people go to special academies where they learn how to become Huntsmen and Huntresses. RWBY focuses on four young Huntresses in training who attend Beacon Academy in the city of Vale. They are Ruby Rose (based on “Little Red Riding Hood”), Weiss Schnee (based on “Snow White”), Blake Belladonna (based on the female lead from “Beauty and the Beast”) and Yang Xiao Long (based on “Goldilocks”). Their initials also coincide with the most notable color in their designs: Red, White, Black and Yellow. All the characters have unique personalities, backgrounds, abilities and weapons to match. The hot-headed Yang gets stronger the longer she fights and has gauntlets that also double as guns. The wealthy and somewhat arrogant Weiss has a fencing foil that also has a rotating supply of an element called Dust which allows her to channel different magical effects. The elusive Blake carries a ninja sword and can create a shadow double of herself. Finally, leader Ruby Rose has blinding speed and carries a giant scythe that can transform into a sniper rifle.
That’s right, it’s a show about a version of Red Riding Hood who carries a sniper rifle. And no, it’s not written by someone at the NRA. It’s so much better than that.
The references to old stories do not exactly end there. The show is filled with nods to fairy tales, history, legends, myths and literature. One of the show’s villains is named Roman Torchwick, based on the character of Lampwick from Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio. Another is named Cinder. You can probably guess what her inspiration is. My personal favorite is an android girl named Penny Polendina based on Pinocchio. There are even echoes of the stories in the main characters’ lives. Weiss has family issues. Blake has a rather “beastly” controlling ex-boyfriend. However, all of this is mostly window dressing. It all takes a back seat to the new story of this world that’s been created. The old culture has been wiped out including the old stories and as a discussion of fairy tales in volume three shows, new tales have taken their place. The old archetypes still exist but they’re more echoes that manifest themselves in the new characters. But if you’re worried that’s going to turn you off from the series then don’t. The plots to the series are great. The suspense in this show builds perfectly. The characters are all interesting and lovable (or at least love-to-hatable). The voice acting is terrific. The action scenes are all dynamic and interesting. There are even some elements that are just part of the background that are just fantastic. For example, they show some love to the blended families out there with the fact that Ruby and Yang are half-sisters. They acknowledge that they have different mothers and there is some drama associated with it, but none that creates animosity between the two girls. All this, plus the music rocks. Just tell me that this song and this song aren’t awesome!
I’m finding it hard to come up with anything to criticize in this series. If I had to pick one, it would be that the tale-inspired character designs aren’t necessarily as evocative as maybe they were intending them to be. The primary one I’m thinking of is Blake, who is supposed to be based on the Beauty from “Beauty and the Beast”. However, since she’s a Faunus with cat ears, she reminds me more of “Puss in Boots”. Weiss might also throw some people seeing as both her hair and skin are “as white as snow” rather than just her skin in the case of the traditional Snow White. This is a problem that stems more from the fact that classic fairy tales often don’t delve too much into description. For every Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks that has some kind of visually defining aspect, there’s a Jack or Beauty/Belle who’s left up to the imagination. That’s a minor quibble at this point, though. RWBY is a highly entertaining and addictive show. It also happens to be a show that just ended on a huge cliffhanger. I am glad to say that the show will pick up with volume four in Fall 2016. This is especially true given that the show’s creator Monty Oum is no longer with us. He passed away on February 1st 2015 from an allergic reaction he suffered while undergoing a medical procedure. Luckily, his creation lives on as his legacy.
You can find the first three volumes of the show on the Rooster Teeth website as well as on the official Rooster Teeth YouTube channel. If that’s not enough for you, there are a number of Rooster Teeth products on offer including soundtracks with those kickin’ theme songs and a game on Steam. Good luck and if you’re anything like me you’ll be eagerly awaiting the debut of volume four this Fall.