Welcome to Beacon once more, the prestigious academy that arms minors with tremendous weapons and trains them to combat creatures of pure negativity and malice…it’s pretty standard really. Yet, within this world of danger, a greater threat looms. A foe that possesses something that the thralls of terrifying beasts lack, something that is far worse than teeth or claws: a plan…and lots of guns.
Having already tussled with Torchwick and the White Fang in the last volume, we find Team RWBY preparing to return to class, normal life as it where. Of course, being the impetuous girl she is, Ruby insists on one last hurrah, one more moment of fun. Her plans are immediately dashed by an errant pie, resulting in one of the most epic food fights that has ever occurred anywhere. It really doesn’t have any bearing on the plot, I just thought it was worth mentioning. I mean where else are you going to see turkey gauntlets clash with a watermelon sledgehammer? Nowhere, that’s where. Humour aside though, the food fight showcases the tremendous fight scenes that RWBY is known for. From quick-fire punches, to gratuitous somersaults, to a realistic application of slipstreams, combat can never be said to lack flow. Movement is never wasted and there is rarely a break in the action. It’s essentially an all out rumble until one fighter goes down. It’s awesome.
In the wake of the Great Food War, and one particularly intense boardgame, Ruby and Co. finally address what they’ve all been thinking and construct a plan to investigate the operations of White Fang. Through a combination of planning and serendipity, the team quickly wind up in the deep end and a rather epic robot battle ensues, after a little espionage. Though, once again, the fight sequences are brilliantly choreographed, it is also interesting to see the team split up and take a more reserved and tactical approach. It also allows us to see how the character’s pasts affect their methods, hinting at the struggles that each member of Team RWBY has had to overcome. Yang’s underground connections, Blake’s knowledge of the White Fang, even Weiss’ family factors into their plan, much to her chagrin. Though Ruby initially seems to just be a tagalong, she too branches off when an old friend returns, cementing the fact that although they are a powerful team, Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang are also strong individual characters.
Amidst the chaos of combat, Volume 2 spends a great amount of time exploring the characters that make up the main cast. This is most apparent during the heart-to-heart between Yang and Blake. In it, we learn of Yang’s childhood, her family situation and the danger that her obsession placed her and Ruby in. This tender moment also reveals a motherly side to Yang, which is often hidden deep behind her general exuberance and bravado. Having led Yang to this calmer demeanour, we also see just how far Blake is willing to go to right her past wrongs, working to the point of exhaustion in the hopes of learning anything about the White Fang’s movements. Though it is already known how determined she is, her desperation shows a fragility that is not often seen in the reserved Blake. It’s called character development folks and it really expresses how Team RWBY bolster each others strengths both on the battlefield and off.
Whilst the usual suspects are the focus of the volume, there is a much larger story opening up around them. In response to Torchwick and the White Fang, as well as the still upcoming Vytal Festival, General Ironwood and the Atlas military make a rather bold entrance. As well as bringing a plethora of cool robots into the fray, this show of force presents to us the opinions of a different Kingdom. Having spent the entirety of the previous volume focusing on Vale, it’s interesting to see how the world at large is reacting to the ever growing threat of the White Fang. Ironwood also provides some perspective in that he speaks to Ozpin as an equal, one who is not entirely pleased with his methods. Admittedly sending students into battle does not sound light the brightest or most compassionate idea, but you’ve seen the main cast in action. Even Jaune, the hesitant leader with one of the few not-half-gun weapons in the series finds it in himself to be awesome. And don’t even get me started on the newly introduced Team CFVY, those guys are awesome. From elbow blades, to giant broadswords, to a weapon that is equal parts handbag and Grimm shredding chaingun. Do not mess with the fashion conscious, or you may wind up unconscious…or worse.
Objectively speaking, there are some issues with the visuals of the series, stemming from a technical standpoint. Namely, this amounts to objects, such as hair, clipping through others when in movement and characters seeming to slide or slightly hover above ground when walking. Personally, this doesn’t bother me given the positives of the series, as well as having the knowledge that it wasn’t produced by a giant animation company. But, for those who do care, it is worth noting. Contrasting this, there is a brief segment in the volume that utilises a more traditional 2D, watercolour-esque style. In addition to firmly placing this story in a different place in the timeline, it adds to the overall fairy tale nature of the series and serves as a nice divergence from the usual style. Musically speaking, the series utilises a number of instrumental tunes composed by Jeff Williams, continuing his work from Volume 1. Tracks with vocals, such as the intro and those overlayed on particularly epic fight scenes, are performed by Casey Lee Williams. Though varied in style and utilising different instruments on occasion, such as the trumpet heavy military theme, the fact that each song is performed by the same artists gives the series its own unique sound. A unique backtrack made specifically for each moment.
Also bonuses, check ’em out. Seriously, this release has four audio commentary tracks. Four. Not to mention the behind-the-scenes production diaries and World of Remnant supplementary videos. So if you’re in the mood for even more RWBY, you shan’t be disappointed.
RWBY Volume 2 expresses a great deal of evolution from Volume 1. Not only in its level of animation, but in its characterisation. Having already introduced and set up each team, these episodes are able to more intricately explore each individual character. Though many unanswered questions still linger, there is a definite sense of progress and growth at play. The Vytal Festival also played a role in creating this sense of moving forward, in that it didn’t happen. The fact that something mentioned back in Volume 1 is still on its way makes the world feel a touch more complete, being that the most recently mentioned event is not necessarily the next big plot point. It also serves to show that the story is by no means finished and that something is still on the horizon. Though I wonder what it could be? Perhaps a clue lies somewhere beyond the credits…
Want to enrol at Beacon Academy? Well why not do the next best think and visit Hanabee instead?