There are good things to speak of in RWBY: Volume 3, but a few problematic issues—one of them is the fact that it isn’t written nearly as tightly as the previous two volumes—makes it just above passable instead of outstanding in my book.
The Vytal Festival Tournament is upon Remnant, and Team RWBY is just one of various teams from the kingdoms’ Academies who are partaking in the combat rounds. Things seem better than ever after the arrest of crime lord Roman Torchwick in the previous volume. However, with Cinder Fall and her minions focusing on the Tournament as the crux of a scheme to disrupt Remnant and Professor Ozpin giving one of his students the opportunity to make a life-altering decision that may help to stop Cinder, it won’t be long before everyone gets thrown into the chaos.
RWBY: Volume 3 is, as it says in the name, the third volume in Rooster Teeth Animation’s fantasy-action anime-style web series, RWBY. It consists of twelve chapters ranging mostly from thirteen to eighteen minutes, except for the twelfth one, which is twenty-eight minutes long. I quite like the first chapter, “Round One,” which starts with Ruby Rose talking about her Huntress friends in Team RWBY (Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long) to the grave of her mother, Summer Rose. However, the scene also turns into a tribute to the creator of the animation series Monty Oum, whose passing makes this the first volume to be released without him; keep an eye out for his signature at the end of that scene. Then it cuts to Team RWBY fighting Team ABRN in their first round of the Vytal Festival Tournament, giving us a taste of the fast-paced action and creative weapons, including a Dust-powered hoverboard. We also get our fair fix of laughs through the following fairground scene, which includes over two straight minutes of some of my favorite gags thus far in the series.
Soon enough, though, it becomes apparent that Volume 3 isn’t nearly as high-quality as the other volumes. Some of the chapters consist entirely of the action in Tournament rounds, taking significant time away from story and character development. On top of this, most of the brawls, aside from “Round One,” are forgettable, which is disappointing when you consider that one of the things people love about RWBY are the creative fighting sequences that force you to watch every millisecond of the frenetic action—something for which Oum was largely responsible. I’m hesitant to see how the rest of the volumes will fare without his input.
At least there are newcomers freshening up the cast, like Qrow Branwen, Yang and Ruby’s brusque, drunken uncle, and Winter Schnee, Weiss’s older sister and a Specialist in the Atlesian Military’s Special Operatives unit. A bit of flair gets infused into the minor characters who appear as Tournament opponents, such as jazz player Flynt Coal and roller-skater Neon Katz. And in spite of the Tournament hullabaloo, Volume 3 does manage to devote some attention to the characters and their relationships, including the romance between Jaune Arc and Pyrrha Nikos, the stern yet close sisterliness between Weiss and Winter, the little twists on Qrow’s character design that make him a likable spin on the world-weary drunkard trope, and a flashback that sheds light on how Cinder met her associates Emerald Sustrai and Mercury Black and gives us a closer look at her ruthless quest for power. The history of Remnant expands as well, especially with the bits about the Tale of the Four Maidens and the silver-eyed warriors that are pleasantly reminiscent of the classic legends you would hear in fantasy stories.
Unfortunately, all this good stuff gets somewhat off-balanced by one of the primary villains: Adam Taurus, a high-ranking member of a Faunus terrorist organization known as the White Fang (he was already seen with Blake in the “Black” trailer and then made a cameo at the end of Volume 2). Not only is he a flat villain, but he ends up engaging in misogyny that’s so horrible, so gratuitous, and it just really, really fouls up the story. In fact, it’s appalling enough that many who were supportive of Tauradonna (Adam and Blake) quickly, to put it in a sense, abandoned ship afterwards.
Sung by Casey Lee Williams and written by her father Jeff Williams, the energetic rock tracks have been a signature element of RWBY. It remains the core of the Volume 3 soundtrack, amping up the energy of the fight scenes while also setting a solemn, almost ominous mood for other scenes. There’s an absence of the vicious Creatures of Grimm for quite a while, although you could say this helps to build them up for the finale, especially with the Alpha Beowolf, the Alpha Nevermore, the Griffon, and the Dragon. And the weapons, oh the lovely new weapons—the only one that tops Qrow’s Harbinger, a huge sword that can also take on the form of a scythe, is utilized by a bunny Faunus, Velvet Scarlatina. But I won’t dare spoil the surprise.
The whirlwind climax takes place over a few chapters, boasting more memorable action pieces than the Tournament; too bad it’s tainted by Adam’s misogynistic BS. But otherwise, I actually liked the majority of the climax (what happens with Torchwick is probably my favorite part), even though the total runtime could have been compressed from fifty minutes to forty or shorter.
All in all, Volume 3 has huge ups and downs. Its somber denouement has a chance of leading well into Volume 4, where they’ll hopefully do a good job of exploring the uncertain future that lays ahead of Team RWBY and company. As always, make sure you watch the post-credit scene.
Windup score: 78/100