So many things click together in RWBY: Volume 5, starting with the broad range of storylines and ending with the characters’ interpersonal relationships, that it regains some of the energy that was missing from Volume 4.
(SPOILER ALERT: This review will discuss a plot twist from the end of Volume 4)
The members of Team RWBY are still on separate paths. Ruby Rose is with Nora, Jaune, and Ren (Team RNJR) and her uncle Qrow as they reach Haven to ask for Professor Leonardo Lionheart’s help with protecting the kingdom’s relic, unaware that he has already been forced to join their enemy, Salem. Weiss Schnee has smuggled herself onto an airship to escape her homeland of Atlas. Blake Belladonna is caught in the middle of White Fang trouble in her home village of Menagerie. Yang Xiao Long, having accustomed to her prosthetic arm, is about to leave home to search for her mother, Raven Branwen. Their individual paths are bringing them ever closer to a reunion, which must occur in time to stop Salem, Cinder Fall, Adam Taurus, and their accomplices from achieving their pursuits for power.
Volume 5 consists of fourteen episodes, mostly ranging from almost thirteen to twenty-four minutes long. The first couple episodes spread a good amount of time to the activities of Team RNJR and Qrow, Blake, Weiss, and Yang. The end of the second episode even shows Adam’s ruthless rise through the ranks in the White Fang, as witnessed by Hazel Rainart, one of Salem’s associates. All this is supposed to follow Volume 4‘s conclusion closely in terms of the timing, making 4 and 5 feel like Part One and Part Two rather than two separate volumes. In spite of this, none of the storylines skip a beat.
A trademark of Rooster Teeth’s RWBY series is the idiosyncratic vibrancy infused into the characters and their interactions. However, this was substituted with a generally dark storyline for much of Volume 4. I’m glad to say that some of the vibrancy rushes back into Volume 5 once Team RWBY begins to gradually get back together. Seriously, once that point arrives, it’s as if the lid has been taken off a cauldron of funny potion or hoopla gas or . . . well, whatever comedic magic brew you feel like conjuring up. And it takes no effort to appreciate the work that was put into the interplay between Yang and Raven as they argue over their conflicting perspectives of the world, feeling candid and real, never sinking into bouts of irksome whining or same-old, same-old mother-daughter disputes.
Compared to previous volumes, very few newcomers join Volume 5‘s cast. There’s Vernal, the current Spring Maiden and a bandit in the Branwen tribe; and Leonardo Lionheart, a lion Faunus and the headmaster of Haven Academy, who had betrayed Ozpin’s Group by allowing Salem to pressure him into the role of an informant, as revealed at the end of Volume 4. The cast’s dramatic decrease in expansion is surprising, but it also gives a chance for us to focus on familiar faces. It’s great to see Yang get launched back into action, after her listless resting period in Volume 4. Weiss and Blake’s roles feel more vigorous as well. Arthur Watts and Hazel, two of Salem’s associates, are quite fleshed-out compared to the last volume — more for Hazel, due to a backstory that makes him a sympathetic antagonist. Watts, out of everyone in Salem’s inner circle, can be bland on one hand, but on the other hand he stands out for not losing grip on his sanity, anger, or greed. Tyrian, a primary antagonist in Volume 4, isn’t present as much here but still gets to show off his delightful psychopathy and his reverence of Salem. The continual involvement of the White Fang and its ilk — Adam, Ilia Amitola, and Corsac and Fennec Albain — hasn’t gotten old, even in the fifth volume.
Hearing Ozpin’s signature voice as he explains the unusual tale of his life through Oscar Pine, a young boy with whom his soul has become intertwined, is uncanny but ends up feeling natural pretty fast. It feels foggy, though, as to what significant events, if any, occurred between him and Salem. Were they initially friends/partners or have they always been enemies? Hopefully this subject will be covered in the next volume and not only clear up the relationship but also make Salem a multifaceted villain.
Unfortunately, with few new characters, the number of new weaponry has been equally reduced, leaving us with Lionheart’s Weapon, a wrist-mounted shield equipped with Dust containers, and Vernal’s fire and wind blades. Perhaps you could count the introduction of a couple new Semblances as compensation. Hint, hint, consider one of them as crucial to the story as Ren’s emotion-camouflage Semblance was to Volume 4.
The Grimm don’t receive as much attention as in past volumes, but it still expands with a couple new classes. The first is made up of Lancers, large wasps that shoot out their stingers. The second is the jellyfish-like Seer, used by Salem for long-range communication with Lionheart, armed with barb-tipped tentacles for merciless strangulation. The wonderfully spectral design makes it compete with the Nuckelavee from Volume 4 for the spot as my favorite Grimm.
With a satisfying final battle, a plot twist that leaves you slack-jawed, and a pointer before the credits as to where the heroes will advance next — and in spite of a post-credit scene that’s less intriguing than the ones in previous volumes — RWBY: Volume 5 will leave you on a high note, ready to leap into the next part of the adventure with everyone together once again. Just saying, I hope Team RWBY doesn’t split up again for a long, long time.
Windup score: 90/100