My 2 Cents on RWBY: Volume 5

While a few parts struggle to click together, the deeper focus on core storylines and characters helps RWBY: Volume 5 regain some of the energy and substance that the series lost in Volume 4.

The Huntresses of Team RWBY are still on separate paths. Ruby Rose is with Nora Valkyrie, Jaune Arc, and Lie Ren (Team RNJR), along with her uncle Qrow Branwen as they reach Haven to ask for Professor Leonardo Lionheart’s assistance with protecting the kingdom’s relic—unaware that he has already been forced to betray them and side with the Salem, the master of the Creatures of Grimm. Weiss Schnee has smuggled herself onto an airship to escape the Kingdom 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 Raven Branwen, her bandit mother and leader of the Branwen Tribe. The Huntresses’ 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 avaricious pursuits for power.

Volume 5 of Rooster Teeth Animation’s fantasy-action Western-style anime web series consists of fourteen chapters, mostly ranging from almost thirteen to twenty-four and a half minutes long. The first couple chapters spread a good amount of time among the activities of Team RNJR and Qrow, Blake, Weiss, and Yang. The end of the second chapter 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.

A trademark of the RWBY series is the idiosyncratic vibrancy infused into the characters and their interactions. However, this was substituted with a dark, foreboding atmosphere 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 member of the Branwen tribe; and Leonardo Lionheart, a lion Faunus and the headmaster of Haven Academy, who had betrayed Ozpin’s Group by becoming an informant for Salem, 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 launch back into action after her listless resting period in Volume 4. Weiss and Blake’s roles certainly feel more vigorous as well.

Arthur Watts and Hazel, two of Salem’s associates, are a little more fleshed-out compared to the last volume—more so for Hazel, due to a backstory that makes him a bit more of a sympathetic antagonist. Watts, out of everyone in Salem’s faction, can be bland on one hand, but on the other hand he stands out for being the most levelheaded henchman, someone who hasn’t lost grip on his sanity, anger, or greed. Tyrian Callows, a main antagonist in Volume 4, isn’t present as much here but still gets to show off his exaggerated psychopathy and his reverence of Salem. Cinder and her young minions, Emerald Sustrai and Mercury Black, are still enjoyable to watch when they show up.
The only baddie I don’t particularly care for is Adam; he’s boring and horribly-designed, and I can’t fathom why he is sticking around for so long. The terrorist activities of the Faunus-led White Fang have gotten old too, but at least the organization takes an interesting turn in the volume’s resolution. As for Ilia Amitola, a chameleon Faunus and a White Fang member who frustrated me because of her portrayal as a lesbian villain in Volume 4, is depicted slightly more sensitively here, although the original problem hasn’t been completely resolved.

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.With few new characters, the number of new weaponry has been greatly reduced, leaving us with Lionheart’s 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 they still expand with a couple new classes. The first is made up of Lancers, giant wasps that shoot out their stingers like grappling hooks. 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 mostly satisfying climax 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 much less intriguing than the ones in previous volumes—RWBY: Volume 5 will hopefully leave you on a high note, ready to leap into the next part of the adventure with the gang together once again. Just saying, I hope Team RWBY doesn’t split up again for a long, long time.

Windup score: 85/100

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