The rational voice in your head may wish to harp on about the pure fun and silliness of the mech fuss in the first half of the episode, while it may calm down during the fervent combat and genuine character beats in the second half. My advice is to simply let yourself enjoy every moment of this action-packed episode.
(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “The Lady in the Shoe”)
Lasting almost sixteen minutes, “The Lady in the Shoe” is the eleventh episode of RWBY: Volume 6, the anime-style fantasy-action web series by Rooster Teeth Productions. I believe the name was inspired by the nursery rhyme, “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe,” and it refers to Caroline Cordovan, the grandiloquent commanding officer of the Atlesian Military. If only I had a scrap of an idea as to why the writers chose the odd name. At the end of the previous episode, “Stealing From The Elderly,” most of the protagonists were left to deal with an incoming mech of gigantic scale operated by Cordovan. Meanwhile, Blake Belladonna had been accosted by her former partner Adam Taurus, who essentially threw down the gauntlet for a fight to the death.
The episode opens with Ruby Rose, her uncle Qrow Branwen, Team JNR (Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, and Lie Ren), and Oscar Pine on a cliff running along the coast of Argus. They are watching Cordovan’s mech trudge through the water in pursuit of Maria Calavera and Weiss Schnee’s airship; I assumed Cordovan firing it with electricity Dust last episode would have jammed the controls, but it’s still up in the sky. She now proceeds to fire a missile, but Ruby intercepts it in midair with an ace shot from Crescent Rose, her splendid sniper-scythe. This turns Cordovan’s attention to the group on the coast, but Weiss tells Maria to dive the airship towards them, then jumps out and summons a barrier of rocks with her Myrtenaster to block the mech’s Dust blast.
Everyone stays behind the barrier for a moment of respite. This is when Jaune puts forth his idea to split up, that they can use their size as an advantage, theorizing that the mech was designed for fighting large deep-sea Grimm instead of multiple small targets. It’s hard to forget they’re in this pickle because of his bold idea to steal the airship, but I like how he’s taking more initiative. He can be seen as a lieutenant, the second-in-command to Ruby, the leader of the group. Team JNR dashes out from behind the barrier and the airship lifts off again with Maria, Oscar, and Qrow. Ruby takes a shot at the mech’s cockpit window, and the resulting crackles leave Cordovan just a bit more indignant. She unloads a batch of missiles that Ruby, using her speed Semblance, hops between with such extreme agility that I couldn’t help but recall Kung Fu Panda when Tai Lung leaps up a series of falling rocks during his prison escape. The tracking camera shot that follows Ruby throughout this sequence adds an artistic touch. Then she shifts to crossing ice platforms that Weiss creates on the water’s surface, the two of them heading towards Cordovan.
The battle reaches another level when the mech unveils a Dust shield to block the grenades from Nora’s hammer, Magnhild. Cordovan goes on to barrage Team JNR with more Dust blasts. Qrow transforms into a crow (the bird kind), zips out, and lands on the mech to stab it with his sword-scythe, Harbinger. It seems the armor is still vulnerable to close-range attacks, but his weapon only leaves a small tear, and he has to fly away before the mech can grab him.
Weiss sends ice shooting at the mech’s leg, jostling the whole thing. Oscar warns her and Ruby to move, but Cordovan blasts them. Then they fly out of the smoke on a Lancer, the Grimm version of a large wasp, that Weiss summoned with her glyph Semblance. Ruby jumps off and stabs Crescent Rose into the front of the mech. It’s close enough to the coast that Team JNR can smack and gash it; I guess Cordovan’s shield was built to protect against energy projectiles but not close-range physical damage. Ruby is dangling in front of the cockpit window by Crescent Rose, its scythe embedded into the armor, and Cordovan tries to swat her with the mech’s hand. She falls, but Weiss flies below on her Lancer and catches her in time, asking, “What if I hadn’t caught you?” Ruby cheekily replies, “I knew you would!” A wonderful White Rose moment there.
Ruby points out that the boss’s weak spot is usually on its back, which makes Weiss respond, “Ruby, this isn’t a videogame!” However, this becomes handy advice for Ren, who has been digging the built-in blades of his guns, StormFlower, into the mech’s armor and climbing it bit by bit. He wedges open the cover for a shield generator on the back, and Qrow flies over to destroy the generator with him. This is when Nora yells, “You get back here with my man!”, referring to Ren as he and Qrow join Weiss and Ruby on their Lancer. Jaune pushes Nora out of the way before Cordovan can crush her, and the two of them glow yellow, a fleeting reminder of Jaune’s Aura-boosting Semblance. The mech fires at the Lancer, and Weiss, Qrow, and Ren lurch onto the cliff, but Ruby falls short of the edge and has to stab Crescent Rose into the cliff face. While she’s left hanging there, Cordovan is preparing to fire at her, but Maria launches a missile from the airship. Cordovan catches it with the mech’s hand somehow. I don’t understand the physics behind this, and it is certainly one of the struggle’s more absurd elements. She hurls back the missile, and it just misses the airship, which swerves straight into the screen before everything goes black.
As per the previous episode, the second half of “The Lady in the Shoe” focuses on the intense fight between Blake and Adam as her Gambol Shroud (her variation of a kusarigama) and his Wilt and Blush (a Japanese chokutō with a rifle that doubles as a scabbard) clang together with blazing fast swipes. The technical quality of the animation and the camera shots is marvelous and keeps us hooked to the fight. There’s a moment where the two of them leap at each other and he is so close to cutting her that I thought for a split-second this would be a repeat of him slicing off Yang Xiao Long’s arm in Volume 3. Fortunately he only catches a bit of her jacket, which dramatically falls off. Their fight moves on to a bridge of stone suspended halfway up a waterfall, at which point he beats her around a little and calls her selfish and a coward. She retorts by calling him delusional, and he cuts her Gambol Shroud’s blade in half. And the quick shot of Bumblebee, Yang’s motorcycle, zooming by somewhere in the distance confirms that she is on her way.
The big reveal of Adam’s eyes is pulled off well when he removes his blindfold, showing one bright blue eye and the other eye scarred with a brand that reads SDC. I think it stands for Schnee Dust Company, the corporation owned by Weiss Schnee’s family that has been notorious for using Faunus (people with physical animal traits) as slaves. Adam, a bull Faunus, must have been one of them. Standing over Blake, he says, “People hurt me long before we met. All sorts of people, all sorts of ways, but no one hurt me quite like you. You didn’t leave scars. You left me alone.” It’s obvious how much he’s driven by spite and pain, details that I think were a little blurry in the past. Remember, he is a hateful person and not someone with whom we should sympathize. But now he’s been given some long-overdue depth and it is accomplished without extraneous exposition thanks to his scarred eye.
He stabs her in the stomach with his sword, but she flickers away a moment later. The real Blake is a few feet away in a different spot, having used her Semblance to leave behind a shadow clone. After she declares that she isn’t alone, Yang finally arrives, riding her Bumblebee off a cliff above, jumping off, and letting it crash into Adam. But it’s Bumblebee, not him, that falls off the bridge. I thought the writers would bring in Yang at the perfect moment to stop Adam right before he could kill Blake, but this is even better — her arriving in time with Blake’s confident words and sacrificing her treasured motorcycle.
Yang engages Adam to give a faltering Blake time to rest. The intense scuffle builds up to the point where Adam releases a wave of bright red energy from Wilt’s glowing blade and blasts back Yang. Blake reveals that his Semblance is similar to Yang’s. He absorbs energy through his sword, stores it up, and sends it back when he’s ready. He can take damage without having to feel it, which Yang says is cheap. I’m not even sure if that counts as a true Semblance; you could merely say Adam has a powerful weapon. The scuffle lasts a little longer before he unleashes an even bigger surge of energy with a red splash screen that resembles the style used in Volume 3. Back then, it seemed strange that such theatrical animation would be utilized for a scene where one of our protagonists gets maimed. Now, it’s portrayed as being much more brutal and apt for Adam.
Yang holds up her prosthetic arm as a block, which apparently absorbs or deflects the surge of energy. She gets pushed back a bit, but her arm doesn’t suffer anything more than scuffs on its yellow armor. She presses Adam to leave her and Blake alone. He notices her other arm quiver, so he sees this as a chance to tick her off by saying, “Do you really believe that, or are you just trying to scare me away so you won’t have to die trying to protect her?” Yang looks ready to kick his butt, but Blake takes her hand, which stops the quivering, and asserts, “She’s not protecting me, Adam, and I’m not protecting her. We protect each other.” Seeing them standing together, holding hands, looking determined — not only one of the best final shots I’ve ever seen for a RWBY episode, but also the visual epitome of the strength of Bumblebee (what RWBY fans are calling Blake and Yang, not the motorcycle).
The finale of Volume 6 is being segmented and stretched out over these last few episodes, which has been the norm for most of the volumes. The mech is as simultaneously foolish and amusing as the rest of the battle, including Cordovan’s blathering about Atlas’s superiority. Seriously, though, the action is captivating; the quips from Nora, Ruby, and others are funny; and the musical cues are well-chosen, including the accompaniment of “Mirror, Mirror.” As for the second story arc, the sincerity of Blake and Yang’s bond infuses it with heart, the action is incredibly tense, and a new facet of Adam’s history has been thoughtfully presented. But I still wonder if/when he will be killed off and if Bumblebee will ship in the denouement. Plus, Yang has been absorbing quite a bit of damage from this struggle, yet we haven’t seen her vent all that energy through her Semblance in a long time. Maybe that is why her arm was shaking, not because of her nervousness, but because of her bottling up all the energy.
As an extra note, I have heard RWBY fans toss around a theory that Ozpin, supposedly locked inside Oscar’s mind, actually took control of him when he went missing a couple episodes ago. He has been acting a little differently lately, but I can’t tell if this is a relevant sign. If this is truly where we’re heading, then Aaron Dismuke is doing a good job playing Oscar with a voice and a choice of words that sounds reminiscent of the former Beacon headmaster (Dismuke also played the voice of Ozpin’s original incarnation, Ozma, in the episode “The Lost Fable”). Oscar also isn’t being greatly involved with the action so far, which makes me wonder what his payoff will be in the climax. I suggest you check out the fan theories online.
All in all, “The Lady in the Shoe” bolsters the love between Yang and Blake and rolls out dozens of entertaining fight scenes. Make sure to watch the next episode this Saturday and then the two-part finale on January 26th.
Windup score: 90/100