In between bits of slow pacing and questionable plot devices, RWBY: Volume 6 lights up with the passionate heart of its characters as they pursue an extreme example of the rocky cross-country trip.
The anime-style fantasy-action web series RWBY: Volume 6 by Rooster Teeth Productions contains thirteen episodes ranging from over thirteen minutes to twenty-six and a half. It takes place in Remnant, a world that Huntsmen and Huntresses ardently defend from the ravenous Creatures of Grimm. The plot follows a crew of Huntresses called Team RWBY (Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long) and their companions as they travel to Atlas, guarding the mysterious Relic of Knowledge from Salem, the leader of the Grimm, and her underlings. Along the way they encounter multiple obstacles, and the situation becomes even more uncertain when they learn unpalatable information about Salem and her complex past.
RWBY is known for making us care about its vibrant characters and what happens to them on all these rowdy journeys. This remains the same while we watch them cope with external and internal struggles along the trip to Atlas. This could very well be the volume with the highest count of story/character arcs, and they are quite strong for the most part. Maybe some of them are left to dangle towards the end, but I’ll get back to that issue later. For now I will say that two of the arcs are fantastically written and form a great deal of the volume’s emotional backbone — give a bow to Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross, the RWBY directors/writers.
My favorite part of Volume 6 — one of the best pieces of writing, really, for all of RWBY — is the one that sheds light on Salem’s tragic history and how surprisingly intertwined it is with another character’s. I’ve said before that a story can thrive or collapse depending on whether the antagonists are sympathetic and rounded or asinine and mundane. For the past couple volumes Salem has been presented as the powerful master of her inner circle of minions and her bestial Grimm legion, but nothing much more than that. Once you learn about the person she used to be and the downward spiral she underwent, it makes you understand both her and the general plot on greater levels.
Save for one pack of thugs whose role turned out to be extraneous in the grand scheme of things, supporting characters like Maria Calavera, an elderly woman with fancy techno-goggles; Caroline Cordovan, a pompous commanding officer of the Atlesian Military; and Jaune Arc’s elder sister Saphron and her family were excellently fleshed-out. Out of all the villains, aside from Salem, the ones who had the best development were Adam Taurus, the brutal leader of the extremist White Fang; Emerald Sustrai, an associate of Salem who feels lost without the guidance of her former leader Cinder Fall; and a couple other people whom I can’t mention by name without giving away spoilers.
New Grimm join the savage army, like the Manticore and the Sphinx, both loosely based on the mythological lion-like creatures; the Leviathan, the Grimm’s very own Godzilla; and the life-draining, zombie-esque Apathy, my favorite out of all the new species. But none of them top the Nuckelavee or the Seer, the two best Grimm in my opinion.
This is the volume where I took the most notice of the gorgeous animation, whether it was the emotions splashing across characters’ faces or the adrenaline-pumped action of fighting sequences. Same goes for the subtle voice-acting, especially Barbara Dunkelman as Yang, Arryn Zech as Blake, Aaron Dismuke as Oscar Pine and Ozma, Jen Taylor as Salem, and Jen Brown as a character whose identity I’ll keep secret to avoid spoilers. And it’s amazing how many excellent scenes there are in Volume 6, scenes that strike at the heart of its characters and its storylines. “The Lost Fable,” “Lost,” and “The Lady in the Shoe” are some of the episodes that comprise such examples.
Jeff Williams’s scores are on the money when they back up both thrilling fight sequences and tender character beats. My compliments also go to his daughter Casey Lee Williams, who sang new lyrics added to the Volume 1 score “Forever Falls,” which was the accompaniment for a affecting scene in the ninth episode “Lost.” And Casey herself wrote fantastic motifs that set the mood for my favorite Volume 6 episode, “The Lost Fable.” I can’t wait for the soundtrack to release so I can also listen to “Indomitable” and “Nevermore,” both which were featured for the final episode.
I commend this volume for delving further into LGBTQ characters. The first such person was Ilia Amitola, the chameleon Faunus who pines over Blake in Volume 5, although the way she was introduced made her fit into fairly unsavory LGBTQ tropes, e.g. predatory lesbian. Here, in Volume 6, this is the first time a gay relationship becomes part of the plot so naturally. There’s actually a second LGBTQ relationship that blossoms between two of the protagonists, and even though it isn’t nearly as clear-cut, Luna and Shawcross did a splendid job of instilling it with sincerity. I hope they let it continually evolve throughout the series.
If there is anything I have to criticize, it’s two things. One, the inconsistencies with sub-plots and characters, persistent issues that I am picking up from other volumes while re-watching them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all splendid, but I can’t ignore a minuscule plot hole here or an odd character decision there. And two, the finale could have been more solid. It was pretty much stretched out over three or so episodes, which means watching it over three weeks, and that drains some of the climactic energy. This happened with other volumes as well, especially Volume 3. The pacing feels better when you can watch it straight through. The next volume’s climax should be condensed into one or two episodes. Plus, the ending attempts to incorporate most, if not all, the arcs that have been built up over the past three months, which is why most of them feel like they’re left to dangle for the next volume. At least the storylines that received the most attention were the ones that embodied the web series’s sincerity and emotional capacity.
In the end, none of those issues detract from the overall high quality of RWBY: Volume 6, so make sure you carve out time to watch it. The problem I’m most concerned with is the prediction that we’ll probably have to wait for the fall season for Volume 7’s release.
Windup score: 91/100