(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “A New Approach”)
(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “A New Approach”)
Welcome back for my thoughts on the Rooster Teeth fantasy anime web series, RWBY—specifically, the second chapter of RWBY: Volume 7, “A New Approach,” which aired on Rooster Teeth FIRST on November 9. We learn a good amount of info here and we’re getting a sense of what direction the season is taking, which is why I’m higher on this than the Volume 7 premiere, “The Greatest Kingdom,” even though both chapters are pretty subdued.
First, though, I have to take a moment to applaud the opening titles. I’ve only seen it twice, but it’s already turning into one of the most memorable RWBY OPs we’ve had in a while, what with the splash screens, the choreography of the character shots, and the general energy. I’m also beginning to get hooked on “Trust Love (Open Up Your Eyes)”, the accompanying track sung by Casey Lee Williams.
“A New Approach” opens right after “The Greatest Kingdom,” with Team RWBY (Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long), Team JNR (Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, and Lie Ren), Oscar Pine, and Qrow Branwen being flown up to Atlas in an airship as prisoners. Everyone looks dejected, although Nora is the only one trying to bite off her handcuffs. Another prisoner is in the ship with them, Forest, and he goes on an exposition dump of a rant about Robin Hill and her Happy Huntresses (the feminist version of Robin Hood and his Merry Men). Apparently they’re top graduates from Atlas Academy who decided to stay here and fight for better conditions in the continent of Mantle, and Robin is running for a seat on the Atlesian Council. This might be the same Robin whose face we saw on the Protect Mantle posters in the premiere, and we’ll probably meet her sometime soon.
The ship flies up to the floating city of Atlas, as you can see in the amazing shot above. We’re only two chapters in, and already the animation this volume is more stunning than I’ve ever seen before. They land at Atlas Academy, which gives off Beacon Academy vibes with its imposing castle-like structure. There, the heroes have their discussion with General James Ironwood inside his office, along with Penny Polendina and Winter Schnee. The meeting kicks off on a good note for me when Weiss and Winter hug. We haven’t seen the two sisters together in a long time, and I was anxious about what their interaction would be like after all that time apart. But you could tell how worried Winter was about her sister, and the hug communicated so much warmth.
After producing the Relic of Knowledge from his desk, Ironwood reveals that not only is the Staff of Creation (one of the four Relics and the item that appears behind the Monty Oum credits in the OP) secure in the Academy’s Vault and the Winter Maiden is stable (Qrow says she’s no spring chicken), but he divulged the secrets of the Relics and Salem’s role as the leader of the Grimm to Winter, Penny, and Ace Ops. Ironwood goes on to explain his plan to restore global communications by erecting a new comms satellite. And he wants to do this by renovating Amity Coliseum—yes, the levitating stadium that hosted the Vytal Festival Tournament all the way back in Volume 3. It’s also the place where Penny died, where Yang broke Mercury Black’s knee (under Emerald Sustrai’s influence), and where Cinder Fall launched her propaganda to make everyone panic and attract a huge army of Grimm. So, yeah, it’s safe to say the Coliseum brings back some bad memories. We’ll very likely revisit it later on this volume, maybe even have the climax there.
Ironwood goes even further by advancing his intention to tell the world about Salem despite the terror it would cause and the resulting Grimm that would be drawn. Just this one topic inspires plenty of debate. In my opinion, pulling Salem out of the shadows and getting out the truth about her to everyone is necessary. But there are good ways and bad ways to go about this. For example, is using this proposed satellite really the best way to blast the news about Salem across Remnant? Ironwood says he’s withdrawing the troops so that his Kingdom will be sufficiently protected against the Grimm, but where does that leave everybody else in the world when they have to fend off the beasts? And will the satellite get hacked in a similar fashion to what happened in Volume 3 so that even more misinformation can be spread (the ending to this chapter makes me think the answer is yes)?
Then they progress to the topic of Ozpin, which is a very interesting part of the discussion. Oscar reveals to Ironwood that he’s Ozpin’s next incarnation, but isn’t able to talk about anything else (namely, all the stuff about the former Beacon headmaster’s complicated history with Salem) before Ruby interrupts him and basically says Ozpin hasn’t shown up through Oscar since the train crash in Argus. Not only that, but she tells Ironwood that all three questions in the Relic of Knowledge have been used up, even though there’s actually one left. This isn’t necessarily a new side of Ruby that we’re seeing; as earnest and naïve as she appears to most people, she can be cunning when she wants to, and this scene is a great example of that. The tone in which Ironwood says that Ozpin, in reference to the Relic’s questions, said the same thing once upon a time makes me wonder if he knows Ruby is omitting crucial details. Who knows, maybe he even asked the third and final question himself.
The meeting ends with the announcement that Atlas will upgrade the gang’s weapons for them and they can stay in the Academy to help Ironwood, Winter, and Penny, which takes me by surprise; I thought Ironwood would kick them out. He even returns the Relic to them, which only cements my suspicion that he really did ask the third question.
Afterward the crew bumps into Ace Ops, the squad of elite police that arrested them in the first place (might be yet another fairy-tale reference—as in, Aesop’s fables). It consists of Clover Ebi, the leader who gives off a jockish air; Marrow Amin, the dog Faunus; Elm Ederne, the woman who exuberantly greets Ruby; Vine Zeki, the very pale-looking guy; and Harriet Bree, the bunny (hare?) Faunus. I don’t have much to say about this extraneous cast of supporting characters, except that Elm is the most likable out of the five officers. The scene also includes a great White Rose moment, and Ironwood hugging Qrow is a particularly nice touch (a good amount of emotional reunion hugs in this chapter).
The scene where Penny leads everyone on a tour of the Academy is hilarious, especially as they get increasingly tired to the point where they’re all hunched over and panting. Nora even leans against Ren for support and a sleep bubble blows out of her mouth, which is definitely a Volume 2 reference. Penny says it will be just like Beacon, although I think there’s going to be much more trouble stirring here in Atlas. Still, I’m quite excited about the crew getting this opportunity to re-experience the hijinks exclusive to the school environment. That was some of my favorite stuff back in the first three volumes, including the cafeteria food fight.
As I predicted, the final scene focuses on Arthur Watts and Tyrian Callows, who are up to no good in the grungy ground portion of Atlas. Watts is strolling through the city, using a parasol that interferes with Atlesian security measures—shutting down cameras, raising barricades in the streets. He talks to Tyrian through his comm, mentioning that he wired the code (I bet he’s the one who hacked into the robots in Volume 3). And then we cut to Tyrian as he walks out of a place with his metal scorpion tail and says that we all have our talents, leaving the area as his purple venom puddles out from beneath the door, indicating that he just killed someone.
Both “The Greatest Kingdom” and “A New Approach” are quiet chapters that last only eighteen minutes long, yet I found the latter more compelling simply because I felt like more things happened. We’re getting into the meat of Volume 7, what with the focus on the satellite and exposing Salem’s existence. It’s very talky so far, though, and I hope the next chapter will give the heroes some action—not a fight, per se, but they need to start doing things that are pertinent to the mission.
Let’s talk about Ironwood for a minute, because I’m continuing to be intrigued by what role he’ll play. He made it clear that everything he’s doing is for the sake of protecting Atlas, and I sympathize with his motivations, even after factoring in the police state we saw in “The Greatest Kingdom.” Throughout RWBY, he’s always been a little questionable, but overall he seems to do things out of the good of his heart. I don’t fully trust him at this point, though. Is he hiding something about his plan? Did he ask the Relic of Knowledge a question? Ruby choosing to lie to him says a lot about his position in the story. And there is that shot in the opening titles where someone hurls a rock at a hologram of Ironwood, causing it to flicker into Jacques Schnee’s image. This has to be a hint that Weiss’s father is somehow using Ironwood as a pawn. I don’t think Ironwood will be the main villain, but he’ll certainly present obstacles later on. Same goes for Winter, and even Penny might become an antagonist, depending on whether Watts hacks into her (which I hope doesn’t happen, but it probably will).
I’m curious to see how Volume 7 will handle its increasingly political content, e.g., the Atlesian Council, the satellite, and the proper way to tell the world about Salem. This is prime material for a fake-news allegory. Think about it—the satellite is supposed to control global communications, meaning it’s essentially a one-stop plan for someone to hack into it (I’m looking at you, Watts) and incite tumult by disseminating Cinder-level propaganda (say, an announcement made by Salem herself). Jacques could use it as well, perhaps to turn people against Huntresses and Huntsmen, even Team RWBY. I can see this running along a Harry Potter-type of political vein, where Jacques or the Council (the Ministry of Magic) ridicule the protagonists (Harry) for trying to spread the news about Salem (Voldemort).
So, I guess we’re concentrating on Watts and Tyrian this volume as the primary bad guys from Salem’s circle. Does this mean we won’t see Cinder and Neo or Emerald and Mercury at all until next volume? Or are they going to make a surprise appearance? At least Watts and Tyrian, instead of lying low at Salem’s castle, are in the vicinity of the heroes and have a chance of getting incorporated into the main plot. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing one of them die at the end of this volume—the Atlesian scientist who can somehow break into a computer system that Ironwood should have updated by now, or the scorpion-tailed poor man’s Joker, take your pick.
I said this before, and I’ll say it again: we need more substantial character moments. This has been lacking for the most part in the past couple chapters, even though it’s a quick way to juice up RWBY with heart and humor. We need more Bumblebee, Nuts and Dolts, et cetera.
So much unfolded that it can be easy to forget about the Winter Maiden. The fan theory about it being Weiss’s mother feels too obvious; besides, we already did that with Raven Branwen, Yang’s mom, being the Spring Maiden. For some reason I’m leaning towards the theory that Robin Hill is the Winter Maiden. Of course, I can’t help thinking that at the end of all this, Weiss will become the Winter Maiden. Who knows, Team RWBY could become all four Maidens.
How the hell are they going to defeat Salem? Ironwood says he wants to destroy her, but we learned through the Relic of Knowledge last volume that she cannot be destroyed. Again, he might have asked that third question, and if he did, he must have uncovered new info.
Next chapter, the timeskip will probably happen, at which point everyone will have their new gear, clothes, and haircuts; we could see Jacques, Whitley, maybe even Weiss’s mother; and Watts and/or Tyrian might show up again. Whatever happens, I’m done with the talking now. The road has been laid out for Volume 7, and Team RWBY and company need to start trekking along it.
Windup score: 93/100