My 2 Cents on RWBY: Volume 7 – “Ace Operatives”

(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Ace Operatives”)
Here we are for the Rooster Teeth fantasy anime-style web series, RWBY. This time, it’s “Ace Operatives,” the third chapter of RWBY: Volume 7, released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on November 16. Suffice to say, this chapter packs a lot into seventeen minutes—new looks for the gang, great character moments, possibly a gay ship, and, to my surprise, I’m beginning to enjoy the Ace Ops unit as supporting characters.
We open with Team RWBY, Team JNR, Qrow Branwen, and the elite officers of Ace Ops heading off to the snowy mountains of Atlas in order to clear out a Geist (the ghost species of Grimm that we haven’t seen since Volume 4) from an abandoned Dust mine so they can set up a launch site for the Amity Coliseum satellite. Team RWBY and Team JNR all get the new looks we’ve been waiting for, although the timeskip I had predicted didn’t happen. Ruby Rose has an asymmetrical chop to her short hair, and her outfit has minimal changes aside from the half-skirt and the straps. My favorite is Weiss Schnee—I love her shrug and her dress, and her longer, thicker braid (but why does she have three belts overlapping each other around her waist??). Blake Belladonna gets a loose bob for her hair and a tailcoated jacket and pants with a ridiculous amount of zippers everywhere. Yang Xiao Long doesn’t have many changes, but she gets back her aviator sunglasses, which we haven’t seen in a while, and there’s an asymmetric design to her pants. In the later fight sequence, we also get to see their weapon upgrades. Ruby’s scythe, Crescent Rose, has a pivoting function; Weiss’s rapier, Myrtenaster, can extend the tip of its blade through Dust; Blake repaired the broken blade of her kusarigama-like weapon, Gambol Shroud; and Yang can use her gauntlets, Ember Celica, to plant bombs.

Then there’s Team JNR. It doesn’t look like Jaune Arc gets many clothing modifications as well, but his spiky hair, which makes him look a couple inches taller, is quite the change from his earlier floppy do, and the shield half of his Crocea Mors equipment can project an energy forcefield. I’ve seen some strong reactions to his hair on the Internet; honestly, I’m still on the fence about whether I like this more than his floppy hair. Nora Valkyrie gets an amazing redesign with the heart cutouts on her skirt and the colors of the trans flag (I heard her lead designer was inspired by RWBY fans’ trans-Nora art on Tumblr), although I don’t think any adjustments are made to her hammer, Magnhild. Lie Ren has some sort of a purple sleeve-shoulder garment that contrasts with the rest of his outfit, his hair is cut a bit asymmetrically (a lot of that for these redesigns), and his StormFlower guns shoot out their blades on cables.

Everyone enters the mine in three teams—Team RWBY with Ace Ops’ Marrow Amin and Harriet Bree, Team JNR with Elm Ederne and Vine Zeki, and Qrow with Clover Ebi. Before that, though, this volume (finally!) gives us our first Bumblebee scene, where Blake catches Yang checking her out, and Yang says, “Sorry, just not used to the new hair yet.” A blushing Blake asks, “Is it bad?” And Yang replies, “No, it’s good, great even!” This is an adorable moment between the two of them, and I hope we’ll see their romance develop further this volume. I’m also glad Yang brings up the issue of not telling General James Ironwood about the Oscar Pine/Ozpin issue. While Team RWBY quickly concurs that it’s the best thing to do, Ruby does have a brief flashback where she gives the Relic of Knowledge over to Oscar so he can look after it while he stays behind in Atlas; he points out that the way they’re keeping secrets is really the same thing as what Ozpin did, too. He’s definitely right, and I predict this is going to have significant repercussions down the road in terms of Ironwood being able to trust them. And why did Ruby give Oscar the Relic in spite of the risk that Ozpin’s soul could awaken and make the boy run off with it? I wouldn’t be shocked if something to that effect happens next episode.
As Team RWBY, Marrow, and Harriet explore their portion of the mine, they encounter several loose containers marked SDC for Schnee Dust Company and a part of the tunnel that has already caved in. It’s great to see Weiss go up to Blake and basically apologize for the Schnee family’s discriminatory treatment of Faunus and the complacent role she played in it. We haven’t quite seen her express her regret like this before, and it shows another step in her character arc that makes her contrast with the prejudiced perspective she held against Faunus all the way back in Volume 1. Weiss wiping the snow off one of the SDC containers and giving it a ruminative look is a good show-not-tell moment. It’s also nice to see Marrow, a dog Faunus, pitch in with his own opinions on Faunus racism; I think it’s funny how he wraps it up by saying, “Anyway, I didn’t come over here to solve systemic societal issues.”
When Harriet activates mechanical augmentations on her arms to punch through the cave-in, Blake goes through the opening, and almost immediately a Geist pops out and gives her a jump scare. I love the shot where it looks like there are two Blakes, one of them being her shadow clone. We see Yang get worried about her, so this can qualify as a mini-Bumblebee moment. After the Geist flies off, huge centipede-like Grimm burrow into the tunnel; they show up in Team JNR, Elm, and Vine’s tunnel as well. This is an interesting action sequence—not only does this give Teams RWBY and JNR a chance to show off their upgraded gear, but we also get a peek at the Ace Ops’ battle capabilities. Marrow has a rifle that he hurls like a boomerang and it cuts through the centipedes with a chainsaw along its barrel. His Semblance seems to be involved with freezing things, as exemplified when he snaps his fingers and says “Stay!” (you know, like he’s talking to a dog) to make a pair of centipedes stop leaping through the air. Similarly to Ruby, Harriet has a speed Semblance (to go along with her hare Faunus theme), and she might even be a little bit faster than Ruby. Elm seems to emit green Aura that plants her feet to the ground—or rather, roots her feet, like a tree. Vine projects Mr. Fantastic arms of yellow Aura that remind me of the Nuckelavee’s stretchy appendages.
Now, let’s talk about Qrow and Clover, one of the most notable parts of “Ace Operatives.” When they go through their tunnel and come across the Geist, Clover uses his weapon, a fishing rod, to try to catch the Geist. But it glides out of reach and builds a giant body for itself out of ice and rocks. Then the floor falls out from underneath it, and Clover almost tumbles down with the Geist, which makes Qrow grouse about his bad-luck Sembance. This has always been one of the strangest things about RWBY, that Qrow was born with this nebulous power to effect misfortune on the people around him. In fact, fans have often wondered if he’ll get paired up with someone who has a good-luck Semblance. Lo and behold, this is precisely what happens with Clover—and he exhibits his ability by pulling a pipe out of the wall with his fishing rod and letting a bunch of rocks cascade down to fill the hole in the ground. Which, you have to admit, only cements how vague and silly these fortune-based Semblances are. What stops me from making fun of this ship is that it’s clearly gay. If you want proof, just look at the flirtatious way Clover says to Qrow, “My Semblance is good fortune. Lucky you, huh?” And it’s funny, because Qrow has been pretty promiscuous with women, but we’ve never actually seen him date anyone. In any case, I’m all for a Qrow-Clover ship.
Then everyone converges in one chamber for the boss fight against the Geist. Essentially the purpose of this scene is to showcase how Ace Ops works together in battle, and it turns out fairly well. While Vine and Elm use their Semblances to trap the Geist, Marrow hurls his chainsaw-gun at it to inflict damage. Then Clover jumps up, rubs the four-leaf clover pin on his uniform (for good luck, of course—I never even noticed the pin until this point), and throws out his rod to hook the Geist’s head and rip it out of its body. Harriet gives the K.O. by dashing forth and uppercutting the Geist. When the Geist’s body falls apart, Dust crystals burst out of it, and Ace Ops race around to catch them. But Ruby is fast enough to catch one of the crystals, which makes Harriet say that there’s something different about Ruby’s speed Semblance. I always thought Ruby’s power was purely about speed, but maybe it has more to do with the rose petals she transforms into. Harriet’s comment is probably setup for something later in the volume. I like it when Blake remarks, “Wait till she sees what she can do with her eyes,” referring to Ruby’s silver eyes.
The last scene is a short one, with Forest (the supporter of Robin Hill and her Happy Huntresses from the previous chapter) wandering into an alleyway and Tyrian Callows appearing from the darkness to kill him. The only thing I care about here is Tyrian’s eyes turning from gold to purple. Is this an important detail? Does it mean he’s stronger somehow, which means he might be tougher for Qrow and Winter to take down? Other than that, I am just so tired of him now. Is every episode going to end with him murdering people or Watts hacking into Atlas security?
This is an overall good chapter—the character redesigns, some terrific character bits, the Qrow-Clover ship (I heard about Fair Game being a hypothetical name, although I think better alternatives are available), and Ace Ops being much more likable than when they were introduced in the premiere. Of course, let’s keep in mind that the show already has characters whom we’ve grown to love over six volumes: Team RWBY. I would prefer concentrating on their story instead of bringing in a new crew who’s going to take time away from them. But now I can understand why Ace Ops is here, and the fact that we spent over half the chapter on their fighting capabilities makes me think they’ll be pertinent to the plot somehow. Maybe they’ll train the others, or they’ll become antagonists, or Tyrian might even kill one of them. Backstories on the officers would be nice as well.
One of the things about “Ace Operatives” that irritates me, aside from Tyrian and the way they revealed Clover’s good-luck Semblance, is the Renora representation. I’m talking about when Nora and Ren are walking together in the mine, and she tells him she likes his outfit, and he just brushes her off. This is not a scene that makes it look like they’re together, even though the conclusion of Volume 4 bolstered their status as an official ship. Are we going to face this same problem for Bumblebee? Are Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross planning to write this like a sitcom and never confirm any of the ships until the final volume? Because that’s unnecessary—there are plenty of quality stories they can write that center around official ships.
A part of me wishes they spent more time, perhaps even an entire episode, on everyone getting their new looks instead of compressing all of it into an abrupt two-minute opening. It would have been incredibly fun watching them ooh and aah over the weapons, clothes, and haircuts, and there would have been many character moments. I’m not even certain how some of them did it so quickly. Did everyone cut their hair by themselves? And why do their clothes have so many belts, buckles, and zippers?
The jump scares in this chapter remind me of the horror-tinged approach that RWBYtook to the Apathy. It was one of my favorite parts of Volume 6, and I definitely wouldn’t mind more of that kind of horror this volume.
Looking back on Qrow’s hug with Ironwood last chapter, there’s a retroactively gay quality to it. I don’t know, maybe a love triangle between them and Clover is in the cards?
The gang gets new Scrolls at the start of their mission, apparently to keep track of their Aura levels, even though their old Scrolls did the same thing. When Ruby complained about the cold, Weiss pointed out that she can project her Aura to create heat. Generally the episode gave more focus than usual on Aura and Semblances, so they might be more relevant to the plot this volume.
As for the Amity satellite—I’m having a difficult time suspending my disbelief for this thing, because the Coliseum is massive, far larger than satellites are in real life. Why do they have to launch this into space, instead of constructing their own satellite? And don’t they have a launch site in Atlas? I suppose not, if they’re traveling all the way out to the mountains to build one at a Dust mine.
We know two things about the next chapter. One is the title, “Pomp and Circumstance,” which gives away no clues at all. The other thing is a picture of Ruby and Weiss together, and I’m getting nothing but White Rose from this. My prediction is everyone will fly back to Atlas, high on the success of their mission, and then they’ll find out Oscar, or rather Ozpin, stole the Relic. The chances that Tyrian or Watts may appear at the end? Much to my annoyance, I think it’s a ninety percent probability.
Windup score: 93/100

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