RWBY Volume 3 – Perfectly Heartbreaking or Heartbreakingly Perfect?

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for RWBY Volume 3

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It’s that time of year again! At the end of last year’s review of Volume 2, I was feeling slightly more confident about the future of RWBY, but was that confidence well-placed? Did Volume 3 continue to improve or did it crash and burn? Well, enough babbling. Let’s just get right to it and break down the good and the bad of RWBY Volume 3!

Positive: The Opening isn’t (Completely) Misleading

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What’s this? I’m not bitching about the opening sequence this time? Well, maybe that’s because the stuff that happened in it actually happened. When the opening was released before the first episode, I remember thinking:

“If Beacon doesn’t get wrecked by Grimm this volume, I will riot!”

Fortunately, that’s precisely what happened. The Grimm rampaged across the school in the last few episodes and all the heroes banded together to battle them. Not only that, but we finally saw Blake face off against Adam and even Yang got to fight Mercury (no Ruby VS Cinder or Weiss VS Emerald that they keep pushing though).

Even the symbolism was at its strongest. You really got the sense from this opening that things were going to take a turn for the worse for the characters. The combination of the music and the slightly muted colour palette in some areas managed to create a heavier mood, capped off with the final shot of Teams RWBY and JNPR falling down a seemingly endless shaft, drifting away from each other and finally ending with RWBY collapsed on the ground and with morose looks on their faces that almost resembled a Game Over screen.

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If I had to complain about one thing, though (shocker, right?), it’s that it suggested Team SSSN would have some level of importance this time around but, aside from their first fight in the tournament, they didn’t really get any focus. Hell, we know next to nothing about Scarlet and Sage – the latter was even instantly taken out during that fight and didn’t get any lines.

On the whole, though, it’s a much stronger opening than the previous ones; I just hope future ones follow suit.

Positive: The First Two Minutes

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I didn’t really know what to expect from the very first episode, but I most certainly didn’t think I was going to be stabbed in the heart with RAW EMOTION!

I mean, this episode immediately opens up with Ruby talking to her mother’s grave. That already gets the feels train moving, especially with how casually Ruby speaks. Remember, Ruby didn’t really know her mum all that well; it wouldn’t be that surprising if Ruby didn’t visit the grave. But she does because she does still feel a connection between them; Summer was still her mum and she wants to have some sort of link with her.

She just sounds so excited about sharing her adventures with her mum and telling her about her new friends (there’s even a joke about how confusing naming the team after her is), but there is also a sense of sadness there too. Every pause after a sentence reminds us that Summer isn’t there to respond; it’s a one way conversation and Ruby knows that so she has to keep it going herself. I can imagine it being a very relatable scene for some people.

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And if that wasn’t bad enough, after Ruby leaves, the scene ends with a shot of a some birds flying towards the sun. Doesn’t sound familiar? It’s essentially a symbol that was associated with Monty Oum’s work – it was a logo of sortsIn a way, Ruby’s conversation with her mum could also be symbolic of a conversation with her creator, Monty. It’s definitely a tribute and a farewell from the CRWBY at the very least (that’s what fans call the staff that work on the show).

That scene was such a perfect way of opening the volume. Its mood, the way it was shot, Lindsay Jones’ performance; I won’t lie, I tear up a little bit whenever I see it. You can tell that, even with Monty gone, the CRWBY want to make his work the best it can be.

Positive: The Animation is at it’s Best

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If you’ve read the previous reviews, you’ll know that I’ve not always been the kindest to the animation at points. At times, it felt like the weakest aspect of the series, which is why I’m especially happy to say that it has improved by a tremendous amount in this volume.

Character animations are completely up to snuff; there was rarely a moment where a character was awkwardly standing about or making bizarre arm movements. The only times I ever really saw any awkward animation was from background characters, and even then it wasn’t anything too bad.

The quality of the main characters’ animations overpowered that tremendously. There was several moments where their movements fit their personalities so well, like when Ruby blushes over Emerald’s compliments in the first episode or when she latches onto Qrow’s arm. It makes the physical comedy that much funnier and the emotional moments more… emotional.

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Even the backgrounds and scenery are so much better. Compare the school-grounds of Beacon from Volume 1 to the one seen here and you can see how much they’ve improved. Just look at the opening scene from Episode 1 that I mentioned earlier; the use of lighting looks amazing. I honestly struggle to think of a setting that wasn’t of at least decent quality.

After two volumes of inconsistent quality, I’m pleased to see the show reach a point where there are far more high points and very few low points in terms of animation.

Positive: Music’s Still Really Good

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I’m not gonna spend too much time talking about the music because you can only say “The soundtrack is amazing” so many times. I’ll just say that the vocal tracks are all fantastic; personal favourites being Neon, I’m the One and Mirror Mirror Part II. I wasn’t too fond of the opening song, When It Falls, at first but it quickly grew on me.

The background music is probably the best it’s been as well. While previous scores were by no means bad, Volume 3‘s is probably the first time where I vividly remember certain pieces of music aside from the vocal tracks. I especially loved Qrow vs Winter for it’s high octane energy, S.S.S.N. vs N.D.G.O. for it’s pirate motif and R.W.B.Y. vs F.N.K.I. for it’s use of jazz and how it was incorporated into the fight.

Not much else to really say; music’s awesome. Moving on.

Negative: Group Fights Seemed a Bit Off

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While the fight scenes in Volume 3 were as entertaining as ever, I couldn’t help but feel something was bit off about them, particularly fights that involved more than two people. Take for example the opening fight between RWBY and ABRN. It was enjoyable, but there was some occasional stiff movements from the characters. You know how in a videogame the framerate drops if there’s too much happening on-screen? It felt a bit like that.

As a result, some fights lose their dynamic energy. It’s a minor thing but when every fight in previous volumes never lost that energy, it’s quite noticeable and it almost feels like a step back.

However, I’m much more willing to forgive this since a good chunk of the animation staff was probably still new to this and this was the first volume to not completely involve Monty (though traces of the work he did before his passing can be seen in some areas).

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And that’s not to say every fight was lacking. Volume 3 arguably has some of the strongest fights in the series so far, like Qrow VS Winter, Ruby VS Torchwick and Neo and, of course, the final battle between Pyrrha and Cinder, even if several of them had too many cuts, resulting in some shots feeling like they last less than a second. Too many cuts can suck a viewer out of the action because it becomes almost hard to follow what’s going on.

But like I said, it’s only a minor issue, and the animation staff can only improve from this point onwards.

Positive: The Replacement Voice Actors

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This may seem like a little thing to focus on but I just wanted to take some time to write about two of the replacement voice actors – Yuri Lowenthal and Neath Oum, who took over as the voices of Mercury and Ren respectively.

I never had a problem with Mercury’s previous voice actor, J.J. Castillo, and I probably wouldn’t have minded if he continued to play the role. But I guess when you’ve got the opportunity to have a prolific voice actor in your show, you’re gonna take it.

That being said, Lowenthal knocks it out of the park as Mercury; he instantly fit into the role almost perfectly. I’m most familiar with his work as Yosuke from Persona 4 so it was pretty entertaining to hear him voice a villain; especially one who’s such a douchebag. Mercury has very much become one of those characters you love to hate, thanks in part to the performance.

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As for Ren, well, he was never one of the most talkative characters in the show. Monty did a fine job voicing him but he wasn’t exactly given plenty of moments to show off. Whereas the likes of Lindsay Jones and Barbara Dunkleman became their characters almost immediately, I never got that impression from Monty. So, the change in voice actors wasn’t anything particularly drastic in my eyes.

Where am I going with this? Well, I just felt like acknowledging that Neath Oum (Monty’s brother) does a pretty damn good job voicing Ren. While the change was noticeable, he seemed to slip into the role very comfortably and he does a good job capturing Ren’s more mellow nature as well his occasional sarcastic streak, especially in the RWBY Chibi spin-off.

I don’t know if he’s had previous experience with voice acting before but if this was his first time, it was impressive and now, I don’t think I could imagine anyone else doing it. Hopefully, he’ll get some more chances to shine in Volume 4.

Positive: Qrow Lives Up to the Hype

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Ruby’s uncle was a character that we only really knew a bit about, but what little info we had pointed towards him being one of the biggest bad-asses in the show. So when we found out that he would finally be appearing in Volume 3, it was hard not to get excited. But after quite a bit of build-up, was Qrow as awesome as he was made out to be? Short answer: yes.

You ever heard of the character archetype of the “lovable asshole?” That’s Qrow in a nutshell. In Episode 3, he swaggers up to Winter and Weiss in a drunken state, needlessly destroys some of Atlas’ robot soldiers and proceeds to act like a sarcastic, bitter and smug prick. He spends a good amount of time shit-talking Ironwood and comes across as a pretty cold individual when speaking with Pyrrha later on.

So why do we love him so much if he’s an asshole? Well, part of that is down to Vic Mignogna’s performance. As someone who only knew him as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist, it was really weird to hear him play the old warrior type of character but he did it really well. There’s a sense of likability in his performance; I can’t help but chuckle when he sarcastically bitches at Ironwood in Episode 3.

“You see this? That’s the send button.”

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Aside from that, though, there are several moments where we see that he’s not just some bitter old man; specifically his interactions with Ruby and Yang – his nieces. When Ruby latches onto his arm and asks if he missed her, he responds with a grin and a blunt “No.” He plays videogames with them and clearly enjoys spending time with them. And, probably most importantly of all, he worries about them. He’s not overprotective (he knows they’re skilled fighters), but he also knows that they’re not prepared for whatever is coming next in regards to Cinder’s plans. He knows he can’t stop them from getting involved, so he wants them to be as prepared as possible.

Qrow is very much the cool uncle; the love he has for his nieces can’t be denied and it’s clear why Ruby idolises him so much. Despite his grouchiness and his rather cold attitude, he’s not indifferent or uncaring. He wants to protect his world and his family, and those are traits that can and should be admired.

Also, he’s just really cool. His weapon is a sword/gun/scythe! I got chills seeing it transform for the first time. More of him in Volume 4 too, please!

Negative: Winter Kind of Vanishes

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Okay, one more complaint about the opening and I’ll shut up. Another character we were pretty hyped at seeing was Winter, Weiss’ older sister. And she was pretty likable too. At first, she came across as the uncaring type who was ready to criticise pretty much everything Weiss did but, fortunately, she wasn’t THAT one dimensional. Her later interactions with Weiss show that she does love and worry about her sister; she just isn’t very good at showing it (which might say a lot about their childhood).

However, the opening showed her facing off against Qrow. With Qrow being such a prominent figure this volume, you’d think Winter would be the same. But after Episode 4, she completely vanishes. I’m not saying her prescence was pointless; far from it. She gave a better insight into Weiss’ family life and played a part in Weiss’ own arc for the volume (more on that in a bit).

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It’s just that it felt like Winter would at least return to some degree later on. When the Grimm invade, a lot of us were waiting for when Winter would show up to help. Maybe see her team up with Weiss or Qrow? She’s part of the Atlas military so why wouldn’t she come back? But she didn’t.

It’s not a big deal but it felt like a missed opportunity; almost as if the writers forgot to include her at the end. I’d have loved to see her show off her summoning power more, but maybe I’ll just have to wait a little bit longer.

Positive: Weiss’ Arc

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I kind of felt like Weiss wasn’t really given much to do in the previous volume. Whereas Ruby, Blake and Yang all had their own mini-stories going on, Weiss didn’t have a lot of focus. We were given hints towards her home-life but that was it. And while I feel like, out of all the girls, she had the least focus in this volume too, what she did have was pretty sweet regardless.

I already wrote about how Winter’s appearance contributed, but let me bring up what are ultimately the main cruxes of her arc – her strained relationship with her father and her inability to summon.

We already had an idea that Weiss wasn’t on the best of terms with her dad since the first volume, and being denied access to her money and her complete refusal to so much as speak to him further exemplified that. And with Papa Schnee himself appearing at the very end of this volume, we’ll most likely see the two finally confront the issue. What’ll be interesting, though, is what direction the writers take in regards to her dad. Is Weiss’ attitude justified or is there maybe more to him we have yet to see?

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What got me excited and interested, though, was the revelation that Weiss possesses the ability to summon… or more specifically, she has the potential but she’s unable to actually do it. Winter’s brief demonstrations opened up a number of possibilities for Weiss in terms of combat and the fact that she can’t do it despite it being a hereditary ability explains why she’s always so focused on being the best. It’s never been more obvious that Weiss has had pretty low self-esteem and it winds up making her slightly more relatable as a character.

What I particularly loved is that we see that Weiss is capable of doing it, so naturally it’s not that surprising to see her pull it off during the battle at Beacon. But what’s great is that, rather than just have her suddenly able to summon a complete monster or something, she’s only capable of summoning one arm of a knight to save Velvet. This felt so much more awesome and earned than if she summoned the full knight.

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Why? Well, considering she was barely able to summon anything earlier, it wouldn’t make sense for her to go from novice to expert in that short amount of time. Here, it’s a level of progress that makes sense and, considering she pulled it off to save a fellow student, shows how much she’s grown as a person. Plus, even if it was just the arm, it’s still an impressive feat, and it was enough to stop a giant robot. Imagine if she could summon the whole thing. Weiss now has the potential to become possibly one of the strongest characters in the show, in my opinion, and I cannot wait to see her improve in the future.

Negative: The Maidens Feel Like They Come Out of Nowhere

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Just to clarify, I am not saying the introduction of the Maidens was poorly done nor am I saying it’s a bad plot point. I actually really like their inclusion. But, let’s be honest, there wasn’t exactly a lot of build-up for them. In fact, there was no build-up at all.

If you re-watch the previous volumes, there is borderline nothing there that even hints towards their existence. As a result, when we first entered that basement and saw Amber hooked up to that life-support machine, I wasn’t intrigued; I was more confused. I suppose you could make the argument that we’re essentially feeling how Pyrrha felt in that scene but I’d have liked at least a bit of foreshadowing before we got to this moment.

Again, though, aside from that, the Maidens are a great addition and helped add to the sense of higher stakes in this volume.

Positive: Pyrrha’s Arc

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In hindsight, Pyrrha wasn’t exactly one of my favourite characters in previous volumes. I didn’t dislike her but she didn’t grab me in the same way as other characters did. She was nice and friendly enough and her mini-arc in Volume 2 was sweet but most of my interest in her came from her relationships with other characters; specifically Jaune. By the end of Volume 3, however, that changed drastically.

We already knew that Pyrrha always wanted to just be a normal person and not be put on a pedestal, but we felt like she was in a good place regardless. She had a group of friends that acknowledged her strength and skill but treated her like any other teenager. She was proud to fight alongside them and I’m positive she wouldn’t have traded her teammates for anyone else, no matter what. Which is what makes her arc here especially heartbreaking.

In Episode 6, she’s very open when dealing with Ozpin but when she’s taken down to the basement, she tenses up. Her animation perfectly captures how isolated and scared she’s feeling; another reminder that, despite her skill, she’s still a young girl too. She’s only 17, and she’s suddenly told by her teachers, the people who she’s meant to rely on and trust, that they want her to possibly surrender her own identity to inherit the Fall Maiden’s powers.

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While their intentions are good, it puts Pyrrha into a position that she never wanted. Does she do the right and noble thing? Does she follow her “destiny” and live up to everyone’s expectations? If she does that, she risks losing everything that she actually wanted. It’s apparent that, while she’s been presented as the proud warrior type, that’s not entirely what she wants. At Beacon, she found Jaune, Ren and Nora, who are probably like a second family to her. Why would she ever give that up?

Seeing the normally confident and composed Pyrrha experience this internal dilemma shows another side to her; it shows that she does feel worry, anxiousness and fear. She almost seems afraid about the concept of destiny.

Her conversation with Jaune about it especially hurts because, from his perspective, he believes in Pyrrha and she shouldn’t worry about her ‘destiny’ because he thinks that, whatever it is, she can do it. He doesn’t know that, to Pyrrha, he’s saying she should give up everything to fulfill a ‘destiny’ she clearly doesn’t want and has been thrust upon her.

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These scenes helped make Pyrrha more human. I’m not saying she was a blank slate or unrelatable at all, but it gives her character more layers. Pyrrha was always presented to us as the unbreakable warrior. She had her doubts but the support of her friends would help her in those rare moments. Here, though, she was alone. She couldn’t rely on them because, well, she can hardly go blabbing about the half-dead woman hiding in the school’s basement, and she was essentially being coerced by her own teachers; all because she was ‘lucky’ enough to be the best.

And it’s her status as the best that makes her arc so emotional. The greatest fighter we knew was broken down; she was put into a position no young person should be put in, forced into a sense of isolation and had to deal with all manner of emotional stress, which in turn led to her accidental murder of Penny and her death.

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I’ll go more into her death later but I’ll just sum up by saying that her arc will probably remain one of the highlights of the series for years to come and her lack of prescence will be noticeable.

Negative: Did Qrow Not Recognise Mercury?

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We know that Qrow encountered Cinder’s gang when he tried to save Amber. We know that Qrow watched Yang’s match against Mercury, where she was tricked into breaking his leg. So why the hell did somebody who’s demonstrated high intelligence despite being drunk 24/7 not recognise him?!

This is probably my first legitimate complaint because it’s not like Mercury’s appearance changed in the intervening time. In fact, Mercury instantly recognised Qrow when he arrived at Beacon despite how short their encounter was so surely Qrow would remember him too?

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You could probably make the argument that Emerald was able to user her Semblance to disguise who they were when Qrow showed up but that wasn’t exactly made clear or even shown. And considering how suddenly Qrow appeared, could she have even had the time to do it?

Maybe I’m being unnecessarily anal with this, but I would’ve appreciated a little more clarity regarding this instead of just leaving the audience to make assumptions.

Negative: Where the Hell is Raven?

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Remember that post-credits scene from Volume 2 that showed Yang meeting up with Raven? Remember how intriguing that was? Well, the show doesn’t because Raven never appears in this volume. Not only that, but judging by Yang’s dialogue with Qrow, that post-credits scene never actually happened!

What the hell happened there?! You can’t drop a scene like that and then pretend it doesn’t exist anymore! Well, from what I know (and what I know is honestly very little), that scene was supposed to lead into a sub-plot where Raven would fight Team JNPR that would, in turn, foreshadow other things, but this entire scenario was dropped and, as a result, the aforementioned post-credits scene was pretty much rendered non-canon.

I don’t know exactly what was going on behind-the-scenes that led to this (apparently, that post-credits scene wasn’t even meant to be there but Monty snuck it in somehow), but it’s infuriating all the same. Imagine how confused a new viewer would feel if they started watching the series now, jumping straight from Volume 2 to Volume 3 and wondering why that scene isn’t being acknowledged anymore.

Hopefully, Raven will make some kind of an appearance in Volume 4 to make up for it and explain where she is and what she’s doing.

Positive: The Darker Tone

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I was never sure what I wanted to see in Volume 3 aside from general improvements, except for one thing. The last volumes felt too… happy. Sure, dark plans were in motion and there were some less then pleasant undertones (Volume 2 opened with an off-screen murder!) but a part of me wanted to see things taken further. I wanted to see where the villains’ schemes were going and how that would affect the heroes. What I wanted was consequences.

I know it might not make sense as to why I would want these characters I like to actually suffer but here’s the thing – by putting them in such terrible scenarios, I found myself really beginning to care about them. The first two volumes did a great job of acclimatising us to the cast so when bad things begin to happen, we’re instantly invested.

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Not only that but the tone was pulled of really well. It never felt try-hard or edgy. It wasn’t dark for the sake of dark. It felt like a natural progression. Like I said, there were always some dark undertones in the previous volumes (pay attention to song lyrics); this was something that was being built up to and it paid off. From little moments like Torchwick simply clubbing a defenseless Ruby with his cane to Yang getting her arm sliced off (SCREW YOU ADAM I HOPE BLAKE RIPS YOU IN HALF), everything just worked. I found myself actually gasping out loud and wincing at a lot of scenes; that shows how impactful they are, or at the very least how invested I was.

At the same time, however, the charm and humour of the series was never lost. It held that perfect balance. The brighter, happier moments made the darker moments, well, darker and vice-versa. Some of my favourite shows possess this same balance so, hopefully, the CRWBY will keep this going into Volume 4 and beyond.

Positive: The Character Deaths

Killing a main character is actually very tricky to pull off. It’s one of those things that either works perfectly or is poorly handled and pisses everyone off. In my opinion, all three of the major character deaths that happened this volume fall into the former. Not only do they help accentuate the aforementioned darker tone but they were done in ways that felt dramatic but plot appropriate. They didn’t die just so the CRWBY could go “Look how edgy our show is now!”

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Firstly, we have Penny. The great thing about Penny’s death is now obvious it was. The moment we realised she was fighting an emotionally distraught Pyrrha (whose main power is manipulating metal), it was clear where it was going.

It’s such a tragic event because not only was it accidental but it winds up being portrayed as an intentional murder. Nobody (well, almost nobody) knew she was a robot so, from their eyes, they just witnessed Pyrrha succeed in murdering her opponent; an act that will no doubt have severe ramifications in the future. The distraught looks on both Ruby and Pyrrha’s faces sums up their feelings so well and the decision to have Penny silent as she shuts down somehow adds to the tragedy. The upbeat young girl who just wanted to be normal and have friends is gone. Looking back, she was similar to Pyrrha in some ways, which makes it even worse.

What’s interesting, though, is that Penny’s status as a robot means there’s the potential for her to return. The questions is, if she does come back, how will it be handled? Will she remember anything? Maybe have her memory wiped? What if she has a different personality all together? There’s too many possibilities and all of them could work.

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Next, we have Roman Torchwick, who made a glorious return only to suddenly get gobbled up by a Grimm. While I’m upset he died (he was one of my favourite characters), it kind of made sense for the writers to shoo him out at this juncture. He was just a crime boss; compared to the likes of Cinder and Adam, he was ultimately small pickings and it arguably wouldn’t have made sense for the villains to keep him around once his purpose was served.

Still, it was handled well as he was killed in a severe moment of hubris, allowing himself to get caught up in his own monologuing and leaving himself defenceless. Though, maybe, his death will have more of an impact than we realise. After all, we don’t know what happened to Neo, the one person who might actually care about his death. Maybe she’ll return in a revenge-fuelled rampage? It’s only a theory (and by theory I mean please let this happen) but it’d interesting regardless.

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And then we get to the crowner – the death of Pyrrha. Christ, where do I even begin?! The moment she decided to face Cinder, her fate was ultimately sealed, but the ensuing fight was handled in such a way that you felt that maybe, just maybe, she would win. It wasn’t a one-sided fight; Pyrrha demonstrated why she was considered the best fighter and really gave Cinder a run for her money. It’s just that Cinder was able to overpower her and, in the end, it was a simple arrow to the ankle that doomed her (a neat reference to Achilles).

In fact, that’s the best way to describe her death – simple. It wasn’t overblown or anything yet it still held the same weight and drama. Not to mention it was just brutal. An arrow through the chest and then DISINTEGRATION (sorry, fan theorists, she’s ashes now)!

The whole scene is steeped in tragedy. Between her final moments with Jaune (that kiss scene, by the way, was done SO well), her defiance towards Cinder right to the end and that last look of pain and realisation on her face as she died – honestly, writing about it doesn’t do it any justice.

When she died, I legitimately screamed. I actually reached my hand out, as if I could do anything about it, and let out a very loud cry of “No!” If that doesn’t exemplify how perfect that scene was, then nothing else will.

Positive: Lindsay Jones’ Acting

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I always liked Lindsay Jones’ performance as Ruby but Volume 3 is undeniably her best work so far. I was kind of anxious as to whether she’d be able to pull off some of the more intense or tragic scenes but she was able to do them so well. She was always good at Ruby’s more peppy and excitable side but here, she now had to do extreme sadness and anger; emotions that we never really saw Ruby deal with yet.

The danger of intense and dramatic scenes is that, regardless of how well it’s presented, the voice performance could dilute it. But that didn’t happen here. Some of my favourite scenes from Volume 3 are due to Jones’ performance. That opening scene at Summer’s grave, her determined stand against Torchwick, her scream of anguish at Pyrrha’s death, her conversations with Qrow and Yang in the final episode (that last “I love you” to Yang breaks my heart every time).

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Possibly my number one favourite Ruby moment, though, comes from Episode 10. A Nevermore has just burst into the arena and is ready to attack Pyrrha when, almost out of nowhere, Ruby lunges at the thing, stabbing it in the neck with one of Penny’s swords, before landing in front of Pyrrha and screaming “Leave her alone!” Just thinking about it kind of makes me tear up a bit because it’s awesome, heartwarming and tragic all at once.

Lindsay Jones has only improved as Ruby since that very first episode and I can’t wait to hear her voice again in Volume 4.

Positive: The Majority of the Climax

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One point of contention I’ve always had with RWBY is that its finales have always been somewhat lacklustre. I’ve already gone into enough detail about my problems with the previous two volumes’ final episodes so I won’t repeat myself but, in short, I was desperately hoping for Volume 3 to break the trend. It didn’t. Volume 3 took the trend, snapped it in half with its bare hands and set the remains on fire.

This was a climax that lasted over the course of several episodes, and holy mother of God, it was a damn good one. From the moment the Grimm invaded to Pyrrha’s death, it was an absolute roller-coaster of emotions and kick-ass scenes. To go into detail on every single moment that had me grinning like a kid on Christmas would take forever, so here’s a quick run-down:

  • All the students pinning the Nevermore to the ground with their rocket lockers and teaming up
  • Port and Oobleck staying behind to fight Grimm
  • Ironwood fighting with just a simple gun. Seriously, the fact that it doesn’t transform at all makes it ironically unique and cool in its own way. Plus, we see that’s he half machine himself (which explains the whole ‘only one glove’ thing that bothered me for years)
  • Ruby VS Torchwick and Neo
  • Blake’s confrontation with Adam and Yang attempting to save her
  • Qrow breaks out his scythe
  • That frigging huge dragon
  • Cinder VS Ozpin – a scene that reminded me of the Dumbledore VS Voldemort fight in the movie version of Order of the Phoenix

Not gonna lie; trying to re-watch those episodes with a more critical viewpoint was hard because I was having so much fun. That being said, there were a couple of moments that did irk me a bit. First of all…

Negative: Velvet’s Weapon is Disappointing

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Velvet’s weapon was something the CRWBY had been hyping up for years. They kept teasing us about it. Fans theorised endlessly about what was in the box she always carried around. And what was the result? Her weapon was… everybody else’s weapon. After all this build-up, Velvet was revealed to be the ditto fighter – that one fighting game character who exists just to copy everyone else’s moveset.

I can’t be the only who felt let down, am I? It honestly felt like the team had run out of ideas for weapons, which is disappointing and baffling considering how creative they’ve been before. I mean, in this very same volume, we saw one character use twin revolvers that combined into a hoverboard and one guy who’s weapon was essentially a magic trumpet.

I’d have probably taken anything else to be Velvet’s weapon. Seriously. Her camera could’ve turned into a rocket launcher and I would’ve been happy. The box could’ve had the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and I’d have willingly accepted that with no problems.

While it was still cool to see Velvet fight for the first time, I don’t feel it was worth all this speculation and hype.

Negative: What’s the Deal with Silver Eyes?

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Much like the Maidens, the concept of silver eyes suddenly became important to the world of RWBY in this volume. And much like the Maidens, it came up with barely any foreshadowing whatsoever, especially in regards to Ruby. Aside from one line from Ozpin in the very first episode (one that could easily have been attributed as a throwaway line), there has been nothing to signify their importance. In fact, I forgot all about that line until Qrow brought it up in the last episode.

Again, I don’t have a problem with this plot point and after seeing what Ruby did in the wake of Pyrrha’s death, I’m certainly interested as to what kind of power she has and how that will come into play in the future (plus that shot above is really cool). But this feels like one of those instances where the foreshadowing could be seen as being too subtle.

Negative: Why Did Blake Not Explain Anything?

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I absolutely hate it when drama occurs between characters that could have easily been avoided if they just spoke to each other. Unfortunately, that’s what has occurred here. At some point off-screen, Blake ran off, leaving Yang pretty much even more emotionally devastated than she was already. And that’s understandable. I’d be pissed too. Her closest friend has just taken off without so much as a goodbye.

But here’s the thing. I can understand why Blake might not have wanted to see Yang in the aftermath of Beacon’s fall. She clearly blames herself for Yang’s injury and is probably too ashamed to face her. But could she not at least have left a note or passed on a message just so Yang wouldn’t get the wrong idea? Blake obviously plans to avenge her or at least make attempts to atone so why couldn’t she tell her?

“But then there wouldn’t be any drama.” Look, drama shouldn’t come about because of a lack of communication. Wouldn’t be even more tragic if Yang knew exactly why Blake left but actually resented the idea? Like, she finds Blake’s actions more selfish than anything and is still mad that she couldn’t even explain herself to Yang’s face? I’d have much preferred something like that. And while we’re on the subject of Blake and Yang…

Negative: Who’s Blake’s Love Interest Again?

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Oh boy, I get the feeling I’m gonna regret bringing this up but here goes. Ever since Volume 1, it felt like the writers were pushing for a romance between Blake and Sun. The way they met, Sun asking Blake out to the dance in Volume 2, Blake blushing after Sun winks at her after his tournament match – there’s clearly a chemistry there.

However, while BlakeXSun has its fans, there’s another prevalent pairing going round the fandom that has its fair share of supporters – BlakeXYang. But fan pairings are nothing new, right? They very rarely have an impact on the actual show, though they are sometimes acknowledged by the creators, which is always nice.

Personally, I never saw any evidence in the show to support the BlakeXYang pairing, at least not until Volume 2. While I could be reading too much into it, the interactions between the two clearly demonstrate that they have some level of affection for each other, whether it be platonic or romantic. I’m sure some of their shippers squealed like idiots when Yang promised Blake a dance.

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Volume 3 only accentuated this. When Blake seems slightly hesitant to believe that Yang was tricked into breaking Mercury’s leg, Yang is genuinely hurt. She nearly cries over it. And need I go into THAT scene in the penultimate episode? What was it Adam said to Blake?

“… I will make it my mission to destroy everything you love. Starting with her.”

Go back and look at Blake’s and Yang’s reactions during those scenes. Again, it’s one of those moments that would work from the perspective of close friends or lovers. At this point, I honestly would have no problems seeing the two actually hook up in the future.

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But this now leads to the big problem – where do the writers go from here? The BlakeXSun relationship has arguably been given the most build-up and, if that ends up being completely sidelined in favour of BlakeXYang, fans of that relationship are going to feel cheated. Hell, we didn’t even see Sun’s reaction to Blake leaving – I can imagine a lot of fans feeling miffed about that. Worst case scenario – the writers could be accused of pandering to the LGBT community and I think we can all agree that’s an argument we don’t want to see.

If it’s the other way round, though, it’ll be the BlakeXYang fans that’ll feel cheated. The writers clearly acknowledge the pairing and must be aware of the support it has, so to tease that possibility but not go through with it could piss those fans off and maybe even lead to accusations of queer-baiting. Again, though, that’s a hypothetical worst case scenario.

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Or maybe they don’t go down either route? Maybe Blake doesn’t get together with either of them. If that happens, then both sets of fans will be annoyed. Basically, I feel like the writers, in an attempt to please everybody, have put themselves in a very dangerous corner, and they can’t get out without risking angering a large chunk of the fans.

I personally have no qualms about whether Blake hooks up with one of them or not (and I’m sure a lot of you reading this don’t care either) but a lot of people do, and there’s nothing worse than devoting all your emotional energy into something only for it not to be paid off. I don’t know what the writers have planned but I hope they’ve got a bomb shelter prepared regardless.

Positive: Salem

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Despite being our front and centre villain, Volume 3 strongly hinted that Cinder might actually be working for someone else. When that possibility entered my mind, I kind of went crazy. I mean, Cinder’s already stupidly powerful and evil. What kind of person could she be working for, if that was the case? Regardless, it was an answer I didn’t expect to see for a while. Then the ending happened.

Suddenly, there she was. Salem. This intimidating figure who proceeds to look straight into the camera as she talks about how she’ll destroy Ozpin and his guardians. The decision to introduce her now to the audience was perfect. Even though I wasn’t expecting it or even hoping for it, I feel like this was the ideal time to reveal her prescence.

There’s not much else to really say given how little we know about her but just knowing that she exists is enough for now, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what role she plays in the future.

Positive: The Ending

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When Volume 1 ended, I felt somewhat disappointed with how RWBY‘s first outing went and hoped that the following volume would be an improvement. When Volume 2 ended, I was much more pleased with it overall but still had a couple of gripes and worries with the series that I hoped would be rectified. When Volume 3 ended, I felt… satisfied. Not just satisfied but excited. For the first time, I was genuinely, completely excited about what would come next, mostly because the ending was so unlike the previous ones.

Beacon had fallen, Cinder had obtained the Fall Maiden’s powers, Penny and Pyrrha were dead, Team RWBY was scattered, Ozpin was missing and, now, it fell to Ruby and the rest of Team JNPR to set off on their own journey. I actually went giddy with delight when I saw Ruby venturing off with Jaune, Ren and Nora. I never felt like Team JNPR were ever “main characters” despite the occasional focus Jaune and Pyrrha got in previous volumes but now it looked like that was going to change.

It was an ending riddled with despair and hope; it was a sombre affair for sure but it wasn’t so depressing that it felt like things couldn’t be salvaged. I actually even found myself theorising about what could happen in the future; what would become of these characters and what they might do. I was now 100% invested with this show.

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So, what’s my conclusion? Well, I think that’s pretty obvious by now. Volume 3 is undoubtedly the best entry in the series thus far. While not completely flawless, it was the strongest the show’s ever been and I have been on edge as to what Volume 4 could entail.

As of writing, Volume 4 is set to debut tomorrow. We’ve already been treated to a short reminiscent of the original trailers for the show and, going by that alone, I think Volume 4 could actually be better. Seriously, watch it yourself and look at how good that animation is.

I ultimately can’t predict what the future holds for RWBY but I can say one thing with confidence – I am so pleased that I stuck around to see the show get this good, and I truly believe that it’s only going to get better from here.

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