Up until roughly 3 to 4 weeks ago, I had only heard of RWBY. I watched a lot of Red vs Blue, even owned their ten year blu-ray box set and their season 11-13 steelbook. I was fully aware that RWBY was a product of Rooster Teeth, I just had largely ignored it because what 42 year old guy watches an anime show with four teenage girls as the leads? Then the head honcho of this site told me we had this blu-ray set available for review. I thought about it a couple of minutes, and went for it. Then in the next 2-3 weeks leading up to the review, I proceeded to binge watch the entire run of RWBY from Amazon Prime, VUDU (Free Movies on Us) and even YouTube, the primary vehicle to watch the show on. In a word, I was hooked.
Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Lie Ren and Ruby Rose (unofficially known as Team JNRR or RNJR depending on your interpretation) arrive with Qrow Branwen (now fully healed from his previous brush with death) in the city of Mistral. They recount their adventures from the last season and bask in the grandness of the marketplace and environment around them. However, they have important business and make their way to Haven Academy.
Meanwhile, Weiss Schnee is being taken by a pilot to Mistral after escaping from her father’s imprisonment. The pilot receives a mayday from a group being attacked by the Grimm. Unfortunately, much to Weiss’ chagrin, the pilot avoids the combat and keeps going.
Back at the Haven Academy, the place is uncharacteristically barren. Something isn’t quite right. Qrow and the other four warriors decide to barge in on Professor Lionheart’s office. Qrow immediately starts to question Professor Lionheart about the relic and who was guarding it. The Professor sighs and tries his best to explain.
Cue next scene, our favorite runaway Blake Belladonna is still with her parents and Sun Wukong (Blake’s “friend”) in the town of Menagerie. They had tried to go to the White Fang with the information from Ilia Amitola’s Scroll but were basically told Ilia was acting alone in her plight. Then Ilia stops by the Belladonna household, not content with the blame being placed upon her. She tries to convince Blake to leave the city of Menagerie and not to cause more trouble but unfortunately that does not go as planned as Blake resists.
Professor Lionheart explains the situation at Haven Academy. Mistral has had its own share of issues including the Grimm and the Dust Embargo. He doesn’t know where the Spring Maiden is but the relic is securely locked away and can only opened by one of the four maidens. Qrow has an idea however where the Spring Maiden might be. That idea is that the Maiden is with a band of bandits and their leader is Raven Branwen. Raven is of course Qrow’s sister and Yang Xiao Long’s mother.
Qrow wants to go ahead and gather up a few more people and head out to meet them. Lionheart isn’t willing to go as he makes excuses about there is nobody around or everything has to go through a committee. Disgruntled, Qrow withdraws with his four warriors. After the five decide to leave, Lionheart is left alone, and it appears that a familiar voice was listening in and criticizes the Professor for his poor improvisational skills.
At a bar later that night, Qrow has settled in for a night of drinking. However, when Oscar Pine (with the soul of Beacon headmaster Ozpin looming in his body) asks Qrow for his cane back, then things certainly start to get interesting.
This show needs more Yang, oh there she is. Yang Xiao Long finally shows up, she is traveling on her bike to find her mother, Raven. She stops by a nearby watering hole. She ironically asks for a water. Of course, a really dumb guy at the bar tries to hit on her. This isn’t going to end well. And there he goes.
Anyway, Yang mentions to the barkeep that she is looking for someone. The barkeep says the only person nearby of any worth is Raven Branwen but refuses to elaborate any further. Yang departs, but before she can get on the bike and leave, she is stopped by the dumb guy who hit on her. As it turns out, he knows where Raven is and can take her to the right location. They leave.
Finally, Qrow (now a happy drunk) and Oscar (Ozpin) go back to where team JNRR/RNJR are resting for the night. Oscar starts to reveal his secret to the four warriors until Qrow who can barely contain his giddiness blurts out for everybody to hear. And that is the end of Episode 1. Only thirteen more to go.
If you are still confused to this point, I fully understand. Four seasons in, and a ton of characters to support, one can easily get lost and confused in all of the story lines there are to offer. This season basically centers around the Spring Maiden/relic plot and features a whole lot of Raven Branwen (and a little bit of Salem who has become the villain behind the scenes plotting with her second in charge, Cinder Fall and a small band of evil rebels who do most of the fighting and talking for their witch leader).
See even then, I’m getting bogged down in a ton of details. But the show also has one of the grandest and deepest plot-lines that I’ve ever seen in an anime. It’s freaking fantastic, gripping, emotional and heart wrenching all in one. I NEVER binge watch a show 5 seasons in a row. Not in my lifetime. Maybe a season’s worth. I mean, I probably watched a ton of Community or Hercules or Psych or Elementary, but not 5 seasons in a row. But RWBY, I did and I loved every second of it.
While I still think season three was the best one to date (I haven’t felt that much emotion since the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl) and season four was something of a misstep, I must say Season five picks up the pace and becomes one of the strongest entries in the series. It has a great plot-line, gets back some of the humor that was missing, and is a joy to watch from episode to episode. It also has a lot more Yang which pleases me greatly. My wife would probably be jealous, let’s move on.
The video is presented in 1080P at 1.78:1 Widescreen. It probably goes without saying, but this is certainly the best that RWBY has looked to date. The animation is top notch and the city of Mistral is gorgeous. There is detail galore, long gone are the days of blacking out unimportant characters found in the first volume and replaced with everything so wonderfully intricately done. Color is great, and flaws are few and far between. Furthermore, any flaws almost seem to be done on purpose as part of the show’s charm.
Audio is presented in 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio. From basically the third season on, this show has improved in audio ten fold. It’s full of action, we have proper surrounds and at times it is fully dead on bombastic (okay, shoot me, I listened to Shaggy this morning). The soundtrack rocks and those of us who watch at night when their wife and son are asleep find themselves having to turn it down more than usual. (Or so I’ve heard) Subtitles are available in English SDH which does make things a little more bearable.
Writer/Director Commentary: For all of the episodes, we get the writers and directories talking about the show, sharing stories and other fun tidbits.
Crew Commentary: Alternatively, we can have the crew (which is a much wider range of people naturally) talk about the episodes along with their stories and other things that might pop into their head. Both of these commentaries are rather rowdy, fun and a good time. If you are looking for something really technical, you probably won’t find it…but you might want to lean to the Writer and Director ones.
Note: This also has one of the two technical issues of the Blu-ray set (other will be explained in the Final Thoughts). In the menu options, it does not give you a clear indication of which commentary is playing. It can literally say “ON” for both commentaries. The way around this is thankfully simple and that is to use your audio selection button. Track #2 is the Writer and Director while Track #3 is the Crew.
Five Years of RWBY 10:30 : A brief featurette on the history of RWBY from Season 1 to Season 5. Talks about the crew, talks some about production. There is also a good deal of information here about Monty Oum, the creator of the serious who unfortunately passed in February of 2015 from the complications due to a severe allergic reaction. He will be missed.
Character Shorts 12:29 :These are three character shorts that were supposed to be something of a holdover from season 4 to season 5. They involve Weiss, Blake and Yang. I won’t spoil them for those who haven’t seen them but they are very much told with a flashback type vibe.
CRWBY 53:38 :A 14 part series that goes behind the episodes, essentially this is the featurette that goes into the creative process of a thought into a full blown series. Things like Art, Lighting, Character Modeling, Layout, Audio, Fight Animation, Concept Art, Story-boarding and even tidbits about the numerous fans that the show enjoys.
CRWBY Photos 0:52 : Photos of the crew. Maybe I’m being cynical but I think I only saw two or three people older than me that are part of the creation of the show.
Trailers: RWBY Vol 5, Gen:Lock, Nomad of Nowhere, Master & Apprentice,and Becoming Jessica Nigri. I don’t normally suggest things in the middle of a review, but Rooster Teeth should really look into doing a Cyberpunk style animation show. They have done fantastic things with fantasy and anime, made Halo hilarious and seemingly can do no wrong. A proper Cyberpunk anime or mature animated show would do gang busters.
Note: This blu-ray set also comes with a Physical Manga Sampler featuring Weiss. Fun extra, but doesn’t really fit well inside the case.
As explained in the extras, there is one other technical flaw that bears mention. Unlike the first four volumes/seasons, there is no movie mode on the main feature disc. When hitting Play All in the main menu, it plays all of the episodes in order but with the beginning overture and the ending credits for each episode. These kind of flaws hurt the product. The show is fantastic, and if you go on Amazon as I tend to do, the negative reviews by and large point to something that has nothing to do with the show and that heavily detracts from the product.
Again, it is a great season, certainly better than the previous season as well as season 2 in my opinion. We get a lot more character development, the story is moving along extremely well, and Yang is looking awesome with her new arm. It’s a win-win really. I look forward to season six which will be starting in the fall of this year.
Despite the technical flaws, the discs look and sound fantastic. Video looks amazing, especially on large screen televisions and the extras for the discs will have you coming back for more. It’s well put together and if you have followed the show to this point, you will be rewarded for your devotion by buying this volume. I only wish I would have found the show sooner. However I am glad I found it while I still had time to sit down and enjoy every second of the last five seasons. Heavily recommended. Enjoy.