Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long are four students at Beacon Academy, learning how to become Huntresses. Graduates from the school protect the world of Remnant from powerful, evil creatures called Grimm. The group form Team RWBY (an acronym using the first letters of their first names and pronounced “ruby”). When Professor Goodwitch comes across Ruby and another student, Cardin Winchester, arguing with each other in the cafeteria, she pits them against each other in a sparring match in front of the whole school.
We then learn a little more about Weiss, Blake, and Yang in flashbacks that demonstrate how they came to acquire the fighting prowess needed to succeed at Beacon Academy. Then, another team from Beacon, Team JNPR, goes out into the wilderness beyond Beacon to defeat an especially powerful type of Grimm. They do this during vacation and on their own to try and gain bragging rights and more experience than other teams at the school. Team RWBY finds out from Professor Goodwitch what Team JNPR is up to and goes to help. However, the Grimm turns out to be much more powerful than any of the students expected, and it’s up to them to make sure the Grimm never reaches Beacon or the city surrounding it.
This manga has several sections; some are connected, and some are not. There is no single plotline or story arc to connect each section, and the result is an extremely choppy reading experience that leaves the reader wondering why the episodes were collected together in a single volume at all. Additionally, characters that fans of the RWBY anime will recognize, such as Crow, Penny, and Torchwick, appear around the edges of some sections but their relevance to the main characters or the plot (such as it is) is never explained, adding to the disjointed feeling.
Dialogue is forced and clumsy. For example, Team RWBY is chatting in the cafeteria in the first section and Blake says, “What Ruby is trying to say, Yang, is that there’s a need for a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the tools and technology used in the trade of hunting that our lives depend on.” This is part of an artificial-feeling exposition that attempts to explain the history of Remnant and its magic system. In each section, the most emphasis is placed on extended fight scenes. There are lots of 2-page spreads with just sound effects and uneven illustrations of the main characters, their weapons, and their enemies in action.
The artwork leaves much to be desired. Characters’ faces and often entire panels are left blank. Some panels have intricately drawn characters, with every detail of their outfits and weapons on full display, and other panels appear extremely sketchy, with an overabundance of white space. All this contributes to the choppy, disjointed feeling of the book but also gives the whole volume an extremely unfinished look—I checked several times to make sure this wasn’t an ARC but it was, in fact, the final product. The first season of the anime lacked the funding to fully fill in background characters’ faces and outfits during rendering, but I’m not sure what Miwa’s reasoning is here, especially since this story appears to take place during the second or third season of the show.
Teens aged 13 and older will either be completely confused or bored (or maybe both) while reading this book, whether or not they are fans of the show. Readers looking for action-packed manga with magical or supernatural elements would be better off reading a more classic series like Death Note or Fullmetal Alchemist.
by Shirow Mira
Publisher Age Rating: Teen 13+