By: Shirow Miwa; Rooster Teeth Productions; Monty Oum
Translator: Joe Yamazaki
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
I cannot describe how excited I was when the RWBY manga appeared at my door. I love the anime and I wanted to see how the story was handled within the anime. Unfortunately, RWBY by Shirow Miwa ignored much of the animated versions strengths to the manga’s detriment.
RWBY is the manga version of the animation (lets just call it an anime for simplicity’s sake) of the same name. Like many other manga-second franchises, the manga does not quite hold up to the original anime. The story follows the original four trailers of the anime, short features which introduced the characters – Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang – as well as their abilities, and what our protagonists are fighting against. Original, manga only content is also sprinkled throughout the volume, most notably at the beginning and the end with whole chapters of new content.Those who have watched RWBY will get the most out of this manga. The story jumps around quite a bit, sometimes showing content from before the start of the series and sometimes showing content quite a bit into story. This means that the overarching narrative is a bit difficult to follow, doubly so for those who aren’t familiar with the franchise at all. Those who haven’t seen RWBY will definitely be at a disadvantage. A lot of characters are introduced quickly and some (but not all) pertinent information about the world is relayed within a handful of pages before the manga jumps about from one shorter story to another.
The characters are differently styled, something that isn’t an issue in its own right. This does happen, sometimes, and I can appreciate a creator rendering a story within their own style. However, some of the characters looked so very different from their original renditions that they were completely unrecognizable. Many characters are slimmer, sometimes in body, sometimes in face. Ruby certainly suffers from this, her face being much less rounded than usual. Ren, an already slim character, looked downright bony. But the character’s whose appearance changed the most was Juane Arc. I was honestly unsure of who the character was the first time he appeared in the manga. The fairly tall boy with round cheeks who fell on the bulkier side of things was suddenly a completely generic looking, slimmed down character with nothing visually in common with his animated counterpart.
Besides having very memorable characters, RWBY also boasted some of the more entertaining fight scenes a person could find, especially in seasons 1-3. The environment is used to great effect during battles. And, unlike many battle anime and shonen in particular, the characters all fight together. Their strengths are played off one another, and grand plans concocted that are always highly entertaining. However, none of this can be fully utilized in the manga for one important reason. The majority of backgrounds are completely blank. Character’s largely exist in white space with no floor, walls, or scenery to speak of. Nor is there any of the generic background filled such as flowers or bubbles that can be found in genres like shojo. The only backgrounds found normally occur at the beginning of a chapter. After a few pages, the setting is ignored completely.
Firstly, this is quite boring to look at. There is simply nothing on the page, sometimes with a entire panels blank with some text, or, even more confusingly, simply not filled at all.
Secondly, this does fight scenes, of which there are many, a great disservice. The majority of fights take place in a big, blank space. Discerning features of the environment are completely lacking. This makes the fighting lack sense. Can the characters use the environment to their advantage? Do their enemies have the advantage of location, perhaps blending into their environment? We never get a good sense of what makes the Grimm so deadly, so frightening. It is nearly impossible to tell who is winning at any given moment. And, more disappointingly, it is difficult to tell what each character’s special abilities are.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of the original content. Commentary was added within the chapters based off of the original four trailers for the anime. This added a lot to these scenes, providing context and backstory to sections which, originally, mostly consisted of just very excellent fight scenes. Weiss in particular had a lot backstory added to the section focused on her. However, it’s a bit confusing having the manga jump between the main character’s time at the academy and from the time before they met. The most problematic of the original content comes in Blake’s section, when Ruby, Weiss, and Yang reassure her that they don’t mind her ears or the fact that she is a fauna. Not only does this break major plot points within the story, but it breaks characterization, too.
In all, I couldn’t help but feel that RWBY was made without the heart and dedication of the show. It was sloppily made, and wound up not living up to the potential it held. I wanted to adore this manga. I wanted to love it. Sadly, it simply cannot. Perhaps another rendition will come out in the future. If you’re a fan of RWBY, you may want to pick up the manga just to complete your collection, but do be aware that might disappoint.