Plenty of action!
A manga adaptation, based on the popular RWBY online anime, is being released by Viz Media. From the publisher:
The world of Remnant is filled with horrific monsters bent on the destruction of humanity. Fortunately, the kingdoms of the world have risen to combat these forces by training powerful Huntsmen and Huntresses at academies around the planet. Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long are four such Huntresses in training.
I hadn’t been following the anime, which was released on the Rooster Teeth website and Youtube shortly after, but I was aware of it’s popularity. In fact, one of the reasons I hadn’t checked it out was poor word of mouth about the quality of animation, all of which is computer generated, when it was first released. In later seasons the popularity helped the production budget and most of what I read talked about how much better it looked. However, I was still wary to jump into it, as I would want to start the story from the beginning and would have to slog through those rough initial episodes. So I was eager to read the RWBY manga to check out the story and characters without the distraction.
For those that have watched the series (I did catch up on it after reading this), all the familiar elements are here from the first season, but the manga’s story takes a different approach. Instead of showing how Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang arrived at Beacon Academy for huntress training and met each other, it instead starts with the team already formed. The manga gives each girl their own chapter, with Ruby’s set in the present while the other three receive background stories from before they were at Beacon that weren’t included in the show, but only alluded to.
Weiss, the daughter of a powerful and wealthy industrialist, has the strongest story here. She often comes off as snobbish and elite, is made more empathetic when you see how she grew up emotionally abused and neglected by her family and whose extraordinary accomplishments aren’t celebrated, but expected. Yang’s is a rough and tumble throw down with a criminal she had dealings with in season two, but it doesn’t shed much light onto her character other than what we already know. Blake, who isn’t human but a Faunus (she has cat ears she hides under a big bow), explores her fateful mission when she decides to leave the Faunus organization White Fang when it starts using bloodshed to achieve its ends. It wasn’t bad, but the events were already touched on thoroughly in the anime.
The last chapter features the other main team of the series, JNPR (pronounced Juniper), which has a bunch of likable and fan-favorite characters as well. It all concludes with team RWBY and JNPR teaming up to fight a giant Grimm. There’s a page dedicated to Penny, a robot fighter who befriends the team in the show, but it isn’t given any context for those not familiar with the character and it’s very brief, so it probably could have been left out. Bad guy Roman Torchwick, who looks like he stole his schtick from “A Clockwork Orange” and features as the main antagonist from the beginning of the anime, is given some scenes but never tussles with the girls, so it’s little more than fan service.
The art is good, by writer and artist Shirow Miwa, in typical black and white manga-style for the majority of the book, except for the first few pages which are colored. If you’re not used to reading manga, the action can get a bit confusing as there are massive explosions, blasts and acrobatic moves that can be hard to follow in B/W and may have you studying the panels so see exactly who did what. But that’s true of most action manga and comes with the territory, so it’s not a problem specific to this book, if it’s a problem at all. The non-action scenes are perfectly easy to follow.
Is It Good?
I liked RWBY and the characters and story were enjoyable enough to make me get over my initial hesitance to dive into the animated series. There aren’t any blood and guts, but there is plenty of action. Maybe having daughters made me notice it more, but there aren’t a lot of manga or comics that feature a predominately female cast in a positive and strong way. These girls aren’t boy crazy or blushing violets and would be relatable for preteen and younger girls who might want some variety in what they read, that isn’t readily available in a lot of comic stories. This cross-over appeal might explain the RWBY franchise’s popularity and this book was a good showing of what it has to offer. The one caveat I would point out is that people familiar with the cast and story will be able to jump in more readily than those going in blind.