RWBY: Volume 3 Review
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The fantasy world of Remnant has seen some rough times lately. It’s been besieged by hordes of monsters called creatures of Grimm. Teenagers are being trained as Huntsmen and Huntresses in order to fight back, while criminal gangs and powerful, shadowy interests seek to profit from the chaos. In February of 2015, Remnant faced its most serious tragedy when that world’s creator, animator Monty Oum, passed away suddenly following a routine surgery. His two-year-old series, RWBY, already a hit for web production studio Rooster Teeth, would have to soldier on without him.

The first two volumes introduced us to the precocious teenager Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones) and her color-coordinated teammates, Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle), Blake Belladonna (Arryn Zech), and Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkelman), all training to be Huntresses at the Beacon Academy. As volume three begins, the different schools have come together for the Vytal Festival, a tournament for the many student hunting teams. At the same time, a hidden enemy who’s been working in the background chooses the event to make her move.

This volume works as the end of the first act in the larger story Oum envisioned—and that the Rooster Teeth crew, now under the direction of Kerry Shawcross, is trying to bring to fruition. There’s a deeper focus on the mythology and history of Remnant here, as several plot threads that have been weaving through the series come to a head. There’s a darker tone at work here, pushing both characters and viewers out of the lighthearted adventure of previous volumes. By the time the dust settles, circumstances have been radically altered for Ruby, her team, and the rest of the hopeful Hunters. When you train to fight monsters, you can’t hope for everyone to come out unscathed.

The shift accomplishes two major goals for the series—which, while it always sported beautiful, eye-popping action sequences, tended to come across as a fairly shallow web ‘toon with clear anime underpinnings. There’s a better sense of the world of Remnant here, why it’s populated by monsters and teenage monster-hunters, and the significance of the academies and the four-person teams they’re focused on creating. That context helps give a sense of purpose to the story, rather than just tuning in for some high-speed animated action.

Even more important: those action sequences have real stakes now. Rooster Teeth isn’t playing safe with their protagonists anymore. They can be hurt, psychologically damaged, and even killed by their chosen profession. Along with the kinetic thrill, there’s the necessary tension of what could go wrong and what could be lost.

Even with that recentered focus, RWBY remains committed to what made it work in the first place: stunning visual design and exquisitely fluid animation. While it’s a real shame that Monty Oum wasn’t able to see this project all the way through, start to finish, the team at Rooster Teeth honors his memory by keeping his show moving forward and continually improving. Even after a great loss, the world of Remnant and its colorful hunters is worth fighting for.

Blu-ray Review:
RWBY: Volume 3 includes all 13 episodes, viewable either as a single three-hour movie or in individual chapters—an essential option for watching short-duration web series. Rooster Teeth has also thrown in a decent collection of short making-of and world-building featurettes. For those who really want to get behind the scenes, there’s an info-heavy commentary track that should definitely satisfy.

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