The Team’s All Here: RWBY (Volume 1)

Copyright © 2013 by Rooster Teeth Productions
Copyright © 2013 by Rooster Teeth Productions

Last year, I wrote a short review on the pilot episode for RWBYan animated series that came from the collaboration of Monty Oum and Rooster Teeth Productions. But now I’ve had a chance to look over the entire first season (or “volume”), so I feel I owe it a real in-depth analysis. Did it hold up as well as I’d hoped from watching the first episode?

Short answer: Yes.

The world of RWBY is set in a modern yet mythical kingdom called Vale, where young men and women train at academies to fight monsters called the Grimm and develop their skills in a team. Ruby Rose is one such Huntress-in-training, having to get along with her older sister Yang, the arrogant but perceptive Weiss, and the mysterious Blake. While they take on monsters and learn to hone their talents at Beacon Academy, the all-girls team find themselves confronting major issues in the world, such as the treatment of the half-human Faunus and a criminal conspiracy to steal large quantities of Dust, the magical substance that gives human beings their power.

Because it’s a Rooster Teeth show, the talent among the voice actors is brilliant. It’s easy to laugh around the chipper attitude of Ruby, Yang, and Nora, but the show can be very dramatic, too, bringing in heartfelt performances through characters like Pyrrha, Jaune, and Blake. Even the faculty goes beyond being a cast full of teaching stereotypes, showing some depth and background as warriors and leaders in their own right.

Copyright © 2013 by Rooster Teeth Productions
Copyright © 2013 by Rooster Teeth Productions

Of the whole cast, my favorite character has to be Pyrrha Nikos (voiced by Jen Brown, whom some of you may know as Carolina from Red vs. Blue). She doesn’t have quite the bubbly personality of Ruby or Yang, but she’s one of the most skilled fighters in the show and a generally cheerful person. What makes her interesting, though, is how the show pairs her up with her natural contrast, Jaune Arc (voiced by co-writer Miles Luna). He’s awkward and usually in need of rescuing, but he’s got a sense of empathy that makes him and Ruby great friends, as well as someone Pyrrha can guide in their training.

Pyrrha’s essentially the mentor figure to Jaune’s audience stand-in, guiding him (and those of us watching) in the nuances of RWBY’s world. It could be easy to make her into a pure exposition-spouting character or a female badass with no other personality traits, but she’s allowed to flourish as a person. And unlike some other action heroines, Pyrrha doesn’t lose any of her strength to make way for Jaune as a traditional hero. The show emphasizes their pairing more than anything and even handles their romance as implied rather than explicit.

Jaune (left) and Pyrrha (right).
Jaune (left) and Pyrrha (right). Copyright © 2013 by Rooster Teeth Productions.

Since this is a Monty Oum production, I suppose I ought to say a word about the animation. But one word won’t do it justice. The animation is excellent, taking so much of the physics-defying grace and acrobatics that we saw in Dead Fantasy and Haloid. Every fight sequence is a ballet of magic, impossible weapon combinations, and over-the-top gymnastics. People go flying when struck by energy blasts, while Hunters of every color go toe-to-toe with mindless black-and-white creatures of Grimm in beautifully designed forests and ruins. It’s the kind of animation that seems to fit a shonen anime, but the pacing and quality here is beyond what we’ve seen in most Western animation. A lot of the fights remind me of the beautiful training sequences between Po and Shifu from Kung Fu Panda, odd as it may sound.

In the end, both the show’s cast and animation can be described in the same way: funny, quick, and lovingly detailed. While some viewers may not be anime fans or enjoy scenes of teens fighting monsters and gangsters (and really, who wouldn’t enjoy that?), the show itself does carry some amazing comedy and quite a few moments of drama and compassion. Come for the brilliant action, but stay for the bonds of friendship.

RWBY Volume 1 is available for purchase in the Rooster Teeth Store on DVD and Blu-ray.

Bibliography: RWBY.  Directed by Monty Oum. Written by Miles Luna, Kerry Shawcross, and Matt Hullum. Produced by Burnie Burns and Kathleen Zuelch. Music by Jeff and Casey Lee Williams. Rooster Teeth Productions. Original run: July 18, 2013 — November 7, 2013.

Awesome Music For An Awesome Season: The “Red Vs. Blue: Revelation” Soundtrack

Copyright © 2010 by Jeff Williams. Distributed by Rooster Teeth Productions.

As some of my readers may remember, I’m a huge fan of the webseries Red Vs. Blue and that I wrote a review for it in August of 2010.  I’m also a huge fan of soundtrack albums, which stimulate me a lot when I’m writing.  As much as I enjoy a good visual, I can really enjoy that same visual with the right background music.

So here’s my take on the soundtrack to the eighth season of Red Vs. Blue, Red Vs. Blue: Revelation, on a track by track basis.

Track 1: “Agent Tex”

The first track of the album is great for two reasons: it evokes every great moment from the fight in Episode 10 of Revelation and features actual lines spliced throughout the song.  The melody is a fast-paced folk beat with choral voices in the background (and why does adding a choir to anything make it more epic in tone?).

Agent Tex is a bit of a badass.”  There’s an understatement if I ever heard one and the music just bears it out.

Track 2: “Prelude”

This is just a slightly more-than-a-minute-long track that gives a taste of the music you’ll hear in Track 3, but it’s still a worthwhile snippet.

Track 3: “Boss Battle”

Tex Vs. The Meta and Agent Washington.  Fucking yes.  What other music could be set to that fight than heavy drums and guitar, all fitting in with the punches being thrown and the shots being dodged amidst a snowy backdrop.

Track 4: “Ice Fight”

I love how this track opens with a gentle tinkling of piano (or something that sounds similar to one, I’m not entirely sure which).  It’s evocative of snow falling, lasting for just a few seconds right before punching straight into the epic guitar riff and choir of the continuing fight sequence between the three biggest badasses in the RvB series.

Track 5: “Plagam Extremam Infligere”

The name for this track is derived from an ancient Latin phrase that roughly means, “killing someone violently.”  And if you’ve already seen Episode 19 of the series, then you’ll know just how violently that someone is, um, killed.

I rather like how this track starts out using some of the same rock melodies as the previous two songs, but then it segues into this weird, almost atonal chant of “Plagam Extremam Infligere.”  However, the percussion in the background of this chant more than makes up for it in my opinion.

Track 6: “The Pelican Has Landed”

The moment you hear this song begin, you immediately want to start banging your head and pumping your fist into the air.  Just a nice bass line with some good drums and a cool, slow build-up.

Picture a line of would-be heroes going off to battle, arming and suiting up for the biggest fight of their lives.  This is the music that sends them off.

Track 7: “Rally (Sarge’s Speech)”

It’s legitimately stirring and kinda surprising when you consider how much of a comedy show this webseries is.  But that goes double for the scene it’s set to in the show, taking a long-running gag and turning it into dramatic material on the eve of a truly climatic finale.

Track 8: “Red Vs. Blue”

This is pure rock n’ roll and a great theme for the entire show.  Not much else to be said here.

Track 9: “Epilogue”

This is the music which plays over the final monologue and scenes at the end of Season 8.  It really doesn’t sound like anything else in the show and I think it’s appropriate that it doesn’t.  The mood is soft and reflective, unlike any of the quirky dialogue or ramped-up fight scenes we’d seen up until this point.

Track 10: “Forge World”

For a song that’s only forty-three seconds long, it requires a little backstory for those who don’t watch every video released by Rooster Teeth.  Last year, the Halo franchise came out with its latest installment, Halo: Reach, which updated the animation style.  Consequently, Rooster Teeth came out with a miniseries to do the same for RvB and to promote the new game.

The final video of the miniseries gave us this goofy little song by Sarge, which also allowed fans to get a major glimpse of how in-depth and lovingly detailed this new in-game landscape was.

Track 11: “Your Best Friend”

Yet another comedic little song that doesn’t appear in the actual eighth season, this is just a catchy melody that Caboose sings about how he views his “friendship” with Church–a very one-sided, if not delusional, relationship.  I admit that there are parts where I had trouble understanding what he was saying, but after a few listens, you get the idea.  It’s both funny and creepy (which everyone knows is the best kind of funny…).

Track 12: “I Am The Best”

Church sings about how he’s the best and… that’s it, really.  It’s a kind off nice hip-hop derivative, and if not the content and quality of the song, I normally wouldn’t be as interested in it (not being that big a hip-hop fan to begin with).

Track 13: “Sarge’s Blues”

In yet another catchy and comedic song, we get Sarge singing about Blue Team in a classic rhythm-and-blues melody.  It’s quite a fun little song, especially with Sarge’s spoken asides or how he waxes lyrical about shooting the Blue Team soldiers with his shotgun–repeatedly.

Track 14: “Grifball Jam”

Again, a little backstory.  Based on an early joke from Season 4, Rooster Teeth used the Halo engine to develop its own web-based game known as “Grifball.”  This music is what plays in the background while you play and it’s energetic to match.

Track 15: “Hijo De P**a Triste”

I just love the title of this song (although it’s a nice, slow one, too).  For those who don’t speak Spanish, it means, “sad son of a bitch.”  But as for the song itself, it’s got a little Spanish flair and feels reminiscent of a surfer tune.

Track 16: “Agent Tex (Instrumental)”

It’s just “Agent Tex” without the dialogue mixed in.  Still rocks, though.

Track 17: “Revelation Suite Ost Version”

Essentially, it’s a blend of “Boss Battle,” “Ice Fight,” and “Plagam Extremam Infligere,” but it’s also the same sequence as how the music is heard during the entire fight sequence in Episode 19 of Revelation.

Track 18: “Red Vs. Blue Ost Version”

Again, it’s the same as Track 5, but with a slightly different quality, which is how it’s heard on the end credits for Revelation.

Track 19: “I Say Ooh”

This is just a happy little song by Jeff Williams and Sandy Casey, with Casey as the female vocal.  Doesn’t have too much to do with the RvB series as far as I can tell, but it’s a nice way to end the album.

Final Verdict: Just As Fun To Listen As It Is To Watch

The whole soundtrack is pure delight, from the epic rock tracks that play over the major fight scenes to the comic little asides thrown in just for the fans.  Like watching the videos, you’ll want to hear this music over and over again, hoping you might produce something as high-quality as what Jeff Williams and Company have given us.

Red Vs. Blue Revelation Soundtrack is available for download on iTunes here.

Bibliography: Williams, Jeff.  Red Vs. Blue Revelation Soundtrack.  CD.  Austin: Rooster Teeth Productions, 2010.

These Are Not The Soldiers You’re Looking For: The Red Vs. Blue Machinima Series

Copyright © 2003, Rooster Teeth Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Machinima is a relatively new genre based on a simple idea: take a video game and use it to make an animated movie or online series.  Of course, it requires a lot of skill with such games to know how to work the graphics in a cinematic way, but the end results can be quite entertaining.

Probably the most triumphant example of a machinima series is the long-running show Red vs. Blue, developed by Rooster Teeth Productions with the popular Halo video game series.  It is currently within its eighth season, and has been consistently given high marks for its inventive uses of the Halo games, its non-stop humor, and its memorable characters.

The protagonists of Red vs. Blue are a group of would-be soldiers who are initially based in a box canyon and split into Red and Blue Teams.  They’re meant to be constantly fighting as teams against each other, but for the most part, all they do is sit around and bicker.  This premise is funny enough, but when more serious elements like the Freelancers, aliens, and a malevolent AI called O’Malley are added to the mix, the show becomes both more dramatically powerful and more hilarious over time.

This show does story arcs very well, sometimes branching them out across whole seasons.  The first five seasons are known collectively as Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles.  From then on, each season has its own unique title and underlying plot, carrying such story-suggestive names as Reconstruction, Recreation, and Revelation.  And since Season 4, there’s also been a miniseries between each season to explore different aspects of the show and highlight less story-involved moments with the two teams.

For all the warfare and military tropes that the show plays around with, I think the real humor comes out of the actual cast, who don’t seem to treat their job like real soldiers.  If anything, they’re more like jaded video gamers who are way out of their league, which makes their interaction with the more professional Freelancers and all the very real threats hilarious.  It also makes any actual achievements on the battlefield a real treat to watch.

If you’re a serious gamer or Halo fan, this series will be an absolute delight.  And even if you’re not, its humor is still a good reason to watch.  New episodes can be seen Monday nights on Rooster Teeth’s website here.

Bibliography: Red vs. Blue (online machinima series).  Created by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey, Gustavo Sorola, and Jason Saldaña.  Directed by Burnie Burns and Gavin Free.  Rooster Teeth Productions,  April 1, 2003 – Present.