Manga Review: RWBY: The Official Manga Volume One

RWBY: The Official Manga is based off the animated series from Rooster Teeth and Monty Oum.

RWBY: The Official Manga Volume 1
Written by: Bunta Kinami
Publisher: Shueisha, Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 21, 2020

I admit that I have never watched the RWBY animated series, so I walked into this manga completely blind. Whether that was a good or a bad thing is unclear to me after reading this volume, though.

RWBY is set in a magical world known as Remnant, which is split into four kingdoms and plagued by creatures known as Grimm. Academies have been established to train students to become Hunters and Huntresses that battle with the Grimm.

At the beginning of the volume, there are Dust thefts taking place in the kingdom of Vale, which is the kingdom that RWBY is set in. From what I picked up in the manga, the Dust is refined powder of various powers that can take the form of the elements. Basically, the Dust seems to work as weapons for fighting with the Grimm.

Ruby Rose, our main character, is still training at one of the lower academies when she takes on Roman Tochwick, one of the most vicious criminals in Vale, when he tries to steal Dust. Because of her actions, she is able to skip two grades and join her sister, Yang Xiao Long, at Beacon Academy to train to become a Huntress.

When Ruby goes to the academy for her first day and readers are introduced to a character named Glynda Goodwitch, I swear she looks a lot like Henrietta from Log Horizon. Oh, and speaking of Glynda Goodwitch, her name, along with some of the others, made me groan a little. I know they were meant to be references to other things, but I thought they felt a little on the cheesy side. But maybe that’s just me, though.

Volume One is a volume meant to introduce the reader to the story’s world and to the characters.  Although right at first, I was getting a little confused by who some of the characters were, since it felt like the designs for some of them felt a little too similar to other characters.

Of course, Ruby develops a rival once she enters Beacon Academy. What good shonen story wouldn’t have the protagonist have some kind of rival? Ruby’s rival is named Weiss Schnee, a stuck-up princess type and heiress to the Schnee Dust Company. Their meeting shows their conflict right away, and of course when we get to the section of the story where the new students are being initiated, these two ended up being paired up together.

Jaune Arc is the token male of the story, and he turns out to be a scaredy-cat with no real presence. But again, in true shonen fashion, the initiation causes Jaune to evolve as a character. We are also introduced to Blake Belladonna, who comes across as a mysterious fighter. I wish I could truly say more about her character, but, at least in my opinion, she felt like the least developed of the main cast. Perhaps future volumes of the series will help develop Blake as a character.

The initiation makes up the main progression of the story in this volume, and it ultimately leads to the formation of team RWBY, which is made up of Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang Xiao Long. Jaune becomes part of another team, which consists of three other members who we basically only really saw in passing in this volume. Hopefully, team JNPR will receive more character development as the story continues.

When it comes to the story and to the characters, at this point in the series, they’re hitting all the typical shonen series tropes… except for the fact that the main characters are female instead of male, and that there’s a token male character instead of a token female character. Hitting the shonen series tropes isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. A lot of shonen series tend to start out that way to establish their characters and their stories, and many of them find ways to progress beyond the tropes or to find ways to make the tropes feel a little more unique. Hopefully, RWBY finds a way to distinguish itself besides focusing on female characters. Unfortunately, since I haven’t watched the animated series, I don’t know how closely this manga follows it to be able to know how this manga series could potentially progress as it continues.

When it comes to the art, I was impressed by the action panels and sequences. However, I’m not sure I’m entirely sold on how the characters are drawn in the volume. It just feels like the faces and features look kind of washed out, and I find myself wishing there was more of a definition to them. And there are times when the backgrounds just feel kind of sparse. When they aren’t sparse, they look decent, but the sparseness of many of the panels stand out more to me than the ones that aren’t.

All in all, RWBY: The Official Manga shows a lot of promise with its story. I wish the art was a little stronger, though. But if you like shonen stories and enjoy female protagonists, then this series might be worth checking out.

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