As fans of ‘RWBY’ await the release of volume 9 in 2022, now is the perfect time to go back and re-watch the web series, both as a refresher on the events that have taken place and to get a new experience from the story after knowing where it’s led so far. The characters in the series have come a long way since ‘RWBY’s premier in 2013, both in terms of animation quality and character development. And now that so much ‘RWBY’ content has been released (all eight volumes clocking in at around 24 hours total), there’s a way for fans to enjoy the story all over again but with a different experience: as films rather than episodes (a.k.a., ‘RWBY’ Complete).
Watching ‘RWBY’ as a series of eight feature-length films provides plenty of new viewpoints. For one, the pacing of ‘RWBY’ has always been a strange experience, especially for those who have been fans from the beginning and watched the show as it came out weekly. A lot about ‘RWBY’ has changed over the years, including episode length and focus. Most of volume 1’s episodes clock in at around 6 minutes; it isn’t until volume 4 that the average episode length grows to a more consistent 15–20 minutes, and most of volume 8’s episodes are the traditional 22-minute length for cartoons/anime.
For this reason, the pacing of the earlier volumes feels strange; viewers are watching a larger story broken up into tiny pieces. This viewing experience, while digestible, moves the plot along extremely slowly. This is admittedly helpful for the writers when the story is brand-new and has the potential to go in many different directions, but after three volumes of wondering what the plot is going to be, the mystery gets old.
Watching the show as a film presents the story as a more cohesive experience, especially in the earlier volumes. The film version of the show doesn’t include the intro or credits between each chapter, so each storyline runs smoothly into the next. Suddenly, little plotlines that stretch across multiple episodes and only lead to a tiny resolution are smaller road bumps on the larger journey. The volume 2 food fight and the dance-off seem out of place when they are presented in an episodic format, but when they appear as smaller quirks in an entire film, they aren’t as distracting as they are fun.
Watching an entire volume in one sitting maintains its charm and makes the light-hearted tone of the first three volumes all the more enjoyable. This first act (volumes 1–3) feels shorter and more deliberate. Enjoying the series as a series of films greatly improves the pacing.
Important characterization points are more clearly seen this way as well. Each volume has its own set of focus characters, and they shine brighter in the context of a feature film. Volume 4 is a prime example. Episode-by-episode, the focus isn’t as clear because the characters are split apart for the first time, on their own journeys in different parts of the world. Several episodes could go by before returning to an important character arc, like Blake’s (Arryn Zech). There are numerous important characters and, due to the short episode length, not enough time to explore them all in full, especially when volume 4 doubles the number of villains and adds Oscar (Aaron Dismuke) as a new main character.
As a feature film, it’s easier to see how each character’s struggles, and ability to push through those struggles, culminate. As Ruby’s (Lindsay Jones) new team, RNJR (the biggest group of important characters that initially totals four people and later adds a fifth), journeys across Mistral, they are all forced to push through the trauma of the past and focus on the present. Ruby struggles with the hard truth that sometimes stories don’t end happily ever after, and Jaune (Miles Luna) continues his training despite the loss of a dear friend. Despite Nora (Samantha Ireland) not having much to do this volume, she remains as a constant and steady source of support for the team. The most prominent RNJR character moment revolves around Ren (Neath Oum), who is desperate to run from the memory of his family and village slaughtered by the Nuckelavee but must face it to save his new family.
Episode-by-episode, Ren’s face-off against the Grimm who decimated his childhood comes out of the blue, as other episodes before the encounter heavily featured other characters, some of which are from the main team RWBY. But without the interruption of opening and ending credits, and watching the story the whole way through in one sitting, the story progression toward Ren’s face-off is subtle, but noticeable, and this event is the perfect way to end the volume.
Later volumes have longer runtimes, as ‘RWBY’ moves closer toward standard 22-minute episodes. As the story begins to build toward a culmination (and perhaps in the next few volumes, a conclusion), the series is becoming more consistent with technical aspects—not just in terms of episode length, but also with animation and character expressions. It took a long time for the series to solidify the overarching plot, but now that it is clear and the characters are completely motivated, the story is in full swing. Episodes have become more consistent in structure, having more of a beginning, middle, and end.
Watching volumes 5–7 would be committing to 3+ hours each in one sitting, and volume 8 is 4 and a half hours total, ‘RWBY’s longest volume yet. However, since this is the point where the story is culminating and characters are on the move, watching these later volumes as feature films instills a similar feeling to an MCU, The Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars marathon: the longer runtime is worth the rising action. In the case of volume 8, this film could easily be broken into two movies, as often happens toward the end of a film franchise (e.g., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay).
In all honesty, ‘RWBY’ is an engrossing, charming, and fun series, whether it is enjoyed episode-by-episode or as a string of feature films. There are strengths and weaknesses to both methods. For instance, watching the film versions of ‘RWBY’ would mean missing the repeated intros and outros, and it would also take away from the weekly excitement of watching the episodes as they are released. Enjoying ‘RWBY’ as an episode-by-episode series has its benefits.
However, on the next rewatch of ‘RWBY’ in preparation for volume 9, viewers can gain a unique and different experience of the show when they watch each volume as an entire movie. If you love the show and want a new perspective, try the feature film experience and see how ‘RWBY’ changes.
Plus, 'RWBY' Vol. 8 and 9 have officially been greenlit by Rooster Teeth.
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