Title: RWBY: The Official Manga Vol. 1: The Beacon Arc Author: Bunta Kinami Publisher: VIZ Media Language: English Format: Digital Page Count: 192 Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Publication Date: July 21, 2020
How apropos it is that this is the month of July for it was seven years ago that RWBY made its debut as an animated series by Rooster Teeth. Since then, it had gained high notoriety… so much so that video games, comics, books, and novels have all been created for the franchise. Now, it has its own manga adaptation and that is what we are going to be looking at here today!
The first volume of RWBY introduces us to a rather large cast of characters but it mainly centers around Ruby, a girl who skipped a few years and is aiming to get into Beacon Academy in order to become a Huntress. Her goal is to become a hero like the ones in storybooks. There, we also meet her older sister Yang, and our other two main cast characters: Weiss, who is the stuck-up heiress to her family’s Dust company, and Blake, who looks to be playing the voice of reason for the group.
Straight away, they are being tested by descending down into the woods. There, they are to become partnered with the first person they make eye contact with upon landing. After that, they need to search and retrieve a relic and bring it back to the starting area. Teams of four will be assembled based on which relics were retrieved. The woods; however, are filled with dangerous enemies called Grimms so combat and survival are to be expected as well.
As the group gathers, we are introduced to our supporting characters Jaune, Pyrrha, Nora, and Lie. Since the title of this manga is RWBY, it’s pretty obvious who is going to get paired with who here (since the team names are simply comprised of the first letter of each member’s name). With these teams out in the woods, the inevitable happens and they are attacked by monsters. They start off as simple Grimms; however, in the end, they are attacked by a massive Death Stalker (spider), and a huge Nevermore (I’m assuming oversized Raven).
The entire second half of the volume involves the battle against them as everyone rallies together to fight back. Once the fight is concluded, the teams are created and that brings us to the end of volume one.
I left out quite a bit of detail as I didn’t want to give everything away but I will say that the story does a good job of building up the lore of the series although I would say that the pacing is a bit too quick. The explanation of Ruby skipping grades and getting into Beacon was fine. The explanation of the purpose of the academy was clear but I felt the series just threw a massive cast of characters at us after that. I understand a first volume should introduce you to the cast but when you have a rather large cast such as this, I would have liked to have seen some slower pacing. Ruby and Yang were fine, then we got Weiss, Blake, Jaune, Pyrrha, Lie, and Nora in such a short timespan thereafter. I would have liked to have gotten to know the main characters more before being introduced to the supporting cast. In the end, I was able to sort out who is who and splitting them into two teams does help but I will admit that I was a bit lost trying to remember their names along with keeping up with the story.
Speaking of the characters, let’s take a look at them.
Ruby Rose is our main protagonist who wields a massive scythe. She comes off as a bit of an airhead; however, she’s just very ambitious. Her personality is fun and bubbly but that all goes away when she engages in combat. She becomes laser-focused and is surely confident in her skills. She already has a budding rivalry with Weiss due to Weiss’ stuck-up nature; however, that seemingly gets resolved after the two of them end up working together. Perhaps, that got resolved a bit too quickly or maybe it was just a fleeting moment? Not sure what direction it’s going to take but if these differences were resolved already then that would be some of the most rushed character development I’ve witnessed. Hopefully the banter between the two continues in future volumes as I feel that these two could play off of one another rather nicely.
Yang Xiao Long is Ruby’s older sister with a tomboy attitude. She’s highly energetic, certainly not shy, and enjoys pushing Ruby out of her comfort zone. In fact, that’s how Ruby and Weiss ended up meeting when Yang just shoved her over there and told her to make a friend. I’m definitely seeing Yang as the comic relief for the series as she doesn’t seem to take anything too seriously. There’s always one in every bunch and it looks like Yang is it here. Still, I had some fun with this character and am looking forward to seeing just how much she will develop over time.
Weiss Schnee, as eluded to earlier, is the stuck-up heir to the Schnee Dust Company who takes this material called Dust and refines it into various substances… some of which are highly explosive! Of course, she has a princess’ attitude and immediately looks down on Ruby without knowing anything about her. I enjoyed the fact that Ruby stuck up for herself as that gave us an interesting rivalry right out of the gate. However, during the relic retrieval event, the two of them are paired up (which was a bit predictable) but it gave way for Weiss to see Ruby in a different light. It is almost as if she has a bit of respect for Ruby now; however, as I stated, I hope that’s not the end of their bickering. I would love to see more of it!
Blake Belladonna is the voice of reason. She was introduced when Ruby was first pushed into meeting Weiss… quite literally. After the two of them squabbled for a bit, Blake breaks things up. She has a pretty stoic attitude about her that kind of gives off the big protective sister vibe but outside of that, we don’t really get to know her all that much as most of “screen time” was devoted to Ruby and Weiss. I’m sure we will get more of her in future volumes.
The only supporting character worth mentioning here (for now) is Jaune Arc (is that a tribute to Jeanne D’Arc?). We meet him as he’s bent over hurling… what an introduction! Jaune seems to have a thing for Weiss but she couldn’t care less about any of that nonsense! Jaune is one of those characters that seems like all flash and no substance and it’s not until he meets Pyrrha that he kind of grows a bit of backbone (albeit not much). He seems like a fun character and the ending of the volume puts him in a position that you wouldn’t think he would be which just adds more fun to this character.
We do get some light introductions to Pyrrha, Lie, and Nora but nothing really significant. I’m sure they will get their time to shine as you can’t really highlight everyone right off the bat.
I’ve known of RWBY for a while but I never really watched the show. I do actually have RWBY Crystal Match from Crunchyroll on my phone and I do enjoy it from time to time. I decided that since manga is one of my favorite storytelling mediums, that I would give the series a try and take this opportunity to learn about what I’ve been missing out on for the past seven years. I’m not sure if the manga is adapting the actual animated series of not but regardless if it is or isn’t, I did enjoy the first volume of the series.
As I stated before, my only complaint was the rapid introduction of the cast. I felt it would have been better had the first volume introduced Ruby, Yang, Weiss, and Pyrrha and left it at that. In fact, I would have ended the first volume with the beginning of the relic hunt and then introduced the other four supporting characters at the very end, leaving you to guess who they actually were.
Again, I haven’t seen the animated series so I have no idea if that’s even plausible, to begin with. Also, these are just my personal preferences because I am a huge fan of slow-burn stories. I like learning about a character and the world a bit before being thrown everything at once. I just think of series like Tokyo Ghoul which had a HUGE cast of characters and even after 30 total volumes, I still can’t tell you who every single one of them was. So, when I see a story throw ten characters at you over the course of five chapters, I tend to get a bit nervous.
Still, I think it all worked out in the end. As long as we stick to this cast, for now, I think we’ll be fine from here on out. Pretty good first start to the series! It has me wanting to see more of it so I am looking forward to the second volume. If you’re like me and haven’t watched RWBY, this is a good opportunity to jump in and check it out.