Series Review – RWBY Volume 2

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Roosterteeth

The first season of RWBY had a lot of rough edges, but managed to gather a large following.  So it was only inevitable that the series would get a second season and a chance to improve some of the issues.  I am glad to say that RWBY Volume 2 managed to improve the series in almost every way.  There are still a few problems, but nothing on the same level of the issues the plagued the first volume.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime review.

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Story

Volume 2 possesses more of an overarching story.  Unlike the first volume, each episode directly ties in to the larger plot.  This was necessary in order to expand the scope of the story.  This was a very big improvement on the relatively weak plot of the first season.  The pacing for this season is much improved as a result.  The character introductions were mostly taken care of during the first season which gives more time to develop the plot.  While there still are a bevy of character introductions, they are handled in a much better way and are naturally woven into the plot.

This second volume begins almost immediately after the events that characterized the first season’s finale.  Team RWBY decides to take a more proactive approach in pursuing Torchwick and uncovering the meaning behind the series of robberies perpetrated by him.  The story places a large focus on how Team RWBY is dealing with all of this pressure.  It is one of the main themes of the season, whether or not they’re ready to actually do something.  The later episodes make this very clear as one professor pretty much interrogates them on why they decided to become huntresses.  This season is really about growing up and what that means for these characters.

At the same time this is all happening, students from other academies begin to arrive at Beacon for the Vytal Festival, where they will be able to demonstrate their combat prowess against other students.  The main antagonists for this season pose as foreign students in order to infiltrate the school.  The villains are much more nefarious than the wise-cracking Torchwick.  They actually carry out some pretty evil stuff.  My only problem is that their plan kind of fizzles out in the end.  It’s actually dealt with relatively quickly despite the season long build up to its conclusion.  Because of that, everything just feels too resolved at the end of this season.  Despite it being an improvement, the story didn’t progress that much by the conclusion.

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Characters

A lot of characters that were underdeveloped in the first season receive quite a bit of focus in this one.  Even the existing characters are developed quite nicely.  It has a similar reason to the improved story. Since the character introductions were done for the most part, they had more time to develop them.  I’m going to talk about a few characters that stood out to me in this season.

Yang actually received quite a bit of characterization this season.  She was relatively ignored in the first season, so I was glad to see her receive some focus.  Yang is bright, energetic, and peppy.  She is also quick to turn into anger in a fiery rage.  A lot of her characterization comes from her role as a big sister to Ruby.  She’s a thrill seeker, but feels a compulsion to be there for her friends and sister.  This was due to her desire to find her birth mother who left when she was just a baby.  This story element adds a layer of depth to Yang’s rather cheery exterior.

My favorite character of this season was Pyrrha.  The first season saw her acting in a role as an emphatic friend with a slight attachment to Jaune.  They really build on this aspect in a very meaningful way.  Pyrrha has feelings for Jaune due to how normally he treats her.  Despite her success, Pyrrha was relatively lonely until she met her team.  This is a really interesting aspect of her character and sets up a believable romance for the later seasons.

One more aspect I enjoyed about the characterization is that the events of the first season play a huge role.  Blake is the character that is altered the most by the aftermath.  Instead of becoming confident like her teammates, she becomes increasingly stressed and neurotic due to the knowledge that the villains were still out there.  This aspect of her character plays out for the first half of the season.  Overall, the second season fleshed out some characters neglected in the first season while simultaneously giving most of the cast some sort of development.  There are still a couple of neglected characters, but it is an improvement over the first season.

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Animation

The animation is again one of the highlights of this series.  Much like with the first volume, the animation excels the most in the action scenes.  Thankfully, it appears that there are a larger variety of fight scenes or at least, they are better placed in the story.  Monty Oum’s animation prowess for the combat once again shines.  I also rather enjoyed the combination aspect of the action scenes.  These scenes are much more collaborative in this season.  There are larger set pieces and a focus on the team aspect of the action.  Episode four has a fight sequence that features all four of the members of Team RWBY facing off against the same enemy.  This scene is an absolute highlight of the action animation, showing off a wide range of collaborations between the characters in a variety of interesting ways.  I said it last week, but this show is worth watching for the action scenes alone.

The animation has also addressed the problems that plagued the first season.  The animation of the everyday scenes is greatly improved.  The animation is less stiff and much more fluid now.  It really adds a layer of depth to see the little moments of idle animation.  Of course there are still moments of less than stellar quality, but they are much fewer in number in this season.  As for my main critique of the last season, the black silhouettes are no longer present.  Instead, they are replaced by characters that are obviously altered models of the main characters, but this is not that noticeable.  It really adds to the sense that these areas are populated.  Even if the character models can look similar on a closer view, it was the right decision, especially compared to the black silhouettes.  This second season expanded upon the great animation and fixed a variety of issues.  It was a great step forward.

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Sound Design

I don’t know if I have as much to say about the sound design as I did during the first season.  The voice acting improved immensely.  It is obvious that with the experience of the first volume, the actors have all grown into their roles exceptionally well.  The newer characters introduced are even acted to perfection.  I was quite harsh to Yang’s voice actress in the volume one review, mostly due to her performance being crippled by a lack of lines.  I am proud to say that she improved quite a bit with Yang’s greater focus this season.

As for the specific foley work itself, the sound effects employed are of a much higher quality.  The lower quality sound effects of the first season appeared to have been replaced which adds on to the overall quality of the series.  Of course, the popping soundtrack by Jeff Williams does not disappoint.  Casey Williams returns to give voice to a large amount of songs.  Much like with the first season, these songs provide the perfect ambience for the action scenes, so much so that I recommend purchasing the soundtrack.  Much like with the animation, the sound design of the second season improves on the weaker points of the first season while maintaining the quality of the better aspects.

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Final Verdict

RWBY’s second season manages to address the problems of the first season quite well.  It is a much more polished product than the first season.  The story concludes in a slightly disappointing manner, but was an overall improvement.  The overarching plot was a main focus and really ramped up the stakes.  The characters were similarly explored well and some of those that were left out in the first season finally saw some development.  The animation and sound design maintained what was great and fixed some of the more nagging problems of the first season.  The second season of RWBY was a resounding success.  It showed the commitment to a sense of improvement.  I give RWBY Volume 2 my watch rating with a recommendation of a purchase of the home release.  For those who simply want to check out the show, you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube or Roosterteeth’s website.  Join my next week as I review RWBY Volume 3 and thank you for checking this piece out.

Watch Rating

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