I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time now. Since about the middle of RWBY volume 3, in fact. However, I kept putting it off to make sure I addressed the topic appropriately. Well I’m going for it now, so no turning back one way or the other. Oh yeah, and beware of spoilers. Cause I’m gonna spoil like crazy.
Now for the “important question.” Is RWBY anime? I know this sort of debate is pretty common in the anime community. I’ve seen more arguments than I care to count about what exactly counts as anime. I’ll spare everyone a discussion over denotation, connotation and translation, because that’s not what what I want to discuss today.
What I want to point out, is that whatever lines might exist between western and eastern shows, RWBY goes a long way towards breaking them down. I say this for a few reasons. Most obviously, RWBY’s animation style is distinctly Japanese, despite being produced by an American company. More interestingly, RWBY actually has a Japanese dub (this is my new ammo against dub haters)! The RWBY fan presence in Japan is also undeniable (I particularly like this artist).
However, I think that there’s another interesting way that RWBY breaks down the west/east barrier. But before I explain, I want you to watch this video by Extra Credits, an excellent YouTube series about game design.
And now, let’s talk about guns. RWBY has guns. Lots of guns. In fact, I’m pretty sure almost every character’s weapons has some sort of gun functionality. This is, as per that video I had you watch, quite a western idea, isn’t it? All the characters have these powerful weapons which allow them to protect their individual freedom and prevent others from controlling them (similar to the motivations behind FPS’s in the west, according to Extra Credits).
However, consider the level to which these weapons are also personalized to the characters. In many ways, the weapons are an extension of the self (I’d make a Penny joke here, but her fight with Phyrra was so tragic it just tore me to pieces). There are a number of examples of this, like Penny’s swords and Velvet’s camera, but my favorite is Yang’s gauntlets. They are based on a distinctly western sort of weapon (a gun), used by a walking stereotype of eastern perceptions of western characters (extroverted blonde), based on a western myth (Goldilocks).
But the weapons themselves are practically a part of Yang’s body, so her fighting style very closely resembles that of a street fighter, because her martial arts meld seamlessly with shooting guns from her wrists. There’s also the endless Super Saiyan jokes about her semblance, but that’s probably not very relevant.
Another interesting example of a character’s connection to their weapon is Phyrra. Remember when her weapon breaks during her last fight? I couldn’t help but be reminded of the symbolism of Akame ga Kill: whenever a character’s weapon breaks, they inevitably die within minutes. Not because the weapon broke, of course. The connection is much more symbolic. The character and the weapon are seen as “one and the same,” you might say.
Sorry for the long post, but this sort of thing makes me really excited so I couldn’t help but type more and more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going back into hibernation until the RWBY hiatus is over.
Michael Mauer is a sophomore in the college of Arts and Sciences majoring in Computer Science. His favorite anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion and he never leaves home without his Homura Akemi necklace. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, just hunt him down on Facebook or Google+.