RWBY: From the Screen to the Page

Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang Xiao come to comics.

First of all, I want to start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! The past year offered myriads of great movies and books to be reviewed, amazing indie talents who were willing to share ideas with the world, and some awesome small-screen entertainment (I’ve spent my holiday immersed in a Netflix and Hulu binge!). One project I spotlighted in late 2015 was Rooster Teeth’s RWBY anime series. It was one of the rare gems I came across and quickly fell in love with, becoming a regular follower of the series and the talents behind it. I also failed to mention the unfortunate loss of series creator Monty Oum early last year in my previous article, and his loss may have a tremendous impact on the future of the series. So you could imagine my joy when I discovered that there was also a manga released in addition to the anime! You could also imagine my disappointment when I realized that this printed version of one of my new favorite series was not what I would have expected…

Only one issue of this comic series has been released, or perhaps translated so far, but it already seems like it will be difficult to enjoy on the same level as the show. The manga actually spends more than half of its twenty pages showing images with no dialogue and there is really no story to be found in the whole book. There is a brief explanation of the danger of the creatures called “Grimm” and the use of “dust” to fight them, but I just feel like the pages could have been better used. With limited exposition and little dialogue to even introduce the characters or plot of the story, the first chapter for this comic leaves a lot to be desired for both regular fans of the anime and those who are just being introduced to the franchise.

With the way the first chapter was set up, I’m not really sure what they plan to do with the rest of the manga. Perhaps the manga will be used to tell some side stories that the anime gleans over, since there are a lot of time jumps within the story, or maybe it will tell a whole new story in the RWBY universe with the same characters, similar to the way shows like The Walking Dead borrow elements of the comics but don’t directly follow the plot or use the same characters in certain roles.

Most traditional anime derived from manga follow the source material very closely, in most cases almost exactly as it is in print. In some cases, when these comics are converted to cartoons, the stories are changed a bit more, like any American comic-to-cartoon conversion, to condense it into a single season or movie. Since this is a reversal, I don’t really know how the comic creators plan to spin it, but so far from the visuals on the page, I would assume they may take some liberties with the established world.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about the art choices either. I don’t recall the students of Beacon Academy ever wearing uniforms, but for some reason they are all depicted with regular prep school uniforms, which is standard in most Japanese comics but does not work for this series. Each character of RWBY is supposed to represent characters from different classic fairytales and this is indicated in their style of dress, so visually I believe that this detracts from the characterization. Only the main character, Ruby, is seen as she is originally drawn in the anime, at least for the first 14 pages — where there is all action and no dialogue as I mentioned earlier — perhaps those first pages are meant to be a long dream sequence.

With Monty Oum’s passing I know that even the anime has received some criticism from longtime fans. With Shirow Miwa helming the comic, I can only hope that it draws closer to Oum’s work. Anyway, I may look out for the next issue of RWBY, holding out some hope that it will be more closely aligned with the source material, but if I don’t see anything great come of it I may have to step away so I can at least continue enjoying Monty Oum’s legacy in the anime.

Marcus E. T.
About Marcus E. T. (74 Articles)
Marcus E.T. is a creative writer and journalist who enjoys reading manga, watching good movies, learning odd skills, traveling to new places, and playing video games when he isn’t trying to develop science fiction and fantasy stories of his own. Having had several short prose stories published, he also hopes to write comics and screenplays, but loves meeting creative people who inspire and entertain others.

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