{Posted 2/11/2018 23:44 PST}


Hey-0, gang.  It’s been a while since the last one.  I was going to do something else, and I started it but…

 

There was a 20 minute loud conversation with myself about a minor character’s drastic and inappropriate changes from the original graphic novel to the film “adaptation” and that is the tip of the iceburg for the first of three parts. 

 

I’m working on it.

 

Now however I have something I can review that’s relevant to Rooster Teeth and I certainly do have interesting and enthusiastic things to say about it without risking my mind exploding every twenty minutes over a slight towards the source material.

 

Also it’s the first full Manga I’ve ever read.  That will probably be worth something, even if it is just entertainment.

 

So, let’s move on to it, I’ve got words about the RWBY Manga* and I’m going to say them.

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*Okay, so there’s no indication on the book itself but what do I call this?  Is it a limited series?  Is this volume one?  Book one?  I know there are Japanese collections of two issues for the first four sets, but I’m not sure what toes are called either.  Does anyone know if it is still ongoing?  Sure I could and probably will look it up, but this is more of a rhetorical discourse and possibly the first slight criticism of the book.  I’d be satisfied if this is it and I’d also love if it continued, but I have no idea either way from the book itself.  Maybe that will make these first edition collections valuable once there is more and they reprint this but with a number.  We’ll call it Book 1 for now.

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From the Beginning, Right to Left

 

In the past I’ve tackled the stories of Guttermouth Reviews beat-by-beat first and we will, sort of, but I’m also not going to make you sit here to my complete reactions of about 250 pages.  I would definitely recommend reading it yourself, but I’m sure you can likely find more detailed summaries online.  Maybe your local library or library system has a copy.

 

One part of that is, frankly, I had trouble following some of the plot while first reading it.

 

It is not overly complicated as far as plots go.  I think most of the problems I had were between the particular medium and my inexperience with that medium.

 

-Manga is read right to left (I know this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned that, but I’ll lay off it soon) in most cases and then like a traditional comic down each individual page except in a splash page. 

-Manga is also in black and white with a majority of the art depicting the characters and important objects with relatively minimal backgrounds. 

-Manga is printed in a ratio smaller than western comics. 

Let’s be literal academics here and say that Manga uses a very particular and small set of tools.  These tools, as the pages in the RWBY book show, can be used to fantastic effects and I do not at all mean to put a limit on what the artists can accomplish or say that the medium is easy to work in. 

 

It does make some things difficult for me as a reader though.  Mostly the difficulty is with scene transitions (or lack thereof) and some of the more complicated action pieces.  One panel that’s just a picture of Weiss one dark room followed by another that is also just Weiss but now she’s in some other dark room after a period of time has passed is hard to figure before rethinking the dialog without a change in coloration, a narration box, or a discernable change in background.  Fair enough, there’s the black and white that’s ever present (except in one part I’ll talk about) but a later chapter takes place with several different groups of people in the woods and a simple “Meanwhile” box would go far to distinguish how far certain characters are from each other.  Character dialog (off panel sometimes) could also use some distinguishing factors in long conversations.  A font change for Weiss’s proper speech, Ruby’s usually fast speech in slight italics, &c. 

 

But okay, the art style is different.  That’s neither here or there when it is good.  And yes, the art is really good.  There’s some really fine (detailed) inking work with just as much effort put into the shading of dark and light patches where the ink is thick.  The movement is exquisite.  The combat in the Blake chapters especially just moves across the page and individual panels (or splash pages).  I also love the exaggerated faces and poses used for emotional (mostly comedic) effect.  Ruby has so many crazy eyes.

 

  Do you want to talk plot?  I want to talk plot now.  I’d also like to point out that the title of this first section was a pun.  Of course it was a pun.

 

The RWBY Manga “Book 1” really does start “From the Beginning” and for the first 8 chapters retells and elaborates upon the main four girls and their original trailers.  Each, as far as I can tell from the separate collections of the pairs, is named for the song featured in each trailer. 

 

MIXED LIGHT SPOILERS-------------------

 

-Red Like Roses- (Chapters 1 & 2) starts (In this book) with a glossy version of the Red trailer in black and white and RED.  This is a part that is proof positive of what just one color can do in art.  The few pages like this transition us from the world of the trailers and the show and into the manga by going to more traditional book paper and finishing the trailer in black and white.  Because the Red trailer is a fight scene with no dialog and little background, there’s not much to be elaborated on so it is largely supplemented with a solid introduction of the principal characters, the basics of the world, and where we are in the story for a majority of the manga in comparison to the show.  The bulk of the book actually takes place in the period of time between Volumes 1 & 2 of the show.  Little pieces build up to prove this, but it’s easily gathered.  RWBY bickers on their way to breakfast and there’s some exposition and character introductions leading up to Jaune being thrown across the cafeteria at the girls by Cardin Winchester.  Ruby stands up to the bully but before a fight breaks out Glinda intervenes and, suggests they fight in the arena.  Clearly she is the best teacher.  Also did you know Ruby has stage fright?   I didn’t.  It never really came up in the show and since she largely gets over it in the fight (while still being a weapon nut which is another focal point of her character here**).  The fight is good with some of the dialog being a version of why Ruby became a huntress.  What the take-away here is though is Ruby gains an even stronger mastery of her semblance and can do her rose petal thing at will now.  Harmony of mind I guess.  Ozpin also has a very telling moment about what he believes his students are about to face.  This section is good.  It captures the tone of the early series and starts mounting the tension with a cryptic cut to Roman. 

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** Take this less as a jab and more as a note of some slightly heavy handed foreshadowing.

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-Mirror Mirror- (Chapters 3 & 4) Is a much tighter story that takes place almost entirely within the White trailer.  Weiss is fighting the Grim Golem which is revealed to be a captured possession-type Grimm.  But that’s nothing when compared to the fact that it is revealed Papa Schnee isn’t even there when this is a challenge he issued to decide if Weiss could go to Beacon or not.  AND SHE HAS A CONCERT LATER THAT NIGHT.  The drama escalates.  Weiss and some woman (either Weiss’s handler or Papa Schnee’s secretary) are talking through this version though, about how distant Papa S has been over the years despite Weiss’s constant exhibitions of talent.  (We also get a brief glance of Winter.)  Weiss is also perfectly portrayed as aloof through almost the whole thing, even when she gets her scar.  In the end she wins the battle and her way and goes to sing in spite of her father.  For as little as I have to say about this portion I want to assure you I really enjoy it.  It was pitch perfect for character study of Weiss and the action here was pretty easy to follow.  This also has a very compelling instance of incidental exposition and foreshadowing for the rest of book.  It is a very good place to put some information we’re coming back to in later chapters.  But we’re getting to that eventually.  No need to spoil it now when I’ll spoil it later. 

 

-From Shadows- (Chapters 5 & 6) takes things into Blake’s head for the events of the Black trailer and has a significant amount of extra dialog and exposition.  Blake leads us lightly through the events of her life in relation to the White Fang and the general oppression of the Faunus.   The new leadership of the White Fang supported the methods of Adam and that got Blake on a train filled with weapons and dust.  And a crew Adam was willing to sacrifice and Blake wasn’t.  These chapters do several things really well.  First is we get to see more of a side of Adam that we haven’t anywhere else, an Adam in power and with everything going the way he wants.  An Adam who still believes he has Blake’s support.  It is mostly subtle things in the art like his intense grin and laughter as he attacks or his proud stance when standing next to Blake, but I can tell that Adam doesn’t have the undercurrent of frustration that the show gives him.  Second, I want to reiterate that this was one of the best actions sequences.  It closely follows Monty’s original choriography but adds things specially that only stagnant art can.  There’s one double splash page of Adam and Blake fighting a robot that has Adam in the lower right corner, where the action starts and the energy of the page moves out and up to the exploding automaton surrounded by Blake shadows moving around it but also still moving to the left and up.  In comics, motion like this (up a page but in the lateral direction of it being read) is explosive and the action is almost literally moving out and up from the page.  Also, having multiple versions of a character in one panel is a shorthand for even faster movement.  Specifically here though there is the extra context of us knowing Blake can have her shadows for only seconds after leaving them.  All of the motion being conveyed in this still image is compressed into even less time and thus has more concentrated energy.  Third, we continue the great expansion of all of these characters in the Manga.  There’s Blake’s internal speech, and all the detail put towards Adam’s characterization, but there’s also a button on chapter six that really dives into team RWBY.  Blake is in the bathroom looking into her reflection, it turns out that everything before was a dream (which could explain any inconsistencies to the show) and now Blake’s up early.  Yang bursts in because she misplaced her toothpaste and Weiss is chastising Yang’s carelessness and they see Blake without her bow.  It seems like the first real look they’ve gotten and that puts us squarely right after the finale of Volume 1.  Yang fauns over Blake’s cute ears in a way that really makes me support at least one side of Bumblebee. Weiss, in her way, opens up to Blake’s nature and concerns about being a Fauns and offers for Blake to be without her bow in private.  Let’s really think about this.  On the surface it may seem like Weiss is ashamed and nervous for herself, but what I think she’s really saying is that Blake, who is in fear of being cast back into the shadows of her past if people know she is a faunus (and a White Fang), does not have to be in that fear around her friends.  That’s something.  And where is Our Heroine***? She’s asleep still of course.  All four members of the team, perfectly represented in three pages.  This section is like that, very good and worth a lot of notes. 

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*** This is a bit of a “problem” inherent in the medium and also a bit of a nitpick.  It has happened before, but there’s a caption box in the final panel of chapter 6 that might be a translation issue or one that comes from me being new to manga.  The picture is of Ruby sleeping and the box is in the center(ish) of the panel. It took me some time to realize that this panel was completely disconnected from the scene that just unfolded except for it showing where Ruby was during it.  No one is saying “our heroine” about Ruby from the other three girls as I would have guessed.  I knew that interpretation was wrong because there is no connection to what any of them were just saying but the phrasing is so personal that I figured it had to be dialog because there aren’t any other narration boxes like it.  The RWBY manga has almost no narration and when there is non-diegetic/unconnected-from-a-character text in frame it is not in the font of the dialog as this box is.  A caption stating “Our Heroine” would be at home in a classic Marvel book where Stan Lee did much of the exposition for the comic and as if he was a good friend telling us the story at least once a page.  This came out of nowhere and that is the nitpick.  The medium challenges is that there is no color to differentiate this from anything else being said and it could be that the translation is just imperfect.  The closest thing to what was originally said likely is “our heroine” but to my very western mind that particular phrase complicates things.  Something with more detail like “Meanwhile, our heroine contributes to this morning’s peace in her own way.”  And something stylistically different could have helped too, like the Impact font that introduces each character and their affiliation.   I may as well add here that a lot of the awkward phrasing or seemingly random transitions of dialog probably amount to the same issue of being translated very closely, rather than a bit more localized in style and phrasing.  For me this is only a technical issue that doesn’t really detract to the quality of work, but how I interact with it.

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-I Burn- (Chapters 7 & 8) might be the least of the segments in the book.  There are no real problems with it narratively or anything like that, it actually follows the Yellow trailer very closely, adding dialog where needed for pacing.  That is mostly all that gets added.  There is a frame to this story about Yang’s protective relationship to Ruby who inspires her that is pretty strong, but it is maybe a fifth of the story and there’s little tangible connection between it and the Yellow trailer thematically.  Over the course of the fight Junior (Jr?) makes a comment about Yang being a dragon and it flashes back to Ruby complementing Yang’s beautiful dragon hair.  That’s something I suppose.  There’s also a nice moment with the two sisters getting drinks at the smashed up club at the end being pretty adorable but even that button feels less additive than Blake’s in the previous chapter.  The final page indicates Yang was searching for Torchwick, but there’s no indication to why.  So on its own this section is just the Yellow trailer with more words.  As a comic chapter it is a bit less because compared to the previous chapters the action is much messier.  There’s a lot going on and the characters involved have so detailed costumes that you really have to look at some panels for a while to figure out what’s going on.  I won’t say it is bad artwork because once I figured it all out it was really nice, but there was just so much going on and when all you see is black and white and some gray picking things apart is even more difficult.  But overall it was a fine.  It’s kind of like how every episode of Camp Camp is hilarious, but I don’t really watch Camp Cool Kidz after the first time.

 

SPOILERS ARE OVER FOR NOW------------------------

 

Now, that’s only two thirds(ish) of the book.  We’ve covered the origins of each of the main girls and went a little deeper into their characters each time.  The degrees do change but each show a new dimension to a trailer in…  Well, I was going to make a joke about it being in 2 dimensions, but since the show is cell-shaded the end result of an episode of RWBY is that it looks two dimensional, not to mention all film is on a screen and is thus still 2D…  But you know what I mean.  I’ve kinda derailed myself. 

 

Oh yeah, I remember my point.  These eight chapters are satisfying on their own and would have been worth a purchase, perhaps at a lower price, but still a fair one for a trade paperback of a short run.  However, that’s not all that we received.

 

(w)Holy Original Content, Hunts-Man!

 

I’m not quite sure what to call chapters 9-12 of the RWBY manga.  I don’t have any good puns relating to the story and there’s not much that stands out from it that is title worthy.  And nothing from the V1 soundtrack strikes me as a title either.  If you know what it is called or have a good suggestion, feel free to let me know.

 

The untitled chapters 9-12 are very good and a completely supplemental story that fills in some of the time during the latter half of RWBY and friends’ first semester at Beacon.  Just one weekend, but it shows some of the character progression during the time period in question.

 

This story has everyone, RWBY, JNPR, Ozpin, Glynda, Torchwick, The White Fang, and a special guest appearance form everyone’s favorite Combat Ready Best Girl.  Before we get to all of everything I should probably tell an abridged story of the events. 

 

MORE AND HEAVIER SPOILERS-------------------

 

Roman Torchwick and the White Fang are off in the woods searching for a remote entrance to Mountain Glen.  When they find it we cut to an exhausted Jaune doubting his own plan to take JNPR on a hike to fight some Grimm when he can barely handle the hike.  After some character expository dialogue and Pyrrha being best girl, RWBY is being informed by Glynda that JNPR went to go remove some King Taijitu on their own for an extra credit assignment they were going to do with RWBY and CRDL.  Glynda’s cold wit gets them going. As the White Fang remove the wooden planks that were supposed to keep the Grimm in the tunnels out scurries a very dangerous Grimm by Roman’s recollection.  It’s not anything that JNPR needs right now because the eight heads of four Grimm are tossing the students around.  That little grimm that came out of the tunnel makes its way to the fight and one tiny octopus thing plus four King Taijitu makes one very scary-looking Hydra Grimm.****  The battle ensues as JNPR discuss the fusion and increased power of the Grimm.  Luckily RWBY shows up and starts to help.  It is a good fight that is a bit like the Yellow fight in the “too much going on” way.  Though I understand it now, I spent some time on these pages.  There’s also some possible translation hiccups again where everyone shouts names at each other right before someone else speaks.  Most notably this is when Ruby says Jaune as if to continue speaking to him (though I now assume she’s saying “okay”) and Blake tells Ruby about a Grimm like this that once kept a rare and powerful weapon.  Weapon Nut Ruby (remember that character trait?) is even more interested in the battle now.  The random names and the wording of the dialog doesn’t quite gel.  It doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing Blake would have said in the heat of battle, even if it does convey the same message as the original language.  But we’re spending too long on that, we’ve got some for fight left.  AFTER WE DISCUSS ONE OF THE BEST CAMEOS EVER, OF ALL TIME.  Roman and the White Fang are flying off to tell Cinder they found the tunnel when out of nowhere a sword slices through their airship.  It’s Penny testing out a set of wings as a modular function of her body.  She’s just as adorable as she is in the show and she flies with her arms out in front of her because she thinks it looks hip and the voice on the other end of her radio gives an indication that Penny’s more real girl than robot when it comes to doing things the fun way.  Oh, and let’s not forget this conversation happens within second of her taking an unidentified craft out of restricted airspace.  Penny is great.  And back to the fight with the Hydra Grimm.  I don’t want to ruin it, but it plays out like all good RWBY fights with ship names combo moves being shouted, the characters interacting well, and some good action poses.  At the climax of the fight each character gets a panel that I would buy as a poster after Ruby thinks about why she became a huntress.  They beat the Grimm and Ozpin and Glynda (and Cardin) who were watching are adequately impressed.  Issue 12 is relatively short, Ooblek and Port confirm that the Octopus fusion Grimm is actually a type of possession Grimm like the one Weiss fought and the one in RWBY Chibi.  This one can just to the much more terrifying task of take over multiple “living” entities.*****  Follow this with some perfect character chemistry and a cryptic hint at what’s to come and then Ruby runs off to join her team and this book of the manga ends.

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****That’s issue 9.  If you think it’s a little all over the place, this and the following issues are where my earlier comment about the lack of easily identified transitions comes into play.  It’s not so often that it is a detraction from the story, it just could do with some transitional captions and being in black and white doesn’t help it.   

 

*****Okay, I know Grimm technically might not be “alive” really but this is the easiest way to differentiate from the floating mask that can take over rocks and kitchen appliances. 

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MAJOR SPOILERS ARE OVER NOW----------------------

 

I know I said that the part of this book that was the trailers was worth a purchase.  The section that is this mission with RWBY and JNPR is also worth its own purchase and more.  Even if you didn’t want the trailer sections (because you already have the other versions of them or something) I would recommend buying this book for the last chapters alone.  On a story level it is contained enough to be two or three episodes of RWBY proper but not be a intrinsic to the plot it also fits in so well with the story that it genuinely adds to the experience and understanding of RWBY.  I know I said a whole lot in both parts that there are good character moments and dialog that does read like the show’s but I didn’t actually say them.  That’s because they’re so good I don’t want to ruin that experience for you and I could get away with my summaries without telling them to you (mostly).  I think we all have a need for more fun early RWBY action and the last four chapters in this book bring that to you.

 

When the Dust Settles

 

This is an excellent addition to the RWBY canon. 

 

That is my final verdict and if all you needed was a yay or nay from me before picking up or reading it for yourself, there it is. 

 

If you don’t mind me elaborating on that thought and others though, I can do that too.

 

The RWBY Manga ties itself together well between the two distinct parts and to the Rooster Teeth series it is based upon.  The meat of the new content fills the gap between Volumes 1 and 2 with believable and accurate character progression and plot that you really should check out for yourself.  I may add to these thoughts later in an actual discussion of the events in the book, but for now the story here is still new to a lot of the audience and spoiler courtesy should be observed. 

 

The artistry here is to be applauded here too.  Shirow Miwa not only understands the characters and tone of RWBY but he also has a knack for intense action and good use of contrast.  I know I’m a newcomer but the black and white and detailed line work sometimes made things hard to follow quickly, but it is just busy, not bad.  There’s several panels I would use as decorational art.  I will also stand by the From Shadows chapters being some of the best and smoothest action I’ve seen in a while in comics.  This level of quality is in all the art, it is only the subjects that change and change the ease of experience.  There is also a slight difference between the style of the book and the show.  Everyone is still identifiable as the characters and such, but there’s enough of a difference to tell.  I’d point out Weiss, Ozpin, and Jaune particularly.  This again is not a bad thing at all, just something worth noting.

 

The translation at times can be less than clear, at least to a guy who reads things mostly written in English and almost exclusively Western based comics.******  I can understand everything, it just takes some particular thought sometimes.  If anything this makes me want to read more manga though because the cultural and lingual differences weren’t at all the barriers I had anticipated.  It was actually easier than some anime that I have watched.  And if I can do it, y’all probably can too.

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******Zot! is one of my favorite comics of all time and is based heavily on Manga style though it is written by an American in English.  I also really enjoy Monstress in the trades and if they weren’t so darn expensive I’d have all the Avatar comics by now.  That’s certainly another barrier for me.  20 book stories for $10-$15 each is more than I can invest right now into my entertainment.  And if we’re really sort of stretching, I play JRPGs often and am a fan of Kingdom Hearts as much as I am a fan of Red vs Blue, so I’m not adverse to Eastern storytelling at all. 

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Sure, I’ve got my nitpicks, but I mostly played them up for the laughs here or left them out entirely.  The only real criticisim I can levy against the RWBY Manga is when it diverges from the guiding style it establishes such as the one narration box when all other narration is done in dialog or with text that looks different. 

 

In addition to the glossy first few pages with color, there’s also a fold-out “poster” of an altered version of the cover art that also has some light introductory lore on the back.  This is nice for two reasons.  1) If it is indeed a poster to be removed, it would look really nice.  I can’t find any perforation myself so I’m not going to try it.  2) It further allows for this to be either a stand-alone piece or an introduction into RWBY for a reader.  For reasons evident in my summaries, there is a self-contained story here that you could understand just from reading the book.  It’s not nearly as satisfying as it would be if you watched the show too, but all of the exposition done in the first half of the book has pay-off in the climax. 

 

Yes, I really enjoyed the RWBY Manga (Book 1) and I would not only say it is worth its price for a full collection of a RWBY supplemental story in a nice package, but each individual segment is something I want to have as a part of my collection of RWBY media.  At its very least it is a slight new perspective on events and at its best it compounds on character traits and expands the world of RWBY. 

 

But what about you guys?  Did you read the Manga and how did you experience it?  Did you wait for the American hard-copy release like me or read along with each chapter in the magazines?  What did you think of it all?  If you haven’t read it, do you think you will or not? 

 

Of course, feel free to also continue the conversation from where I left things in the comments.  I typed this all out in Word, so I had to label my spoilers differently but let’s all be respectful of the possibility someone might want to go into this blind and just be generally respectful if you comment.  I look forward to it as much as I do to the continuation of the Manga that I am not sure will happen or not. 

 

Thanks for reading,

-008


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