It was around late 2013 when I'd first heard of Monty Oum. It was from a YouTube video discussing his latest project at the time, the animated web series "RWBY". The video was made by Gigguk and covered the first Volume of the show. It looked interesting and I was intrigued. At the time I'd been watching many anime that the community deemed "classics" or good shows, but it was also at this time I'd noticed how a lot of anime in it's approach to animation, how characters were animated, scenes framed, and more felt stilted. But I as the lazy person I was (and still am) did not approach RWBY, not out of a shared dislike that the anime community had, but because after that I didn't hear much about the show.
Around a year and few months passed when I decided to approach the show. However I still to this day regret the fact that I didn't begin watching RWBY until the passing of Monty Oum. I still remember how on Facebook his death was trending and for once beat out stupid polical parties for news and attention. I was myself surprised because of how young he was - 33. At the same time both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of RWBY were made avaliable on Netflix and I then finally went for it and watched the show. And I fell in love with it like no other show.
My best comparison of feeling towards RWBY is my love of other series like Bleach, my favorite anime and tv show; Rurouni Kenshin, my favorite manga series of all time; Star Wars, one of my favorite movie franchises; and Jurassic Park. The thing was that I had heard so much criticism leveled at this show towards its voice acting, animation, and approach to story, yet upon actually watching the anime for myself I found that much of this criticism was blown way out of proportion and literal virtuol. In particular the voice work of Lindsay Jones as the main heroine Ruby Rose pulled me straight into the world. Here was this little girl who wielded a giant scythe / sniper rifle and took on a group of mooks in a setting that looked straight out of the RPGs and video games I liked so much but emulating the cool appearance and style much better than other anime. The fact that this was 3D animation with a 2D aesthetic for its characters also drew me in as nothing looked bulgy or out of place - sans minor things. But the action -God the action I so loved. The moment Ruby threw a mook out a window in Episode 1, leaped out and the RWBY theme song played from her music player, and she twirled and swung that scythe confidently - that made me believe in this character as a hero despite the fact that at only a few minutes, I still didn't understand what the world or its story was about.
But then the next scene brought me in. It was just Ruby Rose being interrogated by Glynda Goodwitch - who a scene prior had an excellent fight scene with series antagonist Cinder Fall - and whom Ruby just gushed over. Already from her conversation and Lindsay's acting I know who the character is - I don't understand exactly what a Huntsman is, but Ruby's love of the job, wanting to be a hero for non-selfish reasons, and how totally serious yet at the same time goofy Lindsay to illustrate who Ruby is, made me immediately like this character. And after watching all of Volume 1 in a day and getting introduced to Weiss, Blake, Yang, and others, and falling in love again during RWBY's battle with the Nevermore Grimm - specifically the action married with awesome song sung by Casey Lee Williams - I knew RWBY would be one of my favorite shows ever. I then watched all of Volume 2 the next day which had the action, funny character moments from Ruby and her friends, cool music, and just cool style overall that I liked. But it was also improved upon and to some extent, Volume 2 is one of my favorite volumes for how much tighter of a story it was in order to carry out its cool action and fun.
It's February 1, 2018, three years after Monty Oum's passing. I should mention that once I watched RWBY it also made me interesting in Rooster Teeth, the company that created the show that Monty Oum worked for. But I also became interested in Monty himself and to this day feel a great shame for not having followed Monty Oum's work while he was alive. It was not long after I watched the show that I bought Volume 1 and 2 on Blu-Ray and there listened to Monty's commentaries on both Blu-rays, looked up his older videos like Haloid, Dead Fantasy, and interviews and panels featuring Monty discussing animation. Distinctly a panel he held with Jordan Cwierz discussing animation has always stuck with me. He was both silly and serious when he talked about animation, not one to hesitate making a joke or funny comment, but also respond respectfully and answer something seriously. But what most got me was his mentioning of how animation should mimic reality, how you animate, draw, and bring to life characters and worlds should be done and practiced by watching movies, shows, other animation, but especially reality itself. And the thing was his comments which really made me realize why Monty's animation stood out against other anime reminded me of similar words that Director Hayao Miyazaki said.
I don't like all of Miyazaki's works to be completely honest, but I do agree with him in his approach and persepctive on animation. It wasn't even that long ago that he mentioned why Ghibli's work always looks and feels different from a majority of anime is because of the fact that many animators who create anime don't observe reality, they observe other anime, and create new anime mimicking other anime. But that life like feel towards animating human beings and animals and whatever your anime is about, is lost. I still remember a documentary about how Miyazaki worked on the film Spirited Away, how he was trying to describe a dogs panting and breathing and also how the movement of a snake falling looks like. But his entire team of mostly younger animators had no idea what that looked like, they'd become so modernized that they never interacted with animals or nature like Miyazaki had in his youth which led Miyazaki to sigh and bring his entire team to an animal shelter for them to gain that interactive experience for reference. Thus in Spirited Away, the beasts and animals in how they move resemble real animals much closer than other anime.
Its here that I bring up my surprise when I learned Monty Oum did not have a background of a traditional animator. He never went to college or even completed high school and wasn't the best student. But he always had a creative mind and from what his coworkers say of him always was creating - be it his show RWBY, to cosplay, to taking apart computers and modifying them to suit his needs, to a paint gun, legos, whatever. It was even described that he had a special blu-ray player that played film at a slower or faster rate in order for Monty to really observe and see how images moved for reference. A lot of his old work is also products that are derivative, he taught himself how to gain the data from video games in order to use them for animating and continued at that even into his time at Rooster Teeth. He didn't go to CalArts or other animation houses, worked for larger companies like Disney or Cartoon Network, yet his approach to animation was just different and more vibrant and not stilted and strict like other animators. I'd argue he was bound to become the best animator of our time.
Monty Oum... it's strange to speak of him and know that he's gone. Yet what he created, what he managed to bring to life in Haloid, Dead Fantasy, Red vs. Blue, and RWBY, along with much of his other work in a way keeps his spirit alive and well. I don't know if Monty Oum's name will be remembered ten years, twenty years, or a hundred years from now, but I do know his work likely will. In some ways like Walt Disney, he didn't die but he became the art that he created which now is viewed and loved by many people around the world. RWBY has spawned a video game, an official Japanese dub, many manga series, a large and loving following of fans from Asia to Latin America and Europe and beyond. I think that now we're past the point of whether or not RWBY is an anime, it undoubtedly is. But the more important question is of whether or not it's great, and in my opinion as a fan of anime, animation, and media ever since I was small, I would say that RWBY is indeed Great.
Thank you Monty. You inspire me. It's still part of a dream of mine to become an animator but more importantly, to be able to have a gift to bring to life characters and stories that have a spirit of their own. And I'm not alone - many have been touched by your works and still are inspired to pursue their dreams. We'll keep moving forward.