Hello, as you may have guessed by the title, this post is intended to analyse Yang’s volume 4 story-line/character arc, combined with some look backs into previous volumes. It’s going to be divided into multiple sections and will involve some theorising, compliments and critique
Before anything else though, I would like to get a few things out of the way.
- I love RWBY, have done so for a long time, despite the fact there will be critique within this post. I certainly wouldn’t be writing an essay if I didn’t love the show.
2. I consider V3 to be one of the high marks off writing, managing to pay off two and a half volumes worth of build-up, mystery and hints in an explosive six episode finale. I also acknowledge that something similar may be going on here, can’t predict the future after all, but that does mean I can only offer my views on what is currently out.
3. I do not deny that the writing, or the characters have the best intentions, and am certainly, in no way trying to ascribe malice to the characters being discussed in certain parts of this essay (Well except Adam). Nor do I think I know better than the writers themselves, however, an opinion piece is what it is, now let’s get on with the essay.
Yang’s Volume 4 Arc
Tai Yang Xiao Long
What happens if you miss?
What happens if they’re stronger?
Now you’re just weak and tired
Keep a level head
Think before you act
Can’t rely on it as it won’t always save you
Take a second look, maybe you see there’s a way around as well.
Before going forward, I would like to clarify, Yang’s sadness, bitterness and anger at the end of volume three, as well as her seeming listless behaviour, sadness at the prospect of the arm and PTSD at the beginning of V4, were all amazing, powerful and really well done.
Throughout volume 4, Yang was faced with picking up her shattered psyche from her traumatic experiences at the end of volume 3. Most overly discussed was the loss of her arm, her depression, and her ‘fear’ in the form of PTSD.
Based on what happened during V3 I feel other matters may have been weighing heavily on Yang’s mind. Specifically, those who died (Penny & Pyrrha) the loss of Beacon (Which she described as home) her reputation being destroyed, being told her mother would not show her ‘kindness’ again and finding out Qrow had been in contact with Raven, despite having believed no one knew anything about Raven previously. Finally, and perhaps most heavily, RWBY as a team falling apart (Everyone left, one way or another) and Blake departure specifically almost left Yang in tears.
Yang’s Volume 4 Arc
This arc was, I believe, the shortest of any member of team RWBY’s in terms of screen time and was set to cover some very complicated issues that I acknowledge could come up again in the future. The issues portrayed, discussed or focussed on were, depression, PTSD, Yang’s prosthetic, Raven and Yang’s combat record.
My overall view on this arc is, complicated. As I said, it could, have been setting up things for the next few volumes that will pay off later, but as it stands I cannot be sure. Beyond that, I feel its initial portrayal of depression and PTSD were excellent, but their handling became more worrisome later, worries that were exacerbated by the low amount of screen time.
Traits associated with depression include:
Depression is a complicated issue, and more than that, it is a borderline overwhelming thing for a person to face. Depression is more than just being sad, depression is a powerful, overwhelming shift in one’s mental state that is often long lasting, incredibly damaging and obscenely difficult to overcome by virtue of the effect it has on the victim's mind.
- Trouble with concentration and or memory
- Feeling sad most of the time (more than 50%), most days, for more than 2 weeks
- Crying easily, or often
- Feeling lethargic, tired, or unmotivated
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Feeling flat, or not feeling any emotion (feeling empty)
- Feeling restless, and unable to sit still
- Feeling guilty or embarrassed beyond what is reasonable
- Worrying excessively
- Suicidal ideas, thoughts or actions
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Loss of sex drive
- Poor quality sleep, or excessive sleep
I have bolded the traits I feel Yang most overtly displayed. Given what she went through at the end of Volume 3, I do not think that falling into a depression is unreasonable.
When we see Yang at the end of volume 3 she is at the tail end of what was probably one of the worst experiences in her life.
- She has her reputation ruined on the world stage.
- Has been doubting her sanity.
- Had almost been reduced to tears at the thought of Blake losing faith in her.
- She’s told her birth mother “saved her once” but “not to expect that kindness again.
- Finds out her uncle has been implicitly lying to her about not having seen his sister for years (Yang thought that no one had seen Raven since she left).
- Her home (she called Beacon home) is burnt down and conquered by Grimm.
- Her team is torn apart.
- Friends die.
- Her strength failed her when she needed it most.
- She lost her arm.
- She failed to save her partner.
- Blake then leaves her while she’s bleeding and unconscious after Yang had just tried to save her. (The second time, at a minimum, she has been abandoned with no explanation.)”
I say two problems despite it being one statement because it is two issues.
So yes, Yang would have had a lot to try and deal with.
By the time we see Yang in V4, she has made some steps towards recovery, she has left her bed and is shown doing chores around the house. Though her general movements appear listless, with her motivation to do much of anything seemingly lacking based on how she looked at the books and how uninvested she was in the TV.
(She did gain focus and attention when Adam was mentioned. It is Adam draws her attention, but much like most of what happened in V3 he is not addressed, only her missing arm is focussed on as the source of the problems. THis is despite the fact Yang herself barely seemed to linger on it at the end of V3.)
Then Tai brings home a gift, she looks excited for a moment, only for it to turn out to be a prosthetic arm, something she is told is a reward for fighting well. Tai is enthusiastic and wants Yang to try it on, but Yang… She looks dejected, stressed and upset.
Overall, great scene, and I will focus in on the arm again at a later stage.
So at this point the handling of depression has been great, then things take an odd turn (Some of which will be covered in the PTSD segment). Yang awakens from a nightmare and overhears they have company. She comes down to find Port and Oobleck chatting about Tai’s old school days (my issues with “man wears a skirt” being a joke aside) this intro is very well done. Yang enters the room and despite a little awkwardness, they all mesh and begin picking up the conversation, Yang even seems happy to have company, then Raven comes up.
Now, as was established just moments ago, they were discussing Tai and co’s school years, of which Raven was a part. Yet once Yang is there, Tai tries to shut down the discussion, despite the fact this would just be Academy era discussion and Yang clearly wants to know, seeking out her birth mother has been her goal since before the trailer.
Yang calls Tai on this and things quickly escalate into a very charged argument, one that makes Port and Oobleck look uncomfortable. During in it, Tai diverts the question of Yang wanting to know more about Raven and instead makes it about whether Yang is “ready for the real world” (keep in mind Yang has faced terrorists, crippling injuries, the death of her mother and seemingly helped raise Ruby.)
The fight culminates in him throwing Yang’s injury in her face and insulting her intelligence (this will be important later). Everything is tense and awkward, it's clear everyone knows this was a horrible thing to do, but then Yang laughs, drops the subject (one that is extremely important to her) and everyone starts discussing her arm.
There’s a lot of ways this is uncomfortable, some of which I’ve noted above regarding diverting the topic, denying Yang information even about her birth mother's academy years even though he is seemingly chill with discussing that with others.
But the prime focus here is on Yang’s depression.
Insulting a depressed person and reminding them of their trauma is not a good thing and I am not aware of any studies that indicate it’s a good idea. Given Tai was surprised Yang didn’t like or want the arm I feels it’s fair that I doubt his knowledge of Yang’s psyche in regards to the idea that he would know how best to help her.
However things get more uncomfortable later, matters regarding Yang’s arm and PTSD will be discussed below so I will skip ahead to Tai’s speech.
Many aspects of it are encouraging and warm, however two things stand out:
1. He says that he will be there for Yang (good) when she stops “moping around” (This feels extremely bad)
2.Tai is putting a condition of his support for Yang, namely that she stop feeling depressed and become active/combat ready based on the context of the discussion and his response to her putting the arm on.
3. He disparages her depression as “moping around.”
Now, I will not attribute malice to Tai. He clearly loves his children, however that does not preclude him from making errors, even very large ones. SImilarly, while the creators obviously love the world and characters, handling a delicate issue like depression is hard and I feel the matter requires reflection and a delicate touch.
I feel that Tai of all characters regarding Yang’s depression and trauma as “moping” is both reductive, but also hypocritical.
When Yang talked about Summer’s death and the impact It had on their family, she noted that her father “shut down”.
###a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201412/straightforward-model-depression" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201412/straightforward-model-depression&source=gmail&ust=1489061990905000&usg=AFQjCNHykvT_j--7XogbKEJ74bvK-ljK0Q">;https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201412/straightforward-model-depression
Yang talks about this with sadness and respect, she does not deride Tai for his grief, nor critique him for it or any actions he took during this period.
This is despite the fact that Tai was evidently in such a state where he would consistently leave his grieving (6? & 4?) year old daughters alone, in a cabin in the woods. Woods that have Grimm in them. He did this with enough consistency that a six year old Yang could bank on it and travel deep into the island while pulling a cart full of Ruby for hours and no one noticed or caught up until she made it to the house & they almost got killed. .
But while Tai’s depression and the ensuing dangers faced by his children due to his grief-stricken bout of irresponsibility (We also have no idea how long he was depressed or shut down after that) is treated with seriousness and gravity, Yang’s is dismissed as moping. This is despite the fact she went through a trauma conga line and the fact depression is such a horrendous thing for someone to face.
Yet this is seemingly phrased as the right way to handle someone who went through all that Yang did, insult, place conditions on assistance and degrade their genuine emotional pain and issues as something minor.
Suffice to say, I do not feel this was a good way to handle depression.
However, if the intent was for Tai to be trying but not really knowing what he was doing then kudos, I look forward to what comes next!
But as I said, we have what we have to analyse for volume 4 and Tai’s… handling of Yang’s various mental health struggles does not, in my mind, improve.
Note: I do not consider “it worked” or “he knows her better than a fan” as valid arguments against my points. One can certainly make them, but I feel the research on how to help someone through depression and the fact characters are meant to be ‘people’ with flaws and failings, serve as a stronger base for analyse.
The signal for Yang suffering from PTSD is most clearly demonstrated during her panic attack when the glass broke. Whether the trigger was the shattering glass or her trying to use a limb that was no longer present is up for debate. But in either case, Yang did indeed show symptoms of trauma and PTSD through flashbacks and the nightmare she experienced.
Due to less scenes focussing on it, these issues were not as clearly demonstrated as her depression, but these events do, I feel, indicate that Yang was indeed suffering from PTSD. Though it is also possible that she was suffering from similar conditions known as, "combat fatigue" or "battle neurosis" and “Combat Stress Reaction”.
=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_stress_reaction&source=gmail&ust=1489061990905000&usg=AFQjCNFb8dto0acMme-woHbCIr71wnCPwA">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_stress_reaction (Department of the Army (2009). Field Manual No. 6-22.5. Combat and Operational Stress Control Manual for Leaders and Soldiers. Department of the Army Headquarters, Washington, DC, 18 March 2009. p 12.)
Regardless, both of these conditions are associated heavily with trauma, often born of combat or dangerous situations. They have been linked with hallucinations, flashbacks, nightmares, fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's surroundings, and inability to prioritise.
There are also many long lasting and deep impacts to these traumas. I feel that these are worthy of consideration for two reasons. First, because some readings could see such elements having initially influenced Yang’s shift in behaviour. Second, because they focus on how best to help someone suffering from PTSD/trauma and helping them deal with the changes such experiences bring about within them.
- Changes in personality: After trauma we want to believe —as do you—that life can return to the way it was; that we can continue as who we were. This is not how it works. Trauma leaves a huge and indelible impact on the soul. It is not possible to endure trauma and not experience a psychic shift.
Expect us to be changed. Accept our need to evolve. Support us on this journey.
- Disassociation: One of the largest problems with PTSD is that it takes over our entire view of ourselves. We no longer see clearly. We no longer see the world as we experienced it before trauma. Now every moment is dangerous, unpredictable and threatening.
Gently remind us and offer opportunities to engage in an identity outside of trauma and PTSD.
- Loss of identity: We are no longer grounded in our true selves. In light of trauma our real selves retreat and a coping self emerges to keep us safe.
Believe in us; our true selves still exist, even if they are momentarily buried.
- Loss of control: We cannot help how we behave. Since we are operating on a sort of autopilot we are not always in control. PTSD is an exaggerated state of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us. We act out accordingly in defence of those feelings we cannot control.
Be patient with us; we often cannot stop the anger, tears or other disruptive behaviours that are so difficult for you to endure.
- Damage to certain faculties: We cannot be logical. Since our perspective is driven by fear we don’t always think straight, nor do we always accept the advice of those who do.
Keep reaching out, even when your words don’t seem to reach us. You never know when we will think of something you said and it will comfort, guide, soothe or inspire us.
Such traumas have a deep impact and are not something a person can just get over easily or in a short timeframe, often the effects can even be permanent if manageable. Time is also irrelevant in this regard, thanks to its very nature PTSD ensures that the trauma remains fresh in the mind and sensations of the body, as though it just occurred, time is of no help.
One of the biggest imperatives is to not rush someone suffering from PTSD, trying to force a speedy recovery will only lead to them clinging to the trauma more.
People suffering from PTSD are not ignoring their problems, or hiding from them, it takes tremendous will and effort to simply live normally (like Yang was trying to do) with PTSD. Asking someone who is suffering from PTSD to divert their focus from staying grounded can divide their focus and undermine all of their efforts. Sometimes just getting up and continuing the daily routine is the biggest and most important step towards recovery.
One of the most worthwhile things a person can offer a victim of PTSD are safe spaces where they can feel secure and supported.
Isolation is terrible for victims of PTSD, in a post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by the one struggling. It matters that even when they are not behaving perfectly, not always in control, that there are people who will support them.
Suffice to say, I do not feel that Tai was particularly helpful on this front.
When Yang suffered a flashback in the kitchen his response was to watch in silence before turning and leaving. Perhaps Yang desires space to reassert her own control but without that being established it simply presents Tai as leaving Yang alone to suffer through a panic attack.
Given his later statements regarding “moping around” and how he would be there for her only when she stopped (Yes he has supported Yang so far) that kind of statement is loaded & places a heavy burden upon Yang and removes the sense of assured support, security and normality she had strived to achieve which Yang herself referenced.
Now, I understand that due to the nature of the series showing all of this would be difficult, recovery times need to be streamlined. However the method by which said recovery was reached and how little of it we got to see, as I noted above, make it feel rushed and Tai’s methods feel… unpleasant and reductive, both to the subject matter and Yang.
Though as I also said above, if it turns out that Yang is not better at all and may even be getting worse, that is another matter and a development I’d almost certainly love.
Now I feel is a good time to discuss how Yang’s arm seemed to be treated by Yang and those around her.
Namely, when brought up, it was often seemingly in the context of combat or returning to action, while Yang looked upon the arm with dread and sadness.
What I mean by this is, when Tai surprised her with the arm, he talks about how it’s a reward from Ironwood for fighting at the Battle of Beacon. When it gets brought up again by Oobleck he talks about how it seems like people are eager to see her return to normal with the implication that ‘normal’ is to action/fighting.
This is seemingly something Yang expresses fear and discomfort over.
Why is this important?
Mostly, it’s because it feels like the arm is not treated as a means to make Yang’s life easier, but as a weapon to fight with. It's not a gift to help her live, it's a tool to get her back into action. The idea that she may not want to return to being a Huntress, may not feel she is capable of it, does not seem to occur to anyone as an option.
Now, we as the audience know that Yang will one day return to the fight.
However, the pressure/expectation that a traumatised fighter should return is not a healthy environment for Yang to be in given her trauma & depression.
href="https://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=https://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/&source=gmail&ust=1489061990905000&usg=AFQjCNFbQHjIVRLsnP5N6LlFGOtH0fXviA">https://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/<>
The camera work when Oobleck asks if Taiyang would go after Ruby is worth noting as is Yang’s body language and facial expressions. It starts in Yang's perspective with her & the audience hearing what is being said outside. It then cuts to Oobleck's question, Taiyang's response and then it cuts back to Yang. Who between hearing what was said, is implied to be responding to what she heard. What does she do? She looks to the prosthetic after Taiyang says that he can't go after Ruby because he has something to take care of which is interpreted by most to be Yang.
href="http://www.enki-village.com/facial-expressions-list.html" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://www.enki-village.com/facial-expressions-list.html&source=gmail&ust=1489061990905000&usg=AFQjCNF4_nR4jf19-O-Fd3UQqSjgTfvkIw">http://www.enki-village.com/facial-expressions-list.html<>
Then the next day she has put the arm on, and Tai wants to begin training immediately.
Now, Yang being pressured/guilted (Unintentionally) into putting on the arm seemed to be implied by her expressions and body language in the scene where she overheard Tai & her former teachers talking.
However, the next time we see Yang she’s smiling, confident and seemingly largely ‘over’ her depression, save perhaps not being quite as peppy as she used to be.
This feels… rushed, to say the least. Especially so, given what seemingly led to Yang putting the arm on and we the viewer not being able to see her overcome, confront or in one form or another ‘deal with’ her depression, the recovery feels out of left field.
Additionally, while I have no strict issue with the arm itself, I do question the purpose of cutting off Yang’s original arm if her replacement is not only adapted to so quickly, but there are no lingering emotional or physical issues associated with it.
Another matter that I feel is worth consideration is how the narrative and cast treat Yang’s injury.
At the end of volume three, Yang barely makes note of her lost arm, instead speaking of Beacon’s fall, lost friends and almost crying over Blake running away.
Yet despite that, all her issues and heartbreak for this volume are connected to her arm, with seemingly not thematic, narrative of psychological references really made towards what else was lost at the battle of Beacon.
This feels rather off to me, given the previously established importance all of these different pains and their impact on Yang. Once again, if this was intentional and building up to something, then that’s difference, though RT you can only tease for so long XD
This is something I alluded to earlier in the essay but will be addressing in full here; it is also a matter that applied to all of team RWBY throughout Volume 4.
Please allow me to clarify my position.
The split up of Team RWBY in Volume 3 was amazingly well done and heartbreaking.
Over the course of more or less a year, RWBY have lived together, learned together, fought and had fun and most of all, grown together. Then in the span of a day and night, Cinder’s machinations tear it all apart without that even being her or Salem’s primary goal. The breaking of the fellowship so to speak, was merely the fallout to their true plan, RWBY are debris, and that is incredibly powerful.
More than that, we have seen all of them progress or grow closer together or thanks to one another.
Ruby gained a greater sense of maturity and responsibility as a leader and also grew more social and confident in general.
Weiss reflected on her own views regarding Faunus and chose to work through them and not only continued to stay away from her abusive father but rejected him entirely in volume 3 despite the potential consequences.
Blake opened up about her past and found new friends and a partner who were willing to help her in her goals and could help foster her dreams of positive human and Faunus relationships. Even more, she was willing and capable of facing down her abusive ex-partner despite her own reservations and trauma.
Yang did not have so much of an ‘arc’ as the others did, a problem I will note elsewhere. She did however grow to have a close bond with both of her new teammates, her pride in Ruby was evident, her and Weiss’s relationship was positive and she was willing to reveal something extremely personal and traumatic in a bid to help Blake, showing just how much Blake meant to her.
And then in one night, it’s all torn apart.
Ruby was disconnected from her team and rushing in solo against Roman and Neo, only winning thanks to Grimm intervention. Her goal of being a hero and her ideal of a Huntress were questioned, she saw her sister had lost an arm, Blake as an emotional wreck, and she failed to save a friend before being rendered comatose.
Weiss’s team was left physically helpless, so traumatised that they fled and too emotionally and physically damaged to support her when Jacques came for her. She found herself pulled back into the household she’d tried so hard to escape, helpless and alone against the power and influence of her abusive father.
All the progress Blake had made meant nothing, the White Fang were tearing apart a symbol of hope and, however flawed, shared guardianship to human and Faunus. She faced down her oldest and most terrible demon and she not only lost but was left to watch helplessly as Yang tried to save her and Adam cut off her arm just to make Blake suffer. Her fears, her trauma, it’s all too much and she falls back on a trauma response and runs.
Yang had already been left questioning her sanity, her world reputation is in ruins, she’s left being questioned by Blake that left her nearly in tears and then her home is burning down. She can’t find her sister, tries to save a seemingly too wounded to fight Blake with all of her might and fury, and she loses, in an instant. When she wakes up her partner has run out on her, friends are dead her home is gone, Ruby is in a coma and her arm is gone, just like that she lost so much.
So as I said, this was all incredibly well done, the characters relationships, their accomplishments and how they were all challenged and received a powerful smack down as a by-product of the villain’s schemes. The breaking of RWBY, each one of them being isolated is both thematic and narratively powerful given Salem’s goals to divide people and it’s treated as a terrible tragedy.
Yang I feel is especially a good example of this, as when she tells Ruby she is “not OK”; it’s their lost home, dead friends, taken Weiss and run-away Blake that she mentions, not her arm, but the lost loved ones.
But in Volume 4, seemingly the best time to show how being separated has hurt them, to show how much they mean to each other they’re… fine?
No, not fine, but the breaking of RWBY is not, I feel, given much attention.
We see Ruby look sad at the mention of the SDC, Blake discusses her team maybe twice, but each time it's brought on by someone else or circumstances bringing them up first. Yang makes reference to her arm that could be construed as referencing Blake but that’s theory and Weiss doesn’t mention her team at all.
Now, not discussing their teams alone would not be a big thing, Weiss has few she could confide in and doesn’t discuss her feelings openly, Ruby seemed to be implied to be putting up a façade. Blake also doesn’t talk about her problems very easily and Yang could be read as someone who hides her troubles unless they’re too cataclysmic for her to fake her way through.
However, we also got no other indications they were thinking of each other.
Ruby could have woken up instinctively asking for Yang, or had a dream about her team. Ruby did have her letter, but she had so little focus this volume that it felt a little tacked on. (It was a great letter though, and I feel the fact she both wrote to Yang and not Tai and noted that Yang had a right to rest and recover was very important.)
Weiss could have told her father how he dragged her away from her team, or Klein that she had more family besides Winter.
Blake could have been shown looking longingly at a picture of her team. (She may have been about to discuss them with her father, but Sun interrupted and nothing came of it, which felt like a tease with no pay off)
Yang could have seen them in a dream or nightmare or been shown looking at a picture or even openly discussed how she was left behind by her entire time (some not so willingly) as part of why she is so “mopey”.
The end result is, I feel like the team making so little reference to each other undermines the title of the show, the main advertised relationship and focus, and sort of leaves there being no pay off for all that grief at the breaking.
If they are all just trying to push it out of their minds and will maybe have some sort of break down or massive emotional moment later that could potentially work. But as of right now, with so little reference made to one another, I feel it may lack sufficient build up and come across as awkward unless something is done to better establish how much they mean to each other.
Note: I do grasp that their more subdued behaviour could be a sign of the effect, but I also feel there comes a time when subtext needs to become overt text or else it loses meaning and impact.
Family is, a complicated topic for Yang, in part because of all the drama associated with STRQ falling apart and the mystery around Raven. Whatever the case, family, both by blood and not, is intrinsically tied to Yang’s overarching storyline and character, just as the SDC is to Weiss’s or the White Fang is to Blake’s for example.
Why do I say this? Let’s look at the trailers introducing us to the advertised main and title characters:
Ruby Rose: Facing down Grimm (fights monsters, silver eyed warrior)
Weiss Schnee: Technically facing down a Grimm, but it’s a creation of her father’s meant to bludgeon her into submission (She is fighting her father and the SDC)
Blake Belladonna: Fighting against both implicit oppression against Faunus, but also under the thumb of her abusive and maniacal partner whom she cuts off (She is fighting both oppression and Adam’s ideals of violence)
Yang Xiao Long: On the face of it, she’s fighting a gang of criminals cos she ticked them off getting info, but why is she doing so? (Because she is searching for information on her long lost birth mother.)
Each of the main cast had a physical opponent, but there was a narrative/theme/motive behind their battles that ties into their overarching characters, background and storylines and in Yang’s case it directly relates to her search for Raven, answers and the importance of family.
Overall, Yang’s storyline has probably gotten the least attention across the volumes, she rarely brings it up and is rarely ever approached on the matter save after blasting Mercury. V4 has brought Raven up in greater detail, to the point of Tai comparing Yang to Raven, claiming Yang was also different from Raven, though not specifying how, and then citing Raven as at fault for their team falling apart. Given Tai got together with Summer & Qrow was clearly still involved with Yang and Ruby, Tai’s rendition of events feels… inconsistent.
Three events are my main focus here:
- Tai claimed he couldn’t go after Ruby, implicitly because he had to take care of Yang, causing Yang to put on the arm.
- Once Yang has ‘recovered’ and readying to leave, Tai confronts her regarding ‘who’ Yang is going after and when Yang leaves is shown as having stayed home.
- When Yang sees a choice between Mistral or ‘Bandits’ and opts to go to Mistral.
So, there’s a few things to cover here.
With #1 kept in mind we see just how important family is to Yang, despite her depression, her fears and her trauma, guilt compels her to put on the arm. Either to allow Tai to go seek out Ruby, or so she can do so herself. However, I feel the potential fallout or implications of this being Yang’s motivation are not really bared out at the time of writing.
On #2 Despite saying he would go after Ruby if he didn’t have something ‘to take care of’ implied to be Yang; Tai not only stays at home, but seemingly places the onus on Yang to find Ruby with his intense question regarding ‘who’ Yang is seeking. Despite being only two years older than Ruby, and not Ruby’s parent, Yang is seemingly the one with the duty to find and protect her over Tai who is… staying home, it seems. There’s a lot of implications that can be drawn from this, and most of them aren’t exactly painting a positive picture of Yang’s upbringing or regard within the household.
#3 Yang being presented with a choice between bandits and Mistral implies that Yang has found out about her mother’s career path and is choosing to seek out Ruby instead of Raven, forestalling her own quest for answers to help her little sister. This may just be me, but given how Yang’s trailer, her Burning the Candle talk with Blake, and many important discussions across V3/4 related to her quest to find out ‘anything’ about her birth mother. That kind of revelation being, at least implicitly, revealed off-screen and not seemingly affecting Yang at all, feels off and like her own story is being ignored to focus on Ruby’s.
(Which could actually be a curious narrative reflection of Yang’s treatment by Tai.)
Note: I also find it interesting that Raven is referred to and treated by the cast and even Yang herself, as her mother over ‘birth mother’ as it was Summer who actually raised Yang for all those years and unlike Raven did not leave her willingly.
Tai Yang Xiao Long
I will be utilising a quote made by another RWBY fan and adding my own commentary in where I feel it is necessary:
(=https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/rwby-v-its-also-a-thread.430178/page-934%23post-31816192&source=gmail&ust=1489061990905000&usg=AFQjCNEsOAdOj9ewy1xIgDt6cT4LrlpBEw">Quote, from Storyteller of Spacebattles)
“Taiyang really gets hit from writers forgetting what was or wasn't written between episodes/volumes. The guy has to contend with an apparent about face on his stance on Raven between episodes without an apparent cause and how his description of how Raven is similar to Yang contrasting terribly with Yang's own description of herself. The first just makes him look either wishy washy, or unable to admit when he's wrong. The second calls to question his judgement.”
Tai initially refuses to discuss Raven to the point where he and Yang end up yelling at each other about her perceived maturity (Or in his eyes lack thereof). Then, in between episodes he’s changed his mind, but without us ever seeing what caused that change, he’s been keeping silent about Raven to Yang for years, or why he was so unwilling to speak on Raven initially. He also shifts his behaviour without apologising to Yang for his insults or for refusing her info on her birth mother for so many years, despite being willing to discuss Raven with other.
Similarly, Tai describes Raven as driven, ambitious and dedicated to her cause, whatever it might be. He cites these as similarities between Raven and Yang despite Yang herself noting that she has always just ‘gone with the flow’ and feels she lacks an overall drive compared to her team.
“The question of his judgement is worsened by a bad case of writers cannot math from volume 2 making it seem that he left a six to four year old alone with a toddler combining with Ruby seeming to go to Yang over him for emotional support/reassurance. Which in turn can spark the idea that Yang might have taken the mothering role she does because she had to. Again, writer's cannot math makes it starting at six at best while Yang is extremely maternal towards Ruby just doesn't look good with nothing to actively disprove it.”
When explaining her search for Raven to Blake, Yang describes Ruby as a toddler, and as Ruby is fifteen when the series started & beacon 1st years appear to be around 17, Yang could only have been six at most. This means that Tai left a grieving 6 & 4 year old alone in a cabin, in the woods that house Grimm. He apparently did so consistently according to Yang, as she’d been banking on him going out & having enough time to cross a large section of Patch.
After awakening from a coma, one of the first things Ruby does is seek out Yang and ask her what the should do, (Normally this sort of question might be directed at a parent or teacher, but Tai & Qrow were not sought out for this). We also know that Ruby discussed her journey to Mistral with Yang but didn’t tell Tai anything.
Similarly, at the end of volume 4, Ruby pens her letter to Yang, rather than Tai, or Tai and Yang, implying a much closer relationship between the two.
Given Yang’s extremely affectionate nature with her sister, being compared with their father in attempts to get Ruby to socialise and mature. Similarly, there is how frequently proud of Ruby Yang is and how protective and comforting (If playful) Yang is towards Ruby, their relationship does feel more like substitute parent and child than sisters who are close in age.
“Capping it all off the reason Ruby gives for Taiyang not coming is that he's needed to teach back at Signal. That would be fine if Oobleck, a fellow teacher hadn't already asked why Taiyang hadn't gone after Ruby. So a fellow teacher wouldn't see it as a dereliction of duty to go after Ruby, especially given the time Yang seemingly made crossing Mantle changing it from Taiyang not going after Ruby because he can't call in a sub for months to few weeks. There's also the question of how his response to Oobleck's question should be taken. What kept him from going after Ruby, if a fellow teacher didn't assume it was because of his duty of teaching? If it wasn't for that would he have left Yang behind?”
In the end, the one going after Ruby is Yang, not Tai, not Ruby’s father, but her sister older by only two years. More than that, Tai is staying home but when Yang is inspecting her bike he asks to know whom she is seeking out, making it a choice between seeking out the birth mother she has been seeking for over a decade or her sister.
The thing is, it actually isn't Yang's responsibility to make sure Ruby's okay. Even if the laws of Remnant adulthood are different, Yang’s under far less of a moral obligation than Tai is to seek and look out for Ruby, but Tai & the narrative present it as her responsibility.
Add in that Tai himself is not going and gives no indication he is planning on going after Ruby it gives the impression he is placing the onus of finding and protecting Ruby, onto Yang, his other daughter, rather than doing so himself and with no explanation as to why.
“Everything together just doesn't make him look like a great dad, and people would be wondering about that as soon as the arm joke hit the screen without the setup for the audience to take in confidence that is how the two interact.”
Additionally, I recall no scenes where Yang treats Tai as he does her, she can somewhat sarcastically question or disagree with him, but she never seems to throw insults at him, especially about traumatic events even when angered.
“Any of these by itself would be alright, as Taiyang being visibly a great dad would allay fears. However, between the mistakes above just snowballing together in how they could be related and the choice to have Yang going after Ruby by the end of the volume, Taiyang doesn't get scenes that are unquestionable leading to the plot costing Taiyang's overall credibility. As much as Taiyang may have trouble with his family up and disappearing on him, the writing paints him with an easily tarred brush.”
One of the lacking elements for Yang and Tai’s relationship is set up, and while the audience can be expected to do some work, important details do, I feel need focus. The relationship between Yang and Tai being one where they can throw seemingly, incredibly hurtful and personal remarks at one another could be fine, however it needs to be established before being introduced.
As noted, by itself this may not have been much of a problem, but when combined with factors such as him dismissing Yang’s depression as ‘moping’, fumbling the arm as a gift, placing conditions on his assistance. As well as stuff like, refusing to discuss Raven despite being willing to with others and the potential risks of Yang having been trying to seek out a criminal bandit gang.
What I mean in regards to Raven is that, Raven and her associates are extremely dangerous and according to Tai he has made an effort to keep information about Raven from Yang even tell Qrow not to speak with her about Raven. However he has not seemingly stopped Yang from searching Raven out herself, even when it led to Yang fighting a gang of criminals. If Tai doesn’t know Raven is a bandit then there is no reason not to discuss her with Yang as he does others. If he does know she is a bandit, then it feels negligent to not have told Yang to perhaps stop her from seeking Raven out.
“A character being questionable once, came be waved off as a writing mistake. Once that behavior repeats or the character repeatedly comes under questionable light the more likely it is that the audience will start wondering if it's intentional even if it is just a repeating error. And the fact that the writers made reference to the show's bible before this volume started just makes the above mess worse because it calls the question of how deliberate everything is as the bible of a show is supposed to prevent theses types of errors in the first place. Which causes arguments over how the audience is supposed to take the characters.”
Now, this will be a very contentious matter and much like everything else in this essay falls under the umbrella of, “it’s their show I’m just offering an opinion” and “It could be part of a bigger plan”.
But, as I have said before, this is analysing and reviewing what is available now.
However, I will restate that the framing and direction give the impression Yang felt guilt which was whys he put on the arm, despite her depression and flashbacks being liable to get in the way. From there, her normalcy has been uprooted and Tai bounces back and forth in my eyes regarding parenting. My main focus here will be on his critique of Yang’s combat record though.
Tai claims that Yang is predictable/bone-headed and over reliant on her Semblance, citing her battles in the Vytal Tournament as evidence and implying her “reliance” on her Semblance is why she lost to Adam.
There is a lot to unpack there alone.
First and foremost, Yang does counter his argument by noting that everyone who has a Semblance generally works them into their fighting styles, and more than that, unlike say Weiss, Yang’s Semblance is not a crux of her fighting style, but merely a part of it.
Tai however counters that not everyone’s Semblance is throwing a “temper tantrum”.
As I said, a lot to unpack.
Referring to Yang’s Semblance, a reflection of her as a person and her soul, as a “temper tantrum” feels equal parts insulting reductive, but also inaccurate. Yang’s Semblance is about taking pain and dealing it back, she could do this presumably while happy, or sad, or not “Having a temper tantrum”.
Given Tai was Yang’s teacher before Beacon (Ruby notes that Yang learnt a lot from him). How ow he saw her as a “child” & “not ready for the real world’. As well as the fact he worked at Signal.
If this is indeed a problem, then it feels like one that is his fault.
After all, if she is a ‘child’ and he is her teacher, then why did he not broach this topic with Yang before she was being catapulted into the Emerald Forest, or to be sent on missions? As a teacher and parent, it feels like he has failed to fulfil his role but is blaming her.
He also clarified it wasn’t that her fighting was ‘sloppy’ so Yang mentioning that but expressing a lack of familiarity, though some discomfort, and his dword choices, imply to me that this is a new topic.
However, I do not feel that Tai’s analyse of Yang’s fighting is correct for, several reasons. If one is a theorist there have been some intriguing analyse regarding the nature of Yang’s flames and how they don’t seem dependant on her getting a charge via injury first and don’t correlate to her hair glowing which is a signal of her Semblance being in use. However that falls very much into the grounds of theory, so I will leave that there and just focus on ‘how’ Yang fights, regardless of what she is using, starting with the three fights Tai utilised as evidence of her “over dependence”.
Now, there is no denying that Neon got to Yang (Which could say some interesting things about Yang’s self-esteem given how petty Neon’s insults were.) However, once truly angered by Weiss being taken out and seemingly tapping into her Semblance/anger, I would say that Yang actually fights better as she:
- Breaks Flynt & Neon’s combined attack
- Destroys smooth ground so it’s hard for Neon to skate
- Sends Neon into the geyser field (Maybe an accident?)
- Tries to take the weakened Flynt out while Neon is distracted via speed (It didn’t work, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea)
- Turns Flynt’s own attack against him and his Semblance clones.
- Casually takes Neon out of the battle once the environment has done her work for her.
Something that can also be kept in mind with Yang vs Neon, is that Neon's speed would make driving her out of the area that best suited her difficult. The terrain suited Neon, and Yang actually didn’t seem to have the speed or strength to hit Neon, escape her, or to break up all of the terrain before hitting her power-up, as she did at the end of the round. Trying to ruin the entire city-scape could also have cost Yang most of her ammunition as well.
Now, Yang did indeed utilise her Semblance in her bout with Mercury, again, no denying that. In the same vein this did not appear to be the plan in any way shape or form, nor did her fighting seem to suffer as near as I can tell (she still dodged his admittedly wide kicks). She also showed enough control not to do more damage than necessary to Mercury despite her “temper”.
Additionally, before that point she’d almost ringed out Mercury via skill and strength alone and showed great skill. Finally there was no way ‘around’ Mercury as an opponent save being ‘better’ than him, which doesn’t reflect poorly on Yang’s thought processes in combat, it just means there’s people with greater skill/experience/strength.
Note: Now these are the only two fights Tai saw, so basing a model of behaviour off of that alone feels a little off to me , at least when contrasted against other information I will address below.
Now, Tai cited Yang’s loss to Adam as a by-product of her over reliance on her Semblance and inability to think her way ‘around’ problems, there’s a lot to unpack later.
First, I think it’s important to remember that Tai didn’t even see this fight unlike the tournament bouts and so any information he has is likely less than second hand at best. After all, Blake ran away and even if Yang spoke of it (Which we haven’t been shown) her info would likely be limited given how quickly it all went and the emotions involved. This means we have no idea how much about the fight he knows, but that any sources that might have been able to tell him anything, likely couldn’t offer a detailed account.
Now, as for the fight itself, well as we saw, there wasn’t much of a fight.
Yang had no idea who Adam was, or what his Semblance could do through no fault of her own and had a limited time to act.
This will require bullet points, but to re-set the scene, Yang went searching for Blake in the burning, Grimm and White Fang invaded Beacon Academy, was isolated from backup & support, only to be find Blake when her partner lets out an agonised scream. She turns to find someone pulling a sword out of her partners stomach and turning to face her.
So, from Yang’s perspective:
- Blake’s Aura is either gone or so low she cannot even move/defend herself given she was stabbed and is lying helplessly.
- Blake’s attacker is now staring down Yang down, blocking her path to Blake.
- She orders him to get away from her, he doesn’t and looks ready to fight.
- The Academy is on fire, Grimm and White Fang are all over; Yang cannot expect reinforcements & has no backup/allies.
- Yang’s Semblance lets her hits harder, but does not allow for levitation, teleportation, or super speed.
- Similarly she has no weapon or available tools with which to extricate Blake or bypass Adam.
- Her foe knows where she is & stands between her and Blake.
- Her foe is wielding a gun-sheathe (Which she may or may not have noticed)
- Her foe is very close to Blake (helpless) and could turn on and kill her at any moment.
- Yang’s bullet shots tend to be large, fiery and explosive (Just look at what she did to the stadium floor when fighting FNKI)
- Said bullets could miss or be redirected at Blake.
- A shock wave across the ground is liable to hurt Blake or fling her into fire/Grimm.
- Her foe is watching her, she has no way to sneak by or around him & he is standing between Yang & Blake in one way or another.
- She has no idea what his Semblance is.
- Note: Adam was also not glowing until the last moment, so she couldn't have guessed he had a charge Semblance or was preparing such an attack.
With all of that in mind and without ignoring the already massive emotional strain Yang is under, and the fact that “keeping one’s cool” when faced with seeing someone close to them getting stabbed is unlikely at best.
What could Yang do?
She had an extremely limited window of time to act, every reason to think Blake’s time may have been limited and no means by which she could divert, redirect, sneak or “go around” Adam that I can see.
So she tried to go in hard and fast to hit him before he could react and get to Blake, because what else could she do with her tools, skill set and situation?
Did it work?
No, as we clearly saw.
But that doesn’t mean there was some way “around” Adam, especially with the limited info Yang would be working off in terms of his Semblance and abilities, which is to say, nearly none save that he uses a sword, maybe a gun-sheathe and defeated Blake.
Yang not winning doesn’t mean she was brazenly over relying on her Semblance or being bull-headed. Even if she wasn’t as calm as possible in her approach of Adam, what would have changed had she been slower, or ‘calmer’ or more “level headed”? His Semblance was still an unknown and moves at an absurd speed. He has no reason to engage with Yang when his Semblance is charged. So a calmer approach wouldn’t logically change anything about his counterattack save when he chooses to bring it out.
I don’t see a way around this or Adam.
Semblance Affects (Paraphrased from:Storyteller at Spacebattles.com)
This brief segment will be going into the seeming benefits of Yang’s Semblance, broadly speaking, before focusing on finer details.
Taiyang doesn't seem to take into consideration that Yang is noticeably faster with her semblance active. Stronger leg muscles = faster movements.
Also given the commentary of volume 3 it is implied that there is a defense/endurance buff at work as well.
Which does put something else into Taiyang's arguments of Yang missing, or being against stronger opponents. Faster helps with dodging, and actually not missing. The defense buff is something you'd want against someone tougher which honestly is part of the reason she uses it when she does I believe.
What I find most egregious with Taiyang claiming Yang would be weak and tired is that her semblance is her act of last resort. Again the defense buff, but really Yang does work down her options before she actually hits her semblance except for when it's do or die:
- Junior, she tries ranged but the rocket launcher also has rockets. Closer in she gets whacked just due to the reach of the bat.
- The Atlesian paladin was about to kill her, if she didn't catch that fist. Again defense buff.
- Neon she tried catching up to for melee, doesn't work. Firing after her, doesn't work. Waiting for Neon to attack her still doesn't work.
- Mercury again his the do or die, by she had gone through the options before that. Her shots aren't fast enough to hit him, in melee he's too fast.
Additionally, Yang does not seemingly leave herself open to, or willing take attacks, whenever she’s hit, it's a genuine strike because her opponents was skilled, strong or fast enough to do so.
What happens if you miss?
As we saw in the Paladin fight, Yang can miss and retain her charge.
Plus this is always a concern when fighting, Yang’s Semblance doesn’t really influence this, opponents can dodge.
What happens if they’re stronger?
Again, these things happen, heck it’s pretty much what happened to Pyrrha and she tried every trick she could save for running away and still lost. If Yang can’t hurt them when juiced up on her Semblance and already in a fight then she doesn’t have much in the way of options save maybe trying to run and come back later or for a surprise attack, both of which would be hard to pull off.
She could try to out-skill them, but Yang’s skill is not really in question, she is a very, very good fighter.
Now you’re just weak and tired
Even after demolishing the Paladin Yang didn’t seem too exhausted.
Additionally, Yang was not shown to be exhausted after her tournament bouts, which Tai is basing his read on her fighting on, and was knocked out by Adam before she could unleash any power on him.
Keep a level head
- “Keeping a level head” when a loved one has just been stabbed, after a trauma conga line, is going to be borderline impossible even for the coldest of people.
- Even when angered Yang’s fighting skill doesn’t seem to diminish significantly.
- We have seen characters draw strength from their anger, this was literally how Weiss got her summon to work, she was angered by Whitley and them boom, summon. Why is Yang penalised for her anger?
- Yang is not the only character who rushes in, Ruby herself does this frequently. Emerald Forest, Beowolves/Deathatlker (Only Weiss calls her out) Similarly she faces off against Cinder without calling for backup, and attacks the battleship alone, only surviving due to the giant Griffon. Similarly and even more overtly, an untrained Jaune took on an Ursa solo (Until Pyrrha helped).
- Yang is the only character called on not keeping a level head or rushing in without a plan which feels unfair given how many other characters do the same. Though Ruby does acknowledge her behaviour as reckless at the end of V4 we got to see little of what led to that.
Think before you act
As I noted above, I feel there was a decent amount of thought put into her three ‘Tai referenced’ bouts. So instead I will list some other examples, but first:
(A plan not succeeding is not the same as it being “bad” or not having thought put into it.)
- She lures Junior, the leader & seemingly strongest gang member in, gets him to lower his guard, and removes him from the fight.
- She destabilizes the ground the mooks are attacking her on and also sends them backwards and spreads them out, giving her more room to maneuver before attacking them.
- She reloads before engaging the Malachite twins.
- She separates the Malachite twin she is struggling with most when they are overwhelming her and disables them separately.
- Yang suggested a combined team attack against the Nevermore when one amongst them proved insufficient to injure it. Simple, but not unthinking or reliant on her Semblance.
- Yang was able to strike the Nevermore where it was vulnerable and set it up for the team attack. (We have no idea if she was told of the plan, though if she wasn’t he deduced it immediately, or if she was told to get the Nevermores attention or how. (This is seemingly all Yang)
- Against the Paladin it's Yang’s idea too slow it down when chasing the Paladin down the highway on her bike.
- Against the Paladi