It’s time to take a look at a very controversial character in RWBY. This editorial covers events from the first 6 volumes so if you have not finished 6 yet you’ll want to hold off on this one. There are a lot of feelings on this character in part due to how his personality drastically shifted from his initial appearances to the later ones. There are a ton of theory videos out there with in and out of universe reasons for it. What I’m hear to say is that Adam is actually still the best RWBY character of them all. The series has a ton of really standout characters like Yang, Neo, Cinder, Mercury, and Torchwick but Adam stands above them all. Why is that? Well, I’ve got a few reasons below.
1. Adam was the first real threat of the series
From his first appearance in the Black trailer Adam was solidified as a very powerful fighter. Not only was he able to take down the spider robot in a single blow, but the strike was at a level that we didn’t see any other character come close to matching within the first 2 volumes of the series. Even to this day it’s probably one of the more impressive strikes in the series. He had a very skillful showing in the trailer when he took out the guards and was also a capable leader. You could easily see how this guy was going to be heavily involved in what was to come. Strength isn’t the only factor in how good a character is of course, but it was a tremendous first impression.
2. Adam was a third party thrown into the mix
The series is mainly about the battle between the Huntsmen/Huntresses and the Grimm led by Salem. This is the main plot which is still going on to this day. Adam and his White Fang do not belong to either side. He’s fighting to free the Faunus from oppression. Adam can’t have the Grimm win because they would destroy all of the Faunus, but if the Hunters win then they will keep enslaving and oppressing the Faunus. His only recourse is to claim dominion over the world and to scare those in power into backing off. The White Fang led a peaceful approach for a while with no results so eventually Sienna Kahn took over and got some reasonable results. Between her and Adam the White Fang actually did gain a lot of ground for the Faunus. True, they were seen as a terrorist organization, but the Faunus could no longer be bullied away. Adam kept on with this approach to the point where his actions got too extreme even for Sienna though.
A third party character like this is always amazing and few stories are able to keep it up for long which is a shame. It’s a tough plotline to do because you have to be keeping track of 3 different groups for a while, but the payoff is massive when it works. That’s why it’s a shame that Adam was destroyed at the end of the volume by Yang and Blake. It’s a fitting way to go out so I won’t deny that it was executed very well, but I feel like this should have happened in volume 8 or 9. Writing him out this soon was a missed opportunity. I would have liked to have seen him take down one of Salem’s generals first and a major player on the hero team as well. (Sun or Neptune perhaps) Ultimately Adam didn’t leave as much of an impact on the group as I would have liked.
3. Adam’s ideology is tragically sound but clouded by his own thirst for revenge
Adam is a villain. Lets not lose sight of that. No matter how well intended your goals might be or how sad your origin story is, once you turn to a life of crime you can’t claim to be a hero nor should others represent you as such. That being said, Adam’s fundamental goal on a large scale is a good one. He wants to free the Faunus from discrimination and oppression. Just take that goal to mind and it’s a sound one. It goes without saying that he will have to break laws and disrupt the peace to do so because currently it is 100% legal in the world of Remnant. If he lobbies to stop it then political corruption will put a stop to that. However, where Adam goes too far is when he decides to take a more direct “eye for an eye” approach. By volume 3 he is openly murdering civilians in the city and by volume 5 he no longer seems to care about his goal as he is also willing to murder other Faunus just for honor. In volume 6 he murders them for no real reason. He really went off the deep end although I would argue that’s a writing decision that never made sense.
Nonetheless, you can see how Adam is in the wrong. It was always a lose-lose situation for him though. It was inevitable that he would have to murder some heroes once he decided to stick up for the Faunus. Best case scenario would be if he could pull off a Magneto stalemate where he claims some land or a private island for the Faunus and then blocks anyone from entering. He would only engage if they bring the fight to him. It’s a noble sentiment and if you can pull it off then that’s great. It’s very hard though and since you’re on the defensive it is very likely that the “heroes” will storm your base one day and massacre everyone. If you’re not the one leading the attack then you’ve given away the initiative.
So what should Adam have done? Well, to give the Faunus a fighting chance he does need land and the real question is how could he get it? The world of Remnant is already fairly packed so one way is to free all currently trapped Faunus by breaking into jails and destroying them. This would lead to the government sending hunters out who would have to be eliminated as well. Ideally by this point the government would give them a new island and while there would be skirmishes that would end things. It’s still a bit of a dream scenario though. Realistically nothing short of a civil war would really change things and I do think that’s what it would come down to. Make no mistake, tons of people would die here, but it would be in the context of war and Adam would do his best not to go after others needlessly.
Adam is a great leader and I think he would be able to pull this off. He is powerful enough to get the job done. It would have been interesting to see Adam do something like this. He wouldn’t be played off as a hero from the other characters’ point of view, but he wouldn’t be downright despicable or evil either. Just think about Star Wars, Bleach, or even Robin Hood. From the context of the group in power, the one attacking is the evil villain even if they’re just doing this to stop the corruption. As the saying goes, “Everyone is the main character of their story” Adam would absolutely be viewed as a murderous villain from the eyes of the government even if his cause is just. Remnant’s government is inherently evil and discriminates against the Faunus. This is shown clearly in volume 1 as Velvet is getting bullied in the lunch room and none of the heroes in training stand up to defend her. Even Blake stands down as she doesn’t want to stick out which shows a big difference from Adam who would have jumped across the table and murdered the bullies. Again, he is quite extreme so that’s not the right way to break things up either, but at least he would have helped her. This means that the heroes wouldn’t listen to his side of the story. Ruby probably would, but ultimately her bosses would force the issue and Adam would have to be terminated. Make no mistake, Adam would definitely be destroyed if he was caught.
4. Adam is determined
One trait I always like in a character is determination. I like a character who doesn’t get distracted and has a very fixed mind on their objective to the point of obsession. All Adam wants is freedom for the Faunus and he trains diligently to that goal. The Adam character short was amazing here as we see his progression through the ranks. Initially he does try to clear his missions without hurting anyone and gradually the incidents pile up until he no longer values human life. He’s just seen too much and that’s what begins to completely turn him. Even when he’s offered a shortcut to his goal like when Cinder offered an alliance, he refused since it would mean that Faunus would be hurt. He was later forced to submit when Cinder got maiden level abilities because the alternative is that a lot of his allies would have died. Contrary to popular belief I don’t think he gave up because he thinks he would have lost there. I think it’s because the collateral damage would have destroyed a lot of his allies and his goal had always been about taking on the risks himself rather than putting others in danger. A battle of that level would be hard to win without this happening. While Adam was severely nerfed later on I would argue that he was around Maiden level here. Being able to take down Yang in a single hit with no effort is incredibly impressive. Yang was the strongest of the students and Ruby was holding her own against base Cinder so this would put Adam at the very least on teacher level (Crow, Winter) and while we don’t know how much farther up Maiden level is, it puts Adam in the conversation.
5. Adam’s got style
While this is the least important reason, it is worth pointing out that Adam’s just a very “cool” character. His design is fantastic and the voice actor does a great job. While I only see mockery of his performance and the character online, I think he nails every scene he is in. Every time Adam appears I lean forward in my seat because he’s about to do something cool. His ability to absorb hits and re-direct them is very handy. The guy’s a leader, he’s very intelligent, and he can fight well. Adam’s the real deal and the complete package. In a one on one fight I would bet on him every time. I’m still hoping for the off chance that he will appear in volume 7 since we didn’t actually see the body. There’s almost no chance he will be coming back, but I can certainly hope.
6. Adam’s inconsistent final appearances don’t negate the intro ones
This is a point that many may not agree with, but I’ve always felt this way. If a character is great and always has been great until a moment later on when they act completely out of character then I question the writing more than the character. I’m going to give you some examples here. This first one is basically clickbait.
There’s obviously more to this context than Superman simply selling Lois out to get away. He’s got a plan and a scene like this can actually be clever if handled well. It’s a case of a character seemingly being written out of character, but not necessarily.
Then you’ve got this Captain America example shown above which is an example of absolutely terrible writing with a character doing a full 180. There are reality warping/mind tricks at play here, but this is actually happening. It’s not a dream nor is it a fantasy and this is something the character would never do. I’m against mind control completely since I don’t think any character should be able to fall for it. Maybe it’s because hypnosis is so fake in real life most of the time with hacks discrediting the whole thing, but if a character has strong will power then this won’t work so easily.
The final example with Sonic coming up is the worst kind of out of character moment.
No, this isn’t a parody image. It’s an actual scene that happened with an infamous writer who really didn’t like Tails. Sonic is edgy and likes to take shots at characters, but he wouldn’t go that far with Tails. This is simply a character who has been not handled well in this issue. You can point to decades of other Sonic issues to see why this doesn’t make sense. That’s the case I make for Adam. Now there are a few reasonable counterpoints to this such as Adam not appearing in nearly as many past scenes compared to Sonic so there’s less to pull from. There have also been less writing changed since the creator Monty wasn’t as hands on with the writing even when he was around. This is quite possibly a direction that Adam would have gone in either way.
What I’m saying here is that the writers just missed the point of Adam’s character. They ultimately decided that we shouldn’t take his actions earlier seriously and he was always using that as a front. He doesn’t care for the Faunus rights 100% since Blake ended up taking over his thoughts. Whether it was a gradual decline or not, by the end of the series he is fighting for himself now. He just follows Blake everywhere but regardless it would mean his resolve early on wasn’t as strong as he thought it was. I think it’s too steep of a change for him. In the final volumes (Mainly 5 and 6) he has now become obsessed with Blake. Interestingly this is also when he became considerably weaker to the point where Blake was able to down him with a single punch. That is still the worst moment of RWBY history by the way and I doubt it’ll ever be surpassed. Volume 6 tried to make him more of a serious threat again but even then he lost a bit too easily. There’s still no way Blake and Yang would be enough to stop him at their present level. It would take all of Team RWBY to stop him or at least 3/4 of the members. I am glad that they retracted part of the nerf though.
Before Adam’s character missed the boat with how the personality shifted, look at his actions early on. Blake left him a while back and in the first 3 volumes you wouldn’t think that he cared much. There’s no mention about this on his part and he’s still continuing with his plans as normal. Even when he invaded Beacon in volume 3 he doesn’t go after her and it’s just coincidence that she finds him. This makes sense because his first priority is saving the Faunus. Yeah, he definitely took the Blake situation pretty personally which makes sense and I’m sure eventually he would try to find her, but he has priorities. She no longer agreed with him and he accepted that as best he could. From the flashbacks of the two he did seem to care for her but his mission took precedence and since she didn’t like his extreme methods they parted. I don’t know where the notion of Adam being obsessed with Blake or manipulating her came into being because it really did not seem like that was the case. Even when she talks about him early on or when they meet you never get that impression. If anything he seemed like a stand up guy who’s on the wrong side. This may be gone later on, but at his core this is why Adam really succeeded as a character to me.
There’s some overlap here with qualities that I look for in a villain. I’ll be posting an editorial about that someday because it’s a fun topic to tackle. There are definitely aspects of a character that are important to me and if you have enough of them then you’re going to be a great character. Character rankings also tend to change as you watch a show. Piccolo used to be my favorite DBZ character and now he doesn’t rank at all. Gaara was my favorite Naruto character and now it’s Sasuke. Typically my first impression character doesn’t last, but once I finish the show then it sticks. Mercury was my favorite character in RWBY for a little while, but now that Adam is on top I don’t see him changing. Salem does have some similarities in the sense that her goals were also pretty sound, but that’s an editorial for another day. This is my case for why Adam is the best. Case Closed.