RWBY: Ice Queendom Review

It’s been quite a while since this show aired. I ended up reviewing every episode of the show as it came out which is the first time I ever did that but ultimately I never actually reviewed it in its entirety. With volume 9 finished, now is a good time to check that out. I’ll even post my episode reviews below and then I’ll wrap the whole thing up. Basically Ice Queendom is the weakest RWBY show so I’ll get that out of the way first. It has some issues that the main show doesn’t have and ends up not pushing the anime medium to its limit. The show feels low budget and like an abridged version of the real thing. It hopefully brought some new people into the fandom but otherwise you’re better off just watching the original. Of course a copy can not beat the greatness of the original but I will say that it’s still a pretty good show, it’s just not up to the RWBY standard.

Episode 1

“The visuals were fantastic and it definitely moves through a good amount of material by knocking out 2 of the specials and the first episode plus some material from a volume 4 special. The fights look great as Ruby takes down some goons and Blake destroys a bunch of mechs. A lot of effort went into this one and at least at this point and time you can really feel the high budget effort behind this. I would also say it does work well as someone’s introduction to the series. You quickly get the plot and learn about the characters so that’s a win/win. I was quite satisfied here. If I am recommending someone to the series I would actually show them this episode first and then transition over to volume 1 from where this one left off. If episode 2 is as strong then I may do the same for that one.”

Episode 2

“Once again the quick pacing really helped this one jump up near the top. You could feel the budget already dropping from episode 1, however they quickly increased it again for the climax which I appreciated. The fight with the Nevermore was a lot of fun and it’s always nostalgic to see the group in the old days. The episode speeds through several from volume 1 and makes for a really satisfying watch. It still feels like a best hits montage but of course we’re getting closer to the original story so then we can see how that stacks up. Will Ice Queendom still be one of the best or will this be where it falters?”

Episode 3

“Naturally Ice Queendom has a lot going on here as it wraps volume 1 up but makes the very unfortunate choice of cutting out the fight at the docks. I think they definitely should have kept that in but at least we did get the fight between Weiss and the Grimm which was really solid. The animation really shone during that part and this episode had a lot of good development for the characters. The cliffhanger was also really epic. We’re getting into the original plot now so I’m definitely hyped to see how that plays out. Ice Queendom is off to a fast start and has been keeping up rather well so far. “

Episode 4

“Now we’re entering the anime only original story and it works quite well here. We get a whole new environment and get to learn about Weiss’ psyche. It’s an effective way of showing her true thoughts the whole time without having to make it appear too forced or anything like that. It’s the right way to go about it. The visuals still look really good and actually getting a Ruby vs Weiss fight is something we’ve been waiting for throughout the franchise. The battle theme is also on point even if it seems like the show always uses the same ones. The lyrical moments are on point though and this show just continues to operate at a very high level. I’m eager to see how this plays out for the rest of the show.”

Episode 5

“Ice Queendom comes back with another big episode as we get to see Weiss square off with Blake this time around. Ruby’s first mission didn’t go great so she brought Blake and Yang this time around but Yang was stuck on decoy duty for a while so it’s more about Ruby and Blake running around. I do like that Yang is a bit more no nonsense about the whole thing and doesn’t mind taking shots at Weiss here. That’s just her personality and it’s good to see her stay bold, it’s the Yang we’re used to after all. While the fight isn’t quite as good as the last one, the episode has a good mix of action and plot main for another solid episode in the saga. The dream world is certainly difficult to conquer.”

Episode 6

“Episode 6 has our big group fight against Weiss as even Yang gets involved. Interestingly part of the scuffle actually seemed to transform into CGI which was interesting but it was brief. The episode got to show off it’s animation a little more than the last one as Weiss spammed her energy attacks and the heroes had to deal with it. I’m a little skeptical about the main trio not being able to stop her though. It was shown that Weiss upgraded Yang and Blake’s weapons subconsciously so I like to think that they could defeat her. Just knock her out and then take out the Grimm. That would be the most direct way to solve all of this. It’s been fun seeing more into Weiss’ mind and that’s definitely been one of the most engaging parts of the show.”

Episode 7

“It’s Ice Queendom’s first time at the bottom. Mainly this episode allowed Jaune to see into the dream but because of that we’re seeing a lot of things that we already know. The Mini Weisses were fun though and then they even got to turn giant. The cliffhanger is definitely the best part though and that nearly bumped it up a spot but the volume right above this one also had a powerful cliffhanger like that. It’s nice to have Jaune in the mix but I look forward to the volume throwing in some more action in the next episodes.”

Episode 8

“Ice Queendom is in a similar situation to Volume 4 here. Sure, it’s good that the heroes are getting in a little deeper through the dream and learning more but it does feel a bit like they’re treading water by this point. Not much has really changed since the last episode to the point where it almost feels like this episode could have been merged into the last one. In a way I think I just miss the real world by this point as the dreamscape got old real quick. That being said you can tell that we’re getting close to the climax so I’m ready to see how this all pans out.”

Episode 9

“In Ice Queendom the heroes are trying to get closer to saving Weiss but seem to hit a dead end at every corner. It’s just not easy to get to her when she has the home field advantage in the dream world. Blake seems to go with a rather gutsy plan at the end though which leads to a great cliffhanger. The overall episode is a bit on the slow side but the final scene is really what pushes this above the other two volumes. It opens up a lot of fun possibilities for where the arc could go from here and I’m at least looking forward to a really big fight!”

Episode 10

“Ice Queendom is getting closer to the end now as we begin the big Blake vs Weiss fight. This episode spends half of its time showing us what led to Blake embracing the powers of darkness and then the second half continues us from where it left off. It’s definitely a very risky plan and one that I’m not a fan of since letting yourself be controlled can really not end well. I’d say just going up there and winning in fisticuffs would be the best way. Try a sneak attack to get the rapier away from Weiss or something like that. Beyond that I enjoyed our classic divide and conquer approach as each fighter will be going up against a different opponent. With better animation I dare say this could really be a top contender but I did enjoy the Weiss and Blake clashes regardless. Seeing Weiss immediately realize that something was up with Blake was also nice to show that she isn’t totally gone yet.”

Episode 11

“This was quite possibly Ice Queendom’s best episode in the batch. We finally get to see the team fight as a unit on more than one occasion which was really satisfying. The ost was top tier as you’d expect and they really saved up a lot of the budget for this episode. It was an excellent way to wrap up the arc and we got to see how strong Blake would be with the power of Adam. It all goes by really quickly with nonstop action so I had no issues with the episode. It’s just a lot of fun and I always enjoy team fights like this. I hope to see more and more combos from the team in the future.”

Episode 12

“Ice Queendom has been a fun ride and I’ll definitely have a full review up for it soon. In the meantime this works really well as an epilogue episode. A chance to just see the characters interacting and now that they have all had a lot of character development, they’re the best friends you remember. The series really nailed the characters for Blake and Weiss in particular and why they are so great. Both are usually considered to have the most development from the main group and it’s nice to see how they’ve changed. Even the little things like Weiss waiting for Blake afterwards so they could have one last talk and reaffirm how they will change the world was great.”

All right so from the episode reviews you can see how things started out on an excellent note with the volume 1 recap but then the show quickly lost some steam in the original plot. That’s pretty much how I would frame it. The volume 1 adaption was definitely a bit rushed but it was great seeing all of the iconic moments again. The only big miss here was completely cutting out the Torchwick fight at the climax of the volume. That would have been great to have seen in anime format instead of then jumping into the original story. The original story has an interesting premise.

Basically there is a nightmare Grimm that is ridiculously overpowered and ensnares Weiss. The other characters jump into save her along with Jaune but once inside they find out that this won’t be easy. Basically the entire world is in her mind but a twisted version of it and to get to her they have to defeat a lot of other obstacles like statues and such. Additionally once they get to Weiss she is quite powerful and won’t turn good unless they can destroy the Grimm behind her. Make any kind of contact with the Grimm and you too will be corrupted though. So dodging it won’t be an easy endeavor.

Where the show fumbles a bit is that the heroes try over and over to save her and fail multiple times. This causes the heroes to fall out of the dream and then re-enter so you see the same things over and over again. Once when Ruby lands, once when the team lands, and then once for Jaune. It feels like a way to save on the animation budget at times to be honest and the show unfortunately looks very low budget. Sometimes the fights barely have any animation. It will randomly change to CGI once in a while too and so nothing is very streamlined. The show looks solid during the first episodes for the volume 1 recap and then in episode 11 but that’s about it.

One of the most disappointing parts was when they set up the Weiss vs Ruby fight but then in the next episode it was done as lazily as possible. This happens quite a few times and it’s too bad because you were really looking forward to these battles. For example you have Weiss vs the rest of Team RWBY and there are no memorable shots there. Then you have Weiss going up against Blake for a few episodes and only one really had the good animation. The others were mostly them just yelling the same things at each other. The dialogue could get awfully repetitive as Weiss yells how the Faunus are destroying everything and Blake says that she will liberate them. We get this stalemate of sorts for a while.

It was fun to see a mind controlled Weiss figure out that Blake was mind controlled and swear to save her. I guess even when you’re not in your right mind you know when someone else isn’t either. Now I do want to underscore that the animation can be good at some times but it is rare and very scattered. This is a show that could have used a lot more time in the oven to really hammer everything out and deliver a more complete product. Trust me when I say that doing this would have absolutely been the right way to go about it. Because with top tier animation this would have worked so much more.

I did enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot though. It was different from the average RWBY title for sure but it worked well. Realm is probably the standout song from the ost. It plays a few times and always to great effect. There was another really solid lyrical song as well. The only one that didn’t really work well for me though was the opening but it’s not bad. I just like one part of it a whole lot and the rest is just okay. Still not bad though and while the soundtrack is limited, each tune in the episode ost are solid. You’ll definitely have a good time with the music, no doubt about that.

The show’s original characters don’t get to do much though so you don’t get much of an opinion on them. First up is Shion but I couldn’t tell you anything about that character’s personality or anything really. He’s mainly just a means of explaining the plot and the new Grimm but that’s about it. Likewise the new Grimm is basically just a mindless monster to be defeated so there isn’t a ton to discuss on that front either. At the end of the day most of the discussion will naturally end up being about the existing characters instead.

Weiss gets the most to do here and I’d say her character portrayal is on point. At first she comes across as a bit of a jerk and then tries to play nice with her teammates. In the main show people often mention how she seemed to change a bit too soon and so this show actually addresses that. Basically she was just acting the part of the nice teammate but she didn’t truly mean it. So by going into her dream they were able to have a true heart to heart talk and get to the bottom of this. I thought that was really a great way to use this nightmare bug. Now Weiss could be changed inside and out as opposed to just talking the part and that’s really the best kind of change. Weiss puts up a lot of resistance subconsciously with all of the monsters and such but she herself is trying her best. It was a really fun look into her psyche.

Likewise her whole issue with the Faunus and Blake. I think the premise was a little better than the execution there but the two of them being able to just talk things out was really solid but then when it didn’t work, going into a fight was on point. Sometimes you do need to end up talking with your fists a bit even if it’s not actually the final answer. It’s the driving force that allows you to connect at least. Blake’s new super form was also a lot of fun, I liked the design as there was a lot of inspiration from Adam.

This also led to the climax which actually was excellent. The budget went into this fight as they all fought evil Blake and really got to show off their abilities. It was a true team effort and you love to see it. The fight with the Grimm itself was also solid I’d say. Whenever RWBY is fighting as a team it’s always great to see, they complement each other well with the fighting skills and you get the feeling that if they did this more often the villains really wouldn’t stand a chance. Fortunately for them RWBY is usually split up for plot reasons.

I still can’t get over the fact that the show finally got its full anime treatment. Yes it may not have been quite as high budget as I would have liked but it’s still cool. I also think you really could show someone the first two episodes and then cut to volume 1 to finish it off. I would say the first 3 and then skip volume 1 but it’s rough to miss out on the Torchwick battle because he would go on to become such a major character later on. You really need to see him fight here so you can really understand just what a big threat he was. Ice Queendom’s power levels do get a bit wonky though so you’ll need to keep that in mind. There were a few times where I felt like the heroes should have had the decisive edge by a mile and it just didn’t happen. The show could have just been a few episodes long imo but they had to stretch things a bit.

In terms of characters, well they’re all in character so it works out. Ruby is still a good leader here and while Weiss’ insults may really cut her to the core, she always stands back up and keeps going. Her determination really comes through very strong here. Weiss has a masterful level of depth to her here and is executed perfectly. Yang may come off as a bit meaner than usual with all her shots at Weiss but I like how she always speaks her mind. She still comes through as the power hitter and Blake conquers her fears to allow herself to be taken over all to save Weiss. That’s a lot of dedication right there and so she gets a big thumbs up as well.

As a sidenote, I really liked their winter designs in general. The cold weather type outfits worked well and I always like when characters actually do change their attire based on the weather. Weiss and Blake both have really cool evil forms as well. The designers really held nothing back here and it ended up working out really well. I may take my shots at the animation but the art itself was great so the show always looks really good in the still images. It’s one that will hold up and ultimately I still do really want a season 2. Maybe lets just re-adapt the whole show this time and not bother with an original plot until it’s caught up. Then I can get to see volume 3 and all the tourney battles in the anime style.

Overall, RWBY: Ice Queendom is a fun side adventure. I think they should have planned things out a little better so that the episodes weren’t repetitive though. There’s really a lot of ways you could have done this like make Weiss’ dream world change completely each time or use more check points so it’s different. I think a little less repetition would have just gone a long way here and then you could focus on the story more. It may not match up to the classic RWBY adventures but those are all star titles which surpass the very medium so that’s probably not a super fair comparison. On its own this is still a great title either way and one that I would recommend checking out. So if you want more RWBY content, well you’ve come to the right place.

Overall 8/10


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