RWBY Volume 9 Review

All right this is going to be a long review so strap in! The greatest show of all time has finally returned for season 9 after so many years. I’d been eagerly awaiting the return and the company’s gone through a lot in the meantime so right now we don’t really know if Volume 10 is coming or not. Everything seems up in the air and if it were to all end here then I would still be satisfied because 9 seasons of content is incredible but of course I will be eagerly awaiting Volume 10. It’s one of those things I can never lose hope on because there’s always a chance and with the amount of buzz the show gets it feels crazy to put it on hold. We’ll get that season 10, but hopefully sooner than later.

Volume 8 ended with the main characters falling through the hole into the ever after. Fortunately they all meet up with each other very quickly so the gang’s still together but it’s not under the best of circumstances. Ruby is feeling depressed after the heroes lost to Salem’s forces yet again and this time the body count was very real. This world is really trippy and every time they try to leave they just seem to be further and further away. It all seems to be following a book that the main characters read when they were kids so they can at least predict some events but their presence as well as Neo’s is already changing things up. Can the heroes defeat her and escape? Also, where is Jaune?

For a big show like this it’s almost hard to know where to start. The volume is a bit shorter than the others since it’s only 10 episodes and they’re all fairly short as it is but because this is RWBY there is a ton to unpack. I’ll probably keep this review fairly scattered as I just type each aspect as I think of it and we’ll go from there. First to get this out of the way, to an extent this volume was considered by some to potentially be a filler season since it was planned out from way before the main plot even started and the mini volume format that the writers would refer to it as made people feel like it was a side adventure. By and large that probably is true. There are some developments here to be sure but at the same time it can feel a bit like Capsule Monsters or Fast Forward in that it’s sort of a break from the main story. There’s no Salem or Cinder here and the heroes aren’t fighting the Grimm. The Grimm don’t even appear.

Think of this as the heroes getting isekai’d into a whole different world for one season. Of course unlike other spinoff adventures they won’t be losing their memories or anything. Their development will be sticking with them for the future sagas. Aside from Weiss who was already perfectly sound going into this world, the other 3 do change and adapt from their experiences here. Jaune and Neo have quite a lot of character development as well. So in a literal sense the season isn’t filler because things did happen. At the same time it is a breather season I would say since it’s not super important to the grand story. On a RWBY binge re-watch if the series ever does end, you could basically skip this volume or jump to the final episode to enjoy the fights. Of course it’s still a great watch on its own so no need for skipping.

Now as this is going to be a deep look through at the series you should be warned that there will be advanced spoilers here. Tread carefully and if you haven’t seen the season yet then I highly recommend changing that first. Trust me you want to go into this fresh because that just makes for the best viewing experience. A show like RWBY has so much replay value that you will keep on watching anyway but it’s still nice not to be spoiled. Then when you’re watching the battle song in the final episode on loop over and over again you will always remember your first experience with it.

First lets talk about Ruby as she gets a lot of focus here. She’s coming off of 2 of her best volumes in the series as she led her team to a decisive victory over the Ace Ops and nearly took down Neo if not for Cinder getting her from behind after that. Well, unfortunately this is her worst volume by far and it’s not even close. Basically Ruby has taken the loss very hard and completely doubts herself as a leader now. Her friends keep trying to ask her what’s wrong and see what’s going on but Ruby pushes them away and ultimately blows up.

My main issue with this is while it’s portrayed as if she was ignored, the characters made every effort to talk to her. It was Ruby who actively pushed them away so I wouldn’t say that they could be blamed for anything at this point. Ruby blowing up at them was just a big L for her and she doesn’t come off very well for just about the entire season. Ultimately this leads to her getting bullied by Neo and ultimately choosing to drink the poison tea and destroy herself. Now, whenever a show deals with taking your own life, that’s a pretty big thing. It’s a huge decision and always the wrong one so a show has to make sure to show this.

The main controversy among this season was how this was handled. After all Rooster Teeth already has a bit of a dicey streak with this since Gen Lock and to a lesser extent, Penny convincing Jaune to destroy her in the last volume. I do think it was the wrong choice to have Ruby do this as well here because that’s just not who she is. She always has some hope and losing it all like this may have been to show how she’s been broken down but it goes too far. I would say the other aspect of this that doesn’t work are the non reactions of her friends and sister in Yang. When Ruby drinks the cup, none of them make a move to stop her, yell or do much of anything. It’s like they were all stunned into silence.

Now you can write this up as a momentary freeze but in the next episodes they are completely over this. They tell the cat that Ruby has to choose for herself what to do here, how she might be a different person, etc. The reactions are so bizarre, they are not being proactive about anything and don’t seem nearly as worried as they should be. Yes in this world death means instant reincarnation so she won’t be gone for good but based on what they have seen, Ruby herself would still be “dead” as her new form wouldn’t have her memories. Look at the paper pleasers for example. So for all intents and purposes Ruby really would be dead and so I don’t understand how nonchalant they are.

I feel like the show got confused midway on exactly what kind of symbology they were going for here. Within the show’s context none of this made any sense considering that Ruby just chose to destroy herself. That absolutely should have shaken up the cast a whole lot no matter how strong they are. Certainly they shouldn’t be grinning in a scene right afterwards. I had similar issues with the Paper Pleasers plot. Basically they are a suicidal cult that wants to destroy themselves because they feel they have succeeded in their mission a long time ago.

In this world once you have completed your mission then you are empty and need to ascend to get a new one. The problem is that this is still death since they don’t retain their memories or experiences and so Jaune tries to stop them. Unfortunately it is portrayed as a bad thing as he should have let them go off to their deaths. I definitely can’t get behind that one either and it was annoying how Team RWBY was so okay with this. Ruby in particular had no sympathy for Jaune at all. Have I mentioned how this is her worst portrayal in the franchise? Yeah it was definitely rough for a while there. Death in general seems to carry less weight than it should. At one point Team RWBY run off when the Jabberwockers appear and leave a whole village to die. Each and every one of them are murdered and we hear the sounds as they left.

At the end of the series Blake asks if they actually helped at all or if they just made things worse and you have to assume the latter to be honest. The heroes left a trail of death and destruction everywhere they went. They destroyed two villages, took down the king, and now the kingdom has no more of the original creatures like the Jabberwockers and the Cat. Not all of that was directly their fault but you’d be hard pressed to say that they really made the world a better place.

Now I am still ready for Ruby to bounce back because she finally goes back to herself in the final episode. Now she is the Ruby that we all know and love. In that sense her character arc sort of just flipped back to her being really confident like in volumes 7 and 8 once more but we can assume with this arc over that she won’t have any more doubts in the future. She also seems more powerful now but it’s hard to scale until we see her back in the real world. Ultimately her arc was filler you could say as it basically reset to where she started but I was glad that we got to finally see her smiling and having a good time again. Her final fight is absolutely the highlight of the whole volume and I’m ready to see her take on Salem. Plus now that she’ll be in a world of Grimm again she can finally use her silver eyes. I get that part of the point of this volume was to take a break from the Salem plot but I still miss Ruby’s cool silver powers. We still need to find out how any Grimm will ever be a threat again since Ruby can one-shot almost all of them at this point so Salem needs to think of something quickly.

Yang looks great here as you would expect. She’s always ready for a good fight and I would say that she has relaxed a bit more now. She’s back to making a lot of puns and just grinning all the time. For a while Yang had always been the heart of the team and kept the atmosphere lighter but she did get a bit more serious in the last volumes. I think this was a chance for her to reset in a way as well and it was a welcome change. She is still the power hitter of the group and does well in all of the fights. The heroes would definitely be lost without her.

Then we have Blake who has unfortunately been flanderized a little bit. She really takes the role of being the nervous member of the group who can’t stand up to Ruby anymore and is the only one to have some self doubt in the final episode. The writers took great care for her to basically not land any real blows in every fight outside of the chess battle and she always ends up being support. It’s fine to be a support fighter but she was one of the stronger fighters back in the day so I’d like to see that return. Blake is still a good character but right now she’s not keeping pace with the other 3 at all and that needs to change.

As for Weiss, I was pleased at just how confident she was. See, Weiss has already been through her character arcs so before the volume started I was talking about how nothing should get to her here. The villain mind games just won’t work at this point and sure enough, they don’t. This was the best attention to detail in the series as Weiss basically tries to keep everyone together. She does act a bit goofier at times which did feel a bit out of character but my headcanon will just be that she is trying to keep the atmosphere lighter since she sees how Ruby is feeling down. Might not be the sharpest theory but at least it works as an explanation. I can buy into it at least. She also finally uses her rapier a bit more here rather than relying exclusively on summons and I appreciated that. With her glyphs she has the potential to be one of the most powerful fighters so lets get back into that.

Jaune gets a big role here as well. He’s been a consistently solid character throughout the series and has had several character arcs. From the characters you can make a very strong case for him enduring the most amount of trauma. Yes, even more than Ruby and Blake I would say. The guy had to watch the girl he loved run off to her death and then he was pressured into murdering another one of his friends. He’s always been powerless to protect those around him and even started to get suicidal in volume 5 with how he kept charging Cinder. He finally got into a good headspace in volume 8 and then falling into the Everafter and being alone for years broke him again. The guy just can’t catch a break but whatever happens he tries his best.

The fact that he lasted for so long on his own in a strange planet shows just how resourceful he was. That’s why it was a shame when RWBY didn’t back him up. Still, he kept on trying to be the great hero and this is absolutely a highlight volume for him. I would have preferred that he stayed in his grown up form in the present since the design was also so good but I guess this is the end of the road for that. Right now he has a lot of experience though so I hope that is directly shown in the next volumes. He has grown into truly being an excellent leader and will be able to make a difference. The volume really nailed his character from start to finish.

Okay it’s time to talk about Neo and she is the character that the volume fumbled the most. So what do we really know about Neo beyond what we see in the novels? Well, she wants revenge on Ruby for murdering Torchwick and will want revenge on Cinder for being portrayed at the very end of volume 8. We need to remember that originally Neo intended to murder Cinder for Torchwick’s death but the villain told Neo that it was Ruby’s fault. So now that Cinder has betrayed her maybe Neo will double think this? She doesn’t and just goes after Ruby but surely after that she would try to get Cinder right? Well that’s where the issues come in.

When Neo successfully destroys Ruby, she suddenly goes all empty. Basically her purpose was fulfilled so she is an empty shell. That seems to be what the show was driving at and it makes no sense because she still needs to murder Cinder. Her purpose is hardly completed, there’s a lot left to go in her adventure. That was the first warning sign here. Alternately you could say that she suddenly regretted this and thought that murdering someone was going too far but that makes even less sense for such a ruthless calculating villain. Neo was just completely out of character here and so she went from being one of the most powerful, epic villains imaginable to being someone who was just left by the wayside. Even the way her character arc ends was not satisfying at all as she just jumps off to die too and be reborn as something else. Unless she chooses herself like Ruby did, she’ll lose her memories now and that would be annoying.

The show never explained why her powers completely evolved and changed either. Sure, Semblance evolution is a thing but it’s something you need to actually work at. She just got a bunch of new powers and used them immediately. For example her illusions can now talk and they seem to have the original’s memories because she uses some illusions that she couldn’t possibly know about. Penny dying twice for example. It’s all to break Ruby so these characters had to show up but logically it makes no sense that she would know the inner dynamics of exactly how they would break Ruby. That’s really my issue here.

At least she still looks powerful but we don’t get to really see her fight before getting possessed and I wanted to see how the team would fare against normal Neo. That would have really been good to see since I figure she can probably still handle the whole team to an extent. Fans of the Jabberwocker should not be too pleased either. The monster starts off by losing against Team RWBY rather handily and then getting instantly murdered by Neo. The rest of the show they are just clones of Neo’s and that’s not the most impressive way to appear. Cool design but the character sort of got misused a bit.

Then we have the curious cat and he was a lot of fun. He’s the kind of guy who will trick you so you always have to be on your guard in every conversation. He is playing the long game and does a good job of getting the characters to trust him so they can be manipulated. As a villain he also works well and I definitely liked his true form. Automatically I would say he’s probably a top 10 villain in the show and that’s good considering how many there are. Even to the end he was talking tough and I loved how he called the humans weak and insignificent even as they had just beaten him up. Sometimes you have to double down like that. He also made for some of the most intense visuals in the show.

Finally Alyx who was the main character of the book gets a decent role in the lore. At first she wasn’t the nicest person but gradually grew nicer. It’s a classic character arc but they try to keep you off balance with some twists and almost twists. I don’t think she adds a lot to the adventure but she does help to give Jaune even more trauma by the end so he’s not going to run out of that any time soon. The show also heavily implied that she ended up being reborn as the metal crafter although I think that’s a rough fate since it feels like you would be bored for a very long time in that role. You rarely have people to talk too.

The gang also meet a little mouse named Little. She’s a bit scattered all the time and tends to sleep a lot but means well. I was expecting them to reverse the death for a while there like it was just an illusion but ultimately Neo really did get the better of her. Little will likely never show up again in her new super form but if she ever returns that could be interesting. Perhaps Little will even have some fighting ability now.

Now the volume did decide to finally go through with the very controversial ship of Yang and Blake getting together. Long had I dreaded this day but the writers have basically been promising this for years now. A good chunk of their scenes are used for setting this up and general flirting the whole time. So much for Yang’s personality being the flirty one for a while there and Blake’s connection with Sun. Both have been squashed due to popular demand. It was just a matter of time until this happened but it was still unfortunate since they were such good friends and shows don’t need to go there like this. I know they’re now saying this was planned from the very beginning..but I have doubts. We’ll see if they can keep their personalities and stay strong or if this will become their personality and Blake will continue to shrink in fear at every danger so Yang can save her.

I would say the best non action scene in the volume was when the members of Team RWBY met their younger selves. It was great to see the old designs from back in the day and how each character has really changed. As expected Weiss really destroyed her previous version verbally while Ruby got completely devastated since the old her was so confident. The contrasts were really good and of course the art was excellent as always. The show really knows how to make every scene really pop out at you. In general of course the dialogue in the volume is very strong and it helps to make up for the lack of action but this was the stand out scene for me.

Of course the end of the volume gets you hyped for volume 10. The show seemed to be trying not to set up too much of a direct cliffhanger in case it isn’t renewed though like not having any kind of post credits scene this time. That was too bad since I always like a good cliffhanger but at least we still have a bit to theorize on. The last show showed that Atlas has arrived in Vacquo and somehow Amity Arena is back in operation. So the implication is that the distress signal Ruby sent out in volume 8 actually did work and the kingdoms sent backup. It’s a bit funny how the instant the heroes leave things start looking up again.

Of course the portal was set up to send Team RWBY to when they were needed as opposed to where so it could be any kind of timeskip. I’d assume maybe a few weeks or months but nothing too drastic. Anything longer would also be dicey since you’d assume humanity would be wiped out already. Salem and her forces should be having a field day without the main crew there after all. It’s why I can’t wait for volume 10 so we can see what’s been going on. The side story is all well and good but I am absolutely ready to jump back into the action here.

This was the first volume where Jeff would not be doing the music along with Casey and you can feel it as the volume sounds very different. Of course that could be to match with the tone as well. Ultimately it’s easily the weakest soundtrack but there was still a really good song for the final fight. Right now the theory is that it will be called Red Like Roses Part 3 since the opening lyrics are similar but we’ll see. It’s an excellent rock song and really brings you back to the classic days. The other themes are a little more fantastical but there is much less rock than usual. The ending song for the volume is emotional but not one that you would typically re-listen to after the first time. I’ll do a ranking of all the songs once they’re released and we’ll see if the full version buffs them a bit. Still, it’s a good soundtrack just a step down from what we’re used to.

Likewise that’s basically the case for the animation as well. The art is top tier as always and the colors have never been more vibrant. The character designs are on point and they clearly took a lot of time to make sure everything looked great. The only issue here are the fights which don’t have quite as much animation as you would expect. That’s really the only problem here. The fights are still fun overall but you can’t compare them to volume 8. The last fight of the volume though can hold its own with any of them. It’s super short but the part we get was still very crisp, fast, and streamlined. Exactly what you expect out of any RWBY fight so this one really delivered. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Volume 5 situation.

Instead of them saving all the budget for the final fight since most was spent on GenLock, this time the budget was saved for the end because the group was taken off to work on the Justice League movie midway through the volume and the budget was already smaller. It also explains why the volume was only 10 episodes instead of the usual 12-13. They really didn’t have much room here to do anything more than what they needed to. Hoping that the next volume gets the full budget start to finish so we get a lot more intense fights like this though.

I would mention the flashbacks with Alyx and the gods but those look super low budget intentionally. It’s a narrative decision to make them look like storybooks even if I think they should have skipped that and made it look normal. My motto is that you should never intentionally make animation look older or lower quality even if that’s the intention. Sure you would have to create new 3D models…but then it’s time to start creating. I was glad that the flashback with Summer and Raven was fully animated. It makes you feel like Summer will be getting more scenes sooner than later now that she has a character model and I want to see how the mission with Salem went. Clearly not very well but still there is a lot to fill in there. Meanwhile it was also great to see a lot of the old characters return like Ironwood even if it was just as an illusion. It reminds you just how large of a presence the guy had and still has within the series.

The volume was a bit rushed so it could have used another 2-3 episodes I’d say but at least since it is so short, that makes it even easier to binge. You can definitely watch the whole volume as a movie of sorts and that would work really well. The season has a lot of light hearted moments to balance out the series ones and so you should feel good just going through it all. At the end of the day RWBY is always a lot of fun to watch and this volume is no exception.

Overall, There’s always more to discuss but that’s volume 9 in a nutshell. At the end of the day is pretty much is a side story and one that you could probably skip without missing much for volume 10. That said, it’s more RWBY content so you don’t want to miss that. It will naturally have far less replay value than most of the other volumes though as a result of the smaller cast and stakes. I would say it only beats Ice Queendom and loses to the rest of the main volumes. I’ve already rewatched all of the episodes once via reactions and I’ll be doing it a lot more so either way it’s still RWBY. It having less replay value doesn’t mean that it’s gone after all and there were still a lot of fun moments here. I would definitely recommend checking it out and at least before volume 10 we have the two movies to look forward too. That will have to satisfy the RWBY itch for now but you know as soon as volume 10 comes out, I will be there!

Overall 8/10

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