RWBY: Volume 3 Blu-ray Review

Ruby Rose and her friends keep on fighting

RWBY has come a long way since it first debuted in 2013. This third volume is the show’s Empire Strikes Back entry with a dark ending in its ongoing saga of superpowered teenagers as humanity’s last hope against rampaging monsters. Team RWBY’s fate takes a much darker path when personal losses are incurred that will permanently affect them in this action-driven narrative.

Having become a viral hit in the cosplay and anime scenes, it was a great shock to fans when RWBY creator Monty Oum passed away in 2015. Rooster Teeth carries his legacy on in this engaging batch of twelve episodes that show more refinement and sophistication than prior volumes.

The “stars” of this anime-inspired, cgi-animated series are the four members of Team RWBY. Led by Ruby Rose (appealingly voiced by Lindsay Jones), the other members include fellow Huntresses Weiss, Blake and Yang. The four teenage girls train together at Beacon Academy, a place where fellow powerful Huntsmen and Huntresses learn to battle Grimm. In the world of Remnant, Grimm are monsters that threaten society. It’s a simple enough set-up that should be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of anime content.

Volume 3’s big focus is the Vytal Festival Tournament. Mock battles are held in a huge battle arena between teams of varying size for honor and glory. It’s intended for the Huntsmen and Huntresses to hone their fighting skills and show them off in front of large crowds. The over-the-top action inside the arena showcases the best attributes of RWBY’s unique 3-D modeling.

Unlike most anime made in Japan, the American-made RWBY eschews traditional hand-drawn art for an increasingly refined approach to digital animation using computer tools like MAYA. These battles are crazy riffs on the kinetic fighting seen in videogames like the Soulcalibur and Tekken franchises. Expect to see big weapons, moves that defy gravity, and the raw power to send opponents flying through the air. These are powerful teenagers being trained to save the world.

Some character development does creep in during the times between battles. Weiss’ older sister, Winter, shows up with some friendly advice and helps train her for the coming battles. The older Crow hangs around his niece Ruby, offering a different perspective than Team RWBY’s teenage worldview. A character from Blake’s past reappears that causes serious problems. The storytelling attempts to retain some of the show’s previous silly humor but it becomes increasingly harder as the narrative turns darker and darker. Pyrrha faces a great emotional challenge that eventually becomes a huge pivot in the narrative. Her side story plays an important part of the ongoing narrative.

As a semi-serialized show, Volume 3’s plot does turn on important moments seen in prior episodes. If you have already liked the first two volumes, Volume 3 turns up the drama with some heated action and a few real surprises. Rooster Teeth has turned a fairly simple, light anime series into a much more involving, emotionally engaging experience with Volume 3. I am sure that Monty Oum is somewhere happy with how this volume has turned out.

RWBY: Volume 3 Blu-ray screen shot 16

Video

RWBY was originally born as a series of web shorts. Those days have passed as it has grown more and more sophisticated with each new volume. Its animation is constructed using purely digital software such as MAYA and looks like nothing else being done in the industry, anime or otherwise. RWBY’s final look is a far cry from the more familiar digital ink and paint process known to traditional anime fans, resulting in a cel-shaded 3-D environment that has no close comparisons. The closest visual comp is probably the CGI seen in videogames. This third volume marks the first time that RWBY has been shown in progressive form at 1080P video. It makes a big difference, smoothing out many of the rougher edges and tearing seen in prior volumes.

Volume 3 runs 12 episodes covering 176 minutes. Encoded in AVC on a BD-50 at ordinary parameters, banding slips through in a few scenes. This is nearly perfect video that pops with an extraordinarily vivid palette. The inky black levels are reference quality and a true test for any display.

If you can ignore the minor issues with the raw animation itself, RWBY: Volume 3 is an amazing Blu-ray. The fluidity in the battles are clearly an area of focus for the animators. These are fast-paced battles that look brilliant, showing off the true power of this computer-animated approach. I was surprised how well the character designs held up during quick movements. It’s a vast improvement over prior RWBY volumes on Blu-ray.

This Blu-ray is a nigh perfect presentation of RWBY and makes a dramatic visual impact. There is no other way the series should be seen but on Blu-ray from a quality display.

Audio

For such stellar video, only a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack at a measly 384 kbps is offered. This isn’t a bad mix, boasting impressive subwoofer action and a very active sound design meant to mimic videogame audio. Its clarity and fidelity are perfect with cleanly rendered dialogue. The surround mix offers decent sweep and immersion, utilizing fairly big dynamics. Cinedigm must have intended to include lossless sound at some point, a DTS-HD MA logo is found on the back cover. RWBY offers a loud, aggressive audio experience that would have been better in lossless quality.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a yellow font.

Extras

Rooster Teeth is always good about loading up a wealth of special features and Cinedigm complies, offering three separate commentaries for every episode! Director/writer Kerry Shawcross and writer Miles Luna appear all over these special features, while the primary voice cast also appear in interviews discussing their characters.

This is a DVD and Blu-ray combo, duplicating content between the two discs.

Director’s Audio Commentary – Kerry Shawcross, Miles Luna and others appear in this easygoing but lucid discussion of the show, its plot, and major themes.

Cast’s Audio Commentary – Easily the most entertaining commentary, cast members Lindsay Jones, Samantha Ireland, Kara Eberle, Barbara Dunkelman and Miles Luna all contribute in this freewheeling group discussion. Done from more of a fan’s perspective, you get the impression these voice actresses really enjoy the show.

Crew’s Audio Commentary – This is more technically oriented discussion from the show’s animation team, including the people behind its composites and backgrounds. It does go a bit too far into the weeds for the average fan.

3,2,1, Begin! (13:52 in HD) – Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross go over the major battle theme of this volume, including behind-the-scenes material of the animation process. Various crew members discuss the battles, including Penny versus Pyrrha’s pivotal moment.

No Heroes In the End (13:48 in HD) – The voice actresses discuss this volume’s major themes and how their characters handled the changes. It’s an interesting featurette with engaging discussion.

Let’s Make a Show: The Legacy of RWBY (09:05 in HD) – A brief recap of RWBY’s production history and how it has grown into Rooster Teeth’s biggest show. It also includes discussion of creator Monty Oum’s passing and legacy on the show.

CRWBY Photos (01:02 in HD) – Pics of the production crew members behind the show.

Volume 3 Trailer (01:46 in HD)

World of Remnant (14:24 in HD) – Four shorts that could have been a part of the show but exist like nice, exclusive additions for home video buyers. They fill in gaps of knowledge that aren’t essential. The subjects are: The Vytal Festival Tournament, Huntsmen, The CCT System, The Four Maidens.

RWBY Grimm Eclipse Trailer

Lazer Team Trailer

RTAA Trailer

RvB Season 13 Trailer

Crunch Time Trailer

Immersion Trailer

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.