Welcome back to another RWBY episode review; this week we look at the second to last episode of Volume 1, The Stray. I liked it.
This episode lacked action and made up for it with strong character moments and some good drama centered around the mysterious member of Team RWBY, Blake Belladonna.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
RWBY Volume 1 Episode The Stray Synopsis
Team RWBY is taking a stroll through town, Weiss at the lead, excited for the upcoming Vital Festival and inter-school tournament. They encounter some international students like Sun Wukong and Penny. However, an encounter with the site of another Dust robbery, presumably by the White Fang, sparks a heated debate between Weiss and Blake, resulting in the latter leaving the team and revealing a huge secret.
This is a good setup for a huge team battle, especially since this is the second-to-last episode of the season. In addition, some great drama stems from character conflict established in an earlier episode with Weiss and Blake’s reactions to Professor Oobleck’s discussion on the White Fang.
Now, if you’ve seen this episode, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t talked about a certain scene in this episode. Let’s get into that now because I have some praise and complaints.
The White Fang Debate
Spoilers for those who may wish to see this episode and Blake’s section. Also, I’ll be discussing controversial topics and waving around my dreaded opinion, so if you dislike any of this stuff, I suggest skipping down to the next few sections.
Let’s not beat around the bush; Weiss and Blake are fighting over racism; Weiss thinks that the White Fang are evil, and Blake thinks they’re standing up for themselves. It’s been built up since the first episode that the radical terrorists known as White Fang perform their crimes due to racism from humans as they are Faunus.
It could have been handled better.
I may make it sound negative, but the writers tried to make it nuanced and not as beat in over your head with a stick, or at least that was their intention. My issue lies within the execution.
The problem lies within the White Fang’s actions. They aren’t simply persecuted Faunus; they are active terrorists who steal and pillage Dust shipments and harm humans who may not have done anything to them. That’s not self-defense. That is blatant malicious action and unjustifiable. Furthermore, their actions make the Faunus even worse in the eyes of the humans as the White Fang justifies the already bad people who mistreat the Faunus, which is acknowledged in the show.
Weiss may have said racist remarks regarding Faunus in this episode that were uncalled for, but, as I’ll go over in her section, she has personally experienced mistreatment at the hands of the White Fang, leading to her rough upbringing as a child. So her insults aren’t based on ignorance and blind hatred but on personal experience.
That doesn’t excuse racism by any means, no ifs and buts, but topics like this should be discussed by reviewing both sides equally and not making one seem like the bad guy. Interestingly, the blatant bad guys here aren’t the racists but the supposed victims for their radical actions that worsen their situation.
Which makes it more interesting that Blake had previously worked for them.
The former terrorist and secret Faunus herself. Beneath her black bow was a pair of cat ears this whole time, and we were none the wiser for it (unless you knew from other material).
This reveal helps her character so much. Her reactions to Weiss’s remarks are justifiable; even if she left the White Fang, she still would feel connected to what she did. As bad as the White Fang are, their cause is somewhat noble, and she would still feel connected.
It would help if the show delved into her experiences with racism, but since this episode ended with her Faunua reveal, it would have to wait. However, doing so would help balance her decision to defend the White Fang because maybe the racism was so bad that the Faunus felt it was necessary to create such a radical group.
Unfortunately, we only have Weiss’s remarks, Cardin’s bullying, and a couple of news reports and snippets to go off of. I hope this is explored more in the future.
We get some critically important pieces of backstory here for Weiss that add great depth to her snobby personage.
The idea that she is the way she is due to an abusive childhood is novel, and it makes her pride and heritage that she boasts about more of a crutch for her damaged ego from years of abuse as a kid. However, we have seen her grow from her attitude thanks to Ruby, and now we see her take the next step in absolving her childhood issues.
It’s also cute how she takes an interest in the planning of huge events and tries to hide the fact she wants to scout her future opponents ahead of time. Very business-like.
Her friendship with Ruby leads to one of the best gags this season, and it’s even more sweet, thanks to her growth.
I want to see her journey to become a better person and hope she will make up with Blake and overcome her issues.
Ruby and Yang
Ruby and Yang don’t do much in this episode, but what they do is enough.
Yang is doing her best to be the mediator and step in when things get rough, but she is limited in what she can do since she is just a teenager.
Same with Ruby, who has to watch helplessly as her beloved team falls apart, and she lacks the skills to fix it. She also gains a new friend in this episode, whom I will discuss briefly.
The New Faces
Sun Wukong and Penny are our new faces, and their introductions are good. Both are fun, and I want to see more of them.
Sun doesn’t do much, and that’s by design. He is a mysterious monkey Faunus who entered Beacon as a stowaway and is interested in Blake. He incites the argument between Blake and Weiss and confronts Blake after she reveals her ears, so I’m interested in who he turns out to be. We see enough of his cocky, playful nature through his actions, which RWBY, as a show, does well.
Penny is a mystery girl—Weiss and the gang bump into the chase Sun. Weiss needs one of those car collision detectors because she keeps getting hit by things. She is kind and excited while speaking robotically with several pauses and awkward phrases. Ruby accidentally calls her friend, and she takes a great interest in our protagonist.
Animation, Editing, and Sound
Overall a step up from the last few episodes. The models don’t awkwardly slide around much, and their movements are swift and energetic.
The editing is great, as usual. Ruby and Yang watch helplessly as the time of day and setting shift over Blake and Weiss arguing, implying the day has passed one special mention. My favorite part of the episode is the sequence after Blake leaves, as we see her stand before a statue and contemplate her goals and desires without dialogue.
The voice acting is above average for the show. Blake and Weiss’s yelling comes off stiff, but most of the cast delivers their lines well.
I liked this episode, flaws and all.
We get insight into Blake and Weiss’s history and have some great team drama to resolve. The comedy and editing are on point, and the animation seems a bit more polished than before.
I am excited to see how this turns out in the next episode.
See you next week. Deuces.