I made this comment on the rwby video itself but because comment chains are pretty much broken on the site making it impossible to find responses to your comment once your comment is hidden among 50 odd pages, I'm going to reproduce it here for people to read, discuss, and me to respond and add to. I have soooo many more things to say that I couldn't properly articulate in this comment without taking up another 1000+ words. Anyways, here it is and as a disclaimer, I'm going to be fairly negative of this volume so if you can't handle that with grace, please don't bother reading. I enjoy RWBY and all of this is constructive criticism to improve the show.
Now that Volume 5 is finished, time for a volume critique. I want to warn anybody who starts to read this wall of text that I'm going to brutally honest with my opinions here and if you can't handle criticism of RWBY, please stop reading. I enjoy this series and want it to continue growing and getting better and that just won't happen if CRWBY goes away thinking they 100% nailed it and don't need to do anything different the next time. These criticisms are to make the show better for everybody, CRWBY included.
I'll start with some quick thoughts of this episode. Haven's Fate unfortunately contains with it all the problems that have built up over the last 2 volumes. First off, this was not a finale. Last episode was your typical finale as one of the main antagonists was dealt with after the climatic battle concluded. That was the climax. By the way, in my analysis of this series I tend to compare it to the standard three-act structure that most modern fiction follows. So in light of that, this episode was more like an epilogue where loose ends are wrapped up but not much else going for it. Going back to what I said about this episode being typical of the kind of problems plaguing this entire volume lets explore what I mean by that. Let's start with writing.
While Raven and Yang having a heart to heart about their different perspectives is good character building it comes at the expense of understanding the setting and context of the scene they are in. Raven had just lost Vernal, who at the very least seemed to be a good friend to Raven. She had just defeated Cinder and was prepared to take the relic which was her plan to begin with. What circumstances change from Yang's lecture? Having the relic would make Raven more of a target for Salem? Raven knew that before she started. She wanted the relic specifically because she thought it would help her survive against Salem. And if Yang didn't show up and Raven did take the relic Salem would have known she took it because she was aware of Cinder's plan to take it with Raven's assistance. So in essence Yang shows up to tell Raven something she had to have already known just to convince Raven, "no, give me it so you can run away". Essentially this all amounts to a plot development that must happen with no real thought into how it gets there. "Team RWBY obtains the knowledge relic" must have been the directive despite it not making much sense for Raven to just allow Yang to have it given what the audience is shown of the character.
Next, editing/direction. Frequently this season there have been moments when a fight was about to happen and then it cuts away to a conversation only for it to come back to the fight being over or mid progress. This episode did that again when Blake finally joins with team RWBY again and Ruby directs Weiss and Blake to attack Hazel, Emerald, and Mercury. In the previous episode all 3 were having zero issue fighting and winning and then suddenly the three of them are on the ropes giving up. Ruby yells, "checkmate" then the camera cuts away without us seeing them in action. This would have been the moment to finally give the audience some of that old RWBY team choreography that's been completely missing from this volume and was only in bits and pieces of last volume (fighting the horse person grimm thing). Finally Blake is together with her team and we don't get to see her fight along side it?! That's a massive letdown. The camera cuts back to this eventually and Emerald, Mercury, and Hazel are pretty much beaten and everybody is tired and aura depleted so clearly some amazing shit must have happened that we didn't get to see.
And of course we end on what is still essentially a cliffhanger. Oscar/Ozpin passing out saying we need to take the lantern to Atlus. That's not needed, just end it at the team hugging it out and Qrow and Ozpin looking at the lantern with a concerned expression or something. The following volume can start with them expositing what they need to do with the relic. Too many episodes this volume ended with cliffhangers which is indicative of another problem the last few volumes had. That problem is this series is written and constructed to fill out an average to above average movie length time frame. Which means roughly 2 hours though the last few have been above 3 hours. Why that's a problem is this series isn't released as a movie, it's released as episodes and for all good television series, even serial ones, every episode needs to stand on its own narrative merits. This volume felt like a complete package that the editors haphazardly chopped up into uneven pieces with no thought into where things should end and begin and what events should be paired up with what other events. And while some might argue that RWBY is always best to watch all at once that isn't the point. This series isn't released like that so I have to judge it by how it's given to us. By episodes once a week. Even serial television shows generally follow appropriate narrative structure which is a beginning, middle, and end. Introduction, rising action, climax, conclusion. RWBY episodes this volume will start at what would have been the middle of a normal episode and end midway through a climax. A cliffhanger can be an effective narrative tool to increase suspense but when it happens every single volume all it does is piss off your audience. Ask the show runners of Walking Dead what too many cliffhangers does. And that was just ending their seasons with them, RWBY does them multiple times within a season. All serials will of course leave some plot threads unfinished to allow subsequent episodes to continue those threads but if nothing is resolved then no forward plot progression is made.
Finally we get to the actual volume critique. Writing, directing, editing, and fight choreography were the biggest losers here. The show took a hard nose dive half way in where nobody moved from their spots, little new information or forward plot movement was happening, and episodes seemingly just served to have different characters who didn't previously know information the audience already knew know that information. Pacing suffered heavily. When it was announced that this volume of RWBY was going to have more episodes I was initially very excited. I thought last volume's main problem of trying to cram in too much story spread too thinly among the different characters in not enough time was going to be addressed but that extra time was completely wasted this volume. If I were to re-edit this volume removing pointless fluff this volume would have been 3-4 less episodes.
Early volumes main problem was too much "show, don't tell", where the audience was craving for world building facts about this story universe but weren't getting them, but this volume (and the last volume to a lesser extent) was waaaay over the top with "Tell, don't show". We get in excruciating details how Ozpin's powers work. We get a detailed explanation of how Raven and Qrow gained their bird morphing powers. We get conversations explaining the White Fang's organization hierarchy. We get lectures from Ozpin, Yang, from Weiss, from Blake, from Blake's parents, etc all telling us things that could have easily been communicated through action and visuals. Perfect example of this is when Raven is telling Yang and Weiss why Ozpin is not to be trusted. What we get is a completely boring and nonsensical conversation where Raven tells them pretty much nothing they didn't already know about Ozpin with the only "negative" being that Raven implies Ozpin forced the bird power on her and Qrow. What this should have been is a flashback where we see Ozpin sending team STRQ on a mission, Raven requesting backup from Ozpin, and Ozpin refusing to send it. Hell, maybe even use that flashback as an opportunity to expand on Summer a little more. Show us her fighting, using her silver eyes ability, or maybe this is what leads to Summer dying and Raven blames Ozpin. This would have made Raven far more sympathetic and would make the audience understand her point of view of why she chose to leave team STRQ and rejoin her bandit tribe SOOO much better than the weaksauce conversation she gave Yang and Weiss. Point here is, there needs to be a good balance between exposition which informs the audience about what characters know and facts about this story universe and visuals that show the audience how things work and RWBY has yet to find that balance.
Next problem with this volume payoff. We're 5 volumes in now and yet I feel like none of the many plot threads have received any decent payoff. This problem isn't unique to this volume (cough, Torchwick being eaten by a grimm, cough) but feels exacerbated by the greater episode count yet horrid pacing. What do I mean by payoff? Well let's look at where are characters are by the fall of beacon. Ruby used her newly discovered "silver eyes" powered to completely freeze a gigantic dragon grimm and to significant damage to Cinder in the process. This ability is never brought up again in 2 volumes after it happens or the status of Beacon and the dragon. She uses the power once more in retaliation for Cinder hurting Weiss but it only appears to slightly inconvenience Cinder this time and again, nobody seems to bring it up or pay any attention to it once it happens. Each time it happens the entire screen whites out which completely takes the audience out of the moment btw. We can't see what happens so it's pretty much a deus ex machina card that can be pulled whenever CRWBY wants to have stuff happen but not show us.
Another Ruby missed payoff opportunity. Multiple times through the series it's made clear Ruby's main fighting weakness is when she is separated from her weapon, crescent rose. This volume basically spells it out to the audience by having Yang say that in the pre-volume trailer for Yang and again by Ozpin when he was sparring with Ruby (which points back to the show, don't tell, problem this volume has). This leads audience expectation that Ruby will be confronted with a situation where she has to hold her own without crescent rose and perform well to show her growth and competency increase. What did we get? A 5 second clip of Mercury getting Zidaned in the chin by Ruby, which while a nice callback to Oscar/Ozpin doing that to her earlier in the volume still isn't much of a payoff in demonstrating what she's learned.
How about Yang's payoff. Well after the fall of beacon she's despondent over losing an arm and angry that Blake left without saying a word. She's lost the will to fight and when she does fight demonstrates signs of PTSD with her hand shaking. Before that her main fighting weakness was that Yang was overly aggressive and didn't know how to plan her attacks carefully without potentially damaging herself or putting herself at a disadvantage. So how is this paid off? Last volume she has a few conversations with Tai, a sparring session, and is seemingly just over it by the start of volume 5. I suppose one could make the argument that she's more interested in protecting Ruby and that is what snapped her out of her funk but again, it's never really paid off from what we see from the show, the audience just has to make that connection for our selves. Her hand shaking is never addressed again after we see it when she faces the bandits. As far as her fighting weakness, again when she faces the bandits is the most we get to see of her improvement in calmly accessing how to take on enemies without raging into battle headfirst. But then when she's fighting Mercury and Emerald she seems to revert back to angry overly aggressive fighting again, so I guess no real improvement made? As an aside, where we see Ruby, Blake, and Weiss' semblances pretty frequently when they fight, we've only seen Yang use hers once. When she was fighting the Torchwick controlled mech. Just seems like a missed opportunity for a cool tank like semblance. Also, as far as payoff regarding her apparent lifelong goal of meeting her mother and getting her questions asked, again, nothing there either. A few times RWBY has an opening to give Yang the closure there that her and the audience would have liked to see and instead Yang doesn't want to ask Raven the questions her and us want answered.
Another missed Yang opportunity by the way in this finale episode or even the previous episode is Adam is outside of the building where Yang is yet there is no scene where the two acknowledge each other. Having Yang demonstrate that she's accepted her prosthetic arm and is over the PTSD by fighting Adam again would have been a big character moment for her, but we didn't get that.
Weiss after the fall of Beacon is back at Atlas and is essentially a prisoner to her father. After escaping her home she heads to Mistral to meet up with her sister Winter. Her main character weaknesses were that she was overly prideful believing her to be better than other people because of her family and not being able to use her rune semblances to summon things. Not too much into volume 4 she figures out summoning (at first by accident in the party, then later more deliberately in her room) so no big battle introduction of that major ability which would have been more fitting. When she finally meets up with Yang in volume 5 she's clearly happy to be working with her team again and not being a lone wolf she's also able to summon just fine now. There's never a meet up with Winter so her main goal at the end of volume 4 is not reached, and she mastered her fighting weakness with zero fanfare. Her biggest "payoff" I suppose is using her summons to take out the giant Wasp queen grimm and later summoning that same grimm to help fight Hazel but she's also run through by Cinder after losing badly against Vernal so I'm not exactly sure what growth was really shown here. And while I like that her personality has softened to be less stuck up, at the same time it's because of her "heiress" personality that made her so unique from the other members of team RWBY and I'm concerned the individual members are going to lose what made each of them unique and interesting. In DBZ Vegeta never stops being the prideful Saiyan even in the most recent episodes that aspect of his character comes up constantly, as both a positive and negative for him.
Blake I think goes through the most actual character growth over the last 2 volumes since the fall of Beacon. She runs away to hide and be with her family after Beacon falls. Blake's character flaw is sort of self described as she doesn't seem to demonstrate much of a weakness in actual battle. Her flaw is apparently she always runs when a situation gets too much for her to handle (which is why her semblance is leaving copies of her behind) and also that she believes it's her responsibility alone to fix things and if she lets others help her that it will just leave to others hurting themselves. In other words, she has a case of the protagonist guilt. The payoff for these things is when Sun lectures her that people can make their own decisions and it isn't Blake's fault if they get hurt in the process. The point being she doesn't need to work alone and can communicate and work with others. Which is pretty much a repeat of what happened in volume 2 between Blake and Weiss. Then when given a situation where Blake can show up alone to convince her friend not to help the White Fang she instead brings along Sun to help which demonstrates that character growth (as Blake from the start of Volume 4 or even 5 would not have done that). She also shows leadership by taking a more vocal lead in getting her fellow faunus to help her out in Mistral to stop Adam's White Fang. But again, with lack of payoff we get no real satisfying conclusion between her and Adam. She easily disarms him and then he runs away after police arrest the dozen or so White Fang members he brought with him. There's also zero good payoff of Blake meeting her team again after 2 volumes. We get a "I'm not going anywhere" line which sort of addresses her character flaw of running away and 2 seconds of her fighting with her team which then cuts away.
JNPR probably got the biggest shafting in payoff this volume. For Nora, we're kind of led to believe her and Ren are possibly going to be in a romantic relationship but that doesn't go anywhere and is even squashed a few times as them being just friends. Nora pretty much just has some comic relief moments but otherwise shows no character progression in volume 5. Same with Ren, he does very little after he had a lot of character progression in volume 4. Jaune after the fall of Beacon was obviously distraught over the death of Pyrra but otherwise was still a fairly lousy fighter and he hadn't unlocked his semblance yet. During volume 4 Jaune has clearly improved as a fighter and as a fight tactician as he's been watching training videos Pyrra made for him before she passed away and he had her weapons forged into his own weapons and armor. But in volume 5 we do not see any continued progression for him. The only payoff we get for Jaune this volume is we possibly finally have his semblance now? Though even that's unsure since Jaune corrects Nora when she expresses happiness at him unlocking it. Anyway, it's him being able to heal Weiss by sharing his aura with Weiss to allow Weiss' aura to heal herself. Reason why it's a shitty payoff is he "unlocks it" after this odd moment of inaction where everybody in the room stops fighting once Cinder breaks off from fighting Jaune (and by fighting, I mean pretty much teasing him) by chucking a spear into Weiss.
How about payoff for the villains? Well, Tyrian isn't heard from again after his tail gets chopped off and he's given the "I'm disappointed in you" speech from Salem near the end of volume 4. Mercury and Emerald don't make an appearance until they meet Raven at the bandit camp with Cinder and they're just set dressing here as they don't do anything. During the last 2 episodes they fight alongside Hazel and Cinder but again no real big character payoffs. We get no new hints of Emerald showing concern about working with Salam. Nothing from Mercury either. Cinder has been spliced with a grimm apparently because of the damage Ruby did to her and clearly really hates Ruby but then in one of the strangest anti-climatic decisions she doesn't seem all that bothered with Ruby when she's finally face to face with her in Haven academy. She fights Jaune a bit then leaves the room with Raven and Vernal to get the relic leaving her underlings to face Ruby which does not at all seem consistent with the same Cinder who demanded to go after Ruby and even change Salem's plans to do this ambush fight specifically because Ruby would be there. Dr. Watts is more fully introduced in volume 5 but again we never really get to see him in action or doing much of anything apart from talking with Lionheart. Salem pretty much just sits menacingly around looking at her orb grimm thingy, but doesn't seem all that upset that her plans are failing to get the knowledge relic or the fact that she didn't get the Beacon relic after they won that fight. I mean she has the grimm kill Lionheart so he gets his comeuppance but apart from that, not much other response. Adam Taurus finally becomes the leader of the White Fang after killing its former leader but then he immediately will apparently lose their support after losing at Haven academy, so what was the point of that? Adam doesn't get a real repeat confrontation with either Blake or Yang.
Of all the antagonists Hazel has the most satisfying character arc. He's initially introduced as a light speaking dude who oddly doesn't seem all that evil compared to everybody else he works with. We then learn about why he's with Salam because he really hates Ozpin.
Finally the fight choreography. Look, we all know losing Monty was a big hit in this particular area of the show. Monty's ability to make breath-taking fight scenes that have an almost dance like rhythm to them are extremely difficult to recreate without him. However, that doesn't mean that it should be impossible to at least get somewhere in the ballpark of Monty's style of fight scenes and volume 4 and 5 (5 far worse than 4) have just been abysmal here. A lot of the time it isn't even the fights themselves its the amount of times a fight clearly WANTS to happen but then the scene transitions away to something else. This is where the brutal honesty comes in, but I'm sorry Miles and Kerry but you guys just aren't good enough writers, yet, to carry a plot with just your writing alone. What made volumes 1-3 so good was the fight scenes really carried the series forward despite some of the lackluster dialogue and story structure. I mean you've fit every anime trope into one series. Magical girls, hunter/huntress academies, magic, dust, semblances, super powerful relics, grimm, etc. We get it, you two love anime. But checking a box and saying you have it isn't always the right way to make an engrossing story. Focus on a few things and make those few things outstanding instead of just shotgun blasting everything a show can have into it. Here are all the fight scenes I can recall in volume 5. Weiss vs the wasp grimm. Yang vs bandits. Blake and Sun vs White Fang. Blake vs Ilya. Blakes family + Sun vs White Fang. Ruby sparring with Oscar. Ruby/Weiss/Yang/Nora/Jaune/Qrow/Oscar vs Emerald/Mercury/Cinder/Hazel/Raven/Vernal/Lionheart. And finally Raven vs Cinder. That second to last one btw was a bunch of 1v1 fights and not an actual team up. The stand outs being Oscar/Ozpin + Qrow vs Hazel, Weiss vs Vernal, and Yang vs Emerald + Mercury. Other than it clearly just being a paltry number of fights in total when compared to previous volumes the pattern here is volume 5 was almost completely 1v1 fights. 1v1 fights that for the most part were very slowly paced, had almost no music that went with them oddly enough, and were usually horribly cut so that scenes would often transition back and forth while fights were happening.
I talked about this in a previous comment I made on the previous episode but it bears repeating here. A good fight in a work of fiction should be its own 3 act story. Why are these combatants fighting? Why should the audience care about which one wins? What changes as a result of this fight after its over? These are important questions when constructing a fight in a work of fiction. Obviously in real life fights frequently end in one or few punches and that's it. But that isn't entertainment. People don't pay hundreds of dollars to go to a boxing match just to see it end immediately and people are invested in the drama and spectacle of what each fighter brings. So where did they go wrong in volume 5 of rwby? Well frequently there was never much dramatic stakes involved or satisfying results from many of volume 5's fights. Let's compare and contrast the Weiss vs wasp grimm fight from volume 5 with the Nuckelavee fight at the end of volume 4 using our questions.
Why are these combatants fighting? In the Nuckelavee fight RNJR is fighting it because it killed Ren's parents and it is blocking the way out for Qrow to get to safety after being lethally poisoned by Tyrian in a prior episode. The Nuckelavee is fighting because it is an evil grimm that exists for this very purpose, killing people. Why does Weiss fight the wasp grimm in volume 5. Because they are attacking her transport vehicle and are a threat to her and the pilot who's taking her's life. To give this fight a little more dramatic stakes it would have been better to keep the ship the grimm were originally chasing that was sending out distress radio transmissions alive so that Weiss would have also been fighting to save them but that wasn't the case. The wasp grimm are fighting because again, they are grimm and exist to kill people. Why should the audience care about who wins? In the Nuckelavee fight, the audience would get closure for Ren's character on him getting revenge against the creature that killed his family and many other people. It was also a showcase in a whole team working together to take down a tough target. How about the Weiss fight. Well, the audience wants to see her in action after being cooped up for all of volume 4 training in her room. What changes as a result from each fight? In the Nuckelavee fight, the battle serves to signal help that ultimately is the reason Qrow survives. Team RNJR also demonstrates solid fighting skill growth in being able to work together to take out a powerfull grimm beast. Jaune demonstrates his personal growth as a fighter. Ren overcomes his hatred for that particular grimm to focus on working with his team and Nora demonstrates her love for Ren. How about the Weiss fight? Well she survives obviously and she demonstrates her ability to access the tactics of a situation and plan accordingly in battle. She also uses her summon in a fight for the first time. But otherwise her ship crash lands and she ultimately doesn't reach her goal of meeting with Winter.
And the Weiss vs wasp grimm fight was one of the better ones from volume 5. If I did that with each one of them things would get sadder each time. Again, all fights in a series defined by its fast paced action fights should serve a purpose. We should learn something new about our characters that we didn't know before through some fighting technique or tactic. Or the story should be furthered in some way because of the fight. Also, we need to see the complete fight ON CAMERA. As I said before, too many times this volume a fight was cut off mid action to go to another scene where characters are just talking. A fight builds up a frenetic pace and tone within the audience that gets immediately deflated the moment the director decides to switch over to a scene that isn't moving at a similar pace or intensity. If cuts are utilized during a fight scene it should ONLY ever be to different perspectives of that same fight. Not an entirely different scene. What this creates is confusion with the audience regarding time and space. If a character is leaping in the air mid attack and the scene cuts to some other location with different characters, is the implication that this new scene is happening simultaneously as the previous scene? Or is it happening on a different time frame before or after the previous scene? If it's simultaneously then the audience is missing things from the previous scene as the current one happens. The audience then needs to readjust to where characters are in space and who's in what scene as it cuts back and forth.
Point here is too many shortcuts were taken this volume to avoid fight scenes. If the animators aren't comfortable with animating fast paced fight scenes then I'm sorry but that isn't a good sign. Again, I realize Monty can never be replaced but I know for a fact there are very talented fight animators out there that could reproduce a lot of what this volume is sorely lacking. Hell within Roosterteeth the Death Battle animators have proved just as capable to create some truly amazing fight scenes. And when it comes right down to it, if this show is going to transition away from fight choreography to more plot driven, exposition heavy narrative, then I'm sorry but that'll be the end of my enjoyment of the show. The writing is just not there for RWBY to carry itself on story alone. Maybe if you guys hire some more professional writers and Miles and Kerry move into more of a "show runner" position of controlling general direction of the series while leaving the technical aspects of writing and directing to more capable people, that would fix things.
To CRWBY, my suggestion for improving the fight scenes would be to discuss what fights you want to happen in Volume 6, story board and animatic them first, then give the most amount of animation time to them. Maybe even place placeholder animations for the fight scenes so that episodes can be completed while the fight scenes continue to be worked on. Point is it was obvious a lot of effort went into the Raven vs Cinder fight which was the closest to past RWBY fights in quality but none of the other fights even approached that. So the process that lead to that Raven vs Cinder fight is what needs to be improved so you guys aren't killing yourself with hours but are afforded that amount of time and planning to get each fight done to the same degree of quality.
So there you have it, my thoughts on volume 5. If you stuck around to the end here, congrats, have a cookie. Sorry to those that disagree with me and think all is perfect but again I do this to make this series better for everybody.